Rabbits as Class Pets
In a word, it is CRUEL to keep a rabbit as a class pet. My second grade class kept a class rabbit and now that I am experienced with rabbits, I can look back on why this was such a terrible mistake. If you are a teacher considering to have a class rabbit, or if you are a student who wants to ask your teacher for permission to have a class rabbit, PLEASE read this page and reconsider...
Rabbits are not social animals like dogs are. They do not like the constant prodding, poking, petting, and often improper handling that they are subject to in a classroom full of children. They also dislike the high noise level. Probably the most stressful time for a class rabbit is when it is let out into a circle full of children and groping hands. My class would let the rabbit out to run freely about the classroom, but the exercise session would end with over twenty children trying to run after and catch the rabbit.
Housing a class rabbit is also a problem. Class rabbits are most often confined to a cage or small hutch in which they have very little room to move about and exercise. Boredom, lethargy, and obesity are possible results from this sort of confinement.
The class rabbit has no owner to bond with. Since it is basically another toy for the children, it can not establish a loving relationship with any human(s). Such love bonds are essential for a rabbit to live a healthy life. My class's rabbit grew to be aggressive toward humans since it was constantly defending itself and since it had no one to call "its own human."
Though feeding, litter changing, and water bottles were always taken care of in my classroom, many class rabbits can become victims of neglect. Children (or teachers) may forget to feed the rabbit, give it fresh water, or change its litter. If the rabbit has no designated litter pan, it may end up living in its own filth. Sometimes, the reverse can happen: the rabbit is fed too much and it becomes obese.
Often, the teachers/children are not skilled in caring for a rabbit and they may end up feeding the rabbit the wrong kind of treats (if the rabbit gets any at all). Certainfoods can be hazardous to a rabbit's health. Also, the wrong type of bedding-or no bedding at all-may be used.
Class rabbits will almost always go through lifeunspayed. This can also be hazardous to its health in later years. If medical problems occur, they become the teacher's responsibility; there is a chance that the teacher may ignore the problems, hoping they will go away. It is traumatic for the children to find a dead rabbit in their classroom, and of course the rabbit suffers an early, sometimes painful end.
Fire drills or real fires are also a risk when keeping a class rabbit. The bell frightens the rabbit and hurts its ears; in the case of a real fire, the rabbit may burn to death.
Even if the rabbit does not fall ill during its classroom life, it will most likely die very young. My class's rabbit died around its third birthday. This early death is due to stress and lack of love.
The final problem I will discuss is transportation and absence of any humans. During the school week, the class rabbit will most likely be left alone in the school. As long as it has food, water, and clean living quarters this time alone is not the problem; however, if there is an emergency, no one will be around to save the rabbit. On weekends or vacations, the rabbit will either be left alone, at risk of running out of food/water and of course at risk of living in filth; or, it will be taken home with a child. My class's rabbit was sent to a different home every weekend/vacation. The constant transportation, change in scenery, and non-consistent ownership was very stressful to the class rabbit. At children's homes, the rabbit is subject to neglect, mistreatment, and sometimes even other pets. Over the summer, my class's rabbit was moved to a different home every single week.
When a new school year begins, the rabbit will not necessarily follow the students to the next grade level; most likely, it will be subject to an all-new batch of students or maybe a different room and teacher. The stress-cycle begins anew.
Rabbits are not meant to be class pets. They are meant to live in one home with the love and devotion of one person or one family. There are many other great alternative class pets-non-bonding animals who have shorter lifespans, or who are meant to live in small cages. Such animals include butterflies, fish, newts, frogs, salamanders, toads, and lizards. Both the teacher and the students should research all of these animals so that proper care can be administered. The pet should also be brought to the SAME home every night/weekend/vacation. Any of these animals can be better class pets than rabbits, with just as much of a learning experience for students.
*NOTE: Feel free to print this page and/or distribute it. However please include the following information on your printouts: Article written by Jill R. 06/21/01. Taken from the Bunny Hutch Website (http://webspace.webring.com/people/qp/pb_and_js/rabbitindex.html)*
This page was created in loving memory of
Furrball (1991-1994), my second grade class's pet rabbit.