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.
This St. Patrick’s Day, my daughter found a way to include our dog, Mr. Happy, in the celebrations. This idea sprouted from a recent morning when my daughter noticed that we were giving Mr. Happy medication to help with his separation anxiety. She asked if he was sick, so I explained how upset Mr. Happy gets when we leave, and that his doctor gave him medicine to feel better.
My household doesn’t miss a holiday, and St. Patrick’s Day is no exception. This year, in addition to making healthy green smoothies and green pancakes, crafting a homemade “leprechaun trap” out of a tissue box and dressing for the occasion, we decided to celebrate Mr. Happy.
After having our chat about Mr. Happy’s story last week, I noticed that my daughter had provided him with extra love and attention. On Saturday, after a day full of errands, she requested to go to the store to see the “birds, snakes, fish, and cats” to get “something special” for Mr. Happy and for our bird, Diva. I knew exactly where she wanted to go: the pet store. My daughter also wanted to know the name and story of each dog and cat up for adoption at the store that day.
Following our tour to see the adoptable animals, she asked if she could choose special treats for our pets. I was hoping for a quick and easy adventure, but she carefully sorted through toys to find the perfect green stuffed item for our dog and examined each shelf for the perfect food treats for Mr. Happy and Diva. I expected the stuffed toy to quickly enter my daughter’s overflowing collection of stuffed toys, but to my surprise, she proceeded to give Mr. Happy the green toy. She wanted him to feel special and loved, and in her own way, show him that we are lucky to have him in our home. This is a new St. Patrick’s Day tradition that no pin on Pinterest can capture, but is one that we will repeat next year.
Mary Dell Harrington, mother to two kids and two dogs, is a blogger at Grown and Flown, where she writes about parenting kids between the ages of 15 and 25. She is also a certified pet therapist in the New York City-metro area. Find her on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.
Our family is not very crafty, but each year on Valentine’s Day, I gathered doilies, feathers, and pink markers for our daughter (now a college freshman) who loved making her own straight-from-the-heart designs. I remember her as a little girl as she sat at the kitchen table, gluing red hearts and writing out “I Love You” in glitter while Choco, our big chocolate Lab, slept nearby. That special card for her special dog was one she often finished first.
Did Choco notice and fully appreciate the sweet Valentine from the youngest member of his family? What Choco seemed to crave the most were our daughter’s belly-rubs and ear-scratches—tactile reminders of her affection.
Cho was already six years old when our daughter was born. As she grew from a baby to a toddler, he was her gentle playmate. She tumbled over him while he slept and was patient as she dressed him in our family’s wardrobe of hats. While she played, Choco felt her tiny hand on his head and his back, every caress an expression of devotion.
Touch is a vital component to the relationship you have with your dog. This Valentine’s Day, if you are considering buying your pet a squeaky toy or a card, don’t forget to simply give him a hug. While handling is easy and natural for many pets, for others there can be some hesitancy. Visit the ASPCA’s Pet Care section for tips if your dog resists touch.
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.
As Thanksgiving approaches, many families are gearing up to celebrate the holiday with their kids and pets. My family is starting to think about how we will safely incorporate our dog, Clyde, into the preparation and day-of festivities. This time of year, there are so many food hazards to pets in the home. And since Clyde is a large dog, he can reach the table and garbage pail quite readily. We will take the following steps to keep him safe before, during and after the holiday:
Take out the trash: Throughout Thanksgiving Day, we will empty our garbage more often than usual. Bones, chocolate, onions and other Thanksgiving food staples are all hazards to Clyde that will make their way into our kitchen during the festivities.
Food tasting: We will explain to our daughter Gabriella that we can’t give Clyde a taste of every food item we’re making for Thanksgiving dinner, but we can stuff his Kong toy with veggies of Gabriella’s choosing, a bit of cooked turkey and some gravy. Clyde will be thrilled!
Quiet time: We’d like Clyde to have an extra quiet space (other than his bed) while company is visiting so he doesn’t get too stressed out. We’ll set aside a few towels on the floor to give him another nook where he can sit back and relax—something we all hope to do this Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and for those who may choose to purchase a turkey this year, there’s good cause to be wary of oft misleading meat labels. Turkey farms range from the conventional –where birds are bred to grow to crippling proportions to produce extra breast meat, closely confined by the tens of thousands in artificially-lit sheds, fed antibiotics, and often have body parts painfully removed to prevent stress-induced attacks on one another— to the unconventional, where more balanced or even “heritage” breed turkeys are provided with enriched indoor environments, more space and even outdoor access or pasture.
When reading food labels, don’t take the company’s word for it: be on the lookout for humane certifications that require on-farm audits and represent significant improvements over conventional practices. Other types of labels can represent mere empty marketing—for example, the claim “natural” simply means that a turkey (or any animal) has been minimally processed after slaughter and contains no artificial ingredients or added color, but the animal may still come from a completely conventional farm. Turkeys in America are generally not raised in cages and federal law currently prohibits the use of hormones in birds, so claims like “hormone free” or “cage free” are also essentially meaningless. You can try speaking with your local farmers about their practices to determine whether they’re similarly unconventional and using better welfare.
There are many ways to have a more humane holiday season, including seeking out certified products as well as other better-raised products, along with bringing the “sides” into the center of your plate: there are many delicious, hearty dishes that leave out the meat and will leave you sleepy and stuffed! Either way, we’d like to challenge you to an “unconventional” Thanksgiving when it comes to animal welfare.