Care and Feeding

I Am Worried My Pet Rabbit Is Going to Be Killed by an Enthusiastic 4-Year-Old

How do I protect my bunny from grabby fingers?

Photo illustration of a toddler petting a bunny.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Aliaksandr Bukatsich/iStock/Getty Images Plus and GlobalP//iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Email or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My partner’s 4-year-old really loves my pet rabbit … and I’m worried he might, literally, love him to death. We have tried explaining that he needs to be gentle with the rabbit: Stroking is OK, but grabbing is not. Neither is chasing the rabbit around the house. And picking him up by the ears, which we found him doing again yesterday, is completely forbidden. I have tried explaining all this calmly. I have told him the rabbit will get scared and hurt. I have showed him how to stroke gently, and congratulated him for doing it properly. I have even tried making a song out of it. But he finds the rabbit so incredibly exciting that all the rules are soon forgotten.

After we found him holding the poor dangling rabbit by the ears, we got angry and my partner tried to put him in timeout. This just resulted in a lot of very loud screaming. I do not know what else we can do to protect the poor rabbit. I am seriously considering finding him a new home, but I was hoping perhaps you might have some alternative suggestions. How can you teach a small, boisterous child to be gentle with pets?

—Poor Bun

Dear PB,

Aww, jeez, it’s so easy to hurt a bunny. Grown adults have seriously injured them by improper handling. You deserve an award for not actually screaming when you found him holding the bunny by his ears.

My recommendation is that you need to make the bunny’s cage kid-proof (get a padlock, whatever it takes!) and decree that henceforth, all bunny interaction will be completely supervised. He has lost his bunny privileges until he is older and more responsible.

Some little kids just lose their whole dang minds around pets, and it’s a lot easier to limit his access than to try to reason him into getting his act together.

Protect the bun!

Dear Care and Feeding,

Per a highly recommended potty training book, we began training our 20-month-old last week by having him go completely nude. For over two days he peed constantly—he would pee 20-plus times per hour. The quantity of urine was small each time. He didn’t pee on either my husband or myself after the first day, although he only actually got any pee in the potty a total of four times (out of what must have been at least 200 urinations!). Whenever he started to go, we’d place him on the potty, but he’d stop peeing as soon as we picked him up. He will tell us that pee goes in the potty, but he never made any moves toward the potty, nor would he go if we could get him to sit on the potty for a few minutes at a time. So this weekend we called it off, because we were so tired of cleaning up urine all day without any progress. As soon as we put a diaper on him, he started telling us when he’s peeing. Did we stop too soon?


Dear SMP,

Give the book away for now. He is old enough to sort of get it, but isn’t quite ready to make the leap. Try again when he’s 2½. Now, if he tells you he’s about to pee, by all means, put him on the pot and make a great joyful fuss if he pees in it, but otherwise, I think he got overwhelmed and you’ll all be much happier if he’s in diapers a bit longer.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I have a relatively low-stakes problem. My co-worker is an anti-vaxxer, and I am, well, not. Her views came up after a discussion where I mentioned my son has been hospitalized several times including once for a prolonged febrile seizure. She responded that her child has never been sick because she was breastfed until she was 2 and, oh, yeah, isn’t vaccinated. She also followed up the next day with studies about plants and microwaved water, and I have heard from other co-workers that she talked to them about the joys and benefits of breastfeeding (no one in my office is currently breastfeeding).

I’m now at a loss on how to interact with her. I feel like she blamed me for my child’s hospitalizations. I didn’t mention to her, but my son has recently received an autism diagnosis. We are open with his diagnosis and are beginning to really see it as a positive, but I’m sure all of this confirms her beliefs. Next time it comes up, is there a way to shut her down while being professional?

—I Didn’t Give My Kid Autism


This sure doesn’t feel low-stakes to me. I would be sorely pressed not to punch her in the face. You’re being very professional already. The next time it comes up, I want you to say, “I do not want to discuss my family at work” and/or “I do not think it’s appropriate to talk about subjects this personal in the workplace,” depending on which tack she takes in bringing it up.

After that, I think she gets one more reminder about this, and then you say, “I’m confused: I thought I had been very clear that I don’t want to talk about this. Is there a reason you’ve brought it up again?”

Then you can just go to her manager if it keeps up. I would privately document the conversations she tries to initiate about it going forward; you’ll be taken more seriously if you do.

If you notice her hounding anyone else on this point because they make the error of becoming pregnant or having a child in her presence, please take them aside and tell them she’s a prat on this issue.

Your child is lucky to have a sensible and responsible parent who can be trusted to secure the medical care he needs and deserves.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My son, an only child, is in sixth grade and has just started playing tackle football for the first time. I was nervous about this, mostly because of concerns about concussions and brain health, but the coach held an information session for parents about how they teach the kids good technique and that the coaches are all trained in how to look for concussion symptoms.

As it turns out, my concerns are now about another issue. My son vomits almost every day during or after practice. My son reports that many of the boys vomit regularly. I asked the coach about this, and he says it is normal as the kids are working so hard. It does not seem normal to me. My son has always been active, involved in basketball and baseball. As a family, we participate in 5K fun runs, and he also likes to run with his dad. None of these other activities have led to recurrent vomiting. He likes the boys on the team and says the coach is nice.

I do not want to be “that mom,” but I am also concerned about my son’s health and how others view him. Is this a normal part of middle school athletics?


Dear Really?

I wish you could see my face right now because the RICTUS OF HORROR upon it would enhance my words of advice: HIT THE EJECT BUTTON.

This is not normal for middle school, it’s not actually appropriate for high school, and this coach is an utter fool. Speak to the school administration immediately about this routine vomiting in practice, and in the meantime, your kid is welcome to play any other sport, with a different coach.

No one should be playing tackle football in sixth grade in 2019, because no one who isn’t being paid millions of dollars should be playing American football (a sport I adore) until we figure out how to stop it turning young people’s brains into Swiss cheese, but that’s a side issue. My main priority is yanking your kid out of this weird-ass puke program. They’re not training for Starship Troopers World!



Ask a Teacher

I see a fair number of news stories about teachers or administrators who help out students in various ways: In one recent case that comes to mind, the administrator took a student to an emergency clinic. The administrator falsely represented the student as her son, and she ended up resigning. While that obviously didn’t end well, more often than not the types of stories I see are “feel-good” in nature, where the student is helped and everything ends happily. How do teachers know what boundaries to set?