Dogs and cats may be the most popular pets — but in one city, the rabbit is giving canines and felines a run for their money.
In Hong Kong, one of the world’s most densely populated cities where most apartments range from small to miniscule, rabbits are popular pets.
And when the bunnies’ owners are away, there are now “rabbit resorts” to step in and cater to the animals’ every need.
In suburban Hong Kong, rabbits scamper around a play area at Bunny Style, a luxury rabbit resort housed in a climate-controlled building, the Associated Press reported.
Some of the pet bunnies climb a castle made of wood, while others explore a cotton tunnel.
The lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in Hong Kong has been spurring a surge in travel for the Lunar New Year to welcome the Year of the Rabbit, the AP also noted.
Donna Li, owner of the Bunny Style resort, told the AP she is fully booked for the holiday.
To keep the rabbits in her charge happy, she provides them with regular exercise, parties, spa treatments — and carrots.
“We aim to provide a secure environment,” Li told the AP.
Li has two pet rabbits of her own, the AP noted.
She set up Bunny Style this past June, starting with just a playroom offering space to hop as well as relief from Hong Kong’s hot, humid weather.
“To begin with, my idea was mainly about setting up a safe indoor play space with a suitable temperature for rabbits,” Li told the AP.
Then, when the government began lifting COVID-19 restrictions in September, Li said she sensed a need and swiftly set up boarding facilities.
The business was full over Christmas — and already Li has been taking bookings well ahead of Easter.
With 15 rabbits, Li and her staff will be busy over the holiday, the most important in the Chinese calendar, the AP reported.
Apart from feeding — some owners order special vegetable cakes in advance — there are important tasks to manage such as hair-brushing, nail trimming and exercising.
“I think rabbits understand what people say. They can sense whether we are being nice to them and look after them well,” Li said.
“And so when I look after them,” she said, “I talk to them a lot, telling them how beautiful and cute they are.”
Owners are also given a livestream and video clips of their animals.
This way, “we knew that our rabbit was out actively hopping and enjoying itself,” said Rainbow Li, who came across Bunny Style on the internet — and boarded her rabbit there while she and her partner traveled over the Christmas holiday.
As those who own rabbits know, bunnies are social creatures.
Plus, they “make wonderful indoor pets. They are adorable and brimming with personality,” as a site called My House Rabbit explains.
While it’s key for rabbits to have their own “housing area” within a home, they also need to be around others.
“Rabbits need social interaction, plenty of exercise and a lot of enrichment activities,” the site notes.
It’s important to note that if the bunny has free rein throughout the home, owners need to “bunny proof” the area, as “rabbits are very curious and persistent creatures,” the site also points out.
The Bunny Style hotel in Hong Kong charges about $15 per night, including half an hour of supervised play time for the rabbit.
Bunny “beauty treatments” and special menu items cost extra.
However, given the animals’ popularity in Hong Kong, some owners have discovered they’ve “bit off more than they can chew,” as the AP noted.
For those who decide a bunny is no longer for them, there are shelters such as Tolobunny, set up in 2015 and dedicated to finding new homes for abandoned rabbits — often at public adoption events.
Spokesperson Bridget Ng told the AP that she is already anticipating a surge of calls to the shelter’s 24-hour rescue hotline in the months after the New Year.
Already, its volunteers are housing 42 rabbits temporarily that were given up by their owners.
“Our observation is that throughout the year, especially at festive holidays like Valentine’s Day, Easter or Christmas, there are more people who want to keep rabbits — but after a few months, there will be more abandoned rabbits,” Ng said to the AP.
Homeless dogs and cats still get more care — but “I hope there will be more attention and resources for all kinds of abandoned animals,” founder Winky Cheng said.
In the U.S., rabbits are the sixth most popular pet, according to Forever Vets, a team of veterinarians in Florida with 12 locations in the state.
They estimate there are 1.5 million “happy rabbit owners” in America.
“Like cats, bunnies take up very little space, making them a great option for people living in apartments,” the group says on its website.
“Ensure that your rabbit gets the chance to leave its enclosure each day and explore a bunny-safe location to keep it healthy and happy.”
The Associated Press contributed reporting.
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