Rabbits are an increasingly popular pet, and it is easy to see why. Fluffy, cute, and endearing, these animals have quite the following. And, if you breed them, you’ll get something even cuter: bunnies!
Sounds like a win-win, and for parents that want their young children to experience the joy of a first pet a rabbit could be the way to go. But we need to think this though.
Any animal has special care requirements, but rabbits are definitely outside the ordinary compared to dogs and cats. Are rabbits a safe and suitable pet for a toddler?
No, rabbits are not really good pets for toddlers. Rabbits are delicate, skittish, and less tolerant of stress and rough handling than other mammals. Most young children simply do not have the coordination or understanding to interact properly or care for a rabbit.
Like pretty much every pet when it comes to toddlers, you are actually going to be the one getting a pet.
But unlike a dog or cat, you might actually enjoy having around your rabbit could prove to be more of a burden.
Even then, the opportunity for mishap when interacting with your toddler will always be present. Keep reading for more considerations.
Rabbits are Physically Fragile
While not all rabbits are created equal, in general these animals are not built to withstand a lot of wear and tear.
They have fragile bones, and are prone to injury if handled roughly or dropped. Considering that they will often lunge or jump away when confined or held too tightly, this is a bad combo for a toddler.
A playful puppy or kitten might be accidentally stepped on or swatted at by a toddler without too much damage being done, but the same cannot be said for a rabbit, particularly a young one.
Rabbits Tend to Be Skittish
Rabbits are prey animals, meaning that in the wild their main defense is to run away from predators. This natural instinct carries over into their lives as pets.
They can startle easily and be jumpy around sudden movements or loud noises- two things that toddlers are known for.
A skittish rabbit is more likely to bite or scratch when frightened, which can lead to injury for both the rabbit and your child.
Additionally, a startled or stressed rabbit will try to run away from people, and can easily get lost or stuck looking for cover.
Rabbits Have Special Care Requirements
Rabbits are not low-maintenance pets. Rabbits are actually not low maintenance by any means.
They require a balanced, specialized diet, regular vet check-ups and vaccinations, daily cleaning of their hutch or enclosure, and plenty of exercises.
And that’s just the basic level of care! If you want your rabbit to be healthy and happy need to put in the effort to provide them with a stimulating but stress-free environment, which includes both activity and mental stimulation.
This level of care can be difficult for any pet owner, let alone a busy parent with young children, and impossible for most young kids.
If you’re considering a rabbit for your toddler, be prepared to put in the extra time and effort to make sure your new pet is well cared for.
Rabbits Require Special Diets
Rabbits need more than just an occasional can or pouch of food to thrive. A diet rich in fiber is essential for proper gastrointestinal health, and hay should make up the majority of a rabbit’s diet.
In addition to hay, fresh vegetables should be offered daily as well as a small amount of pellets.
A diet lacking in fiber can lead to serious health problems such as GI stasis, which can be life-threatening.
This condition occurs when the digestive system slows down or stops working properly, and is a common problem in rabbits.
Rabbits Tend to Have More Health Issues than Other Pet Mammals
Additionally, rabbits are susceptible to other health problems such as dental disease, heat stroke, and respiratory infections, all of which require special care and treatment.
While all pets come with some risk of health problems, rabbits tend to have more than their fair share.
Be prepared to take your rabbit to the vet for regular check-ups and care, and be aware of the signs of illness so you can get them help if they need it.
Expect the cost of ongoing care to quickly exceed what you spent for the rabbit itself.
You’ll Be Crawling in Bunnies if You Get an Intact Male and Female
You know the old joke that says something “breeds like rabbits?” It is an aphorism for a reason, it turns out.
If you get an intact male and female rabbit, odds are good that you’ll soon have a lot more rabbits.
Even if you keep them indoors, it only takes one pregnancy for your pet population to explode. Rabbits can start reproducing as young as 4 months old, and a single doe can have up to 12 babies at a time.
Even worse, she can get pregnant and reproduce again while still caring for the first batch!
This happened to my family when I was a small lad. We got a pair of rabbits that were supposed to be females but, whoops, one was a male by accident said the fly-by-night breeder that sold them to us.
But don’t worry, they fixed all the males so no problems there. But wouldn’t you know it that lady rabbit was soon pregnant and delivering a litter of 8 bunnies. What a surprise…
Then that litter multiplied into 14, then 20. It really was a bad joke. We had bunnies coming out of the ducts and everyone, including the rabbits, was stressed to the max.
In the end, my parents wound up giving the whole caboodle to a friendly farmer who was a professional and responsible breeder.
You must, must be prepared for a similar eventuality if you have more than one rabbit!
Are Rabbits Good Pets or Not?
There’s no denying that rabbits can make wonderful pets. But they might not be the best fit for every family and are likely a bad choice for toddlers.
If you’re set on getting a furry friend for your toddler, do your research and be prepared to take on the additional responsibility of caring for a rabbit by yourself.
Otherwise, you might want to wait until your little one is a bit older before bringing home a fuzzy rabbit as a new pet.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.