Rabbits bought on a whim for Easter are ending up at animal rescue centres months later.
Owner of Wellington Rabbit Rescue Chrissy Joy wants to warn people not to buy rabbits on the spur of the moment for an Easter gift or to use at an event, as they're much harder work than most people expect.
"Every Easter we have the same thing where pet stores load up on rabbits . . . to encourage people to buy them as Easter presents," Joy said.
Trade Me listings for bunnies also rise just before Easter.
"Unfortunately it means people tend to buy them on a whim, they go 'oh look, it's a cute, little baby bunny', but they're actually pretty hard work."
Within a few months those bunnies end up at the rescue centres, unwanted.
People find it hard to cope as their rabbits become hormonal, start spraying, or end up pregnant.
Bunnies are tricky to fix and can have babies at a particularly young age, Joy said.
"They've stopped being cute and fluffy and easy to look after."
Kids also get sick of the rabbits as they don't like being picked up.
Over the last 24 hours, Wellington Rabbit Rescue has had calls about rehoming 43 rabbits, though this was not necessarily Easter related, but it did show the number of rabbits needing somewhere to go.
The rescue centre would get a large number of calls around Easter, sometimes from people who didn't know what to do with their rabbits when going away for the long weekend, but also from people who had seen rabbits at Easter events and were worried about them.
Bunnies are not generally good to take to events, as being a prey species they can get "pretty nervous".
"Rabbits go into shock very quickly. Being used in events can actually kill them.
"You've got to have the right kind of rabbit for it . . . we take rabbits to events but only particular rabbits that have been trained for it."
People should contact the rescue or SPCA if they wanted to have a rabbit at their event, as they might be able to help.
The issue of people buying rabbits at Easter that they wouldn't want several months down the track is getting worse, Joy said.
People needed to realise rabbits weren't a "good starter pet" and were actually "highly complex animals".
They're considered an exotic pet, and as a result are more expensive to take to the vet than the average household pet. Females also have an 80 per cent chance of developing uterine cancer if not desexed.
Joy urged people to adopt one rather than buy from breeders or pet stores, and to do their research before getting a bunny.
"It's not as simple as just popping it in a hutch in the backyard."