Baby animals are a symbol of spring and renewal. Every year, feed and pet stores sell chicks and bunnies to parents as Easter presents for their children. While these animals are adorable, they are pets and must be taken care of for the rest of their lives.
“An impulse pet is always a bad purchase,” warns Dr. Mark Stickney, Director of General Surgery Services at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “They may look cute in the store, but Easter is gone in a day and then you have an animal to take care of long term.”
Stickney also explains that while baby chicks are very cute, full-grown chickens might not be the best pets, especially not for children.
“It’s hard to interact with a chicken and roosters can be very aggressive. They also get barbs on their feet that can cause a lot of damage,” notes Stickney.
If you have put some time and consideration into buying a pet for your child, a rabbit can be a good “first pet” as they are docile and are pretty easy to take care of in general.
“The good news is that you do not have to walk or train a rabbit,” states Stickney. “They will need to get some exercise so you have to let them hop around each day.”
The down side to pet rabbits is that they are pretty messy. While it is possible to litter train some rabbits, for the most part they go to the bathroom wherever they are. Because of this they will need to be in a hutch of some sort most of the time.
“Make sure that if you do have a rabbit as a pet that you don’t keep it in a wire cage. It sounds gross, but at night they secrete vitamins in their feces and they have to be able to eat these secretions to stay healthy,” says Stickney.
Although rabbits are easy to care for there are still things you have to do to keep them healthy and comfortable. Be sure to keep their hutch in a place with a comfortable temperature at all times and keep their dietary and veterinary requirements in mind.
“A rabbit’s diet consists primary of coastal hay and vegetables and 1/3 of their diet should include rabbit feed,” explains Stickney. “The hay is very important because it prevents digestive problems that rabbits get as a result of cleaning themselves like cats do.”
Hay is also important for rabbit’s teeth. If they don’t chew on hay constantly their teeth can overgrow.
“If your rabbit’s teeth do overgrow it will have to be sedated and its teeth will have to be filed down by a veterinarian,” warns Stickney. “It’s also important to remember that rabbits will chew on just about anything so watch out for things like power cords because they can electrocute themselves.”
Rabbits also have routine veterinary needs just like any other pet. They will need to be spayed or neutered and can also get fleas.
“You really need to get your rabbit spayed or neutered before sexual maturity or they can become aggressive,” advises Stickney. “Check with your veterinarian because not all of them spay and neuter rabbits. You should also ask them for any flea preventative or treatment as over-the-counter products for dogs and cats can be toxic for rabbits.”
While any pet can be a wonderful addition to a family, it is never a good idea to buy a pet on a whim. If you are ready to make the commitment and think your child is too then a rabbit can be a fun furry companion. Just remember, they do live seven to 11 years on average so you may have the rabbit even after your little one leaves the nest.
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