Since it’s Easter next month, I thought a post about actual bunnies was appropriate.
But this isn’t about how cute and fluffy and bouncy rabbits are; this is about why they make terrible pets for children.
If your little ones are responsible, empathetic and completely dedicated to the intricate needs of these mysterious creatures, then maybe you have a shot. But since myself and my husband struggle enough raising our two fluffballs, it’s probably a long shot.
The trouble with rabbits is that they need far more care and attention that you’d ever expect. It isn’t just a ‘stick ‘em outside and feed/clean them every-so-often’ jobbie. If you value the life of another creature (which, of course you do), then you will want to ensure that they are nurtured and enriched as much as possible.
I had a rabbit when I was a child and I was solely responsible for her welfare
I hated it.
Not the rabbit itself, but the maintenance. Cleaning out is no fun at the best of times, let alone when it’s piddling down with rain. Children are just not going to be into that.
Our current bunnies used to be indoor rabbits so they are litter trained (yes, it can be done) but it’s still a pain in the ass to clean them. On top of this, the bunnies themselves need to be checked for mess and matted fur frequently to maintain their health.
I’d also recommend getting outdoor rabbits yearly injections to prevent illness and having them de-sexed to prolong life and make them less territorial (especially for females). If it sounds too much like hard work (and hard cash), then tough shit I’m afraid, bunnies are just as important as cats and dogs.
Ensuring their lives are enjoyable is hard work too
Bunnies need a slowly, slowly approach to becoming comfortable with humans. A child chasing, poking or grabbing at them will ensure they never allow you to touch them. We never pick our babies up unless we need to – we let them come to us. This makes them feel safe and builds trust between you and the rabbit. It probably sounds bat-shit crazy to someone who doesn’t realise that rabbits actually do have personalities, but it’s true. Scaring your pet is the quickest route to aggression – and no-one wants a biting bunny.
Playtime is essential, as is ensuring your bunny has plenty of room to live and exercise in. I won’t bore you with the guidelines, but make sure you check them out before you adopt. Whacking them in a cage and leaving them outside alone for days on end is also a huge no-no. Lonely, bored bunnies are depressed bunnies and that’s on you.
Bunnies get sick, it’s your responsibility
Illness can strike bunnies pretty quickly and they can go downhill at epic speeds. One of my rabbits has a tendency to get sick – but she hides it really well. This is a survival tactic and so you need to know your little one intimately to recognise the signs of discomfort.
She unfortunately now has ‘head tilt’ which makes her look like a killer zombie rabbit, but we manage her condition as best as possible. Vets trips are expensive as hell, but it’d be cruel to allow them to suffer so you have to suck it up and cough up.
So difficult, but so worth it
A cat would genuinely have been an easier pet.
If you’re looking for something cheap and easy to entertain your child, please don’t choose bunnies.
They require a whole lot of love, patience, attention and understanding – not to mention cold hard cash. They are without a doubt an incredibly difficult pet to maintain. A happy, well cared-for bunny can live upwards of around 10-12 years, meaning it’s a huge commitment too.
Despite all of this, I love my two girls and I hope they stick around as long as possible for my daughter to enjoy when she’s older. They will teach her about respect and compassion when it comes to approaching animals.
But I would never, ever expect her to care for them. Bunnies are not for babies.