IS A RABBIT THE RIGHT PET FOR YOUR CHILD?

Rabbits can be extremely high maintenance animals; and so, are hard to keep as pets.

Rabbits can be great companion animals if they are looked after correctly, however this can be difficult to achieve. They require a lot of space and standard hutches sold in pet shops are often not big enough. The recommended size for a rabbits hutch, usually for a pair of bonded rabbits, is an area of 3m x 2m x 1m high regardless of whether this is indoors or outdoors. Many people do not have this space available, especially indoors. If a rabbit is kept in an enclosure which is too small, they may begin to act out of boredom by excessively chewing bars and the inside of the cage, displaying aggressive/antisocial behaviours, it can also cause health problems including obesity, skeletal deformities and weaker bones.

Rabbits also require the correct diet in order to avoid any health problems. A rabbit’s diet should consist of 85% good quality grass or hay, 10% leafy greens/vegetables, and 5% good quality nuggets. Most pet shops sell rabbit food which is not suitable, muesli type feeds for example contain a high amount of sugary additives and dyed food with very little nutritional content. Rabbits are also clever in how they will eat this food as they will selectively only eat the parts which taste ‘nice’ and leave those that do not – often those with the
nutritional content they require.

Leafy greens/vegetables only take up 10% of a rabbits diet and should be given in small portions, if too much is given then this can cause an upset stomach resulting in diarrhoea. Research should also be carried out into what vegetables are suitable for rabbits as some are not advisable and can be toxic such as aubergine, potato, rhubarb leaves and more. More useful information can be found on the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund website.

Rabbits are also very social creatures, which many people do not initially realise. In the wild, rabbits live in large social groups of both males and females where as in captivity, they often live alone. Where possible, rabbits should be kept in bonded pairs. It is usually recommended that a neutered male and female are kept together as this reduces the possibility for fighting, compared to same sex pairings. However, same sex pairings can live harmoniously if neutered and well bonded.

Rabbits can live happily on their own without a bonded pair as long as there is a suitable companion in the form of a human who has the time to spend with them. This is often seen in house/indoor rabbits, though many owners and young children do not have the time to spend as long as is needed with their fury friend.

Although cute and fluffy, rabbits can be quite a handful if not properly looked after and can exhibit behavioural issues including biting, scratching and kicking which can cause a lot of harm, especially to a young person as they have very sharp claws and very sharp teeth!
Regarding teeth, rabbits also have continuously growing teeth which need to be monitored and kept at an adequate level to avoid self injury to the mouth. This is quite easy to maintain as long as the pet is receiving the correct diet and safe gnawing toys; though care should still be taken to ensure you and your child know how to accurately check your rabbits teeth – veterinary practices like us can help
with this!

Rabbits are also a high responsibility for a child as they require regular cleaning and disinfection of their cage, which can be a big job if the enclosure is as big as it should be. It also needs to be done at least once a day which can be a lot to do with school and school work, or for an adult with full time work and commitments.

The age of rabbits should also be taken into consideration as they can live for quite a long time. On average rabbits live between 8-12 years which means they are a long term commitment for any owner, even more so for a young child who may get ‘bored’ of their new pet quite quickly. The decision to have a rabbit as a pet for a child must fall solely on the child’s maturity and responsibility levels, but also the willingness of the parents to pick up any tasks and needs where the rabbit is concerned as well as ensuring that it can be given the proper care and the loving home it deserves.