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An allergic reaction around rabbits may stem from its food, not its fur

When adorable little Easter bunnies grow into adult

When adorable little Easter bunnies grow into adult rabbits they often wind up being taken to animal shelters. Credit: Photos.com

Q I just read your recent story on adopting rabbits. Another issue worth mentioning, which my family encountered, is allergies to Timothy hay. My husband had to wear arm-length rubber gloves when handling the hay, and the dust kept us sneezing. Rabbits eat a ton of hay, so if you’re sensitive to it, think twice.

Chris, Manhasset

A Some people think if they sneeze or have a runny nose, they might be allergic to their rabbit. But in many instances, people with seasonal allergies may be allergic to their rabbit’s food instead.

Timothy hay is an important food source for the digestive health of small pets, like rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas. But, it’s also a trigger for people with seasonal grass allergies. So, rabbits and other small animals that eat the hay may not be a good fit for every home.

Kudos to your husband for finding a way to avoid contact with the hay while still providing your rabbit with proper nutrition.

Q I read your column about rabbits and whether families should buy them for Easter. There are many rabbits languishing at the Animal Care Centers in New York City. It would be so much better to adopt than to buy. They have a whole room full of rabbits that people can go and look and hold and bond with them. There are bonded pairs of rabbits to adopt, and all animals are microchipped, vaccinated, and spayed or neutered before adoption.

Reisner, New York

A I did advocate for readers to adopt from rabbit rescue groups and animal shelters but am happy to give another plug to adoption versus buying. Sadly, many baby bunnies are bought and then taken to rescue groups a year later when people lose interest in them. If someone is willing to adopt an older rabbit, it’s probably because they really want one. Adopting a bonded pair gives rabbits a friend, which makes them happier in their homes.

As you point out, rescue groups and animal shelters vaccinate, microchip, and spay and neuter rabbits as part of the adoption package. Rabbits reach maturity at 6 to 9 months old, depending on the breed. If not fixed, they can become aggressive and will reproduce when kept in male/female pairings. Females can get pregnant within minutes of giving birth, and their gestation period is only 28 to 31 days.

Q I found your column about basically taming your house cat very helpful. My parents are amazed at how our 10-year-old cat has been transformed over the last year. Who knew you could teach an old cat new tricks?

I am hoping you could help me with our very young standard poodle. I want to keep this question simple for now to see how things go. The dog seems to be afraid to stay outside and do his business. When he is in the house, he is a loving animal. When he goes outside, he becomes not so nice. Any advice?

Stephen, Collegeville, Pennsylvania

A I am not sure what your poodle is doing that is “not so nice,” but the key to solving fear or aggression is to identify and replace the negative behavior with a positive behavior. For dogs, that involves distraction, like training, and giving the dog a treat for staying calm in a situation.

For example, if your dog is afraid of passing cars, then take him out when there are fewer cars, distract him with a toy when a car passes, and give him a treat. If it’s just a general fear of the outdoors, then stay outside with him to see if that helps or train or play with your dog when he is outside, so he is not thinking about his surroundings.

Q My daughter is getting married in a few months, and I need someone to pet-sit my Boston terrier, age 7. Is there a legitimate list I can get somewhere that offers pet sitters in my area?

Ted, Merrick

A There are several sites where you can search for pet sitters, like, PetSit.com, Rover.com, Care.com, and TrustedHouseSitters.com. But, if you search online for “pet sitters near me,” you should get results that show these national websites, as well as a listing of businesses or individuals that provide these services in your area. Also, go to Yelp.com and type in “pet sitters” and your city/state, and you should get a local list of recommended pet sitters.

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