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Bringing Home the Easter Bunny: Rabbits as Pets

Should Your Child Have a Rabbit as a Pet?
From our provider: iParenting

With Easter right around the corner, pet stores are stocking up on bunnies for sale. Doesn't everyone at one time or another think about buying a bunny for their children at Easter?

Many of these bunnies are bought on impulse, without knowing all the responsibility a rabbit requires. Not too long after Easter, many of these bunnies are neglected or taken to local shelters once the novelty wears off.

Before buying that cute, fluffy bunny in the window of the pet store, give it some thought. Do you have the time and patience to devote to a rabbit? And did you know that rabbits and young children are usually not a good combination?

The Truth About Rabbits

Melissa Stockton bought a bunny for her 4-year-old last Easter. "We bought a baby bunny, and things were fine for a while," she says. "But when the bunny got a little older, he started to kick when Daniel picked him up. The kicks sometimes resulted in scratches and tears." "Rabbits are ground-loving animals," says Roxanne Snopek, a registered animal health technician and Suite101 guide for Family Pet Care. "They do not particularly like to be picked up." Rabbits are also easily startled, and the energy of an active preschooler can frighten them. "The sudden movements and loud noises of young children make them nervous," she says. "They are physically unsuited to rough handling."

Rules were quickly established at Stockton's house. "Daniel had to sit down and put the bunny on his lap to pet him," she says. "The bunny, Peanut, was pretty tame by then and enjoyed being petted on his lap."

Be Realistic

As with any pet, parents should assume they will be the primary caregivers. "Most children will lose interest in a pet after some time – particularly if housed outside in a cage," says Snopek. "That doesn't mean that they do not love the rabbit, or they shouldn't have it. But parents need to model responsible pet care and encourage the child to participate with them in the care of the pet."

"Many parents think that a rabbit is a good starter pet for a child – to teach him or her responsibility," says Janis Abel, a member of the Bunny Buddies executive committee. Bunny Buddies, based in Houston, Texas, is an organization working to educate people about rabbits. "Rabbits require constant DAILY care, and that care is usually too much for any child to handle on his or her own," she says. "Ideally, no child should have the ultimate responsibility for the life of a pet, but especially not a child under 12 or 14 years old."

"I consider the bunny MINE," says Stockton. "Daniel enjoys him, but I knew from the start that he was too young to take responsibility for a pet. I do make him help me feed him and clean the cage." She does not mind that Peanut has become her rabbit. "I love him," she says. "I think I enjoy him more than Daniel does."

Bunny Basics

Many people keep their pet locked up in a hutch in their backyard. Once the excitement over the new pet wears off, this can make for a lonely, and sometimes abused, animal. Bunny Buddies encourages rabbit owners to keep their pet inside. "Many people who have kept their bunny outdoors are surprised when they bring them inside to discover that the bunny has a personality," says Helen Swann, president of Bunny Buddies. "It's not just a lump in a hutch! Rabbits are smart, entertaining, affectionate and lots of fun, but not if their only connection with a human is when they toss food into the hutch."

Keeping a rabbit indoors requires some "bunny-proofing" to ensure the safety of your house and your pet. "Electrical cords have to be covered or made inaccessible, and wooden furniture is attractive to many bunnies," says Swann. Poisonous plants should also be moved out of the bunny's reach.


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