Rabbits are great pets to have when you’re able to take on the responsibility that comes with them. But don’t be fooled by Easter-time hype and cute pictures. They’re not good starter pets at any age, but rabbits especially don’t mix well with small children.
Despite their cute and fluffy appearance, rabbits are not really cuddly creatures, and they’re definitely not low maintenance pets. They have certain needs that young children cannot possibly be expected to meet. In short, it’s not fair to the child or to the rabbit.
Before we start, I just want you to know, that this article isn’t to shame you, if you have rabbits and small children. It serves to educate on why rabbits aren’t good starter pets for children, like a goldfish may be. Keep reading to learn more about why rabbits aren’t good starter pets for small children.
Table of Contents
- Rabbits Need a Peaceful, Quiet Environment
- The Responsibility Will Ultimately Fall on You
- Rabbits Need a Lot of Time and Attention
- Rabbits Aren’t as Cuddly as You Think
- Rabbits Don’t Like to Play the Way Young Kids Do
- Risk of Illness or Infection for Both
- It’s Not a Good Introduction to Vet Bills
- The Disaster of an Escaped Rabbit
Rabbits Need a Peaceful, Quiet Environment
If you’re in a house with kids and barking dogs, a rabbit is not a good fit for your family. Rabbits are just not suited for the hustle and bustle of a busy household.
They need a calm and quiet environment to thrive. And with children, that’s rarely possible. Especially in the younger years.
Rabbits are extremely fear-driven and are easily scared by things like loud noises and fast movements, like kids running around or screaming. When exposed to all of this, a rabbit may become stressed, which can lead to depression and more serious illnesses.
The Responsibility Will Ultimately Fall on You
Let’s face it, when kids ask for any pet, they say they’ll take good care of it, clean up after it, but they rarely actually do. Small children usually don’t get the concept of “being true to your word” or even follow through.
Rabbits need a lot of care. In fact, I’ve often reflected on the fact that I do more for my rabbits than my other pets require. If their cages aren’t clean, they’ll stink, and that doesn’t take long to happen, my friends. Especially when you have more than one.
So, if you can’t be honest with yourself, allow me to do it for you. You’re going to be doing most of the work. Young kids just aren’t properly equipped to care for other things. They can help, but they really just make more of a mess to clean up.
Rabbits Need a Lot of Time and Attention
It can take a very long time to form a close bond with your pet rabbit, and young children do not yet have that kind of attention span. A young child does not yet have the focus it takes to sit and slowly form a bond with a pet rabbit.
In all likelihood, after a while, they won’t want the rabbit anymore, and you’ll be responsible for it. And, let me tell you, they take a long time to manage. And this doesn’t just mean the time it takes to clean and take care of them either.
It also means their exercise and playtime, bonding time; all of that. They are not quick to form bonds unless they feel safe. So, it’s your job to curate that safe environment for them.
Rabbits Aren’t as Cuddly as You Think
Young kids want to hug and snuggle bunnies, there’s no doubt about it. Who could blame them? But the truth is, most rabbits don’t even like to be held. And if they need to be, it has to be done a certain way. They need to feel safe to stop squirming, scratching, etc.
You see, young children that haven’t had pets before don’t know how to hold squirmy animals. And they likely won’t be able to hold them properly at all, which makes the rabbit feel unsafe. This causes the rabbit to attempt escape, and the child will either squeeze or let go; neither of which is good for the rabbit.
This kind of scenario is dangerous. At best, your child gets scratched or bitten and cries. The worst-case scenario involves the rabbit being injured, maybe fatally. Even on the ground, there could be a danger, if your child accidentally strikes the rabbit or tries to grab them like a toy.
Rabbits Don’t Like to Play the Way Young Kids Do
Kids are different, and some are gentler than others, but a young child does not typically know their own strength. Also, if your children are under 5, they’re more likely to be a little on the rougher side.
A rabbit cannot be poked, their ears cannot be bent or pulled, and rabbits can not be toted around like baby dolls. So, if your child is not old enough to grasp that, then a rabbit is not a good choice at this time.
And, if they are that young, a child may also not be able to understand that rabbits won’t play with toys like a cat or dog. They’re not that particular type of fun. You may see cute videos where rabbits do tricks and hop around being joyful, but that takes a lot of time to do, bonding and then training a rabbit.
Risk of Illness or Infection for Both
If rabbits are injured, their vet bills will be more expensive than that of a cat or dog, and because rabbits don’t have a strong immune system, even small wounds need care. So, even a small scratch can turn into an infection.
A rabbit’s foot may be seen as lucky to some, but they aren’t the cleanest, as they spend most of their time in bedding that they also go to the bathroom in. So, if your child is scratched, this too can become infected with fecal bacteria.
And, if you have other pets, they can’t transfer things. For instance, there are diseases that cats can carry through killing mice that won’t necessarily harm the cat but will harm the rabbit. And, if you’re not up to date on everyone’s medications, ticks and fleas may also become a problem.
It’s Not a Good Introduction to Vet Bills
Rabbits are smaller, but that doesn’t mean the vet bill will be lower than that of a dog or cat. Rabbits are considered exotic pets by most veterinarians. You will likely be paying much more than a cat or a rabbit. I’ve had equine vet bills that are lower than my rabbit vet bills.
Rabbits are sensitive and will require regular checkups and will need to see a vet if they get sick, even if it’s a little bit. They don’t just get over illnesses like you or even another animal.
Rabbits also need to be neutered or spayed, or else they could breed, they definitely will spray (which stinks), and they could develop illnesses. Non-spayed females are more likely to develop ovarian and cervical cancer.
The Disaster of an Escaped Rabbit
It’s known that children love to wander and explore their homes on their own. If your child can gain access to your rabbit, then the rabbit will most likely escape, and a young child will likely chase it right out of the room.
In the house, a loose rabbit can cause chaos. If your child is chasing the rabbit around, it will only try and hide in tight corners. If it’s left alone, it could get into things like electrical wires and furniture, which they definitely will attempt to chew through.
If you happened to leave the back door open, which a lot of people do, your rabbit might just make the quick slip out the door, and into the wild. If you have other pets, they will surely only add to the chaos. It’s also important to note that domesticated rabbits that escape do not survive in the wild, despite claims. They lack the instinct to properly avoid predators and access water.
In my opinion, I don’t believe that rabbits are a good starter pet, no matter how old you are. They are much different than having dogs or cats, and it is certainly not like having a hamster. Rabbits are not suitable pets for children under the age of eight.
There are many reasons, but the main ones are because children and rabbits are polar opposites. They’re not a good fit. On the one hand, you have a loud, hyper, random child that loves to run, jump and play. And, on the other, you have a fearful creature that desires peace and quiet.
Rabbits need a calm and steady environment to truly be happy. And, while they can be affectionate, it takes a lot of time sitting still and being silent in order to gain their trust. Yes, rabbits do love to run, jump, and play, but not with people. Not the way that a puppy or a cat will play with a child.
If you wish to get a starter pet for your child, I really think that something like a goldfish would be the first goal, and to work up from there to a hamster or gerbil, or something of that nature. After that, if your child shows the gentleness, and responsibility that is required to have a happy rabbit, then it might be a better time.