Rabbits and Children

by Erin Ford

So... you have young children and you're thinking of getting, or already have, a house rabbit. Now what? Well, if you don't already have the rabbit, please consider a few things...

Contrary to popular belief, rabbits usually do not make good pets for young children under the age of eight or nine years old. Rabbits do not like to be held and will kick and twist to get away, causing possible broken bones in the rabbit and a nasty scratch to the child. Rabbits much prefer to stay on the ground. Teaching your child to sit or lie on the ground so the bunny has a chance to approach on his own terms is the best idea. Let the bunny come to the child and have the child give him a gentle pet. Rabbits are sometimes shy or aloof so give it time and patience. Placing the rabbit in the child's lap while he sits on the floor is another option.

No child should be given the sole responsibility of caring for a living being. He may forget feedings or lose interest after a while. Rabbits can live ten to twelve years. Are you as the adult caregiver committed to taking on this responsibility?

Children generate a high level of noise and this can really upset the rabbit. She needs a quiet, private place to get away from the noise and chaos children can create. A box filled with hay can serve as a hiding spot for bunny when life gets too loud. If there is more than normal family noise, for example a birthday party, a quiet room with the door closed is the best bet.

Also consider whether your child is mature enough to handle a house rabbit. Then ask, are your child's friends? As a parent I noticed that I don't have an only child. I have a whole neighborhood of children and they are often coming and going in a pack. I never leave my son's friends unattended near my rabbits. I sit in the room and monitor their activities; it can be a great opportunity to educate. I always let the children know that although rabbits are great pets, they require a bit of care. It is important to have them spayed/neutered and keep the house safe for them by rabbit proofing.

Although it is a good idea to wait until children are older to bring rabbits into your home, it is possible to make it work. It does, however, require a lot of dedication and some effort. I have spent two years teaching my son how to be a friend to our rabbits. He is now very good at giving pets and treats to all of them, and not once has he ever tried to pick them up. He will lie face down on the ground and let them walk on him and tickle his face with their whiskers. This is high fun in our house. And for us it works.