Rabbits and guinea pigs can make great companion animals, however they are not ideal pets for children. Children can be loud and rough in their manner of play and frightening to these small prey species. A frightened or anxious rabbit or guinea pig often responds by scratching or biting, and rabbits will also kick out. Play with children should always be supervised.
Rabbits, especially the dwarf breeds, often get injured accidentally. As they have well developed and powerful hindlimbs the force of their kicking can lead to spinal fracture (usually L6/7) if they are not held appropriately.
Rabbits and guinea pigs need a calm and stress free environment and do need to be handled gently but confidently and in a secure manner when restrained. They are not like the family Labrador!
A real risk is that when rabbits or guinea pigs are bought as a pet for the children and becomes relegated to the small hutch at the back corner of the backyard when the kids grow up and lose interest.
Often rabbits and guinea pigs are considered ‘beginners pets’, because they are perceived to be able to live in hutches with little interaction. These little animals are complicated and complex, and require a lot of social contact in order to open up to people. Subsequently many are neglected and surrendered when people are unable or unwilling to engage with their needs.
Rabbits and guinea pigs do make great pets for adults.
Rabbits are easily the third most commonly kept small mammal pet in Australia. They and guinea pigs are full of personality and can be very interactive with their owners.
Both species respond well to constant handling and contact and most develop a great bond with their owners. They are very affectionate and playful and make excellent companions.