By Brenda Owen

Daily Journal

Although the days when parents purchased chicks and rabbits dyed to match their child’s Easter outfit are passŽ, choosing the pet best suited to your child is no less of a dilemma.

Nora Brown, an employee of Aquatic Purr-Furred Pets in Tupelo, said the main thing parents should be concerned about when selecting a pet is the ability of the child to accept the ongoing responsibility of its care.

“These animals are fragile and have to be raised by hand,” Brown said. “If a child is not willing enough or capable enough to accept that responsibility, the duties will fall to the parents.”

Tupelo veterinarian Dr. Stephen King agreed.

“And it’s usually the mother,” he said. “They are the ones who usually wind up caring for the animals after the initial appeal has worn off.”

When choosing which animal to give, King said several things should be considered:

– Is there enough space?

– How hard is this animal to feed and maintain?

– Is my child mature enough to care for the pet?

Lee County Extension Service agent Jackie Courson, said he recommends rabbits over chickens or ducks, in most cases, as a pet.

“Chickens and ducks are better as farm animals,” he said. “Rabbits make good pets because their requirements are so simple.”

Some facts about rabbits:

– They are friendly animals that thrive when given a lot of love and attention.

– As with any animal, though, children need to understand the difference between playing with a rabbit and hurting it. Broken backs are a common injury to rabbits because children don’t know the correct way to hold the animal. A rabbit should be placed on a person’s forearm with its head concealed in the bend of the elbow. A very small child should not pick up a rabbit at all, since the animal may become startled and scratch the child with its hind legs.

– Rabbits enjoy hiding and chewing on oatmeal boxes and small cartons. They also like to tear on treat-filled paper bags.

– When choosing a rabbit for your child, look for alert, inquisitive, vigorous, and friendly rabbits. Beware of the withdrawn, sulky rabbit, and of animals that seem unduly frightened or high-strung. Further, a good rabbit’s eyes are bright and clear, and the fur under them is dry. Its fur snaps back when you run your hand against the grain.

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