DEAR PET TALK: Since it is the Year of the Rabbit, would you write about rabbits as pets and how to take care of them? — Rabbit Lover
DEAR RABBIT LOVER: I share your interest, as one of our therapy pets is a rabbit! Brady Bunny is owned by Helen Donlan and regularly visits children at Reingold School in Fitchburg. I have learned a lot about rabbits observing him, and how he’s grown as a therapy pet. Brady is happy to sit on Helen’s lap, or the lap of a child, and hear a story.
And rabbits are growing increasingly popular: According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, as of 2012, there were more than 1.5 million pet rabbits in the U.S., outpacing other little furry creatures like gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters and ferrets.
Why are they so popular? Though they are prey animals, and sitting still is one of their great talents, in a loving home they can become more friendly and outgoing. Some people have trained their rabbit to use a litter box; others keep a pen with hay. Melissa Beaudry of Fitchburg has several rabbits, including a flemish giant rabbit, Ruby, who is a pretty big guy.
“He lives in the backyard with his bestie, Cookie,” she wrote me. “They are not caged but have a huge fenced-in area with toys and hidey spots and shade.” When Beaudry or a family member approaches, “he will come hopping right up for veggies and pets.”
Ruby’s favorite snack is cilantro.
Ruby is very gentle, and likes receiving pets from children. “If he lets you pick him up, he will just chill in your arms,” she explained.
He had a sister whom he was close with, but after she died, Beaudry adopted a rescue rabbit, Cookie for companionship.
“He is very protective of his bunny friend, who is much more cautious.”
Flemish giants were bred in the 16th century near Ghent, Belgium for the meat and fur trade, and are the ancestors of many other more recent breeds. Beaudry was an experienced rabbit owner but adopted Ruby because she “liked the idea of a ginormous rabbit.” We do too. Happy Year of the Rabbit!
Sally Cragin is the director of Be PAWSitive: Therapy Pets and Community Education. Text questions to 978-320-1335