“You don’t surprise me enough,” I harangued my poor hardworking husband. So one day he came home with a box from the corner pet store, with a tiny trembling rabbit inside.
I was concerned. Our apartment was small. I didn’t exactly want a pet, with its demands for attention, its tendency to wreak havoc and inflict mess and destruction.
Cats leave hair everywhere. Dogs chew up favorite pairs of high heels. You have to train pets and feed them and walk them and if you want to go out of town, find a babysitter for them. They are a burden.
But just like a reluctant mother after she gets acquainted with her new little baby, I gradually fell in love with Mr. Buns, and he is now a beloved part of our family.
Mr. Buns is kind. An herbivore, he has no aggressive tendencies towards other creatures. He is always on the defense, especially against cats and dogs. His reaction is freeze, thump the ground, run away and hide. He is gentle, and mainly just wants to play, snuggle and relax.
Mr. Buns is fun. He does silly things like eat paper and pizza crusts. He does not like carrots, but he loves lettuce, apples and berries. He is a very picky rabbit. He goes crazy when he hears us pouring his food into his bowl. He likes to explore, to go outside to dig holes, do silly 180 degree jumps and run really fast back and forth. He has all kinds of silly quirks. His official name is Thunder, but he’s afraid of thunder and runs behind the bed when it storms. Every morning, he comes and jumps in our bed to snuggle us until we wake up. He loves to snuggle, but sometimes he likes to be left alone.
Mr. Buns is proud. He will let you pick him up, but he won’t sit on your lap. He will lick and groom the bed or couch, but rarely you. He is potty trained, but if you dare refuse his requests to be petted, he has been known to pee on the bed.
Mr. Buns is wise. He may be quiet (the only sound he has ever emitted are little grunts, when he is scared or mad), but you can see he understands. He knows and loves us. After he is done playing, he always runs back inside the house. If we are ever sad or sick, he comes and puts his head on our lap and lays next to us for hours, clearly comforting us in his sweet bunny way.
Mr. Buns has made me love and understand animals even more. I know that many people love their dogs and cats in this way. I am even more attuned now to the suffering of all animals, domestic, wild and farm.
I don’t believe that, in general, animals were meant to be put in cages. I let Mr. Buns roam freely. I don’t like the thought of birds in cages, or even fish in aquariums. Millions and millions of tropical fish die each year due to the pet industry. Consider this excerpt from Wikipedia:
Fish are caught by net, trap, or cyanide. Collecting expeditions can be lengthy and costly, and are not always successful. Fish can also be injured during collection and/or shipping; mortality rates during shipping are high. Many others are weakened by stress and become diseased.
PETA estimates that 9 out of every ten marine animals die before they even reach the shore:
Few people realize the magnitude of suffering in the captive fish industry—a $300 million worldwide “hobby” responsible for the annual capture of more than 20 million fish, 12 million corals, and millions of other types of marine life.
At least 95 percent of the gentle saltwater fish sold in pet shops have been cruelly ripped from their natural homes. Trappers douse coral reefs with poison in order to stun the fish for easy capture—half the affected fish die painfully on the reef, and 40 percent of survivors die before they reach an aquarium. The cyanide poison that is routinely used in this cruel practice also kills the reefs themselves as well as countless other animals who live and depend on them. In places where trappers do not use cyanide, such as in the waters of Hawaii, nets are used to capture the animals. Almost 67 percent of animals who are caught with nets die from stress, starvation, or injuries. Many fish suffer barotrauma, which occurs when they are forced to surface too quickly, and some are even subjected to organ puncturing, which is done to relieve the visible effects of barotrauma, and fin clipping, which is done to facilitate shipping.
Many domestic animals, especially if they have been bred in captivity, could not survive in the wild (especially not in urban and suburban environments) and many, like Mr. Buns, provide great joy to their owners. Pet therapy for the sick and elderly has been proven highly effective. But I have never been a fan of zoos, circuses, large-scale aquariums (like Sea World) nor the thought of animals being used for research or breeding. And the living conditions for American farm animals are horrific.
There is a major threat facing even traditional pets like dogs, cats, rabbits and birds. From Wikipedia: The Humane Society of the United States estimates that animal shelters care for 6-8 million dogs and cats every year in the United States, of whom approximately 3-4 million are euthanized. There are also major overpopulation problems with other pet species, such as birds and rabbits.
For those who are concerned, I would say consider strongly before getting a pet. Can the pet be happy and well-cared for in your home environment? Can you adopt from a shelter instead of a pet store? Also consider getting involved in animal rights, by signing petitions from these organizations:
Mr. Buns, like all living creatures, is noble. His brain may be smaller, and he may not speak our language, but neither does an infant. It doesn’t make him less aware or deserving of respect and love. All living creatures should be able to live as they were meant to live, designed to live, and have lived for millennia.
“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of the spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts soon happens to man.” — Chief Seattle
Treat the earth and all of her aspects as your mother. Show deep respect for the mineral world, the plant world, and the animal world. Do nothing to pollute our Mother, rise up with wisdom to defend her. –Native American teaching