Rabbits appear everywhere in springtime, especially around Easter, and parents everywhere rush to purchase a live Easter Bunny for their little one, but are rabbits good pets for toddlers? These fluffy, adorable little bundles of spring joy may be too cute to walk away from, but are they practical pets?
So, are rabbits good pets for toddlers? No, they are not suitable pets for toddlers. Hyperactive, unpredictable, and sometimes rough toddlers do not make a good match for rabbits, which are defensive, timid animals that are actually rather fragile.
Toddlers are not in control of their own emotions and bodies enough to be able to handle the limitations of rabbits. Rabbits are portrayed as cute and cuddly and affectionate in children’s stories which may contribute to the idea that they would make good pets for toddlers.
However, you can’t always believe what you read.
A Necessary Comparison of Rabbits and Toddlers
The first argument against allowing a toddler to have a pet rabbit is the striking differences in the behavior and characteristics of rabbits and toddlers.
Some typical behavior and characteristics of rabbits are:
- They do not like noise.
- They are known to bite, kick, and scratch.
- They absolutely hate being picked up and held.
- They are shy animals that get stressed easily.
- They have fragile bodies and are easily hurt.
- They are prey animals which causes them to act defensively when they feel threatened.
So, rabbits seem to need calm households that do not have many loud noises. An ideal environment for a rabbit would promote safe handling at all times and careful attention to not frighten the rabbit.
Some typical behavior and characteristics of toddlers are:
- They become frustrated easily.
- They are curious by nature.
- They throw temper tantrums.
- They can be aggressive and do not know their own strength.
- They commonly whine, cry, and scream.
- They are often hyperactive.
Well, toddlers seem to be pretty loud, aggressive, and hyperactive. Since they are not old enough to be able to understand emotions, they are quick to aggression and frustration. Their natural curiosity can cause them to venture into situations that are not suitable for toddlers.
It is undeniable that rabbits and toddlers will not be able to live together in harmony (or safety).
Toddlers, at their very young age, do not understand boundaries. It is dangerous to both the rabbit and the young child to place them in a situation that can end in one or both of them ending up hurt.
Rabbits and the Risk of Spreading Sickness
While rabbits are not a very high-risk animal when it comes to spreading sicknesses, it is still possible for them to pass along diseases to humans.
In fact, people with chronic illnesses, immunodeficiency, and pregnancy are at a higher risk of catching a disease from a rabbit.
The five most common illnesses spread from rabbits to humans are:
This illness is caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida that lives in the mouth and upper respiratory tract of rabbits. It is spread by bites and scratches from the rabbit. On a human, this sickness manifests as localized inflammation that can form into abscesses or ascending infections.
Ringworm is a fungal infection on the skin that is scaly and characterized by hair loss and a round shape. This fungus is spread by skin-to-skin contact with and infected animal.
This infection of the intestines is spread by the ingestion of an infected animal’s feces. If a rabbit has this sickness, it will have diarrhea.
Rabbits can carry fleas, ticks, and lice in their fur. These parasites usually transfer to humans by close contact with an infested rabbit.
Most sicknesses spread by rabbits can be prevented by thoroughly washing your hands after handling them. Additionally, make sure to clean any bites or scratches you may suffer from your rabbit. Proper hygiene is always a recommended practice when handling any animal.
Consider the Well-being of the Rabbit
Rabbits require a good bit of responsibility and special care as opposed to other pets. This brings up yet another reason why rabbits and toddlers do not make a good pair. They both demand attention and depend on an adult to tend to their needs.
Rabbits are Long-Term Commitments
Rabbits can live for 10 to 12 years. It is important to be aware of their long lifespan because of the attention they demand on a frequent basis. All animals, including rabbits, should be accepted as a lifetime commitment when they are brought into the home as pets.
Springtime and Easter bring all the rabbits out of the woodwork. Not only are pet shops selling them at this time, but even independent breeders and those that breed for a hobby will sell rabbits, especially baby rabbits. This is probably the most common time that rabbits are bought for children as pets.
However, a large percentage of rabbits bought for children at Easter end up in shelters or live very short lives because they were purchased by someone who did not do his or her research to understand what it takes to have a pet rabbit and help it thrive.
Rabbits Like Being with Other Rabbits
By nature, rabbits are prey animals that are used to being on the constant lookout for predators. Wild rabbits rely on each other for survival. This translates into the life of domesticated rabbits as well.
Having a pair of rabbits helps the rabbits feel safe and secure. You do need to take not that you would need to spay or neuter the rabbits to keep them in pairs.
Rabbits Need Lots of Exercise and Room to Be Active
Did you know that the recommended amount of exercise per day for a rabbit is 4 hours? Living in a cage at all times is not healthy for them. Exercise is necessary for a rabbit’s mental and physical health.
Rabbits benefit the most from having an entire room to run around in freely. If they cannot have a room, their cages must be at least 5 times their size.
Rabbits Require Unique Medical Care
Rabbits actually require care from veterinarians that specialize in rabbit care, and these can be more expensive than regular vet bills. Because they are fragile animals, they get hurt often. They also can suffer from rabbit specific illnesses.
It is recommended to bring your pet rabbit to the vet once a year to maintain its health.
Rabbits Run on Their Own Time
These fluffy mammals do not follow a normal schedule. In fact, they normally sleep all day and all night. This means they’re typically only awake at sunrise and sunset.
Suitable Pet Options for Toddlers
It’s been established that there are several reasons that a rabbit is a poor choice of pet for a toddler, but that does not mean that you cannot get your toddler a pet that is more suited to his or her needs.
Some great pet ideas for toddlers are:
- Hermit Crabs
- Bearded Dragons
- Older dogs and cats
Fish and Hermit Crabs
Both fish and hermit crabs are low-maintenance pets that are kept in tanks. Fish live in a tank of water; hermit crabs live in a tank with gravel at the bottom.
Toddlers can take an active part in the care of both of these pets. Fish only need to be fed once a day, and hermit carbs need food and water once a day. Other than periodic cleanings of their tanks, these pets couldn’t be any easier to care for!
Toddlers can even play with hermit crabs and witness how they grow out of their shells as time passes.
Bearded dragons are known for being very friendly and laid-back. They are rather affectionate for a reptile and will even cuddle with their owners.
While toddlers may not be able to take the reigns when caring for a bearded dragon, the lizard is a pet that will roll with the punches and doesn’t compromise the safety of your toddler.
Your toddler will most definitely get a thrill out of having a their very own pet dragon, as well!
Older Dogs and Cats
It is a common misconception that a toddler will get along better with puppies and kittens than adult dogs and cats. In reality, joining the hyperactivity and youth of toddlers and young puppies and kittens is not a very good mix. You will quickly find yourself parenting both your child and your pet.
On the contrary, adult dogs and cats are quite perfect for toddlers. Older dogs are very calm and content and won’t mind the toddler climbing on them. They can better handle the accidental roughness of the young child. They are also less likely to bite or scratch a toddler.
Adult cats are much like adult dogs, except sassier. When an older cat has had enough of your toddler, it will simply go and hide.
Teach Your Toddler How to Treat a Pet Properly
The hard truth when it comes to finding a safe pet for your toddler is that you must also help make your toddler safe for the pet. Because they are young and probably experiencing having a pet for the first time, you will need to teach them how to be kind and gentle pet owners.
Address Rough Handling of Pets Right Away
When you notice your toddler being too rough with his or her pet, take the time right then to address it. A toddler needs to know exactly what he or she did wrong in order to understand that the behavior needs to be corrected.
Explain that we have to be gentle with our pets because they are living things that can be hurt. Show how to properly handle, hold, or pet the animal and allow your toddler to demonstrate what he or she has learned.
Encourage Calmness Around the Pets
While this may be a more difficult lesson to teach to a toddler, it is a necessary lesson. Instead of constantly telling your toddler to be calm around the family pet, demonstrate the calmness yourself.
One way to encourage peaceful interaction between your toddler and the family pet is to sit with both your child and the pet and quietly watch a show that your toddler loves. Sitting peacefully and bonding with your pet can set a calm example for your toddler to follow.
Give Praise to Your Toddler When He or She Shows Proper Pet Care
Perhaps the easiest way to get your young child to repeat good behavior is to praise, or even reward good behavior. Tell your toddler how well he or she did when feeding the pet fish. Comment on how gently your child placed his or her hermit crab back into its tank.
Don’t let their improvements go unnoticed. Use positive reinforcement to promote good behavior toward pets instead of punishments for bad behavior toward pets.
While it was quickly obvious that rabbits and toddlers would make a volatile duo, there are other pets you can consider getting for your toddler.
Having a pet can be extremely beneficial to a child, but it must be a pet that is suitable for the child’s age and behavior.