Mommy, I Want A Bunny!
by Michigan Rabbit Rescue adoption counselor Pam Jagielo
So, Your Child Wants a Rabbit
She either saw one at the fair, or The Velveteen Rabbit is her favorite
book, or it might be Easter time and the pet shop is full of cute little babies.
Boy, are we glad you decided to stop here first.
Hope you don't mind answering a few nosey questions - it's
for the bunny's sake, you see - as well as your child's happiness.
- Do you want the bunny as much your child does?
- Are you willing and able to be the bunny's primary caregiver every day?
- Did you know that (despite what the pet store clerk may tell you) it is
not all right to keep your bunny confined to a tiny cage 24/7?
- Are you aware that rabbits don't like to be picked up or held, but will
only tolerate it for short periods of time with people they trust?
- All rabbits will scratch and nip if they feel threatened or if they are
irritated by too much attention. Can you accept that your child (and
possibly you) may receive a scratch or a nip from a pet rabbit?
- Did you know that rabbits are much happier and will live twice as long if
you do not keep them outside?
- Have you considered what will happen when your little boy/girl grows up
and goes away to college? Are YOU going to be willing and able to keep
bunny and provide care when that time comes?
If you answered no to any of those questions, it's time to
do a little research, and we're happy to help.
As a Michigan Rabbit Rescue Adoption Counselor, one of the most common
questions I'm asked is "Do you have any dwarf rabbits, because I want
something small to put in my child's room".
Small Child = BIG Bunny
First, let's deal with the size issue. Comparatively speaking, Dwarfs
are about the least people-friendly breed there is. They're hyper.
They're skittish. They have so much energy that they need just as much
space as a big breed of rabbit, if not more, or they will become destructive.
They're the worst possible match for children due to the fact that because of
their size, children do try to pick them up, usually with disastrous results.
One of two things will happen; either your child will be bitten or scratched, or
she will drop the rabbit, who is so delicate that he cannot handle the fall.
So here is your mantra: small child = big bunny. Big as in, over 7
pounds. A buddy to flop down next to your child on the floor while she's
watching her favorite TV program, or hop up onto the couch and snuggle next to
her as she reads her favorite book. Sound good?
A Bunny’s Place
Okay, location. No, they don't bark or meow, but your child isn't
likely to get a very good night's sleep with a bunny in her room. They
rattle the water bottle. They bang their food dish around. They jump
in and out of the litter box and make scratching noises, mostly out of boredom,
because they know a friend is in the room and who cares if she's sleeping?
That aside, bunnies are much too social to be kept in a bedroom. It's too
isolating. Just because they're fairly quiet doesn't mean they need quiet
all the time. Chances are, your child is in school all day (because if
she's not, she's too young to have a bunny), she might have after-school
activities or want to watch TV in another room of the house, or go off to play
with her friends, and the bunny soon becomes an afterthought once the novelty of
having him has worn off. So where do you keep him? Where are all of
you most often? That's where he should be - if you want him to be happy.
Gentle, Patient Children Wanted
An even more common request is "We want a bunny that's good with
children." We have a similar request of you. We need children
who are good with rabbits. Children who have been taught to respect prey
animals for who they are. Children who know not to chase or poke their
rabbit - ever. Rabbits communicate solely through body language--and it is
subtle. Do you have the patience - does your child have the patience - to
learn 'ear signals' and 'body stance'? My own children know to let our
rabbit hop away when she tires of their attention. They know when her ears
are up and she's sitting up straight, not to approach her, because she feels
nervous about something. They also know that if they sit or lie on the
floor and pretend to ignore her, she'll come over and put her head down and ears
back and that means she wants attention. This took time - it didn't happen
overnight. Let your bunny take the lead when it comes to getting to know
your child. Bunny will be a little afraid at first and has to learn to
trust your child before they can become friends. If your child has been
taught (by you) to be gentle, caring, and respectful of bunny's feelings, your
child will have made a friend for life.
Older is Better
We insist on a bunny over the age of one when he's going into a home that
has children. By that time, a bunny has already gone through the
"teenage hormonal" phase and he's calmed down and relaxed into his
personality. Rabbits who are neutered and live indoors live as long as a
cat or a dog, so you still have plenty of years remaining to enjoy your new pet.
Worried about missing out on the baby years? Don't! If you knew how
much work that is, you wouldn't want to deal with it (think "puppy"
and "kitten"). We know which rabbits will do well with children
(and cats and dogs) and which ones won't. So please trust us in helping to
select the right bunny for your family.
Where Are They; What Are They Doing?
If you have children and are thinking about adding a bunny to your
household, know going in that you will have different challenges than someone
who doesn't have children, because rabbits and children need constant
supervision. The younger your children are, the harder it will be.
Make-believe and reality are often the same thing to the average preschooler.
They don't understand that their weight can crush a small animal because when
they lay on their stuffed animals, nothing happens. They think feeding
cookies to their pet bunny is a sign of love, not realizing that bunny could get
very sick. You, the parent, will need to make sure crayons, small toys,
and other dangerous objects are picked up so that your bunny doesn't chew them.
If your child decides he is bored with the chore of feeding the bunny, you will
have to take over. While this seems like giving in to irresponsibility,
it's really showing your child, by example, humane treatment of your bunny and
what making a commitment really means.
Adding a bunny to your family will be a huge responsibility
and a serious commitment, as well as an opportunity for you to show your child
how to relate to these very special creatures on their terms.
For more information regarding children and rabbits, please
contact a Michigan Rabbit Rescue Adoption Counselor at firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit: http://rabbit.org/faq/sections/children.html
Pam Jagielo is the mother of four boys and shares her
home with Maggie the Mini Lop.