Every year around Easter, my elementary school classmates would stop asking their parents for horses and start asking for rabbits. It makes sense; young children see rabbits all around them as part of Easter displays and decorations and decide they need one. As far as I know, none of those classmates ever got a rabbit.
That’s not the way it goes for every family, however. Many families will buy a pet rabbit for their child while under the impression that it will be an easy pet. It lives in a cage, it’s cute and soft, so what else could you need for an easy first pet?
Rabbits are actually notoriously difficult to take care of, and they’re very expensive as well. It takes a lot of dedication to own and properly care for one, and once parents discover this, they usually just get rid of the rabbit.
According to National Geographic, “The Georgia House Rabbit Society gets more than 500 requests a year from owners looking to get rid of their rabbits—far more than they have the resources to save. Edie Sayeg, a rescuer with the group, believes thousands of rabbits are simply ditched outdoors in Georgia.”
It’s not just rabbits. Fish are even more common choices for a first pet. They live in a bowl and simply need to be fed once a day and have their water cleaned every so often. If they can live in those tiny containers at the store, surely this much bigger bowl will be better for it.
In actuality, adult goldfish need 20 gallons of water per fish to live healthy and happy lives. Betta fish, another common type of fish, need five gallons or more. There’s a lot more that goes into the care of a fish that most people aren’t aware of.
If you’re thinking about getting a rabbit or a fish, here’s some information you need to know.
Going back to rabbits, they’re considered exotic pets. This means that vet expenses are going to be higher than the cost of a dog or cat. They also don’t like to be confined to a cage like many people think. They require space to move around in, and most rabbit owners who know what they’re doing allow theirs to have free reign of their homes. They are able to do this by litter training their rabbits, similarly to cats, to avoid making messes everywhere.
Rabbits eat hay and grass, which should consist 80% of their diet, along with fresh, leafy greens and vegetables. Rabbits don’t actually like carrots as much as “Looney Toons” might have you thinking. They don’t eat root vegetables naturally in the wild, and due to their sugar contents, should only be allowed to have them occasionally, as a treat.
Also, despite their soft fur, rabbits aren’t as cuddly as one may think. They prefer to be on the ground, and will get upset and potentially violent if they are held. Many people pay to have their rabbits trained, similarly to dogs.
Let’s look at fish again. As stated, certain types of fish need different amounts of water to live happy lives. If purchasing a fish, you will need to make sure you’re purchasing the aforementioned tank, along with a filter, a siphon and a heater. Water conditions are important for fish, and things like temperature and ph levels need to be monitored to ensure that the fish is in a healthy environment. The numbers vary depending on what type of fish you have.
There’s also a process of getting the fish into the tank as well. Fish can’t be dumped out of their pet-store bag into their new tanks immediately. They have to be slowly introduced to it. If you have other fish, websites recommend quarantining your new fish at first to make sure there are no health issues before putting it with the others.
Another thing to bear in mind is that some types of fish don’t get along with each other. It’s imperative to do research if you want a tank with multiple fish to make sure there’s enough water and space for all of them and that they won’t throw fins with each other on sight.
I advise doing research on websites that aren’t affiliated with corporate pet stores such as PetCo or PetSmart. These stores sell tanks that are much too small and will often recommend you buy them. When shopping for a fish with a friend, who is very knowledgeable about fish, it was recommended to us by an employee that we buy a three gallon tank for the two betta fish he was considering, despite every other website telling us that wasn’t enough. They also take very poor care of the fish in their stores, and often, buying a fish from them feels like going on a rescue mission.