I Will Not Kill My Son’s Rabbit

Buttercup, a Holland lop, and Zella, a mini lopWe’re going to take a break from adoption for a moment. I bet you’re thinking that this is going to be a funny post about how I can’t stand Jackson’s rabbit, so I have to tell myself, “I will not kill my son’s rabbit.” Unfortunately, it’s not humorous. There are people who want me to kill my son’s rabbit.

Jackson is in 4-H. He chose the Rabbit project – he raises and shows rabbits. He started with one rabbit, Zella, a mini lop. I know, you’d think mini lops would be mini, but Zella is actually a little bit bigger than your average rabbit. She’s 6.5 pounds, and larger in size than your average house cat. We needed that, because our cat Jinxy is a known rabbit killer. (Long story.)

Zella, a black mini lop


For months after we got her, Zella hated leaving her cage. She would scratch us anytime we took her out. And by “scratch” I mean “give us huge gashes.” I had to buy those large bandages to cover the wounds. I admit, the words “rabbit stew” were said, more than once. Eventually, after many, many months, she stopped. I’m guessing she realized, “My cage is still there even when I’m not in it, and they always put me back, and they feed me, so… maybe I should just go with it.”

Zella is a bit big for Jackson to handle to do showmanship. In showmanship, the 4-Her shows the rabbit by pointing out all of its body parts, indicating what a person should be looking for to ensure the rabbit is healthy. This involves flipping the rabbit over and having her lie on her back. It took Jackson more than one month to make Zella do this, and it was hard work for him.

Over the summer, Jackson convinced us that he should get a second, smaller rabbit for showmanship. We settled on a Holland lop. Jackson got to name her – Buttercup, after the Powerpuff Girl. We got her in October; she had been born in June. As of this writing, she’s 8-months old.

For the first two weeks, Buttercup was one anxious 4-month old bunny. She seemed to be always on alert. She freaked out when someone put his/her  hand in her cage. She mellowed overall, but she still hates being taken out of her cage. She bites. If you were a cute little 4-pound ball of fur designed to be some hawk’s meal, wouldn’t you get a little freaked out if someone removed you from your enclosed metal haven? Once she’s out of her cage, however, she is the sweetest bunny ever.

Case in point: There was a rabbit meeting in November and they were going over showmanship. I fished Vampire Bunny out of her travel cage and gave her to Jackson. Jackson snuggled her and laid her out on the table. She just laid there while Jackson gave her belly rubs, her little nose twitching happily. One of the moms was organizing 4-H marching in the holiday parade. Our conversation went something like this:

C: Are you and Jackson marching in the parade on Saturday?

Me: I’m not sure. There’s  a rabbit show, and those start really early in the morning. I think he’ll be too tired.

C: Oh. Well, we have a little float with a trailer attached, and it’s just big enough for 1 or 2 of the little kids, and we could use a little kid who has a really mellow rabbit.

Me: Ah. Well, then I guess we’re marching in the parade.

C: Seriously, I think that’s the mellowest rabbit I’ve ever seen.

At the parade, Buttercup snuggled into Jackson’s chest for 2 hours.

She went to her first show in January. She bit the judge, who said she was evil. She went to her second show in February. Again, she bit the judge. This time, the judge said, “this rabbit should die.” He wasn’t kidding.

The other judge at that show gave Max some tips on getting her out of her cage without biting. (I can’t go to rabbit shows – another long story.) Jackson was near tears at the thought of someone killing his rabbit. Our rabbit leader actually offered us another rabbit, but I said that Buttercup was really quite sweet, she just didn’t like being taken out of her cage, and probably got anxious around strangers. She gave us a tip for getting her not to bite as well.

At the last 4-H community meeting, one of the women, who breeds rabbits and was at the last show, took me aside. I’ll spare you the gory details, but she essentially said that “the sensible judge told him to cull that rabbit. You need to kill that rabbit before someone gets seriously hurt.”

She’s a breeder. She has 23 bunny babies at home. She has a completely different mindset than I do. Jackson’s rabbits are our family. They are his pets and projects. I wanted Jackson to join 4-H so he could learn the responsibility to look after another living creature, as well as learn to respect other living creatures. He made a commitment to each of these rabbits. We will teach Buttercup not to bite when we take her out of the cage. Or, like Zella, she may just grow out of it by learning that she’ll always get to go back home. We will not kill Buttercup because she doesn’t do exactly what we want her to do.

What if Buttercup doesn’t learn not to bite? Then she can’t be a show rabbit. She’s just a pet. Then, she’ll only bite us. And let me be clear: I’d rather be bitten by a rabbit than scratched by a rabbit. Rabbits have very powerful legs with a total of 18 claws. Their teeth are sharp, but there are only two of them that matter.

Buttercup is not a mean rabbit. She is a rabbit who feels safe in her cage, and gets scared and anxious when she’s taken out of it. Once she’s out, she calms down, at least here at home. The more she travels, the more people she encounters, the less it should freak her out. So no, I’m not killing my son’s rabbit.

Buttercup, a broken opal Holland lop rabbit

Would you kill something this cute?


6 thoughts on “I Will Not Kill My Son’s Rabbit

  1. Wow, that took a lot of twists and turns. She sounds like one of my cats. This cat was my son’s and he couldn’t care for her for an extended period and then he didn’t want to take her back because she was happy and hubby and I loved her. She’s so sweet and sleeps between us at night. But lots of people who meet her think she’s a b***h. She will lash out when she’s frightened. It takes expert vet techs to cut her nails. What I know is that she only acts mean and lashes out (yes, at the other cats, too) when she’s frightened. That means that we have to know how to deal with her, that’s all. I was a little surprised that you weren’t worried about 4-H teaching kids to kill their pets because that is my understanding of the animal husbandry side of 4-H. I used to do it as a kid, but stuff to cooking and knitting classes for that very reason. And the breeder attitude doesn’t surprise me at all. That’s why I don’t like animal breeding and related activities. But, as you say ;), that’s another (long) story.
    And, yes, Buttercup is adorable. And, no, I wouldn’t–for sure!

    • There’s a difference between a market animal and a pet/project. Jackson wants to raise goats, and if we did that, I’d aim for dairy goats, not meat goats. If he did want to go the meat route, then that will be up to him. He has to care for the animal and go through the whole rigamarole. Ultimately, a meat animal is raised and killed for food, which is more acceptable to me (even though I’m a vegetarian) than killing a rabbit because she bites sometimes.
      My Sassy cat liked only certain people too. She’d run away, or even bite, if she didn’t like a person.

      • That all makes sense. But where I differ (I think) is that I don’t think I would have been comfortable with my kids raising an animal to be killed. It might sound really bossy, but I can’t imagine us being comfortable as a family with that decision. It’s probably hypocritical since my husband and now my kids too eat meat.

  2. No, def don’t kill the poor rabbit. Just the thought of hearing them tell your kid that sounds traumatic. I get it if he’s raising meat, but rabbit stew isn’t exactly what showmanship is all about!

  3. Hi, Robyn
    Just finished reading this blog entry and felt compelled to offer my 2 cents worth. Hope that’s okay. First of all, I admire you and your family for sticking it out with your bunnies-too many people take the easy way out with bunnies because they expect them to behave in a certain way (be a living stuffed animal for them or their children who will live to be picked up, for example) without realizing that as prey animals, bunnies are actually overly averse to being picked up and carried around at all-it reminds them of times when being picked up =being a meal for another animal, no matter who is lifting them off the ground for whatever reason. It takes a while for bunnies to learn to trust that being picked up means something good rather than something scary-which of course requires a lot of patience and understanding on the part of the humans in their lives. it sounds like you and your son have that in abundance, so things should go okay-it just takes time.
    My husband and I have had our bunny for 4 years (we adopted her from a shelter when she was 2 yrs old -we think-she was abandoned on the shelter doorstep without any info, so our knowledge of her actual age is just a guess). The end of our first week with her was quite a testing time. One morning she started acting like something out of the Exorcist-minus the headspinning and the pea soup spitting. We couldn’t get near her without her lunging to bite or scratch us-this was after a week of her being sweet as can be. One panicked trip to the vet later, and the vet suggested that we have her spayed. The reason? Female rabbits who are unspayed have hormones running through their bodies 24/7. These hormones make them protective of their babies-even if there aren’t any babies yet. It’s also a health issue-unspayed rabbits are more prone to reproductive cancers that drastically reduce their lifespan (5 yrs as opposed to 8-10 yrs) Since your son’s bunnies are show bunnies (4H) this may not be an option-if I’m not mistaken, show bunnies cannot be altered-which is silly IMO-if it is healthier for them, why not do it? ) So we had her spayed, and it has made a huge difference. She’s still not a fan of being picked up, but she has gotten better over the years-I think it’s more a matter of her becoming used to it and gaining a sense of trust of my husband and I. In your case the relationship is already there so hopefully with some time, your bunnies will learn to meet you halfway and give you their trust.
    One last bit of advice-have you checked out the House Rabbit Society website? I found this to be a great source of information for learning more about bunnies and their personalities, and how best to deal with issues like the ones you described. Perhaps this site might give you some coping mechanisms. One warning though-some opinions on the site are not altogether friendly to programs like 4H-they are wary of programs that are aligned with seeing bunnies as livestock, but for the most part the articles are based on giving information that is meant to help, not to preach rhetoric that puts down another group. Just in case you want to check it out, the website is http://www.rabbit.org. Hope it helps. Perhaps you have checked it out already, or your son’s 4H leader has covered all of this stuff already, but if not, this site might be able to help a bit. Best of luck to you and your family and your bunnies. Take Care

    • Thanks for the support! I’ll check out the site. No, we can’t spay the rabbits if we want to show them. Although, if all we want to do is use Buttercup for showmanship, we could spay her. So, that might still be on the table. Most shows don’t involve showmanship; it’s a separate thing. We couldn’t enter her in the show, but if there were a separate showmanship category, as there is at the County Fair, Jackson could still use her.
      Again, thanks so much for your help!

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