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A story of introducing a new bunny into a family household - as told to fuzzy-rabbit
When friends moved interstate, we offered to find a home for their beautiful seven month old rabbit. We didn’t tell our kids, but we thought that home might well be with us – we knew our children would love a pet and a rabbit seemed like a fairly low maintenance and not-too-destructive option.
The rabbit loved adult company and was really friendly – he would happily gambol around our feet or hop into a lap, and loved being stroked by the grown-ups. The children were another story though.
We discovered quickly that a rabbit and young children – aged 3 and 6 – is a bad combination. Rabbits are very sensitive, highly strung little animals, whose inbuilt reaction to any situation they don’t understand is “flight”. Young children, even gentle ones like mine, can get very excited by animals in action.
So here’s the scenario…child sees the rabbit and gets excited; rabbit gets frightened by the child’s reaction and runs away; child sees the rabbit make sudden movements and gets even MORE excited; rabbit gets even more frightened…. – you get the picture. It just keeps escalating. And as most mums know, excited children are hard to calm down.
As we saw this scenario unfold time and time again, we felt that it would be extremely cruel to the rabbit to keep him. No one hurt him or set out to be unkind, but he did not understand young children and they did not understand him, and they brought out the worst in each other. We (the grownups) couldn’t stand it that a creature in our care should be so terrified. There were ways in which my children could and did interact with the rabbit in a positive way, but this didn’t make the overall situation any less unkind to the rabbit. Ironically, when the rabbit approached my younger child in a quiet moment, it would frighten my child – we couldn’t win.
Another reality we weren’t prepared for was the mess. Rabbits are naturally very tidy, but they are at their most active during the night. This means that you really have to do much of their care first thing in the morning – it can’t wait. In a family with young children, this inevitably means rabbit care gets added to an already over-busy time of the day.
And make no mistake about “not destructive” either. Rabbits like to burrow, and will settle for your carpet or bed in the absence of soil. They like to chew, so lots of our books are now missing chunks.
Much as I liked our bunny-visitor, and sad as we all were when he left, I’m glad for his sake that we found a new home for him.
To anyone seeing a rabbit as the ideal pet for their children, let me say to you – please think again. The sensitivity of rabbits and the exuberance of children do not belong together.