If you’re looking for a quick answer, here it is:

Rabbits do NOT make good pets for children. Full stop.

If you’re looking for a detailed one, I’ll describe an experience I once had with an Amazon delivery driver.

After I signed for the delivery, the man asked if I happened to keep rabbits: he saw a rabbit run out in the front (well, it was a chicken coop really, with a run attached). We use the front run to let them have a play somewhere new during the day sometimes. The run was empty on the day. But the answer was Yes—just a few! I don’t usually invite strangers into the house, but on this occasion, I did, keen to put him off.

“Wow! You keep them indoors?” he asked.

“Yep, and outdoors, too,” I said, and proceeded to ask a few questions.

It turned out his children reached the age when they tend to ask for pets. He and his wife took them to Pets at Home, where they looked at rabbits and chatted with staff about keeping them. The children were very keen. (Staff too, as it turned out.) I asked if he personally liked rabbits or his wife wanted them. He said they didn’t have any interest in rabbits. They would much prefer a dog, but dogs seemed like quite a responsibility, and with two young children, they thought rabbits were a more reasonable choice—a lot less commitment and expense. His children were aged 5 and 8.

I explained:

  • Rabbits need neutering, yearly vaccinations, and regular vet checks. These are not cheap. You may also need to consider pet insurance because …
  • Rabbits tend to get sick a lot: say hello to dental problems, stasis, urinary tract infections (and fly strike if you don’t keep them spotlessly clean—or just because). All these cost a lot of money. We are potentially talking thousands. But …
  • If you’re counting on pet insurance—don’t. Insurance companies are in it for themselves and will only pay out so much. However, your insurance installments may be a waste of money, anyway, because …
  • When rabbits are ill, the signs are usually subtle and easy to miss. Rabbits tend to go downhill so quickly you usually only know they were ill when they are dead—especially if they’re housed outdoors. This means that …
  • Your children will be very upset—very. Even if at this point they lost interest and you’re the one mucking out every day, there will be floods of tears. Children hate it when bunnies are ill, and even worse when they die. For all these reasons as well as to maintain children’s level of attachment to rabbits so they don’t lose interest, leaving you to do all the work …
  • It is best to keep rabbits indoors; so, make sure you read up about rabbit-proofing your house. But either way …
  • Whether you keep them inside or out, rabbits tend to cause a lot of damage: say goodbye to your lawn and hello to dead shrubs. There will be chew marks on everything that’s not made out of metal. Rabbits are not as vegetarian as they’re made out to be: leather sofas and shoes can and will be ruined. Upholstery may also need replacing. Regularly. If you’re not good at soldering electric cables, be ready to buy a lot of new appliances. If you’re good at hiding cables out of sight, hide them well. Rabbits are crafty and they are unstoppable: not only will they steal your salad and rip a biscuit out of your hand, they’re also exceptionally good at sniffing out the cables. But even if yours happen to be considerate …
  • Rabbits need daily cleaning and twice-daily feedings and changes of water. They need their claws clipped regularly. Many need daily brushing. Some need their bums cleaned and checked frequently. And if you think all of this is quite manageable …
  • Be prepared to double the expenses, time spent caring for them, and the stress because rabbits should ideally live in pairs. This means that …
  • The best combination is a male and a female housed together from a young age and neutered at an appropriate time. Young rabbits are notoriously difficult to sex (even for vets), and pet shop staff are notoriously overconfident at sexing them. If you’re not lucky …
  • There’s a strong chance you will end up with two same sex rabbits who will never live together. But even if yours are correctly sexed …
  • If you lose one of the pair to an illness or predators, you will be faced with finding a new companion to your remaining rabbit—the process which is not as straight forward as they make it out to be. You cannot just go to a shop and get another. You may need to spend months carefully bonding the pair. Rabbits are fussy about their partners. Very rarely does a rabbit love another at first sight, and most will never get on. When this happens, they will inflict a lot of veterinarily-costly damage with their razor-sharp teeth, kicky legs and pointy claws, so …
  • Your children must realise it very firmly that rabbits are not at as cute and cuddly as they look in the shop, and even more they need to realise that …
  • Rabbits are prey animals: when they get picked up, it us usually just before they get consumed. They may put up with it, but only until they grow up and realise their strength. Then, their reaction to “cuddles” will most likely be that of wriggling madly and kicking violently. A clueless picker-upper may end up badly scratched and even nipped. To blood—often a lot of blood. But even in those rare cases where children are not getting the rabbits with the intention to cuddle them, they must be explained that …
  • Rabbits are startled easily, and children should always approach calmly and without sudden movements because if rabbits feel threatened, they are capable of aggression. Some you don’t even need to approach: they may charge and nip just for the fun of it, especially if they have not been neutered. But even if all of the above proves untrue in your case …
  • Children lose interest in their toys quickly. Your daughter is eight, and soon she will prefer to be out with friends to mucking out, which will leave you with so much work you didn’t sign up for—and for the pets you never wanted in the first place. Every day you will wish you bought a dog. Even more likely, you will wish you bought a hamster because at that point you could be so glad you didn’t buy a whole dog. But even if your children don’t lose interest in rabbits and diligently clean and care for them every day …
  • Rabbits can live for a ve-e-e-e-eeery long time: it’s not uncommon for them to outlive their owners. When your children go to college (or uni), more likely than not they will not take their rabbits with them, and then, you will definitely be the one doing all the work. Only now, it will be a lot harder because …
  • The older rabbits get the more costly and time-consuming it is to care for them. At this point, you are not emotionally invested into these rabbits, but financially—you are. This is a bummer of a situation to be in. You throw in the towel and start ringing rabbit rescues, and people like me, who have so many rabbits we have nowhere to put them anymore and people like you ringing us every day, are going to get upset, probably say something nasty, and hang up on you. You are too old for all this now, and …
  • You resent your rabbits for all the damage, expenses and grief they caused you, your children for using higher education to evade their responsibilities, and even more yourself for not talking to the right people before making such a wrong purchase.

That was pretty much what I said to the poor man. Honest to God. And he had to hear every word of it. You may think I’m surprised he was still there when you finished, but he was—I knew to lock the door.

“I was never told any of that by the shop stuff,” he said.

“Really? What did they tell you?”

“They said rabbits are cheap and easy to care for and make great pets for children.”

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