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Don't Buy Pets To Fill Easter Basket
By Allison Powe
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Bunnies and chicks with pastel fur have become one of the most recognizable symbols of Easter, but don't give in to the temptations of buying a pet impulsively.
"Young bunnies and chicks are heavily marketed during the Easter season, but too many people buy these animals on the spur of the moment without being prepared," said Dr. Richard Hopper, extension leader of veterinary medicine at Mississippi State University.
Hopper said before purchasing an Easter pet, people should realize they require as much or more attention as other pets, such as a cat or dog.
"When a person is ready to take on the responsibilities that come with a rabbit, or even a chick, these animals can actually be very nice pets," Hopper said. "But try to be aware of the animal's health when you select a pet."
Hopper said there are some signs to look for to determine an animal's health.
"Typically when rabbits are sick, their eyes are caked with dust and dirt, and there may be signs of diarrhea. This indicates the animal has an ongoing infection," Hopper said. "Some animals that don't come from healthy sources have internal parasites and are likely to die very quickly.
Try to get pets from a reputable farmer who raises a small number of animals. Animals raised for a 4-H project or by a good farmer tend to be healthy," Hopper said.
"Small animals tend to do better in pairs. They often have a difficult time staying healthy when they live without a companion, so try to buy at least two of the animals," Hopper said.
Owners should be prepared to accommodate a new pet's needs. Make sure other animals that may harm the pet are unable to reach it. Also, observe children closely to see that they don't play to roughly with a young animal.
"Rabbits and chicks are delicate and really should not be handled too much. Rabbits have a lot of anxiety when they are handled because they naturally become frightened when they feel they have been caught. Chicks don't like to be handled much either," Hopper said.
These animals tend to be easily exhausted by children who want to play with them a lot. Stress caused by exhaustion can make a new pet sick.
Hopper suggested keeping rabbits or chicks in a cage outside. Rabbits' cages are best if they have a solid floor.
"These pets aren't suited well for indoors because they can be very messy," Hopper said.
Hopper warned parents to think carefully before buying children an Easter pet. Consider whether or not an animal would be easy to give away if caring for it becomes a problem.
"Even though they may not be traditional Easter pets, usually puppies or kittens are the best animals to choose when selecting a new pet," Hopper said.