Let me call you sweetheart

August 16, 2017

When you think of ancient Rome, what comes to mind? Many of us remember endless lists of names and dates, drummed into our heads by our teachers while we watched the clock praying the bell would ring soon.

Sure, Romans showed impressive military prowess, mastery of engineering and architecture, and progressive ideals regarding the rule of law—all remarkable for the time. But we might have paid a bit more attention in class if our teachers had thought to point out the most obvious example of Rome’s advanced culture—their respect for rabbits!

It’s true that Romans weren’t known for being vegetarian. And that respect wasn’t always enough to keep Fluffy off the dinner table. But rabbits were viewed much more highly in ancient Rome than they are in many places even today. Not simply “livestock”, Roman rabbits were revered not only for their practical value but for their grace, beauty, and cunning.

When Roman Emperor Galba “acquired” Spain early in the first century, he celebrated by issuing a coin featuring a lovely woman with a rabbit at her feet. The rabbit was thought to represent the desirability and usefulness of this new land. Later coins also featured rabbits on one side, with various other motifs on the reverse.

Rabbits were also a hugely popular subject for public art, mainly intricate mosaic floor designs. For the most part, these were peaceful scenes, with no hungry foxes or snares in sight. Artists took great care with shading and contour. Very often a rabbit was more than just a peripheral figure. It was actually the main subject.

Prominent Roman women with disposable incomes chose bunny brooches made of bronze and silver. One fascinating pin is in the shape of a rabbit, with two smaller rabbits engraved into its side. Rabbit figures were also incorporated into household goods, like this bronze handle.

When Rome expanded into Great Britain around the 11th century, they brought their rabbits with them. Thanks to British farmers, the bunnies enjoyed covered, free-range enclosures, quite a luxury for that era. And even in those hard, hungry times, some rabbits’ appeal and charm were sufficient to earn them a permanent place inside the home. The colloquial term for ancient British house rabbits? “Sweethearts”!

Sweet Sixteen

August 9, 2017

“It takes a village” is an apt phrase for raising children. It’s also the mantra of animal rescue groups everywhere. How else could you even begin to manage the nightmarish scenario that recently unfolded in southern Ohio?

Acting on neighbors’ complaints, authorities discovered over 80 animals crammed into a filthy, reeking house. There were some dogs and cats, but the majority were rabbits. A nearby rabbit shelter answered the call to help with removing the animals. By the time the day was finished, River Road Rabbit Rescue found themselves responsible for 53 bunnies!

As if finding pen space for so many wasn’t difficult enough, RRRR also had to deal with the various health issues that stemmed from the rabbits’ neglect. And they had to do it fast. Clearly, it was time to flash the Bat, er, Bun Signal and call in reinforcements!

Rescue groups around the country responded, including GLRS. We found room for eight of the rabbits, and willing volunteers drove them several hours to our sanctuary. At least, we thought we were receiving eight…Imagine our surprise when one of the females almost immediately presented us with eight tiny kits!

Our sweet sixteen are more precious than gold. They’re also just as expensive! Vet bills, medications, neutering, food (and these buns can eat!)…If you’re so inclined, we could definitely use some help. (You can donate here.) Many thumps of thanks!

 

On the road again

July 26, 2017

It’s a summer tradition, the road trip! What could be more relaxing than spending the day cruising cross-country, sleeping in quaint roadside motels, stopping to explore new and exciting places? We humans love an adventure. Our bunny friends, on the other hand…

We’ve met a few rabbits who actually enjoy hitting the open road. One lives six months of the year in a travel trailer, navigating the West with his retiree parents. Another regularly accompanies his family to a campground up north, where he hangs out around the tent with everyone as they roast marshmallows or walk the beach (in his harness, of course!)

These rambling rabbits, however, are few and far between! Most of our furry family members are quite content to never leave their home. It’s stressful enough braving the car ride to the vet and back, and that lasts maybe an hour total!

If you’ve ever taken human kids four states over to visit Grandma, you know that as heartwarming as these trips seem in retrospect, in reality there’s a lot of boredom, car sickness, fussiness, whining, and bathroom close-calls. And unlike your bun, your kids likely had access to travel games, iPods, videos, M&Ms, ice cream cone pit stops, and varied scenery.

This is not to say that we should never travel with our rabbits, but weigh the pros and cons. As a general rule, if you’re planning to be gone two weeks or less, it’s probably best to leave Pawla behind with a pet sitter. If you decide to bring her along, be mindful of a few bunny travel tips.

Stick together: If you’ve got bonded bunnies, they both need to come. If one isn’t healthy or calm enough to travel, they both stay. Choose a carrier big enough for both of them, and line it with a soft towel and pee pad. And keep that carrier close. Never leave your rabbits unattended in a motel room, campsite, rest area—and especially not a car, even with the windows down!

Location, location, location: The safest and most convenient position in the car is in the backseat, with the sides parallel with the seat back and the front opening facing the center of the seat. If you have to stop quickly or get in an accident, their heads and necks won’t absorb the full blow. You’ll also be able to access them easily, and reach in to comfort them.

Food for thought: You probably wouldn’t have much of an appetite for lunch after a few rounds on a roller coaster! So don’t be surprised if your rabbit doesn’t touch her food during the drive. The stress of traveling, the unsteady motion of the car, the unsettling sounds all tend to suppress appetite. Putting a few soaking wet greens in her carrier may entice her to nibble a bit, and provide necessary water.

Be prepared: When we travel, we often tend to play it by ear. Didn’t pack enough food? We’ll just grab something along the way. Need aspirin, bug spray, clean socks? There’s a Walmart around every corner. But find yourself at the bottom of a bag of timothy hay with three days left to go on your trip, and it won’t be nearly as easy to replace. Always stow extra food, dishes, pee pads, medications and syringes, bedding, and at least a gallon of fresh water.

Out of the mouths of buns

July 19, 2017

If we can chew it, say goodbye to it! That’s a universal house rabbit motto. And that can lead to some dicey dilemmas. Sure, we want bunnies in our home. But we’re also pretty fond of our upholstered living room set and wall-to-wall Stainmaster carpeting.

Even little things can cause big headaches. Ever tried to charge a cell phone with a frayed lightning cable? Or change channels with a remote that’s missing half its buttons? And it’s safe to say that every one of us has learned the hard way not to toss our dirty clothes on the
floor…unless we’re into the “distressed” look.

It’s a given that we love our stuff. And it’s also a given that rabbits love to chew. A lot. So how do we balance our desire for creature comforts with our creature’s need for comfort? Here’s a list of dos and don’ts.

DO:

–recognize that you’re dealing with the four-pawed equivalent of a hyperactive toddler. Frodo is not going to respond to “no, no, we don’t put electrical cords in our mouths, sweetie”. Try the old bait-and-switch. Distract Frodo with a willow ball or seagrass mat, and get that cord out of sight! Block it with other furniture, run it under the rug, duct tape it to the floor, encircle it with cord protectors, etc. Out of sight means out of mind, and out of mouth!

DON’T:

–yell, chase, or strike your rabbit. Sure, he’ll drop that cord and run, but what has he learned? Not that cords are bad, but that humans are scary. This is a tough one, especially when you round the corner and see him about to take a big chunk out of your favorite video game controller. One sharp “Hey!” to break his concentration, followed by redirection to something chew-safe, is generally all that’s needed.

DO: 

–go undercover. As in, cheap area rugs over good carpeting. Newspapers under food and water bowls. Incontinence pads positioned on inviting “accident areas” like the bed. Cardboard shielding the floor under the sofa or around baseboards. Tarps or shower curtains to protect wood floors or tile. Tin foil wrapped around table legs. Think of it as “shelter chic”.

DON’T:

–forget to think like a rabbit. Cunning, clever, and creative, that is! That two-inch gap in the fencing? Might as well be an open hangar door. The burrow box placed within a foot of the bookcase? Think of it as a trampoline, launching Bunny up to his choice of shelves. Are you convinced he won’t dare cross the shiny kitchen floor to get at that bag of bird seed? If your bunny can dream it, he can do it.

DO:

–use this as an opportunity to streamline! Not all of us are inclined to neatly fold or hang our clothes every night. But we can be selective where we toss them. Even a dedicated rabbit can’t jimmy open a fully closed closet door (and we’ll never tell what ends up behind it!) It’s easier to take a few minutes and put the chips away after a snack than it is to clean up the carnage that will result from Squishie discovering them on the coffee table while your back is turned.

DON’T:

–lose your sense of humor! Make a game of outwitting Voracious Veronica, and pat yourself on the back each day your home remains relatively unscathed. Trick her into chewing what you want her to chew—old ratty towels, margarine tubs, cardboard boxes, junk mail, toilet paper rolls stuffed with hay, balls of newspaper. Surround her with fun things, and she’ll never notice your treasures.

Something to chew on

July 5, 2017

As a rescue facility, we hear certain questions over and over. Two of the most common are “Why does my rabbit chew on everything? How do I make him stop?” The answers are easy: “Because that’s what rabbits do. You can’t stop them. And you don’t want to.” Let us explain.

There’s a reason that so many of us are addicted to our gum, our pretzels, our gummy bears. Chewing them just feels good! But there’s a difference between our buns and us. We enjoy using our teeth; rabbits NEED to chew and gnaw. It’s vital for their dental and emotional health. Don’t mistake your rabbit’s destructive desires to be willful Bad Bunny Behavior. They’re not!

You’d hardly blame your toddler for taste-testing that six-month-old jelly bean he retrieved from under the sofa. Or for deciding that Dad’s sunglasses are the perfect afternoon snack. We know that if something makes it into our kid’s hand, it’s probably going in his mouth next. That’s just the way young children work.

Guess what? Our four-footed kids have the same all-consuming curiosity and lack of boundaries as our human ones. Rabbits, lacking hands, can’t pick something up and look it over, so they rely on their noses and mouths to tell them what they need to know. Which is mainly, is this edible or is this useful?

Look into your bunny’s mouth. Those fangs are hard to miss! Did you know that unlike our teeth, rabbit incisors grow continuously? Without anything to grind against, bunny teeth will just keep lengthening, until it becomes impossible for the rabbit to chew at all. Without intervention, this inevitably leads to starvation.

A diet rich in fibrous hay is sufficient to keep the normal rabbit’s teeth in check, but that’s only half of the equation. Nibbling and gnawing is a rabbit’s main means of entertainment. It’s how they examine the world, how they interact with it, how they have fun with it! Chewing is instinctive behavior in rabbits. It’s what they were designed to do, it’s what they excel at.

Of course you don’t want Fluffy leaving her mark on Grandma’s heirloom credenza, and you’d rather keep your computer cord in one piece. And if she gets her jaws on your Hershey bar, you’ll have bigger problems than sugar shock. Many things in our homes should and must stay off limits.

In our next blog, we’ll give tips on how to keep Fluffy satisfied without sacrificing your furniture, shoes, textbooks, earbuds…and so on. It’s easier than you might think!

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.