Rabbits are cute, cuddly, and docile, low maintenance and teach kids how to be responsible, right? Wrong! Many families get a rabbit only to be confused and disappointed by bunny’s behaviour. Most rabbits don’t enjoy being carried around, and can be very territorial. In addition, they require the same level of care, mental stimulation, and veterinary attention as a dog or a cat would.
Is a bunny a good choice for you and your family?
Are you willing and able to be the bunny’s primary caregiver every day and house him/her indoors? Did you know rabbits need daily exercise, housing larger than what most pet stores sell, a special diet AND health care? Can you accept that rabbits can scratch or nip if they feel threatened or irritated by too much attention?
Small Child = BIG Bunny
This is a good rule of thumb. Larger rabbit breeds tend to be more laid back, and their size discourages young children from trying to pick them up.
A child’s room is not the best choice for a rabbit’s home. Rabbits should be kept in common areas if you want the rabbit to be happy and socialized. Neglected bunnies show an increase in aggressive and destructive behaviors, mostly out of boredom, fear or distrust. In addition, teach your child that the bunny’s home base area is his or her “special spot.” If bunny hops away into her house, it means that she needs some space. Let your rabbit have that area where he or she can escape for a break or to feel safe in.
Is your child a good fit for a bunny?
Children that have been taught to respect prey animals for who they are, who know never to chase or poke, and who tend to be calm and patient are the best fit for a rabbit. Kids who tend to be hyper, loud, and don’t always follow rules are probably better suited to another pet. Rabbits are very high stress animals and can literally die of fright from loud noises such as banging on cages. Do you AND your child have the patience to gain your bunny’s trust, even when you’re frustrated or confused? The younger your children are, the harder it is. You, as a parent, will need to supervise. Children must be taught to let the rabbit hop away when she wants to. Let your bunny take the lead. Rabbits are naturally timid and afraid sometimes. While gaining trust takes patience, love and time, children can form wonderful, lasting bonds with pet rabbits.
The Responsibility Lesson
Many parents want to get their child a pet in order to teach them about responsibility. What often happens, however, is the rabbit is soon forgotten, and shortly after a new home is sought. The only lesson a child will learn from this is that animals are disposable. A better approach is to research the needs of a rabbit, or any pet, with your child. Discuss why a rabbit is or isn’t suitable for your home, and decide together if you have the time and patience to put into adopting a rabbit.
Adopting to children
We do not adopt rabbits to children. If you are adopting a rabbit to be a family pet, you must acknowledge that the responsibility for the care and health of the rabbit falls on you, the parent. If it is part of the children’s job that isn’t getting done, threatening to “take the rabbit back to the shelter” isn’t an acceptable way to deal with the problem. Instead you will need to pick up the slack and find some way to communicate to the children that a pet is a living thing, and a part of the family, and needs love and care from everyone.