Around this time of the year many children wish for a pet rabbit and who can blame them? The problem is, most of the time they don’t truly want a rabbit, they want what the media tells them a rabbit is. The media, especially around Easter, tells us that rabbits are tiny, cute, and fluffy. They sit in small cages, are quiet, and easy to take care of. Whenever you want to cuddle, you take the rabbit out. It’s easy to carry and perfect for children. Does that sound familiar? This is what a child expects and if you as a parent give in without further research, you will set up both the rabbit and the child for disappointment, frustration, and stress.
If your child expresses a wish for a pet (be it a rabbit or any other animal) and you are thinking of granting that wish, it’s your responsibility to educate yourself first. What does it truly mean to have this animal in the house? What do I need, how much space is necessary, what should I know beforehand? With the internet around, there is really no excuse any more. If you want information, you have access to it.
Once you know as much about the pet as you can, you need to decide whether or not that pet is a good fit for your family. Be aware that even the most responsible child cannot take sole responsibility for a pet. A rabbit can live for 10+ years – will your child even live in your house in 10 years? Who takes care of the bunny when your child goes to college? Or when you want to go on vacation? These are questions that need to be answered before getting any pet. And no matter what you choose to tell your child, the pet is really yours.
If you still think a rabbit would be a great addition to your family, give your child the opportunity to educate itself as well. It would not be fair to the kid to get a rabbit based on misinformation and then be mad when the kid doesn’t like the reality of having a rabbit. Check out books and websites together. Visit friends with rabbits or find a local animal shelter and volunteer. Join groups on social media and ask questions. Let your child decide if a rabbit is really what it wants or if a stuffed animal might be better. Over time, you will see how interested your child truly is and will be able to make a good final decision for everyone involved. Plus, your child will have learned a few lessons along the way. Even if you think your family should not adopt a rabbit, let your child do the research and explain your reasons. That way you will likely avoid discussions in the future.
Children often love the idea of a baby bun and I agree – baby animals are the cutest! Be aware that a baby is extra work, though. The personality hasn’t fully formed yet, hormones are going to kick in shortly and turn your sweet baby into a love-crazy “teen”. Babies are more hyper and you will need to get the bun spayed or neutered, which might not be cheap. Sadly, most rabbits are given up around age 1, right after the baby phase. Consider adopting a bun of any age from the shelter or a rescue. Most children will respond to the idea of a lonely bun looking for a good home, even if it’s not a baby.
And now we come to my last point. Don’t give a pet as a gift. This pet is supposed to live with your family for years and be a part of it. Everyone should choose the right one together. After all, every pet (and yes, a rabbit, too) has a different personality and I firmly believe there has to be a connection between everyone involved. And if you’re thinking Easter, make it a chocolate bunny.
Here are the most basic things you and your child should know before adopting a rabbit:
- Rabbits need space. Keeping them in a small cage will cause depression. Research alternative housing ideas.
- Rabbits have misconceptions associated with them. Whatever you think you know, better double-check.
- Rabbits have strong personalities. Every one of them is different.
- Rabbits are social animals and want to be part of the family. Consider adopting a pair if possible.
- Rabbits generally do not like to be picked up. They want to keep their feet on the floor.
- Rabbits enjoy cuddles on their terms, but they hate being forced to cuddle. Some rabbits don’t enjoy being pet at all.
- Rabbits need quality food including fresh greens and vegetables daily and unlimited amounts of hay.
- Rabbits demand respect. They will love you if you give them time and let them come to you. They will turn into a scared mess that will hide for hours under the bed if you are pushy and forceful. Some might even bite to defend themselves.
- Rabbits need toys and entertainment. Otherwise, they might turn to your furniture or dig the carpet.
- Rabbits need you to keep the space safe. Hide cables, keep plastic bags off of the floor. And if you insist on throwing clothes or toys on the ground, don’t be surprised when it all gets chewed.
- Rabbits can be litter box trained, but they can still be messy! Be prepared to clean. A lot.
- Rabbits need you to do your research. Pet stores don’t always know what’s best. A treat for a rabbit is an extra piece of parsley or a bite of apple, not a honey-coated bunch of seeds on a stick. Learn about hay racks, litter boxes, and furniture.
- Rabbits are prey animals. Almost every other animal (including a bunch of humans, unfortunately) wants to eat them. Protect them from other furry family members or focus on those family members first before getting a rabbit.
If there is any topic at all you are not sure about, Google is your friend! Should I bath my rabbit? (The answer is NO!) Can I put a guinea pig in with my rabbit? (Nope) Can my unwanted rabbit survive outside? (NOOOOOOO!)
You get the idea.