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Are rabbits a good pet for children?

Children like rabbits because they look so cute and fluffy, and unfortunately many people think that they are a great ‘starter’ pet; when actually the reality of caring for rabbits is so very different to how they are perceived.

Gaining rabbits trust

Firstly NO rabbit or any other animal should be bought as a ‘starter pet’ to ‘teach’ children responsibility. Whilst a responsible teenager might be able to take great care of rabbits a young child will usually become bored of their new ‘toys’. If you really want to have rabbits the whole family should want them equally and the adults should be happy to take FULL responsibility, they should be family pets and small children should be supervised whenever they are together. 

The reason children often become bored with rabbits is due to them being a prey animal. Many people dismiss this and don’t give it a thought. This is one of the main reasons that they are very different from cats and dogs. Whilst modern domestic rabbits have been bred to be pets they still have the natural instincts wild rabbits do to run away and hide when they sense danger.  Rabbits look cuddly and children want to stroke and cuddle them – who would blame them? However, being picked up and cuddled goes totally against their survival instincts as it mimics being caught and trapped by a predator.

This experience can be terrifying for them and hinders any trust being built between rabbits and their owner. Once children realise they can’t cuddle their beloved pets they quickly get bored and disinterested. Parents/carers then don’t want to or can’t look after them themselves meaning the rabbits find themselves looking for a new home at no fault of their own. This is unacceptable and very irresponsible, We cannot and should not expect children to take responsibility for an animal..  This also teaches children that we are in a throw away society, this is wrong especially where pets are concerned. This is all why extensive research, which is so accessible now, should be done before welcoming rabbits into your home. If you are reading this – you're making a good start!

Rehoming can be very stressful to rabbits and we have witnessed it being fatal due to their sensitive digestion system.

Often they are branded as boring but in all honesty what could you do if you were situated in the garden on your own in a small area you couldn’t get out of all day every day? The answer is simple, just sit there!! Rabbits cannot do much in a hutch; if they are given the space they need and a friend to interact with you quickly see they have their own personalities and can be just like a small dog.

Despite the above, rabbits are VERY high maintenance pets and the care shouldn’t be and can’t be left solely to children. Children cannot begin to understand the rabbits’ needs and how to care for them correctly. They require a lot more space than you may think, and have very specific dietary needs that need to be adhered to as a lot of health issues are caused by the wrong diet; children feeding them unsupervised could be fatal.

They have powerful back legs and if they are not handled correctly (this can be hard with little arms and little experience) can kick out in an attempt to escape and can break their own spine; not to mention the cuts, bruises etc. to your child when they do this. This in turn can obviously cause further disinterest.

Rabbits require as much if not more upkeep as a dog. When cared for correctly they can live up to 10+ years.

Here are some basic things you need to know before you decide to get a rabbit

·    Rabbits are very sensitive and take a lot of looking after

·    A hutch is NOT enough

·    The average life expectancy of a rabbit is around 10 years; this can vary greatly depending on the breed, its living conditions and         its diet

·    They are a prey animal and most rabbits do NOT like being picked up and cuddled

·    They are sociable creatures and require company of their own kind

·    Rabbits and guinea pigs should NEVER be kept together

·    Female rabbits have an 80% chance of having uterine (womb) cancer if not spayed early enough

·    They are clean animals and can be litter trained; this is usually more successful once they have been neutered

·    Litter boxes should be cleaned out every day especially in warmer months so you can keep an eye on their droppings (this can tell       you a great deal about their health); and also help protect them from Fly Strike

·    Rabbits have an extremely sensitive digestive system which can easily cause severe illness through poor diet. They need to have         a constant, unlimited supply of hay (not to be confused with straw).

·    They should NOT be fed the ‘muesli’ type food that some shops / supermarkets still sell as rabbit food. Good quality pellets in               limited portions should be given instead

·    A rabbit’s health depends on their digestive system working continuously; simply put they need to eat throughout the day. If they         don’t eat their digestive tract will stop working and they can go into a state known as GI Stasis. This can be fatal if not treated in           time so getting to know your rabbits habits is important for early detection

·    Not all vegetables are suitable for rabbits – in particular Iceberg lettuce has no nutritional value and can cause serious gut                   problems. In fact we no longer feed our rabbits vegetables – herbs are an exception

·    Carrots are also a once in a while treat in small quantities – they are full of sugar and can lead to obesity in a rabbit; as are any            safe fruits

·    Their teeth never stop growing this is another reason why they need to eat hay to keep them trimmed

·    Rabbits hide their illness / pain so not to attract predators to their weakness so it isn’t always obvious that there is a problem;             again getting to know their habits can help with earlier detection

·    Unlike cats and dogs you should never wait for a ‘day or two’ to see if they get better; by then your rabbit may well have died as by       the time they show their illness it is usually progressed to the latter stages

·    No rabbit should be ‘starved / fasted’ prior to an operation – if you are told to do this by your Vet / Receptionist at the vet practice         tell them they are wrong and consider changing to a different vets

·    Rabbits have a delicate bone structure which can easily be damaged by the incorrect holding of them or by being accidently                 stepped on

·    Rabbits dislike fast movements and loud sounds

·    Veterinary care is very expensive for any animal and as rabbits are classed as ‘exotic’ pets a rabbit savvy vet may be some                   distance from your home

·    Sadly not all vets are experienced or knowledgeable enough to treat rabbits correctly. This is due to people thinking ‘they’re just           rabbits’ and are not worth taking to the vets; therefore, vets don’t get the volume of experience that they do with the many cats             and dogs they see. Inevitably they have to work from what they have learnt from a text book which sadly isn’t always enough. You       need to find out where your nearest ‘rabbit savvy’ vet is before you need them

·    Rabbit insurance only covers certain things so check out what is omitted before signing up. Not doing so can be a costly mistake

After saying all this rabbits are incredibly beautiful and sensitive animals and spending time getting to know them and take care of them is extremely rewarding.


Rabbits should not be treated like a child’s toy or a way to stop them nagging, and can end up being forgotten. If you are not willing or able to take care of a rabbit for its lifetime then buy a stuffed toy instead.

Stop Don't Pick Me Up

What is your choice now?


A bonded pair or a stuffed toy?

Nose rubs
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