Even Better than the Real Thing? 8 Reasons to Choose a Chocolate Bunny This Easter

rabbit_LG6W3643small-new.jpg Think a bunny would make the perfect Easter gift? For live rabbits, the caring goes on after Easter. Ask yourself these eight questions to find out if you are rabbit-ready.

Fairfaix VA: Bella, a brown and white Dutch mix rabbit, spends her days hiding under furniture, sneaking into the kitchen, and being scratched between the ears by her owner Barbara Post. Nine years ago, however, she was alone and abandoned in a cage at a shelter with an uncertain future. Originally purchased by a family as an Easter bunny, they soon grew tired of caring for her and gave her up for adoption. At the time, Barbara was looking for a companion for her first rabbit, a purebred Mini Rex named Fox. The House Rabbit Society introduced Fox to a variety of rabbits to help find him the perfect fit.

"Fox was very aloof," Barbara said. "Girl rabbits would come up to him and he would not even pay attention. And then we put Bella in with him and they immediately started playing and running around. You could tell right away that they were going to be a good fit. So I adopted her." Thanks to the efforts of the House Rabbit Society, Bella now enjoys a carefree life with a loving family, but not all rabbits are so lucky.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that thousands of rabbits end up in shelters or are abandoned into the wild after Easter each year. Rabbits are often turned away at shelters or are euthanized. Some rabbit owners release their "Easter bunny" into the wild, where rabbits can quickly fall victim to predators, injury, or illness.

Anyone who is considering buying a live rabbit for Easter needs to ask the following questions:

1.Are you ready for a roommate? Rabbits are social animals that are best kept indoors. Outside, rabbits are susceptible to extreme temperatures, fleas and disease.

2.Are you okay losing your cable television connection? Some bunnies love to chew on rugs, furniture and electrical cords, which may need protection as if you were child-proofing your home.

3.Do you mind cleaning up a few accidents? Rabbits can be trained to use litter boxes, but they may have an occasional accident.

4.Are you ready for a grooming session? Bunnies groom themselves constantly, but they can benefit from being brushed regularly.

5.Can you watch their diet? Rabbits need a diet of good quality pellets, fresh hay, fruits and vegetables, and plenty of clean water. They cannot live on carrots alone. In fact, because of the high sugar content, carrots should only be a treat.

6.Can you make a commitment? The average spayed or neutered rabbit lives as long as a cat or dog. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest rabbit in the world lived to the age of 18.

7.Are you ready for two? Rabbits are social creatures, and many do well with a companion.

8.Are you okay with allergies? Allergies to pet hair are common, as are allergies to hay, which rabbits should always have available to them for healthy digestion.

If you answered "Yes" to all of these questions, then a rabbit may be a good pet for you to consider, not for just for Easter, but as a long-term commitment. Contact the local chapter of the House Rabbit Society or another rescue organization to find your perfect match. If, however, you answered "No" to any of the above questions, consider buying chocolate bunnies to fill Easter baskets this year. The Columbus House Rabbit Society started the Make Mine Chocolate! campaign in 2002 to educate potential rabbit owners about the real challenges of raising a pet rabbit. The campaign advocates gifting chocolate bunnies instead of real ones at Easter for those who are not ready for a long-term commitment.

"Adopting a rabbit on the cute factor is not responsible," said Barbara. "There is a lot to know about a rabbit, and it is a commitment." In addition to being the owner of a rescued Easter bunny, Barbara owns the Historical Chocolate Company, which specializes in recreating landmarks and historic buildings in chocolate. This year, she is combining her love of rabbits with her chocolate business and will be offering chocolate Easter rabbits patterned from antique chocolate molds. The Historical Chocolate Company will be donating a portion of the proceeds to the Make Mine Chocolate! campaign and the House Rabbit Society's Maryland, D.C. and Northern Virginia chapter so that rabbits like Bella find a home.

About The Historical Chocolate Company: The Historical Chocolate Company specializes in reproducing America's historic landmarks in milk, dark, and white chocolate for wedding favors, special events, corporate gifts, and gift/retail shops. Visit www.historicalchocolate.com, www.facebook.com/HistoricalChocolate and twitter.com/HistoricalChoc for more information.

About the Make Mine Chocolate! Campaign: The Make Mine Chocolate! campaign was launched in 2002 by the Columbus House Rabbit society to educate the public on the realities of living with a rabbit. The campaign teaches rabbit owners proper rabbit-caring techniques and encourages people to purchase chocolate or toy rabbits rather than live ones at Easter. Learn more at MakeMineChocolate.org.

About The House Rabbit Society: The House Rabbit Society is an international, nonprofit organization based in Richmond, CA, with two main goals: to rescue and re-home abandoned rabbits, and to improve rabbits' lives by helping people better understand these often misunderstood companion animals, through its publications, website, educational materials and classes. For more information, visit www.rabbit.org.

About PawPrints Photography: Award-winning photographer Robin Burkett, owner of PawPrints Photography based in Alexandria, Va., specializes in photographing pets and the people who love them. Her work has been featured in numerous local and national publications. Robin often donates products and services to local animal rescue organizations. Visit www.pawprintsphotography.com to view her work.