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Bunnies for Easter? Not so fast

Giving pet rabbits to kids for the holiday is not necessarily good for the rabbits or the kids.

Easter bunny rabbit with painted egg.

Easter bunny rabbit with painted egg. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Dmitry Kobeza

Q Could you please reprint in time for Easter your response to rabbit rescue on why it's a bad idea to get a rabbit for a child for Easter?

 — Jeanne, Mattituck

I am happy to give a fresh talk about why one shouldn't get a rabbit around Easter. Rabbits can live eight to 14 years, which means today's impulsive Easter "gift" may still be in the family when the child who received it is heading off to college. Rabbits need responsible adult caregivers (not children) to thrive and can cost as much to care for as a dog or cat over their lifetimes, according to the House Rabbit Society.

Sadly, rabbits are the third most relinquished pet behind dogs and cats. Most animal shelters don't take them, which is why there are rabbit rescue groups. Rather than relinquish their pet rabbits, some people may dump them in the woods thinking they will survive. But that's a death sentence for them. Unlike wild rabbits, pet rabbits have no survival skills and can quickly starve or be eaten by other animals.

Having said that, rabbits can make great pets and are very affectionate with their families. If you are ready for a decade-long commitment and feel a rabbit is right for you, then talk with a local rabbit rescue group about adopting a rabbit. There will likely be many rabbits in need of homes a few months after Easter. If you are just wanting to please a child, opt for a plush rabbit toy or a chocolate rabbit confection instead.

Q We have a cat who is very relaxed and affectionate with my husband and me, but when someone comes to our house she runs and hides. If she is inside, she hides under our bed. If she is outside, she won't come in until she is sure they have left. Is there anything we can do to ease her fear of people she doesn't know? Our cat is 6 years old.

— Dawn, Hebron, Connecticut

A Most cats love their families and are fine with limited social circles. But if you want to help your cat relax more around guests, change her environment. Cats are going to hide if scared, but you can coax her into hiding in plain sight with a tall cat tree with hidey holes that she can escape into when people come over. Also, use some feline pheromones in the house. Spray pheromones on the cat tree (and guests), put plug-in pheromones around the home, and consider a pheromone collar since she goes outside. I can't make any promises about her sticking around, but if she is up high and away from your guests and feeling calmer from the pheromones, she might eventually stay in the room when you have company.

Q We have a 2-year-old yellow lab who is not fixed yet. When I spoke to the vets, they said fixing him will not calm him down as many people say. He goes nuts when I get home from work, but believe most dogs do this. He lifts his leg to pee everywhere. When walking, he stops about 13 times just going around the block. When playing fetch, he will stop almost every time to pee on the trees nearby when bringing back the ball. My question is, if a male dog gets fixed, do they still lift their legs to pee so often?

— Tom, Massapequa Park

A The enthusiastic greeting is normal, but let me know if you need advice on how to temper that energy if he is jumping or doesn't settle down within a few minutes of your arrival.

While neutering a dog doesn't change his personality, it will reduce his reactions to females in heat in the neighborhood, which can make him easier to manage and more content at home.

As for lifting his leg, male dogs always withhold a little urine to mark the next bush. If your dog sniffs something, he is going to mark it. Some dogs mark more than others. Neutering doesn't always make a difference, but it can for some dogs, so I encourage you to fix him.

You can control how often he marks things by not stopping every time he stops. Don't cut off his scent-mail altogether, but only let him mark in a few places during your walks. This practice may help reduce his overall frequency elsewhere.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.

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