RABBITS AND CHILDREN

Contrary to common stereotype, rabbits are not very suitable for children under 10 years of age. The liveliness and noisiness of small children can be stressful for a sensitive and timid creature like the rabbit. Children will want to pick up the rabbit and carry her like a soft toy, while rabbits are ground-loving creatures who prefer to be petted at floor level. If a rabbit is chased or held against her will she may kick and bite to defend herself. It is estimated that most children lose interest within a month of having a bunny. So, unless the parents are willing to consider the rabbit their pet, and take full responsibility for her care, it is kinder not to adopt her in the first place.

It is unreasonable to expect a child of any age to take on responsibility for a rabbit. What usually happens is that after a short time the novelty wears off and the rabbit becomes neglected or mistreated. Forcing a child to continue caring for his rabbit will just make the rabbit a source of frustration. Children learn mainly by example, so if the adults in the family are not interested in the rabbit and see her as a chore, the children will soon follow suit. In addition children’s interests change as they get older, so a 9 year old girl who is very fond of her rabbit may be more interested in boyfriends and parties a couple of years later. Rabbits can live 10 years or more and deserve to be treated with love and care for the whole of their lives. This is unlikely to happen if the rabbit is solely the child’s pet.

Naturally we don’t want to stop families with children from adopting a rabbit, but care should be taken when mixing rabbits with children. Do not leave small children and the rabbit together unsupervised. If the children are too noisy and chase or frighten the rabbit, they should be kept apart whenever possible. Provide several hiding places which are easy for the rabbit to reach but not the children – behind the sofa, under a bed, a box with the entrance facing a wall with a gap big enough for the bunny to hop in and out. Show your children how to pet the rabbit on the forehead, behind the ears and on the upper back. Teach them to stop when the rabbit looks frightened or has had enough of being cuddled. Children can also befriend a rabbit by brushing her and giving her food, either from a dish or the palm of the hand (not between the fingers). We do not recommend letting children pick up their rabbit, especially if she does not like being held, for their own safety as well as the bunny’s.

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