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Rabbits and your child's health and safety

Rabbits can make great pets. But they are not a suitable pet for a family with young children.

They require safe, gentle handling and a quiet environment. They also need a lot of care and attention.

Rabbits and health risks to your child

It's rare that a rabbit will spread a disease or bacteria to you or your child. But it can happen.

Make sure you and your child wash your hands carefully after any contact with the:

  • rabbit
  • rabbit's cage
  • rabbit's bowl
  • rabbit's poo

Do not allow your child to touch rabbit poo and litter.

Teach your child how to treat a rabbit

Always watch children around rabbits. Teach them to leave the rabbit alone when they hop away or go into their cage.

Rabbits and young children

Do not allow young children to pick up the rabbit. Rabbits like to be on the ground. They do not like hugs or cuddles. This is another reason why they are not a suitable pet for young children.

Rabbits do like being petted and groomed.

Rabbits and older children

Teach older children how to hold a rabbit. They should use both hands and support the back legs properly. Never pick up rabbits by their ears or by the scruff of their necks.

Rabbit bites and children

A rabbit under pressure will bite or scrape. If a rabbit scratches or bites your child, they could develop a reaction or infection. This is the most common child health problem with rabbits.

To reduce the risk of bites and scratches:

  • get advice from your vet about claw trimming
  • teach your child how to treat a rabbit with care

Tell your child to tell you if they have been bitten or scratched.

If a rabbit bites or scratches your child

If a rabbit bites or scratches your child:

  • wash the wound immediately in warm running water
  • dry it carefully
  • apply a clean plaster

Non-urgent advice: Talk to your GP if your child's wounds:

  • do not heal properly
  • look infected
  • are weeping, red, swollen or feel hot to touch
  • are worrying you

Keep your rabbit healthy

Talk to your vet about vaccinations, tick and flea control for your pet. Contact them if you have any concerns about your rabbit’s health.

Page last reviewed: 22 October 2022
Next review due: 22 October 2025