Are Rabbits Good Pets for Children?

Find out if rabbits are good pets for children in this Howcast video featuring bunny lover Amy Sedaris and rabbit expert Mary E. Cotter.

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Rabbits make wonderful pets. If you're thinking of getting one, check out these videos: Actress Amy Sedaris, who is a loving mom to her own pet bunny, helps rabbit expert Mary E. Cotter, Ed.D., LVT answer all your questions about how to take care of a pet rabbit. It's not always easy, but it's worth the work.

 
 

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So many parents want to know if a rabbit is a great pet for a child, and many parents have the idea that because rabbits are small, and because they live in cages that they must be good pets for children. But we have some other ideas, and those ideas are usually related to safety both for the child and the rabbit. A very small child cannot handle a fragile animal like a rabbit without some consequences to the rabbit. And what happens is that the child, especially when the rabbits small, the child gets the idea that it's great to pick up the rabbit and carry him around, and love on him, and that's what children want to do. Rabbits are ground animals, and they're very frightened by being carried around in somebody's arms for any length of time, most rabbits. There are exceptions, but they're rare. And we worry a little bit with young children interacting with rabbits that they will see them as animated stuffed toys, and want to pick them up, and carry them around, and cuddle them. One good hug from a child can break a rabbits back, believe it or not. Their bones are very fragile, and if the child squeezes tight that could be a disaster for the rabbit. So when parents ask us if they're good pets for kids, we always say number one, make sure it's not the child that's doing the primary care taking, make sure the parent is the primary caretaker. And number two if you're going to adopt a rabbit for a child, make sure that the rabbit is as big as you can accommodate, because that's one really one good way of keeping the child from wanting to pick the rabbit up all the time. This is a tiny rabbit, this is a dwarf breed rabbit, and this is the kind of rabbit that most parents think is great for a child. In fact it's probably a more dangerous breed for a child, because a child is more likely to hurt the rabbit. Just as with a tiny dog, if you have a little Chihuahua in your house, and the child takes the wrong step backwards, and sits down on the dog, could break the dogs back. That's not going to happen with a larger breed, and we kind of think the same way about rabbits. If you can pick a larger breed that the child will more likely interact with on the floor, that will be better for the child and the rabbit. The interactions will be more peaceful, the rabbit won't be desperate to get out of that little tiny grip, and clutch and everybody will be happier. So, are you a child's toy? No, he's not a child's toy.

Expert

  • Mary E. Cotter

    Mary E. Cotter, M.A., Ed.D., LVT is the founder of the NY-based Rabbit Rescue & Rehab. She serves as chapter manager of the NYC House Rabbit Society and is vice president of the International House Rabbit Society. Involved with rabbit rescue since 1982, she speaks and writes frequently on rabbit-related topics, addressing owners, veterinary professionals and shelter workers. Mary is an adjunct assistant professor in the veterinary technology department of LaGuardia Community College (City University of New York) and co-manages a 7,000-member Internet mailing list focused on rabbit health, care and behavior.