Rabbits are popular pets because they are small, soft and
cute and seem completely harmless and easy to care for. And
in truth, they do make excellent pets for people who know
what they need and their natural behaviors and can and will
give them the proper attention.
Children's books and movies are full of cute, charming
little furry bunnies and so many children beg for a pet
bunny of their own. Should you give in to your child's
begging and buy him or her a pet rabbit?
The answer is, maybe.
Neither a rabbit nor any other living pet is suitable for a
very young child unless an adult in the family is willing
and able to be completely responsible for caring for the
animal and to supervise any and all contact between the
child and the pet. A rabbit can live up to ten years, so the
commitment should be carefully considered.
Young children are not capable of careful handling of a
small animal without supervision and training and could
accidentally injure or kill the rabbit, which is not the pet
experience you want for your child (or your rabbit.) Young
children are also unable to responsibly provide food, water
and other care for a pet without help.
Another consideration is that rabbits are not very happy
living alone without another rabbit, so you may want to get
two rabbits rather than one. (If you don't have room for two
rabbits, you might consider guinea pigs or rats instead, or
one rabbit and one guinea pig.) Added to that, a rabbit's
urine smells bad, so an indoor rabbit will need to be taught
to use a litter box and it and its cage must be kept clean.
Also, rabbits, no matter how cute, are living animals that
have their own quirks and desires, so at some time your
rabbit will struggle to escape when held or bite or chew the
wrong items. Rabbits are prey animals, so their "flight from
predators" instinct is triggered by being picked up or held
tightly, especially by unfamiliar humans. And a rabbit's
claws, especially the hind claws, are sharp enough to
inflict some dangerous scratches if the animal struggles.
Hand taming requires gentle and patient handling.
Experts recommend that a child be nine years old or more
before they have a pet rabbit, and we would agree, unless a
parent also loves rabbits and doesn't mind shouldering all
the work. Older children who have experience with handling
and caring for animals can make great and capable rabbit
owners and sometimes enjoy showing their pets in 4-H and
other rabbit shows as a fun and educational hobby.
Last but not least, rabbits need specialized veterinary
care. Before you succumb to cute bunny fever, make sure that
you have a vet available who is experienced with rabbits and
their health issues, and that you can afford to take the
rabbit to the veterinarian if it is needed. Pets are totally
dependent on us for their well-being, as you know.