How to care for your new Easter bunny

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Animal-welfare agencies used to discourage giving pets as gifts, but that view is changing based on a recent study by the ASPCA.

According to that data, 96 percent of individuals who received pets as gifts said it had no impact on their attachment to the pet and 86 percent of those pets are still in their homes today.

This research indicates that regardless of how a person acquires a pet, it is their interest in pet ownership and eagerness to take on the responsibility of caring for a pet and their lifestyle that will ultimately determine the success of their relationship with their new family member.

That said, there are many things you need to consider before gifting an animal. First and foremost, be sure the intended recipient wants a pet.

With Easter approaching, bunnies are on the brain.

Rabbits make wonderful pets, but there are some important things the new bunny parent needs to know.

Bunnies do not tolerate heat well so they should be kept indoors, particularly during the summer. Also, they need space -- inside or perhaps a shaded outdoor enclosure -- to run around, jump and play. Yes, bunnies play.

"The domestic rabbits really love toys, a lot like your cat toys," Arizona Humane Society spokeswoman Ashliegh Goebel explained while petting bunny model Cracker Jack. (He's a beautiful 8-year-old tricolor Holland Lop, in case you're interested in bringing him home.)

Bunnies also like things to chew on. Lots of things to chew on.

"They're constant chewers," she said.

Rabbits are fragile, so while they're great pets, they'll probably do better with older children. If you're going to snuggle, pet or play, get down on the rabbit's level.

As for diet, rabbits need Timothy hay, rabbit pellets and fresh raw fruits and veggies.

Finally, be aware that like cats and dogs, rabbits usually are a long-term commitment. They live eight to 10 years.

While the AHS is not discouraging giving bunnies as gifts this Easter -- the organization's goal is to place as many animals in loving homes as possible -- they say they generally see an influx of rabbits coming into the shelter about two months after the holiday.