Rabbits and kids can be an iffy combo—kids get excited, rabbits get nervous, everyone gets frustrated. But here’s how everyone can have fun—bunnies included.
You will need
- A rabbit whou2019s ready for some kid TLC
- 1 to 2 kids
- A cage or crate for the rabbit
- A box or hiding place inside the cage
- Plenty of patience
- A puppy gate or room with a door that closes (optional) (optional) (optional)
- Rabbit treats
- such as bits of leafy greens or small pieces of carrot (optional) (optional) (optional)
Step 1 Prepare the kids Before you bring the bunny home, prepare your kids for the new arrival. Explain that you’ll be in charge of the rabbit, but that everyone in the family will be helping to make her a happy member of the family.
Rabbit-care books, magazines, and websites all have tips for helping children and rabbits to get along.
Step 2 No picking up Rabbit rule number one is: ‘Pet her, but don’t pick her up.’ Kids love the idea of lugging a pet around in their arms, but rabbits don’t like being carried. If scared, they may scratch or bite, and, if dropped, they could get hurt.
Step 3 Make caged introductions When the rabbit first comes home, introduce her to your children while she’s in her cage. Make sure there’s plenty of space in the cage for the rabbit to beat a retreat into her box or hiding place whenever she feels like it.
Step 4 Speak softly Show your kids how to talk to the rabbit in quiet ‘indoor’ voices, so she’ll stay calm.
Step 5 Try treats Have your children offer the bunny small amounts of leafy greens or carrots as a getting-acquainted trick. Remind them not to poke their fingers into the cage or they may get nipped.
Step 6 Let loose To let the bunny out of her cage around children, place the cage in a room with a door you can close. Or pen off an area around the cage with a puppy gate.
Step 7 Sit Have your children sit on the floor before you let the rabbit out. Leave the cage door open so she can get back inside whenever she feels like it.
Step 8 Relax Sitting on the floor with your children, watch the rabbit as she explores her new surroundings. Try to keep everyone relaxed. Point out how much happier the rabbit feels when no one is chasing or following her.
Always be there to keep an eye on things when the rabbit is out of her cage or pen. When the kids have friends over, leave the rabbit in her cage in a closed-off room.
Step 9 Use treats If you or the kids want, you can hold small bunny treats to lure the rabbit closer.
Step 10 Pet the rabbit When the rabbit approaches, show your children the best way to pet a rabbit–gentle stroking on her head and ears. Remind them of the cardinal rule: ‘Pet her, but don’t pick her up.’
Most rabbits get nervous if you pat them on the back.
Step 11 Let the bunny be If and when the rabbit wants to go back into her cage for some time out, let her. Tell the kids that she needs to decide for herself when she’s had enough playtime.
Step 12 Keep bonding Repeat the bunny bonding sessions once or twice daily, until everyone is comfortable. Most rabbits need at least 3 or 4 hours of daily exercise outside their cages–so your kids will have plenty of chances to interact with their new bunny buddy!
Rabbits can turn their ears in any direction–a fun thing for you and your children to watch together.