Are Rabbits Good as Pets for Kids?
Rabbits are commonly thought of as wonderful pets for children. After all, who can look at a cute, fluffy bunny and not feel a child-like sense of love for it? Unfortunately, though, except perhaps for some dwarf varieties, rabbits are actually very poorly suited to being pets for children.
Ease of Care (3/5)
Unlike most so-called “pocket pets” (such as rats, guinea pigs, gerbils, and hamsters), rabbits require lots of room to hop around to remain healthy and happy. Keeping rabbits in small, indoor cages is both cruel and unhealthy. Allowing rabbits free roam of the house is not a good option, however, as they are voracious chewers and are likely to hide for long periods of time in areas that you may not want them to be.
Families wishing to keep rabbits as pets will either need to make significant accommodations for the animals inside their homes, or keep the rabbits in a specially-constructed hutch outside. Housing the rabbits outside somewhat defeats the purpose of having a children’s pet in the first place. Outdoor housing also presents difficulty in caring for the rabbits during the winter months in areas with any appreciable snowfall.
Rats are intelligent enough to learn very quickly that their owners are not going to harm them, and guinea pigs have been so thoroughly domesticated that their natural instinct to evade predators has been bred out of them. Rabbits, on the other hand, have strong natural flight instincts due to the large number of predators that they face in the wild. They are likely to be extremely frightened by loud noises, rapid movements, or by being held, all of which are common situations with children. The stress of being kept as pets by any but the calmest and most well-disciplined child is likely to make a rabbit not only unhappy, but unhealthy.
Small indoor cages are totally inappropriate for rabbits. Even if kept in a large indoor enclosure, rabbits need to be allowed to hop around freely on a regular basis, and they will often take the opportunity to hide from their owners. Outdoor hutches coupled with a properly fenced-off play area provide rabbits with a much healthier environment, but add to the difficulty and expense of caring for them.
A rabbit’s diet should consist primarily of hay. Timothy hay is superior to alfalfa hay for rabbits, as it is higher in vitamins and lower in fat. Commercial rabbit pellets are also available, but they are best used as a supplement to a primarily hay-based diet. Carrots can be fed to rabbits as an occasional treat as well.
Note: Never feed your rabbit iceberg lettuce, as it can cause serious, potentially lethal digestive problems for the animal. Mostly water and insoluble fiber, iceberg lettuce provides virtually no actual nutritional value to the animal.