Children and Rabbits

Boy and Bun

Before adopting any pet it is important to understand its basic nature and what is involved in its care. Often, adults are interested in a rabbit for their young children. They consider it a starter pet - one to try out before committing to the responsibility of a dog or cat.

Too frequently a rabbit is an impulse purchase to satisfy a child when he begs for a pet, as if it were a toy. Adorable baby rabbits, as young as 4-6 weeks old, are often available from local pet and feed stores. Indeed, they are irresistible! Baby rabbits are easy to handle at this early age and seem just right for the small child. Then quickly the rabbit grows up!

Owning a rabbit can be an educational experience for the whole family. The gentleness and love required when interacting with a pet bunny can give your child lifelong lessons on kindness and responsibility. Choosing to adopt a rabbit should be a carefully considered family decision and should not be based on an impulse. Educate yourself before bringing a rabbit home.

There are many things to carefully consider before adopting a pet rabbit for a child.

  1. The rabbit's average life span is between 8 and 12 years. Adults should ask themselves whether they are committed to caring for the rabbit for this period of time. For example, in five years a 7-year-old child will be an adolescent of l2 or 13 and will be developing new and different interests beyond his pet rabbit. So, guess who gets to take on the responsibility of caring for the rabbit?

  2. Mature rabbits are ground loving animals, a majority of whom are not content being carried around or being held for long periods of time. A child, trying to hold his pet, may get nipped or scratched in the rabbit's efforts to get away. The child may become frightened and not want to interact with it any further. At worst, he or a young friend could drop the rabbit, injuring the rabbit's back or breaking its bones. Always have your child hold an adult rabbit before bringing one home. Watch his reaction to the rabbit's quick movements. This can tell a parent a lot about whether a rabbit is a good pet for their child.

  3. Rabbits are very sensitive to sound. Households with active children and their friends can be quite noisy. This can place the bunny in a continuously stressful situation that leads to health and temperament issues.

  4. Rabbits are not low maintenance pets. Attention to their needs on a daily basis is vital to their well being. They need frequent cage or pen cleaning, a consistent diet, and daily interaction with their caretakers. It is probably unrealistic to expect a child to take on these responsibilities when they are just trying to keep their bedrooms clean or remember to do their homework. Again, it is ultimately the adult's responsibility and a serious long-term decision.

If you have a quiet household, a calm child who willingly follows the family rules ("We relate to bunny only on the floor. We don't pick up bunny. We are quiet when we are near bunny.") and who has demonstrated responsibility in other areas of his life, adopting a rabbit may be a good choice. If household members have the time to care for a new pet and the adults realize, in the end, it is their responsibility to see that bunny is being well cared for, a bunny could be a good pet for you and your family.