- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 31, 2002

Easter presents a multitiered holiday for families. In addition to its religious significance, the day gives children a chance to enjoy hunts for colorful eggs, devour large amounts of candy and learn about the famous Peter Cottontail.

However, too many parents blur the line of reality with fiction by bringing a new and not-always-wanted friend into the household during this time. Rabbits may be furry and cuddly, but they require as much love and care as Spot the dog.

A rabbit can make a great pet under certain circumstances, but grown-ups with younger children need to make a well-informed choice.

One organization offers a great cyber-stop, twitching with information on the care of a creature celebrated everywhere from Warner Bros. cartoons to the famous movie "Harvey," starring James Stewart and his invisible buddy.

House Rabbit Society

Site address: www.rabbit.org

Creator:

House Rabbit Society (HRS), a national nonprofit organization based in Richmond, Calif., was established in 1988 to help rescue abandoned rabbits, reduce the number of unwanted rabbits and improve rabbits' lives.

Creator quotable:

"We created this site as a fun and informative way to educate people about rabbits as indoor companions and the importance to spay or neuter. It's intended as a resource for current rabbit owners, potential adopters, veterinarians and those who just have a soft spot in their hearts for these highly intelligent and social creatures," says Paige Parsons, HRS' director of education.

Word from the Webwise:

HRS and its 7,000 members have saved more than 5,500 rabbits through an adoption program since its inception. The organization's 8-year-old companion Web site features an avalanche of tips, resources, stories, photographs and useful articles on an animal that can be expected to live up to 12 years.

An underwhelming but extremely efficient opening page greets visitors with circular shaped pictures of rabbits, which link to the sections "Care," "Behavior," "Health," "Pictures," "Links," "Chapters," "Adoption," "Kids" and "Vets" basically everything one would ever need to know about keeping a bunny in perfect hopping shape.

Those considering a rabbit as an indoor pet will immediately want to stop by the "Care" frequently-asked-questions (FAQ) area.

The pages here explain that the cuddly munch machines need to be fixed to prevent them from marking their territory, can run free in the house, will use a litter box, need 30 hours of running time per week, like to chew on furniture and electrical cords, can live with well-mannered dogs and cats and enjoy fresh salad vegetables and playing with chew toys.

I found the overall range of detail on the animal impressive, including such topics as the importance of fiber, bladder stones in rabbits, games rabbits play, and putting bunnies on planes routinely popping up on the heavily text-based sections.

For less technical fare, visitors will appreciate a "True Stories" subarea that provides real-life, hair-raising adventures including ones about lawyers living with Buns the rabbit, the lost and then quickly found Mr. Bunny, and a furry fellow who was rescued from a very hungry boa constrictor.

Ease of use:

The site was designed with the thought of giving visitors the quickest possible access to information. A detailed site map, multiple indexes, subject listings, popular pages, a working search engine and side menus offering related articles should make this site an invaluable resource to the rabbit owner.

Don't miss:

The picture always has been worth 1,000 words, and many of them will revolve around "aw, isn't he cute" as visitors explore the "Pictures" sections. A full selection of images will make even the sourest curmudgeon smile at the shenanigans of Zowie, Zippy, Cecil and baby FooBar.

Family activity:

Rabbit owners will enjoy making Brenda Plaxton's Bunny Biscuits for their pets. (A link to the recipe has been listed conveniently on the opening page.) It involves mixing together some mashed carrots, bananas, honey and wheat flour.

Also, a downloadable coloring book that can be found in the "Kids" section gives children 12 pages to express themselves while learning how to take care of their lovely lagomorph.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

This site definitely fills a niche demographic and will appeal only to children enamored with their new, floppy-eared friend. Others will wonder what all the fuss is about and quickly look for a site with more activities and games.

Overall grade: B+

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician. Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).


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