Why Rabbits Are Not Suitable Pets For Very Young Children
Rabbits and young children do not mix, it puts not only the rabbit at risk of serious injury, but your young children at risk of some very nasty scratches and bites.
Many parents want their young children to grow up with a pet, but understand that a dog and cat are not ideal choices for babies and very young children- see my articles, Kids and Dogs Living Safely Together and Safety With Kids and Dogs. They mistakenly believe that a rabbit would make the perfect young child’s pet.
Misconceptions – Why Rabbits Seem Like The Ideal Pet For Kids
Parents are often misinformed by unscrupulous pet shop owners and less than ethical backyard breeders, that rabbits are docile, quiet and a perfect first pet for a young child.
Rabbits with their super soft fur, twitchy little noses and adorable over-sized ears, are the living version of a soft toy and because they are relatively quiet & small in size, they do indeed seem like a perfect small child’s pet.
Another misconception is that rabbits are an easier pet to have around the house than a dog or a cat when you have small children, as they are low maintenance. This is simply not true!
Rabbits Are Not A Low Maintenance Pet
Many families purchase a rabbit with the best of intentions, but when they realize that their children are either to young to play with the rabbit, or the kids have simply lost interest in the rabbit, then the poor rabbit is left to sit all alone, neglected and often in a dirty cage. Spending its days deprived of socialization, stimulation and exercise.
Rabbits require a lot of daily attention.
- They need at least twice daily feeding, daily exercise & playtime outside of their indoor cages and their outdoor hutches.
- Rabbit cages and hutches must be kept clean and dry at all times.
- Rabbits also require regular nail clipping and long haired rabbits, regular grooming.
- Also as they are considered ‘exotic pets’, veterinarian vets are very costly and you will need to find a vet who has experience with rabbits.
Both Young Children & Rabbits Are At Risk Of Injury When Interacting
8 Reasons Why Young Children & Rabbits Don’t Mix
- It is love at first site when a young child sees a rabbit. The child’s natural urge is to smother it with love and affection and this means naturally wanting to pick up, hold and cuddle it. Rabbits bodies are also quite fragile and if they are handled the wrong way, it can cause them pain and injury.
- A young child can easily drop a rabbit and especially one that is squirming in the child’s arms trying to get away and this can cause the rabbit serious and even fatal injuries e.g. a broken back.
- Even if you do not allow your young child to hold your rabbit and only allow the child to pet the rabbit if the rabbit is on the ground, this can still pose a dangerous situation for both child and rabbit. If not closely supervised at all times by an adult, the child can still inadvertently frighten the the rabbit or hurt it.
- Rabbits ears are very enticing to young children, just as they are to us and a young child could pull or try and bend the rabbits ears.
- Young children may try and poke the rabbit in the eyes or hit it with toys etc.
- A small child may try and give the rabbit a cuddle, even if it is on the ground and not on the child’s lap and squeeze too hard and injure the rabbit.
- A child hovering above a rabbit and engulfing it, makes the rabbit feel like the child is a predator enclosing in on it and they may try and escape by scurrying away over the top of the child’s arms causing deep scratches. Even worse, if they feel they can’t run they may kick and bite the child.
- Because rabbits by nature are timid, they will not enjoy being startled by loud, unexpected noises, nor will they cope with being chased around the house or garden, as to a rabbit being chased equals being hunted. Small children are unpredictable, noisy and love to chasing things that move, so once again you can see a rabbit does not make a good pet for a young child.
It Is Important To Remember That Rabbits Are Prey Animals In Nature
Rabbits by natural selection are prey animal, which means they are hunted for food by other animals.
If a rabbit perceives a situation as a threat, its natural instinct is first to take flight and hide, but if a rabbit can’t flee what it believes is a dangerous situation, then it will try anyway it can to protect itself. In what it perceives to be a threatening situation, a rabbit will do one of a few things – run and hide, freeze, or struggle mightily, in an effort to try get away and this includes biting & scratching.
Due to the fact that they are a prey animal, many rabbits actually don’t enjoy being held and especially if they feel insecure.
Therefore, if a rabbit is being held incorrectly by a child who is not old enough to handle a rabbit correctly, or if the rabbit is uncomfortable or in pain, it will naturally try and break free.
Rabbits will use their super strong back legs and very sharp claws, to push away, or they may bite down hard, with powerful sharp teeth, all in a desperate attempt to flee it’s captor.
Sadly, many rabbits have been euthanized for biting or scratching a child, when really, it was no fault of the rabbits. The rabbit was just doing what comes naturally, protecting itself. There are also plenty of rabbits in shelters and rescue groups that have been surrendered because they bit, scratched and kicked at the kids in the family.
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