Rabbits are often seen as an ideal first pet for babies and young children. But despite what the cartoons might suggest, rabbits are complicated creatures that don’t always get along with infants. Rabbits have unique personalities, and while they’re very friendly animals, babies can be heavy-handed, posing a threat to the animal.
With careful supervision, rabbits can make good pets for babies and young children. However, there are risks as babies like to cuddle and squeeze their pets. As rabbits are delicate creatures, they could get hurt or harm the child by scratching and kicking to free themselves. Rabbits can trigger allergic reactions. Over time, many babies and children get bored with their pets and stop showing interest.
It’s also important to consider whether rabbits are a danger to babies. Rabbits may kick and can all-too-easily scratch a child’s delicate skin. If they’re not appropriately introduced during the early stages of life, it might be too late to integrate them with each other.
Are Rabbits Good with Babies?
Though rabbits are cute and cuddly, they are high maintenance pets. As bunnies or young adult rabbits, they spend most of their time dashing around, chewing things they shouldn’t, and squeezing into small gaps that humans can’t reach. Rabbits need constant supervision and are hard work, which is even more difficult when you have a baby to look after.
Similarly, babies are often unpredictable as they begin to navigate the world around them. They can also be accidentally heavy-handed. They mean no harm, but because rabbits are delicate animals, it’s easy for them to become injured due to an over-enthusiastic grip.
Also, many rabbits don’t enjoy being picked up and become frightened when lifted off the ground. A journal published on the Wiley Online Library suggests that 60% of pet rabbits physically struggle when lifted, and it’s common for them to display fear-related aggression as a result.
When this happens, there’s a risk that a young child picking a rabbit up could get hurt. They will, in turn, drop the rabbit, causing the animal injury. All of these issues suggest that rabbits and babies do not mix well together.
However, there are benefits for a child and rabbit to come into contact. A journal on MDPI describes a study that was carried out on children in the first grade of elementary school. Most of the pupils had special needs, but after rabbit-assisted interventions, their anxiety levels decreased where they were previously high.
Rabbits also have distinctive personalities and not all of them are hyper or hectic. Some are quiet and calm and enjoy being handled. Rabbits make lovely pets for the following reasons:
- Can be litterbox trained
- Make no noise
- Unique personality
- Don’t need much space
- Friendly, sociable animals
- Can be spayed and neutered to control behavior
- Enjoy playing with toys
If properly introduced from a young age, a rabbit and baby can co-exist quite happily. However, you must consider the following factors before investing in a pet rabbit for your child:
Your Baby’s Personality
Calm, easy-going, and gentle babies will have a better time adapting to living alongside a pet rabbit. Children of this nature are more likely to ignore the rabbit and leave it alone. They might be happy to watch their new pet from afar instead.
Rabbits will appreciate being left in peace, too. Loud noises or sudden movements stress most rabbits out and cause them to seek refuge behind furniture or in small gaps. Young children need to be taught to be respectful to the rabbit and gently pet the animal under supervision from an early age. If they’re not, they may grow up to be too heavy-handed.
The Number of Children
Households with only one calm child are most suitable for pet rabbits. Parents that have the time to monitor their child’s behavior around their rabbit can intervene if any problems arise.
However, households with multiple children under the age of seven are too hectic for a small rabbit. Not only are the infants more likely to harm or frighten the animal, but busy parents rarely have time to manage a rabbit as well as their children.
There can be exceptions if your children are quiet or unaffected by a rabbit’s presence. But in this instance, is it even worth bringing a pet that requires so much maintenance into the home?
Rabbits also shouldn’t have access to a baby’s toys. In particular, plastic toys pose a considerable health risk, especially if your pet is prone to chewing anything in sight. If you can’t keep your home or garden clear of harmful toys, you need to rethink whether it’s safe to have a pet rabbit.
When you buy a rabbit for your baby, it’s not their pet – it’s yours. In spirit, your child may call the rabbit theirs. But you will be the one feeding, cleaning, and providing for it. And the question is: will you have time to add a rabbit to the household, too?
Many parents simply won’t. Rabbits require a lot of care and attention and will become sick and depressed if left alone in a dark cage. While most rabbits don’t enjoy being picked up, they’re loving, social animals who require human interaction and become bored without it.
Children often see pets as a novelty and quickly become uninterested, meaning it’s the parents who end up caring for it. Rabbits do live quite happily alongside other rabbits, but there’s the chance they may fight. If there’s any risk of your rabbit becoming neglected because your children have moved on, it’s best to not get a rabbit in the first place.
Unfortunately, funds are at the center of most things. While rabbits aren’t the most expensive pet, they do require a decent level of maintenance. This includes food, hay, treats, and a hutch or pen.
There are also medical bills to consider. You might want to get your rabbit neutered to control its behavior, which can be a costly procedure. Annual vaccines and flea treatments may also be required. And then there are the unexpected medical costs to cover, which can come as a surprise and considerable expense.
Rabbits deserve the best treatment in life, so you have to weigh up whether you can afford the additional costs if it comes to it. With a baby to pay and care for, getting a rabbit might not be feasible in your economic situation.
Rabbits are only small, but they still require a cage that measures at least 30” x 30” or 24” x 36”. Keeping your rabbit indoors is best for their health and safety. As a prey animal, they’re an easy target for foxes and other predators. Plus, keeping then inside the house means you can interact with them more often.
Rabbits should be kept away from your baby’s bedroom, as well as loud TVs and stereos so they can rest in peace. If your home doesn’t have space to meet these requirements, it might be better for you to wait until you can.
How to Introduce Rabbits and Babies?
If you’ve decided to get a pet rabbit to grow up alongside your baby, you must introduce them in the right way from the start. Similarly, if you already have a rabbit established in the home, your pet will need to adjust to having a new arrival in the house.
Newborns should be kept away from the animal until they are between 6 to 12 months old and more aware of what a rabbit is. After this, it’s safe to start supervising their interactions. Follow these tips to do so:
- Make sure you understand basic rabbit behavior so that you can pass your knowledge onto your child.
- Introduce your child to your rabbit when it is feeling calm and quiet to minimize stress.
- Talk through anything your child does wrong – don’t shout, or your child may associate its pet rabbit with being in trouble.
- Explain to your child all the things that may cause your rabbit harm and frequently reiterate this point.
- Stop all contact for a short while if your child feels agitated or stressed, as your rabbit will pick up on the feelings.
- Create a safe zone for your rabbit that your child can’t reach. You might want to consider using a child-friendly gate.
- If you have guests over, keep the rabbit in its cage or living area where it can feel safe and secure.
- Only let your child’s friends look at the rabbit – don’t allow them to touch.
- Supervise your child’s interaction with the rabbit at all times.
Following the above steps is a great way to teach your baby right from wrong when it comes to its new pet. As both your rabbit and baby become accustomed to each other’s presence, they should start to form a strong bond and feel comfortable around each other.
Can Rabbits Make Babies Sick?
Rabbits are great at keeping themselves clean, but unfortunately, like all animals, they can pass on mites, parasites, and harmful bacteria that can make your baby sick.
With careful supervision and stringent hygiene practices, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. But there are some common health issues that you should watch out for if you have young children.
Bites And Scratches
Unfortunately, as reported by Washington State University, rabbits can spread bacteria through bites and scratches. While rare, rabbits carry infection on their skin, feet, and teeth, which can be passed on to humans.
Babies who attempt to cuddle their rabbit may receive a scratch or two as the rabbit kicks to get free. This can transmit harmful bacteria to the skin, causing infection or soreness – particularly while a child’s immune system is still developing.
If this does happen, the wound will need to be washed thoroughly with soap and water. Apply an antiseptic gel to kill any dangerous bacteria and cover the injury for 24 hours.
When it comes to bites, Pasteurella multocida is the most common bacteria transmitted and can be found in the oral cavity and upper respiratory tract of rabbits. If an affected rabbit bites a child, local inflammation will occur and lead to an abscess or infection.
In extreme cases, rabbit bites cause rabies. Rabies is a nasty virus that affects the central nervous system. The virus causes flu-like symptoms, including fever, muscle weakness, and an uncomfortable tingling sensation across the body. The bite and surrounding area may also burn or scratch.
However, the risk of a human catching the virus is extremely low, so don’t let this put you off choosing a rabbit as a pet.
Some babies are prone to allergies that come from allergens found on the skin of rabbits. Symptoms are typical of most allergies and include sneezing, an itchy or runny nose, red or watery eyes, congestion, and itchy skin. Some children also develop a red or bumpy rash.
The allergens can be transmitted from the rabbit to the child through the air or by direct skin-to-skin contact. Some allergies will get better over time, while some will worsen. While some babies will want to avoid petting the rabbit altogether, allergy symptoms can be minimized by thorough hand washing after contact.
It’s also essential that children learn not to touch their face or eyes after handling the animal. It’s advisable to hold the rabbit using a blanket or towel to avoid direct skin contact. Rabbits that come into contact with the clothes or bed linen of an allergic child will suffer because of the transferred allergens. These items will need to be stripped and washed.
Rabbits that are kept outside often pick up skin mites that burrow into the skin, causing mange. Mange is one of the most common skin problems seen in rabbits and is itchy and sore. But these mites can also cause skin irritations and rashes on humans if they’re transmitted through direct contact with the animal.
Dermatophytosis – also known as ringworm – is another common skin issue that can be passed from rabbits to babies. It’s a fungal infection that causes a red, itchy, scaly circular rash. As well as skin, it can affect hair and nails.
While ringworm is easy to treat in both rabbits and children with topical treatments, it can be uncomfortable to live with before it clears up.
It’s no surprise that rabbit poop is unsanitary. Rabbits excrete up to 100 pellets a day, which can make their living area a haven for bacteria.
However, while rabbit poop can carry parasites like roundworm and tapeworm, it’s not thought to transmit disease to humans.
On the other hand, Encephalitozoonosis can be passed on through rabbit urine. It’s a poorly understood infection, but it mostly affects children with a weakened immune system. Symptoms include diarrhea, sinusitis, and problems with the nervous system.
Never allow your children to pick up rabbit droppings with their bare hands. If they do, they will need to wash their hands with antibacterial hand wash. They will also need to be taught not to go near the droppings.
To keep your home sanitized, clean up your rabbit’s poop a couple of times a day and replace contaminated hay as often as you can.
While rabbits can make lovely companions for babies, parents should only proceed if they have enough time to care and nurture the pet. Young children have a short attention span and often get bored with their pet.
As rabbits are sociable creatures, they need love and affection and should be handled a few times a day. Children with skin allergies or weak immune systems may find they’re not compatible with rabbits altogether.