HARE-RAISING TALE: Aficionados explain their love for the animals during National Rabbit Week | News

HARE-RAISING TALE: Aficionados explain their love for the animals during National Rabbit Week |  News

The beloved cartoon character Bugs Bunny may have a sharp tongue and a love for carrots, but real rabbits are gentle, sometimes nervous, and need special care to turn them into great pets.

This National Rabbit Week, an educator, vet, rehabilitator and a few local enthusiasts shared tips for raising and enjoying the company of these furry friends.

Jodie Parolini, Cherokee County OSU Extension agriculture educator, used to keep rabbits herself.

“I used to show rabbits when I was a kid, said Parolini.

Parolini stressed the importance of keeping these animals cool during summer’s heat.

“Fill old water bottles and put them in the freezer,” said Parolini.

With this trick, owners can then place these frozen bottles in their rabbit pens to reduce the ambient temperature. Parolini recommended using fans and providing cool water as well, as if their water supply gets too hot, rabbits won’t want to drink.

“This leads to dehydration,” said Parolini.

Rabbits can carry diseases. Parolini said the Extension Office was recently notified of the first case of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease in Kansas.

According to a fact sheet about RHD from the US Department of Agriculture, RHD is “fatal rabbit disease” that can spread through “direct contact or exposure to an infected rabbit’s excretions or blood.” This disease does not impact human health. To protect their rabbits, the USDA owners encourage practice “good biosecurity,” which includes keeping other pet and wild rabbits away from their own and quarantining newly acquired rabbits for at 30 days.

There are currently no known RHD cases in Oklahoma.

For general care, several veterinary clinics in the area treat these docile members of the Leporidae family. Veterinarian Bobbi Musgrove of Premier Pet Clinic said rabbits are brought in frequently. She offered some of the advice she gives owners when they bring them in for checks.

“We encourage them to minimize stress by bringing their [rabbit’s] crate and food,” said Musgrove.

According to Musgrove, because rabbits are prey animals, they are not as well-equipped to handle stress and fear as cats or dogs. They also need to be handled carefully during exams so they don’t try to escape.

“If they try to jump, they can sometimes kick their back legs so hard they can break their backs,” said Musgrove.

In terms of routine care, rabbits need general exams, but not definitely vaccines.

“We check their ears, as they can sometimes have ear mites,” said Musgrove.

If housed with cats or dogs, rabbits can also be vulnerable to fleas.

“Sometime we do discuss spaying and neutering to prevent behavioral and health issues,” said Musgrove. “They are susceptible to certain types of tumors.”

Michelle Laymon, of Eastern Oklahoma Wildlife Rehabilitation, sometimes see rabbits that have been injured.

“I don’t have any right now, but most of the ones I get are [caught by cats or dogs] and are injured,” said Laymon “I average about 20 a year.”

Laymon said she has been getting a “lot of calls” about tame rabbits that have been abandoned after the Easter holiday.

But many locals appreciate these creatures and keep them as permanent pets. In Hulbert, Tavery Martin, 9, has had her pet rabbit for four years now.

“His name is Scout,” said Tavery.

Tavery’s mother, JoElla Caddo, said she received Scout after her niece found the rabbit outside in the rain.

“He has a big personality,” said Caddo.

Tavery enjoys Scout’s company.

“[Scout] loves to cuddle,” said Tavery “He likes to play, too. Sometimes I make him little forts and he goes under them.”

For Tahlequah resident and rabbit judge Tara Parker Dorler, bunnies have been a “huge” part of her life.

“I started showing rabbits at our Cherokee County Fair at a young age and then grew my project into showing for the American Rabbit Breeders Association. I eventually received my rabbit registrar’s license, and then seven years ago, I received my judge’s license,” said Dorler. “My weekends are always filled with traveling both nationally and internationally to judge rabbits in competition.”

Dorler said she finds beauty in the diversity of rabbits.

“They make wonderful pets that can be potty trained and live in your house, just as your cat or dog can, as family members. You can show them and learn about the 50 different domestic breeds that the American Rabbit Breeders Association recognizes,” said Dorler. “The breeds are incredibly diverse; some have wool, others have floppy ears, some are running breeds and others are chubby cheeked. This is a competitive outlet that teaches youth and adults alike the importance of hard work, gratitude, animal husbandry and gives the alike responsibility of being the sole provider for your project.”

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