Family pet: Preparing the kids

Tracy Chappell's adventures in bunny-sitting may have prepared her family for a furry addition.

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Avery spends some quality time with her (temporary) pet. Photo: Tracy Chappell

Follow along as Today’s Parent senior editor Tracy Chappell shares her refreshingly positive take on parenting her two young daughters. She’s been blogging her relatable experiences for our publication since 2005.

When my nephew, who is moving from Edmonton to Ontario in a few weeks, asked if I would pick their three rabbits up from the airport and care for them — because they were really easy to look after — what could I say? No?

Well, I didn’t. I said yes, even though I’m not much of a pet person. We’ve had two fish (though my kids think we’ve only had one fish, if you know what I mean) and I actually found him (or her, according to my kids) to be plenty of work. Three bunnies brought their own set of challenges to our home over the past weekend. And a lot of poop.

Read more: Should we get a pet >

I think if they had had a big cage like they do at home, it wouldn’t have been so bad. But they arrived in three small carrying cases and, obviously, we didn’t have a bunny ranch for them to move into (it’s arriving with the moving van). So they were constantly peeing and pooping in their cages, and we had to keep cleaning them out. When they got more comfortable, they’d come out and do their business on our floor, then go back into the cages. And as much as it was just pee and rabbit pellets, there was a lot of it. Times three.

The other issue is that there was one male and two females. We learned quickly — the hard way — that we had to keep them separated. When they first arrived, the boy was the one who came right out of his cage and was so curious and friendly, but the females wouldn’t come out. So he came over to say hello to his friends and, well, got very friendly with one of them.

“Look! They’re fighting! Help them!” Anna exclaimed. Ummm…

I had to tell her they weren’t fighting. This is ground I had not yet covered with my seven-year-old, and it launched us into a birds and bees talk I was definitely not prepared for. She proceeded to tell everyone she met over the next few days how they tried to mate. It’s been pretty hilarious. So we had to keep one barricaded in our kitchen, and the other two in our living room. That’s many bunnies underfoot. Did I mention the poop?

Though I spent much more time than I had planned mopping my floor, our new furry friends were pretty cute once they warmed up to us. The girls loved them, and I was surprised that they weren’t the least bit nervous to touch them and try to pick them up. Levi, the male sequestered in our kitchen, was almost like a puppy, following us around and trying to play. And at least they were quiet!

But the biggest surprise for me was how much my husband, Sean, seemed to like them. He stepped up to deal with the manual labour, and said after we said goodbye to them that maybe we’re ready to get a pet. Not a rabbit, but we’ve been talking getting a cat and our adventures in bunny-sitting may have pushed us closer to making that dream (of our children’s, anyway) a reality.

What’s your best advice for rookie pet owners like us?

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