Rabbits and Children
Rabbits are wonderful creatures that can (and should) become a valued part of the family. However, like many modern rabbit welfare organisations we do not recommend rabbits as ideal pets to be taken on specifically for young children. Under the right conditions rabbits can make good family pets if there is also genuine adult interest in their wellbeing, and the adults in the household are happy to take responsibilty for their care and wellbeing. Rabbits are intelligent sensitive animals that deserve to be viewed as family members (in the same way as cats and dogs usually are).
The Rabbit Welfare Association (the leading authority on rabbit welfare in the UK) currently have the following policy statement on rabbits and children: "Rabbits are ground-loving prey animals, who become friendly and responsive when properly treated. But rabbits are vulnerable to injury if handled badly and rarely appreciate being cuddled. Therefore, rabbits do not make good children's pets, but can make successful family pets, if parents respect the needs of the rabbit and the limitations of the children. Adults must accept all the responsibility of caring for the rabbit."
The RSPCA believe: "The biology and behaviour of pet rabbits is very similar to that of wild rabbits. This means they have very complex needs and although traditionally thought of as good pets for children, this is not the case as they are not easy to look after well. Typically, rabbits live for 8-12 years, but some may live for longer."
Sadly, very often children do become bored with their pet rabbits. Therefore, we ask parents to think very carefully before taking on rabbits as child’s pets and consider two very important questions.
- Are you completely happy to take full responsibility for the rabbit’s welfare yourself for the rest of its life if your child loses interest? If the answer is no then we urge you please do not buy/adopt rabbits for your children.
- Are you still prepared to meet the welfare needs of the rabbit for the rest of its life it turns out not to be friendly/easy to handle, or requires expensive veterinary care? If the answer is no then we urge you please do not buy/adopt rabbits for your children.
Why do we feel this way?
We believe that the common perception of rabbits as cheap, easy pets for children is a myth, or at least it is if the welfare needs of the rabbits are being met properly.
Historically, thousands of rabbits have made very cheap easy pets for children living as neglected living toys. However, it is becoming recognised and will hopefully soon be accepted that this method of keeping rabbits in solitary confinement shut up for long periods in hutches is completely out dated and exceptionally cruel! (Please visit our rabbit welfare page for more information).
Many rabbits are taken on by very genuine people who simply have unrealistic expectations of rabbits as pets. A typical rabbit does not enjoy being cuddled/picked up. Therefore, it is not surprising that many children tire of them very quickly. Although, we do come across the odd lovely ‘cuddly’ bunny these are exceptions not the norm.
We strongly encourage anyone considering rabbits as pets to read these excellent guides from the RWAF, RSPCA and AWF.
- The RSPCA's guide detailing the cost and time involved in caring for rabbits properly.
- Rabbit housing information
Using pets to teach responsibility:
The paragraph in the image above is taken from Petplan's excellent guide - Top to Tail: A Grown-Up's Guide to Rabbit Care.
Some important things to know about rabbits - Thank you very much indeed to saveafluff.co.uk for the text below.
- Rabbits can live for 10-12 years, so if you have an 8 year old girl, will she be able to give these rabbits the time, space, love and affection all through her teenage years until she's 20 years old?
- They need regular cleaning out. Cleaning up poo and urine and disinfecting - will your child take this responsibility?
- They don't like noise, whether it be screaming, or children squealing with delight at their new pet, and will run off and hide. Children soon get bored with the pet that "doesn't want to play".
- Rabbits hate being chased or roughly handled and get stressed easily. This can cause them to bite, become withdrawn or aggressive, or become ill from high stress levels.
- Bunnies have fragile bodies and can easily be hurt or suffer from broken bones if mishandled or dropped. A bunny struggling to escape from a child's arms won't realise it may hurt itself by jumping. A quick nip indicates the desire to be put back on the ground - a child's reflex is to scream and drop the rabbit.
- Rabbits bite, kick and scratch, even the smallest bunny can hurt your child. They are not the quiet, slow, soppy animals we see in story books; they are wild animals with the ability to bite, kick, and scratch.
- Rabbits HATE being picked up! They are prey animals so they like to have their feet firmly on the ground, 99% of rabbits will scratch and kick until they are put back down. They can easily draw blood through no fault or intention of their own.
- They are expensive to keep and unfortunately it will be you, not your child, footing the bills!