Do rabbits make good pets for 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 responsibility 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) 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 (up to 12 years) 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 (up to 12 years) 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. The number of unwanted rabbits we have been asked by families for help with is many times more than any other small animal. It is clear that these wonderful creatures are in so many cases just not quite living up to their family's expectations.

There are currently many thousands of unwanted pet rabbits competing for very few rescue spaces in the UK. Many of which have already passed through several homes. Please don't add to this problem by thoroughly researching before committing to rabbits as family pets.

Can You Handle A Bunny Like Me?

Rabbits are wonderful but they are not right for everyone!