Sunday, September 09, 2007

We're hopping mad for cottontail critters

Herald Sun - 24 August 2007

From destructive pest to preferred pet.

House bunnies are breeding like rabbits in the hearts and homes of Australia's animal lovers.

The nation's first rabbits-only clinic staffed by bunny-loving vets has opened in Melbourne to meet demand.

It is one of only two in the world to treat rabbits only.

"Rabbits are increasingly being seen as clean, quiet, charismatic and low-maintenance pets that are being given the run of the house," vet Narelle Walter said.

"In the UK, the house rabbit has become the third most popular domestic pet and the trend is continuing here."

Dr Walter opened the Melbourne Rabbit clinic in Hallam late last year to provide high-quality, specific veterinary care.

Demand has been so high for the five-day clinic, she has recently hired a second vet to cope with her growing number of clients.

Dr Walter, who owns giant rabbit Starsky (in the hutch), said they were fascinating creatures from a veterinary perspective.

Owners delight in the way the animals adapt to indoors life, she said.

"Unlike cats, they don't miss the great outdoors, and unlike dogs, they don't need to be taken for a walk."

Active in the morning and evening and asleep during the day, they make perfect pets for working people, she said.

"Most people have vegetables in the fridge so it isn't a big change to their lives to get a rabbit. My husband says we have been eating much better since we got the rabbit."

Desexed, vaccinated and well cared for, rabbits can live up to 12 years.

Dr Walter agreed wild rabbits caused enormous destruction, but domestic rabbits differed greatly.

Karen V has 17 bunnies, mostly rescued rabbits that have taken over her home.

"They make excellent pets, especially if they are not picked up too often because they are ground animals and seem to get on well with working adult owners."