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Thinking of getting a live Easter bunny? Read this first

Whether chocolate, marshmallow or plush toys, we see bunnies everywhere around Easter.

The Easter Bunny is the ubiquitous early spring mascot, just like Rudolph and Frosty are December mascots.

Wouldn't it be cute to have a real, live, furry bunny hopping around your home for Easter? Your kids may see some at a pet store and plead, "Mom, can we get one?'

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Maybe a rabbit would fit in with your family, but not as an Easter novelty, Edie Sayeg said.

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Sayeg is chairwoman of the Georgia House Rabbit Society, a rabbit-only shelter that has about 120 adoptable bunnnies available.

"It has been a tradition ingrained in our society for many, many years: a little Easter Bunny in an Easter basket. Rabbits are on people's minds," she said.

But, "you wouldn't buy your child a reindeer at Christmas. Why would you buy your child a bunny at Easter?" Sayeg asked.

Rabbits are the third most popular companion animals in America – and the third most common pet dumped at shelters, according to figures from the House Rabbit Society.

During a typical year, Sayeg's organization, a branch of the national society, takes in 200-230 rabbits. Many of those come in the months after Easter, when impulse buyers get tired of their bunnies and realize the pet requires a lot more work than expected.

Could a rabbit be a lifelong fit for your family? There's only one way to ensure that: If you get a rabbit, it must be for the adults, not the child.

A kid can enjoy the bunny, but mom must be the one who wants it and takes responsibility for its care, Sayeg said.

"We adopt to families every week," she said. "We enjoy adopting to families, but we do not adopt to children. That's the key.

"It can be the mom, it can be the dad, but it needs to be one of them who wants the bunny," Sayeg said.

Young children can get on the floor to interact with and pet the rabbit, but they should let the animal come to them, while a parent supervises, Sayeg said.

But children should not pick up the bunnies, because rabbits' bones are fragile, and kids could drop and accidentally kill the animals.

Potential bunny parents also need to consider the lifestyle and needs of rabbits. If your family is vegetarian or vegan, a bunny's herbivorous diet – hay, greens, pellets, and the occasional carrot or fruit treat — would be compatible.

If you don't want a pet you have to take for walks or take outside for potty breaks, bunnies can be perfect because they must be kept indoors and use litter boxes, Sayeg said.

Like cats and dogs, pet bunnies need to be spayed or neutered; if not, they act aggressively and don't make good household pets, she added.

Rabbits, which easily live into their teens, like to chew on things — especially electric cords — so you must bunny-proof your house, Sayeg said.

What about if your family has other pets, particularly predators like cats? Can prey animals like rabbits and carnivores co-exist in the same household and even become friends?

It depends on the individual cat or dog, and how aggressive they are, Sayeg said.

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