- Published: 16 July 2008
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Shelly Maramonte, age 10, of Santa Maria California, for her question:
Do rabbits have feelings for their owners?
Ages ago, humans decided that pigs are greedy, snakes are sneaky and bunnies are stupid. We are sure that horses are noble characters, that dogs are faithful friends and bears are not to be trusted—which may be true. For ages we have been very sure about what we think about the different animals. So it’s nice at last to find someone who wonders what the animals think and feel about us.
Each of the animals sees the world from his own point of view and none of them see quite what we do. For example, though a bunny can smell a lettuce, he cannot tell that it is green. None of the mammal animals see colors as we do—so color TV is wasted on a dog or a cat. On the other hand, a busy little bee can see some lovely colors that we cannot see. Most animals can see and hear, taste, touch and smell. But their senses are not necessarily the same as ours.
All the animals also have feelings. But since their lives are different from ours, we must expect them to have their own feelings about this and that. From our point of view, the most important feeling an animal can have is recognition of human beings. Is he aware, does he know that you are you?
The deer, the birds and most other wild animals recognize us all right—and take off in a hurry because they are scared of us. Lions and tigers are big and brave enough to attack and occasionally do. After all, we cannot blame the wild animals for fearing or fighting us. Humans have hunted them since time began.
But when it comes to tame or domesticated animals, everything changes. Most of our pets are furry animals such as bunnies, cats and dogs. We cannot expect them to see or sense things exactly as we do. But without a doubt, some of their feelings are very like ours. A dog is indeed a faithful friend. If you give an ounce of love to a little kitty, she is very happy to give you 100 ounces in return.
We think of rabbits as being dumb bunnies because their way of life is less like ours than, say, the cats and dogs. But in their own way, they do have similar feelings. At least a tame bunny does. After all, his ancestors have been tame for thousands of years. He depends on people and experts say that he could no longer live in the wilds.
Certainly a tame bunny of this sort recognizes his owner—the one who feeds and pets him with tender loving care. He may not wag his tail like a dog or purr like a cat. But certainly he knows you and loves you, especially if you tend him with loving care.
With wild bunnies the story is very different. These timid little creatures are so scared of people that they never learn to trust us. It is possible to capture and cage a wild rabbit. But experts tell us that he soon dies. Both tame and wild rabbits have feelings for us. The tame ones love and trust us, but the wild ones never get over their terrifying fear of us.