ASK THE VET: Bunnies aren’t good starter pets – Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Editor’s note: Look for this new column about pet care every Monday in Style.

Q I’m thinking of surprising my 6-year-old niece with a rabbit on Easter. The pet store sells bunnies of various sizes and ear styles. Is one type of rabbit healthier or friendlier than the others?

A My first pet joined our family when I was younger than your niece, and I got my first rabbit at about your niece’s age, but I don’t recommend rabbits as children’s starter pets.

A pet is a lot of work, and much of it falls to an adult family member. Ask your niece’s parents if they are ready to make a lifetime commitment to a rabbit, letting them know the life span is 8 to 12 years.

Pet rabbits live indoors, and they need safe, rabbit-proof places to explore. Their diet should consist of fresh grass hay, greens, certain other vegetables and a small number of rabbit pellets. The pen and litter box must be cleaned daily.

A rabbit has a delicate spine that is easily broken if a child plays too boisterously or even picks up the bunny wrong. Is your niece the sort of child who will play quietly and gently with a rabbit?

A pet rabbit needs to see a veterinarian at least once a year, and it should be sterilized. Unneutered rabbits may become aggressive and spray urine to mark their territory. Unspayed females shred carpeting to build nests, and they die early of uterine cancer.

If your niece’s parents agree