Bunny on a budget

June 21, 2017

They’re fuzzy and lovable and impossible to resist! But if we’re not careful, our rabbits can easily turn iu-1into furry little money pits. We all want our rabbits to have the best, but the best can be a budget-breaker. But there’s no need to take out a second mortgage just to provide for your pet. Here are a few ideas how to skip the pet store markups and score smart substitutions.

bun pen1-1Start by thinking outside the cage, literally. The typical Pets-R-Us offerings are overpriced and far too small. Possibly the easiest way to house your rabbit is to invest in an x-pen. Your rabbit will have room to run, you’ll have easy access when it’s time to clean, and the panels are flexible, so you can reconfigure them as your room layout changes. Worried about the floor? Pick up an inexpensive waterproof tarp, and cover it with newspaper.iu-2

Don’t fall for the “Official Rabbit Product” sales pitch. Why spend $15 for a deluxe “rabbit” litter pan when you can get the same sized cat box for $3? And there’s no need to pay $20 for a bag of paper litter. Try wood stove pellets instead. A 40 pound supply runs about $5, and it lasts forever. An inexpensive spray bottle, a gallon of vinegar, and tap water make an effective and economical substitute for commercial cleaning solutions.

iuRabbit-friendly toy alternatives are everywhere. You could invest $20 in a fabric tunnel destined to be gnawed to shreds, or you could stop by the home improvement store and bring home a chew-resistant cardboard concrete form for half the price. While you’re there, grab a straw whisk broom and a roll of sisal rope for your bunny’s munching enjoyment. The next time you go grocery shopping, pick up a pack of lunch sacks. Fill them with hay and treats for a bunny scavenger hunt.

Speaking of munching, your rabbit, as well as your wallet, will thank you profusely if you avoid those iurdusty bags of stale pet store hay. Why pay $8 for a tiny one pound package that will last maybe a week? A bulk package of 25 pounds of farm fresh timothy on Amazon runs around $60 (with free shipping). That’s a net savings of $144! Use your windfall to splurge on locally grown dried herb and flower mixes to sprinkle on top.


Hold everything!

June 14, 2017

Have you ever held a newborn baby? No doubt you moved slowly, supporting the most delicate parts like the neck and spine. We all know infants are fragile. One wrong move could cause serious, lifelong injury. Would it surprise you to learn that our rabbit friends are equally vulnerable?

Watching your rabbit race around the room in a Bunny 500 or launching acrobatic binkies, it can be hard to believe he’s not indestructible. But beneath that impressive musculature lies a skeleton about as sturdy as the balsa wood airplane you made in second grade. Remember what happened the first time you accidentally sailed that plane into the side of the house?

You surely remember the shock of seeing a certain pop singer’s young baby dangling over the side of a balcony, supported only by a crook of Dad’s arm? We can come up with a dozen reasons why this is a bad idea—dangerous, painful, frightening to the child, a whole list of moral objections—yet most people don’t bat an eye when seeing a rabbit hauled around much the same way.

Did you know a rabbit’s ears are among the most nerve-rich and sensitive parts of his body? They may seem strong, and convenient, but they were not designed to support weight. Imagine you were suspended in midair by only a wad of your hair. Hurts like heck, doesn’t it? And while it’s natural for Mama Rabbit to lug her newborn kits around by the scruff of their necks, handling older buns in this way causes extreme pain.

A frightened, suffering rabbit will often try to thrash and kick his way free. Those magnificent muscles can do a lot of damage…to the rabbit himself. Broken bones, bruised organs, spinal fractures, permanent paralysis—the majority of such injuries are a direct result of a panicking bunny fighting for freedom.

As prey animals, rabbits are aware that any wrong move could mean disaster. Is it any wonder they resist being picked up and held? But sometimes, we have no choice. Vet visits, nail trims, medication dosing…as much as your rabbit hates having his paws off the ground, it’s going to happen.

One of our favorite techniques is called the football hold. Your rabbit is tucked against your chest, head under your arm, just as though you were going to run him in for a touchdown. This position supports his hindquarters, where his strongest muscles are and keeps his spine in a neutral position. Rabbits are a bit like ostriches and small children—they figure if they can’t see you, you can’t see them. It’s comforting for a bun to have a place to tuck his head.

For a calmer rabbit, hold him vertically against your chest, one arm circled under his bunny buns, the other snaked under his front legs. Hold him firmly so that he doesn’t jostle, but not tightly enough to squash him. Picture yourself skydiving for the first time. Sure, you could dangle from the parachute alone, but most of us would probably feel more secure with the trusted, experienced instructor’s arms around us!

Put a lid on it!

May 31, 2017

You’d be hard pressed to find a rabbit parent who doesn’t sing the praises of the X-pen. Portable, flexible, and relatively inexpensive, an X-pen can go anywhere, adjust to any size space, and provide a no-fuss living or play area for your bun.  They’re especially convenient as an outdoor playpen, if your rabbit is the type who likes to feel the grass beneath her paws.

What could be easier? Little Bunzilla has room to stretch her legs, and you don’t have to encircle the good furniture with barbed wire! Unless, of course, you’ve got a particularly curious/energetic/powerful superbun. Not all of us have experience with these four-footed pogo sticks, but if you have, you know the sky’s the limit.

Superman may be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but I’ll guarantee you that Superbun won’t be far behind! That towering X-pen that looks so insurmountable to you is nothing more than a speed bump to a determined rabbit. And if she’s got a burrow box or hay rack to launch from? She’ll be vaulting to freedom before you’ve even latched the gate!

The trouble with Bunzilla going up is that inevitably she has to come down, and as most of us know from personal experience, landing is the painful part. Your rabbit doesn’t think ahead to see if she’s catapulting onto a thick plush carpet or onto a cement floor. She may feel invincible, but so did your ten year old when he leapt off the roof, and you’ve got the ER bill to prove him wrong!

You can invest in a commercial wire or canvas X-pen cover to prevent escapes, but for the budget-minded DIYer, all you really need is an old blanket, sheet, or tarp. Drape the material over the pen, pull taut, and secure with spring clamps. Make sure the material comes all the way to the edge of the enclosure, preferably hanging down a couple of inches, so Bunzie won’t have any gaps to aim for.

Caution: do not wrap the sides of the pen—Bunzilla needs to breathe. Make sure the pen itself is high enough that she can sit upright even with the lid on. And always, always stay with your rabbit when she’s outdoors!

Thar she blows!

May 25, 2017

It’s storm season in Michigan, and that means we’ve got to be prepared. Whether we’re getting by with candles and canned food for a few days during a power outage, or hunkering down in our basements waiting out a tornado warning, having a plan is crucial. It’s even more important if we have four-legged family members.th-2

A little advance planning now can save valuable time and untold stress later. Don’t wait a crisis hits! Gather the necessary bunny supplies and have them ready and easily accessible, before you need them.

If a storm strikes, you may have to move your pet quickly. A stressed rabbit can easily gnaw through a soft-sided carrier, so invest in one made of sturdy, hard plastic. Line the bottom with a thick towel and puppy pee pad. You don’t know how long she’ll be confined, so you want her to be comfortable. Make sure your name and contact information is written on or securely fastened to the carrier.

Fresh water is essential, so stash a couple gallons in a safe place (along with a bowl). We recommend storing at least five days worth of hay and pellets alongside the water. Pellets will stay fresh up to three months in a Tupperware container or Ziploc baggie. Hopefully, you won’t ever need to use this food, so remember to rotate it regularly to keep it from going stale.

th-1Does your rabbit take any medications? Be sure to have a backup supply on hand. Same goes for extra puppy pads, in case you won’t have access to a litter box for a while. And don’t forget about your bun’s emotional health. A snuggly toy with your scent on it will be a big comfort to her.

Our buns absorb our emotions, so the calmer we remain, the easier it will be on them. Here’s to a safe, storm-free summer!

Do unto others

May 17, 2017

We all know the Golden Rule. It’s pretty simple. Respect those around you, and treat them the way you want to be treated. This same philosophy applies to our interactions with our rabbits. Everyone, and everybun, appreciates a little thoughtfulness.funny-ugly-grandma-old-maid-aunt-hug-love-19076532

Remember when you were a kid and smelly Aunt Agatha swooped in for a suffocating hug right when you wanted to be playing with your Legos? Don’t be Aunt Agatha. Every rabbit has his or her own threshold for being handled, and it’s one that should be respected. Even the most affectionate rabbit is probably not going to react well to being snatched up out of a dead sleep and passed around to curious guests. “Let sleeping buns lie” is a good motto to live by.

iu-1Does anybody enjoy going to the dentist? There’s nothing scarier than lying flat on your back with a bunch of strange noisy utensils in your mouth. One thing a good dentist will do to ease your mind is explain what she is about to do, and why. Try this technique next time your bun is due for a pedicure or trip to the vet. Instead of just diving in, slow things down and quietly tell your rabbit what to expect first. Animals understand a lot more than we give them credit for, and are especially sensitive to our moods. A calm parent makes for a calm rabbit.

Most children are creatures of habit. There’s a time to get up, a time to eat breakfast, a time to hop on the school bus, a time for recess, a time to do homework, a time to watch Dora the Explorer, a time to go to bed. These things happen in roughly the same order every day. There’s a feeling of security that comes with knowing what to expect. iu

Rabbits also prefer a routine. Are you late with breakfast? Hopper’s going to let you know it. Did you forget to change the litter? Chances are you’ll come home to a mess. Did you stay out until midnight when snack time is always at 9? Be prepared for the bunny butt. Our rabbits can adapt to just about any schedule, but consistency is important. The more regular their daily pattern, the more secure they will feel.

Our bunnies are important members of our households! A little consideration goes a long way toward building trust and ensuring a happy, well-adjusted family.

Furst aid

May 10, 2017

thHow would we get by without our medicine cabinets? Bandaids for those little cuts and scrapes, Benadryl for bug bites, Tylenol for headaches—these are just some things we need to keep on hand. They make us more comfortable, and keep little problems from spiraling out of control.

It’s just as important to nip our rabbits’ health concerns in the bud. Stocking up on a few inexpensive essentials for your rabbit can not only save him from discomfort, but might even save his life! Here’s a list of easily obtainable items that every rabbit parent should have at the ready. Most can be found in the pharmacy section of your favorite store.

  • Infant gas drops. Look for the active ingredient simethicone. Common brands are Gas-X and Mylicon, but generic versions are just as effective. Give 1-2 ccs every hour along with tummy rubs.
  • Desitin or A&D diaper ointment. These work well for sore hocks or urine scald. Be sure to use only original, plain formulas—no added zinc or aloe.
  • Styptic powder. As careful as we may be, sometimes we’re going to cut a nail too close to the quick. Styptic will stop the bleeding quickly. In a pinch, you can substitute corn starch.
  • Digital thermometer. A normal rabbit’s temperature is between 101 and 103. Anything lower and you’ll want to warm him up with towels from the dryer, anything higher and you can spritz his ears and paws with cool water, before calling the vet.
  • Critical Care. For rabbits in GI stasis who are refusing to eat, or for older rabbits who’ve been losing weight, this apple/banana flavored supplement can be a lifesaver. Available on Amazon or through your vet.th-2
  • Metacam. A prescription pain reliever, this wonder drug eases the pain from injuries, surgeries, stasis, and arthritis. Your vet can advise you on the proper dosage based upon your rabbit’s weight.
  • Pedialyte. Plain, unflavored only. If your rabbit needs supplemental fluids, you can syringe feed water or try this. Especially helpful for rabbits going through stasis.
  • Syringes. In a variety of sizes, to administer the above treatments. 3cc is the most common size, although some rabbits prefer 1cc. For force feeding, try 10 or 20cc syringes. These can be found at the pharmacy counter or on Amazon.

The write stuff

May 3, 2017

Why do we write this blog? To educate, to inspire, to guide, to celebrate, to commiserate, to entertain…to promote an understanding of how to make our rabbits’ lives as happy, safe, and healthy as possible. We remember what it was like to be a new bunny parent—all the questions, all the concerns, all the happy discoveries. There’s just so much more to raising a rabbit than what you’ll find in a pet store brochure or basic “beginner” bunny book.

So it is with great pride that we announce our place in the Top 25 Small Animal Blogs of 2017, compiled by Bel-Rea Institute of Animal Technology. Bel-Rea has been educating veterinary techs for over 40 years, and is fully accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the US Department of Education. So they know their stuff!

It’s for you, our loyal readers, that we write—those of you who have rabbits, want rabbits, love rabbits. There’s no end to the list of topics we could cover, from the serious to the light-hearted, to the off-beat, to the “why didn’t I think of that?”. You deserve quality information that you can use, and it’s our goal to keep providing it.

What would you like to see here in upcoming weeks? Do you have specific questions about rabbit health or behavior? Are you curious about how our sanctuary works? Have you discovered any useful hacks to save time or money? Have you heard of an interesting rabbit-related event or attraction? Would you like to share your GLRS adoption happy ending?

Please let us know via the comments section, or send an email to carrie@rabbitsanctuary.org.

No meat, all greet

April 26, 2017

Help our sanctuary celebrate spring with two Sunday soirees!

First up is VegFest, April 30, at Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, which features anything and everything to support a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. Learn from several guest speakers, including a cardiologist, nutritionist, Emmy-award winning journalist, and the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Watch cooking demonstrations, discover new recipes, shop for cruelty-free products like soap, makeup, household cleaners, and faux leather items. Enjoy free samples of delicious, creative vegan cuisine, and learn how to turn your trash into earth-friendly treasure.

Be sure to look for the GLRS booth, where you’ll get all your rabbit-related queries answered (including the age-old question: What do I do with all this bunny poop??). There are plenty of kid-friendly activities and an extensive, vegetarian food court for when it’s time to recharge your engines!

Then get ready to do the Bunny Hop at the annual GLRS Cinco de Mayo get-together! Join the rabbits, cats, and pigs (and other humans!) at our sanctuary on May 7 from 2:00-5:00 PM. You’ll enjoy an all-you-can-eat vegetarian nacho and taco bar, tours of our barns, kids’ activities, and general festivity! Then kick back and embrace the peaceful country atmosphere with an icy  Margarita or soft drink.

There is absolutely no charge for this event (of course, we appreciate any and all donations!) Please RSVP to info@rabbitsanctuary.org by May 1st, so we can plan accordingly.

Snacking season

April 18, 2017

Spring is finally here! The forsythia is blooming, the buds are popping out on the lilac bushes, and the first tulips and hyacinths are pushing their way up in our garden plots. It promises to be a beautiful season. But appearances can be deceiving. All that beauty can blind us to the dangers lurking beneath the nearest brush pile.iu-2

That gorgeous display of April greenery may be attractive to look at, but for our wild rabbit friends, it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet! Tulips in particular are like bunny crack—one nibble won’t do. Those voracious monsters won’t stop until there’s nothing left but a bed full of stubs. And there’s nothing sadder than a shrub that’s been stripped of all its lower branches by the powerful jaws of a hungry cottontail.

thSo what can you do, short of encircling your yard with barbed wire? Fortunately, there are gentler solutions! Chicken wire is inexpensive, lightweight, and, at two feet high, it’s tall enough to keep out even the most athletic rabbit. Walmart carries a green version that blends in well with the foliage it’s protecting.

If fencing is impractical, turn to your kitchen. Mix up a simple natural repellent with eggs, hot sauce,and pepper. Spray it on your growing plants to dissuade foraging pests like rabbits, chipmunks, and deer. The solution won’t harm your flowers or vegetables, and because of the sticking power of the eggs, doesn’t need to be reapplied even after rain.th-1

The easiest, most cost-effective deterrents might be found in the toy aisle of your local Meijer. Colorful plastic pinwheels stuck in the ground every few feet can serve to startle the rabbits, who don’t like the movement. Some people have reported success using balloons, which bob around in the wind and frighten the buns. Neither of these solutions will work, however, if there’s no breeze.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen all else fails, plant more! Strategically placing marigolds or daffodils around the plants you’re trying to protect may work, since rabbits don’t like the taste. And choose your battles. You may have to sacrifice a few tulips to keep the lilacs safe, and vice versa. Remember, providing a snack for the wildlife now and then is just part of interacting with nature. Relax and enjoy!

Hare today, gone tomorrow?

April 5, 2017

“But Mom, I HAVE to have it!! I LOOOOOVE it!”

If you’ve spent any time at all with a child, you’ve heard this. Maybe it’s the Sparkle Pretty Barbie with the glittery hair. Or the box of SugarStuft cereal guaranteed to induce a diabetic coma. Or a “real” cell phone that doesn’t have a flip screen and prepaid minutes.

Sure, it’s easy to get sucked into the promises of “I’ll take good care of it”, “I’ll keep my room clean for the next six months”, “I’ll never ask for another thing as long as I live”. And more often than we want to admit, after hours (days? weeks!) of nonstop begging, we’d do anything for some peace and quiet. Better to whip out the wallet than the bottle of merlot…And just imagine the joy in their little eyes! What could be better than that?

Until two weeks later when Barbie is missing a leg after a heated tug of war between siblings. The cereal sits opened and growing stale because, well, it didn’t taste as good as it looked on TV. And that great cell plan isn’t such a bargain when you factor in replacing the screen after the phone fell out of an open backpack (for the third time), or opening the first monthly bill to discover that really, how is anyone expected to survive without unlimited texting?

We did it when we were kids, and our kids will do it to us, every time. And maybe you’ve already heard it. “I want a bunny!” “Oh, he’s so CUUUUTTTTTEEEEE!” “I’ll feed him and water him and clean up after him and he’ll be my BEST FRIEND for the rest of my life!”

Um, yeah. That’s what she said about Sparkle Barbie, and see how that ended up. It’s not your kids’ fault; they’re designed to have short attention spans and shifting interests. Someone who can’t be relied on to brush her teeth without being nagged is not likely to stick with the much larger responsibility of caring for a living creature. A living creature that’s possibly going to be around for 8-12 years!

So, please, be strong this Easter when the inevitable pleas for a real, live, cuddly little bunny start pouring in. If the children in your life need a bunny fix, bring them to a shelter. Let them learn first hand what it really takes to be a rabbit owner. And in a couple of months, when they’ve decided they’re actually into horses instead, sit back, sip your wine, and remember—this too shall pass!