By Helena A Cochrane
In 2023, we bid farewell to the Tiger, and welcome the Rabbit, who hops tenderly on to the scene and brings hope for a healthier, more harmonious and prosperous new year. The Rabbit is considered the luckiest of the 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac, symbolizing calm, peaceability, elegance and beauty. Rabbit is also loyal and merciful. You may recall the Jade Rabbit, who appears in the Mid-Autumn of every year, as companion and clever rescuer of the Moon Goddess. Westerners associate the Rabbit with fertility and renewal, springtime and Easter. We also have our trickster Bugs Bunny, who easily outsmarts the hapless hunter Elmer Fudd, and the White Rabbit of Alice in Wonderland who leads Alice through her dream world with a hasty, fussy obsession for punctuality. Some Westerners like to utter the phrase “rabbit, rabbit” on the first day of the month, so as to bring good luck for the following 30 days.
In the Chinese Zodiac, Rabbit is also credited with being highly alert, and though generally peaceful, able to jump to attention and defend family and friends when threats arise. The Rabbit can plan ahead, set goals, maintain self-discipline, and forgive others who stray from their own careful planning. Let’s not forget fertility and longevity. In nature, rabbits live an average of 10 years, and they are notorious for their fecundity, producing several litters a year.
Rabbits are also cuddly, cute as can be with their shivery little noses and their long, sometimes floppy ears. Their hind legs are longer than their front legs, giving them an endearing gait, and their fluffy tails evoke joy and playfulness. It is a small wonder they are among the most popular house pets purchased in Singapore. According to both Bunny Wonderland https://bunnywonderlandsg.com/ the House Rabbit Society of Singapore https://www.facebook.com/FHRSS, many people misunderstand their pets. Sadly, some pet owners grow disenchanted with the particular temperaments of their bunnies, resulting in cases of abandonment. Bunny Wonderland and HRSS have stepped in with their cadre of dedicated volunteers to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome the rabbits.
Recent posts on the Facebook page of HRSS are calls for volunteers to follow up on sightings of abandoned rabbits, in various neighborhood void decks, parks, or carparks. Following the online thread of one rescue call, I learned of caring rescuers who searched until dark for any number of hapless little rabbits left to fend for themselves. House rabbits are a different breed than wild rabbits, cannot crossbreed with them, nor survive in the wild in the same way.
House rabbit care ought to be based on the animals’ needs for hygiene, companionship and a balanced diet. Because we humans have fallen so hopelessly in love with the seeming amiability of rabbits, we can forget that they are not at all like us. Nor are they like dogs or cats, being much more sensitive than either of these other domestic animals. Since Rabbits are prey animals, i.e. have many natural predators, they are skittish and do not welcome being held the way a dog or cat would. Former house rabbit foster parent Jenni Lee says that rabbits need time and space to grow accustomed to their humans, at the same time that they need daily attention. https://www.rabbitcaretips.com/ offers many practical tidbits to those who want to make a place in their homes for a rabbit.
As we ring in the year of the Rabbit this February, let’s recall the patience and peacemaking qualities so valued in Chinese culture for this Zodiac animal. But let’s not confuse the symbol for the real animal, and remember to give our floppy pets what they need to thrive.
Since moving from Philadelphia in 2018, Helena has been active with AWA's Walking with Women, Writers' Group and International Vocal Ensemble, as well as with Urban Sketchers of Singapore. See her artwork on Instagram @helena_antolin_cochrane