My rabbit grooming business has taken off and I have been visiting a lot of families in my area who have pet rabbits that need their toe nails trimmed. I love meeting lots of new bunnies who are deeply loved by their families and it gives me a chance to impart some education on them about their pet.
Over half the time I meet a new bun, he is the pet of some young girl and they often know next to nothing about rabbits. I am encouraged when I see mom or dad take an interest in the education I am trying to leave with them, but it is unsettling to say the least to know that a eight or nine year old child is responsible for most of the care for their rabbit.
I often see that their play area has not been bunny-proofed or that the rabbit is living on pine shavings or in a too small cage. I do my best to teach some basics and hope that they correct the most serious problems that I warn them about. Time will only tell as I return to some of these homes in a while for more nail trims.
It is awesome that in about half of the families, the parents take a very active role in raising and caring for their pet rabbits. Unfortunately, there is a very large percentage of them where it is completely up to the child what happens to that poor bun. Small cages and 100 percent pellet diets are the norm for these guys. I don’t get to see too many of these, because if they will not spend money on good food and a nice abode for their bunnies, they usually are not spending $50 for me to come groom and trim their bunny’s nails. I like to think that the folks who do pay me to come see them that do this are doing it out of ignorance, not meanness or being bad people.
Rabbits with their hollow bones and fragile backs are so easy for kids to injure, especially when they don’t realize this fact. If parents knew how many bunnies are injured every year by young children, they would think twice about handing one over to their kid (one would hope).
Even more important, rabbits are very sensitive to their environment and hide the fact that they are sick from us humans. A child is never going to be sensitive to these issues and will not associate changes in behavior to the bunny being sick or hurt. It takes an adult who is knowledgeable about bunnies to do these things.
Many people think that rabbits are good for children because they only live four or five years, when in reality they will live 10-15 years if properly cared for. If you want a pet who only lives two or three years, then you should be thinking about a hamster or gerbil, but rabbits are a decade long commitment.
If you take all of these things into consideration, on top of the fact that rabbit vet bills are about three times as much as those for dogs and cats, they may not be the right pet for a lot of families, especially those with younger children. Many families take on the commitment with the knowledge that their bunnies are a long term commitment. They understand that they are rather high maintenance and expensive due to their being exotic pets. I have no problem with that, but it is the people to impulsively get these pets for their kids without thinking all of this through.
A child cannot be solely responsible for an expensive high maintenance pet, simple as that. Any rational adult could understand this fact. Who is going to write the check for the huge vet bill when the bunny inevitably needs a vet visit. Who is going to purchase the variety of fresh greens for the bunny’s diet. Who is going to make sure that there is always a supply of fresh hay and water for him, too. Of course, this is the adults.
I like seeing families teach the value of the human animal bond to their children and the gentle exciting spirit of a rabbit is a great way to do that, but we need to make sure that we are truly teaching them the right lesson. Allowing them to hurt or be irresponsible so that a living creature suffers or cannot live to his full potential, is wrong and they are not getting the right lesson in life.