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    Pets
by Marcia Froelke Coburn
2008-02-13

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You love animals, but still … you're allergic to cats and you don't have the time to do regular dog walks every day. Before you decide you are not ready to make a commitment to a pet, consider adopting a rabbit. Not one of those little brown bunnies you see hopping around outside—those are wild rabbits that can't be tamed. But domestic rabbits—the white, black, orange, cream or spotted varieties—are fun-loving and outgoing pets, available through numerous shelters and rescue groups.

February is national Adopt-a-Rabbit Month, and with good reason. Rabbits are the third most popular pet in the United States. They are highly social animals who are easily litter-trained. And most people with allergies to cats have no negative physical reactions to rabbits.

While bunnies are often thought of as kids' pets, nothing could be further from the truth. Rabbits require a high level of engagement and sophistication from their human companions. That makes them the perfect pets for adults.

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Misinformation and myths surround the care of pet rabbits, so before you make the plunge, get some solid information—preferably from shelters or rescue groups that specialize in rabbits. Here are some basic bunny facts:

—They can live 7-10 years.

—They are not low-maintenance animals. They need daily exercise outside of a cage or penned area; a clean litter box; and a daily diet of fresh timothy hay and leafy greens ( e.g., romaine and green leaf lettuce ) .

—They are affectionate animals, but most of them don't like being picked up. They prefer to show their affection while keeping all four paws on the floor.

—They need specialized veterinary care. Rabbits shouldn't be treated by a cat and dog veterinarian. You need to find an exotics veterinarian ( someone who mainly sees birds, reptiles and rabbits. ) And while rabbits don't get vaccines in the United States, they should be spayed or neutered. Baby bunnies quickly turn into rebellious teenagers with raging hormones. However, if you adopt a rabbit from a shelter, it usually will be already spayed/neutered—saving you over $300 in potential medical bills.

Sadly, some people make an impulse decision to get a rabbit without understanding what wonderfully complex animals they are. That's where shelters get their supply of pet rabbits. The time after Easter can find some local shelters overwhelmed with the vast number of unwanted bunnies after the novelty has worn off.

But if you are that special someone who is ready to love a rabbit, there is some bunny out there waiting for you.

Marcia Froelke Coburn is the president of Red Door Shelter, 2410 W. Lunt; 773-764-2242.

PET FOR ADOPTION: DELLA

Della's great beauty hasn't made her a snob. She is a total sweetie! Young and playful, Della still enjoys a snuggle with close friends. Her favorite activities: eating hay and salads, running the length of the room and jumping into the air in a little dance of joy.

To learn more about Della or other adoptable rabbits, visit www.reddoorshelter.org .

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