Darien, Connecticut—With the Easter season upon us, pet shops are selling bunnies, many of them infants who should still be with their mothers.

The cute face of a bunny may seem to invite cuddles and hugs, but bunnies would rather not be picked up and handled since they are prey animals in nature.

According to Friends of Animals’ President Priscilla Feral, “The sale of rabbits as pets reflects a lack of understanding of the needs and habits of these animals. It is in their nature to be skittish and easily frightened so they shouldn’t be mishandled. Plus, caging them for hours on end is utterly cruel when they’re designed to hop.”

Veterinarian Joan Poster of Westport, Connecticut says that she receives at least 5 calls per week from people who can’t keep their rabbits anymore. “Most people simply do not know what these animals are like.”

Rabbits require regular exercise, daily socialization, special food and the care of an experienced veterinarian. “Finding a veterinarian who is familiar with the needs of rabbits and other so-called ‘pocket pets’ can be a real challenge.”

Shelters and rescue groups are left to face the grim consequences of impulse pet purchases. When the animal becomes too expensive or inconvenient, many people will abandon the animals they once claimed to love.

“If you think you can handle the many responsibilities of caring for a rabbit or other small animal,” Feral says, “Don’t purchase any animal from a pet store. Pet stores support the ongoing breeding of animals that are already over-populated and filling animal shelters.”

Instead, Feral suggests reading up on the special needs of the animal and then visiting a local rescue group or shelter.