While it may be tempting to add an adorable bunny or baby chick to your child’s Easter basket this year, it’s important to consider the associated care and financial commitment necessary to maintain a rabbit or a chicken as a family pet. Unfortunately, thousands of former Easter bunnies and chicks are abandoned each year when their novelty wears off. Read on to find out more before bringing home a new pet this weekend:
Considering a Bunny?
Domestic rabbits are delightful companion animals. They are inquisitive, intelligent, sociable and affectionate. However, if you give your child a cute baby bunny, there’s a good chance he or will still be around long after your child becomes a teenager.
Here are a few facts about domestic rabbits:
Rabbits are physically delicate and fragile, and require specialized veterinary care.
The only place for a rabbit cage is indoors! Rabbits can die of a heart attack from the very approach of a predator.
Rabbits can be trained to use a litter box.
The most important component of your rabbit’s diet is grass hay, such as timothy or brome.
A rabbit’s average life expectancy is eight to 12 years.
Adoption is your best option! There are many homeless companion rabbits at shelters and rescue groups all across the country. Visit your local shelter or rescue group and find out how to adopt a rabbit (or even better, a bonded pair). For info on bunny care and rescue groups, head to the House Rabbit Society.
A tiny, fluffy baby chick may look adorable, but bringing home a chick can lead to many years of required care and responsibility—and might even be illegal in your area.
Here are some important notes about chicks and chickens:
Chicks often come from commercial hatcheries—which may engage in questionable breeding and hatching practices—and which often send chicks by mail, which can be stressful and dangerous.
Chickens can live for 10+ years. For female chickens, egg production tends to slow down after just a few years.
Chickens should be able to perch, roost, nest, have fresh air and light, range safely outdoors, dust bathe and be part of a social unit. Baby chicks have certain needs that require a high level of hands-on care, such as being kept warm within a certain temperature range.
When your chicken becomes sick or injured, avian veterinary help can be expensive and difficult to find.
Some localities have bans on, or have housing/shelter/etc. requirements for, residential chickens.
Chickens can carry pathogens on their bodies and in their droppings. Numerous human Salmonella outbreaks have been traced back to live chickens.
Here at the ASPCA, we believe that spay and neuter procedures should be a priority for pet parents. In honor of World Spay Day, which takes place every year on the last Tuesday of February, we’re taking a moment to focus on this important area of our work. And, while it may be a bit challenging to do so, it’s a good idea to introduce the concept of spay/neuter to your kids as they learn to become responsible animal caretakers.
Here are a few ideas from our Spay/Neuter Operations team for starting the conversation:
• Use a script. It can be hard to find the right words to discuss spay/neuter with young children. Try saying, “Spaying and neutering are surgeries (or operations) performed on dogs and cats so that they can’t make more puppies and kittens. This is really important because there are so many animals who live outdoors without homes and owners. There are also many more animals living in animal shelters who are waiting to find families to take them home. It is important to help reduce the amount of dogs and cats without homes in our neighborhoods because sometimes the animals outnumber the people who are able to care for them.”
• Keep it age-appropriate. Depending on your child’s age, you may or may not want to go into too much detail. If your kids are older, you could consider mentioning that during a spay/neuter surgery, the animal’s reproductive organs are removed so that they can’t mate and produce more puppies or kittens.
• Paint a picture. Either literally or figuratively, it helps to illustrate how quickly animal populations can expand without spay/neuter procedures. One way to do this is to explain that one pregnant cat can have up to six to eight kittens in her uterus (or belly) at one time. When those kittens reach puberty, they too can produce litters of kittens. What starts as one cat can exponentially lead to hundreds of cats and kittens out in the street or placed in the shelter looking for homes. Spaying and neutering our pets is essential to breaking this unfortunate cycle.
Does your pet support spay/neuter? Post a photo of yourself (or your pet!) on your social media networks with a sign that reads “I’m Into S&N” and use the hashtag #ImIntoSN. Then, sign our spay/neuter pledge and you could win an ASPCA prize pack.
Guest blog by Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of the parenting blogGrown and Flown.
As new parents, even during the first months of our sleep-deprived state, we knew we wanted another baby and dreamed about our tiny son having a little brother or sister. Years later, when our family included a son, a daughter and a seven-year-old chocolate Labrador named Choco, we welcomed a new Lab puppy. Our family now numbered six!
Most of the time, Choco seemed delighted with his new playmate, Argus. When they romped around the backyard together, our older dog resembled his younger self. Meanwhile, the puppy spent many happy afternoons alternating between chewing on and napping next to his big buddy.
Are you considering bringing home a second dog? Here are a few things to think about first:
1. Is your family ready? Are your children at an age where they can interact with a dog? Will they be able to help with feeding, walks for one or both dogs and simple lessons of sit-stay-down for the dog? Are you committed to housebreaking and/or training a new canine friend?
2. Is your resident dog ready? If your dog has mastered basic obedience training, it may be easier to introduce a second dog to your family. If you choose to bring home a puppy, he or she may benefit from learning from your older, resident dog.
3. Are you prepared for the additional cost? Covering the cost for twice the food, vet bills, medicine, insurance (if you choose to insure your dogs), toys and other pet care supplies adds up quickly.
4. Have you considered factors like age, size and temperament of your resident dog? When you are out walking your dog or, if you take him to a dog park, how does he react to other dogs? Does he tend to dominate or is he easy-going? Is he playful and good natured with all other dogs, or does he seems to do better with those who are similar in size?
5. Have you planned for the introduction? When we brought Argus home, we brought Choco out to meet him in a neutral place and had one adult supervise each dog. We made sure to praise both dogs during the introductions, and provided separate food dishes and water bowls for Choco and Argus. As the dogs became used to each other, we enjoyed doing fun things together such as playtime in the backyard and taking walks around the neighborhood.
We loved watching our children and dogs grow up together and, after Choco passed away, we eventually got a second dog to spend time with Argus. I cannot imagine our household without canine companionship. But the decision to bring home a second pet is a serious one, and should not be done on a whim. Carefully consider your second-dog readiness, plan for the inevitable adjustment period, and look forward to many happy days to come—both for your dogs and for the rest of your household.
Keri Matthews, a mom of two, has worked in the ASPCA’s licensing department for more than five years. She lives on Long Island with her husband, Tom, her children, Gabriella and Tommy, and their Greyhound, Clyde.
The New Year is a great time to reflect and plan what we would like to accomplish for our pets and kids. Here are just a few goals my family set for the New Year:
We made a resolution to take more walks with our 12-year-old senior pup, Clyde. Our family really enjoys this time together, and it really connects us! We are also planning to take Clyde to the new dog park which opened last year in our town. I think this will be a wonderful learning experience for the kids, as they will see Clyde playing with his friends--some old and some new. And when you think about it, all the same sort of play date rules apply for pets as they do for kids: sharing space, taking turns and welcoming others into the group to play. Visit the ASPCA’s Pet Care section to learn more on how to get the most of your visit to the dog park.
We are also going to start taking Gabriella to volunteer at our local library. Recently, opportunities have opened up for kids to read to shelter dogs. I believe this experience will be extremely fun and rewarding for her and the dogs we get matched up with!
Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to a year of celebrating and strengthening that special bond we cherish with our pets and kids.
You might recall I shared our dog Hayley’s story about being diagnosed with diabetes a couple of months ago. Since her diagnosis, it has been very difficult to control her blood sugar levels. Although her vet, Dr. Beverly, has been diligent about Hayley’s course of treatment and implementation of her daily insulin, her blood sugar remains high despite us having increased her insulin doses.
Dr. Beverly informed me that since Hayley’s diabetes was so challenging to control, she likely had an underlying problem—and testing revealed that the problem is Cushing’s disease. Cushing’s disease is an adrenal-dependent or pituitary-dependent tumor that causes excess production of the hormone cortisol, along with a host of symptoms including increased thirst and urination, pot-bellied abdomen, skin moles, infections or flakiness, thin skin and loss of fur. Hayley’s Cushing’s case is pituitary dependent. She has gone on a daily medication that should eventually help control her diabetes. Just a few days ago, she began displaying symptoms of a urinary infection—a common effect of diabetes—and was given antibiotics.
Our little Hayley is having a tough time. There has scarcely been a week that we haven’t been to the vet. Yet through it all, if you saw her, you might never know she was sick. She is eating (voraciously), running around, spunky, happy—just like her old self. Her high spirits have helped our family absorb her diagnosis. She is the sweetest little thing, this little girl who came from an abusive past. She happily endures her insulin shots and pills.
I’m learning so much about Cushing’s disease and how common it is in certain breeds of older dogs. Our veterinarian has been so informative, patient and helpful over these past few months. He calls with Hayley’s test results and explains everything in detail, always willing to listen and answer questions. Hayley has a team of people pulling for her—and I think she feels our support.