How Much Play Time Does Your Rabbit Need?

Many people keep their bunnies inside cages or x-pens while they are away at work or school during the day. Others will keep their bunnies locked up at night when they are asleep to keep them from getting into unsupervised mischief. I agree that for most rabbits, these are not bad ideas or practices, but it leads to an often asked question, “How much time each day does my rabbit really need out of his enclosure to run and play?”

The number of hours of “run time”, as we call it, varies dramatically from expert to expert, if they are asked. Some rabbit lovers say that they need three or four hours a day out of their containment, others say one or two.

I know from experience working in shelters and with other rabbits that in practice, this time usually isn’t even a full hour. Due to the lack of volunteers and the number of rabbits in the shelters, most shelter bunnies are lucky to get out of their cages once a day, much less for hours at a time. When I go in to volunteer at the shelter I work at, I make sure that every single rabbit gets out for a while. How long? Never for more than an hour, in order to get them all out that day.

So what happens when a rabbit does not get enough time out to play? That is a really good question and while I cannot give you the medical information about it, I can give you anecdotal info about what I have seen happen to rabbits who are kept cooped up for too long.

The first thing most people will notice is that when a rabbit is not getting enough “run time”, he will not want to go back to his enclosure when you deem that his playtime is over. He is trying to tell you that he is not done with his exercise and does not want to go back to his “jail cell”. When a rabbit has had plenty of time to run and hop, they will be much more willing to go back to their house because they will be all pooped out from their running around. They may not enjoy going back to their abode, but at least most will not fight with you over it.

This said, some rabbit NEVER want to go back to their condos. This often occurs when earlier in their lives, they were locked in a cage and never got out. They fear getting put back into their abodes because they worry that they will be locked inside again and forgotten. This is quite traumatic for bunnies and they sometimes never get over it. All they remember is that they were put into a house and left there for a long time. Wouldn’t you never want to go back, if you thought it might be for weeks at a time?

As you can see, getting out for regular play sessions is as important for a rabbit’s mental health, as it is to love and never abuse him. When a rabbit does not have the fear that his playtime may be the last for a very long time, he does not worry about getting put back inside his abode.

I have found that rabbits who fear being kept in cages do much better inside an x-pen environment. For some reason, x-pens do not feel the same as a cage to a bunny who does not like them. Rabbits who were cage protective or fearful of being put into a cage, seem to get over it when they get to spend most of their time in an x-pen instead of being caged. If you have a rabbit who hates his cage, you should seriously consider switching to an x-pen living style, instead.

Besides not wanting to go back to his cage, what are some other signals that your rabbit is not getting out enough? The one that I notice the most is cage protectiveness. When a rabbit’s whole world becomes a small cage, they become very protective of it. If you rabbit is attacking you when you reach into their cage, maybe they are not getting out of it enough. Not only female rabbits become cage protective, which is actually a persistent rabbit myth. Usually they are, but when male buns are kept locked up too long, they can also acquire that trait.

I find that younger rabbits, just like younger dogs and cats, need more play time. During a bunny “puppy stage”, they will race around and do big hops a lot more than when they are older. Some of the smaller “dwarf” breeds never seem to grow out of this stage, but I find that virtually all baby and adolescent rabbits are more active than older buns. This means that if you have a young rabbit, that he is going to need more “run time” than say a five or six year old bunny.

One of the biggest drawbacks for a rabbit not getting enough playtime is the same as for a human who does not get enough exercise. This is becoming overweight and developing cardiovascular disease. Rabbits were born to run and when they do not run enough, they will usually have an early death, just as their human counterparts do. This does not happen quickly and takes years to develop, but it happens just the same.

Your rabbit is not going to die an early death from not getting out enough once or twice this week. It will take years of this type of neglect to affect the long term health of a bunny. The problem arises when a bunny is only getting out to play rarely, if at all.

Honestly, once or twice a week is not enough. Instead, if you love your bunny, you should consider it part of your daily routine to make sure that your bunny has his run time. I know that we all have lives to live and that things come up which will cause your bunny to miss one of his appointed run times. I suggest that you should feel bad about it, though. Even more important, if you are in tune with your bunny, you will hear him tell you that he was not happy about it, either.

Many people are not in touch with their rabbit’s feelings and will totally miss that they are expressing dissatisfaction about not getting to play. That is sad. One of the best parts about having pet rabbits, is how communicative and expressive they really are. If you are missing communicating with your bunny, you are missing the best part of having them as pets.

A really important part of your rabbit’s playtime is supervision. You cannot turn the equivalent of a two year old loose in your house unsupervised to play alone. Part of what bunnies love about playing is interacting with their humans. They not only need this, but most bunnies crave it. Their playtime should not be without part of it involving interaction with you. This makes a huge difference in the bunny-human bond and will enhance both of your lives dramatically.

Even more important, you MUST NOT just set your bunny free to run in your yard, no matter how protected you think it is. There has never been a fence that can keep a rabbit inside. They are masters at burrowing.

Also, there is not a fence that can keep out the many predators that will harm your bunny. Coyotes, hawks and raccoons cannot be kept out by a fence. Domestic rabbits have virtually no defenses against these predators. If you are not right there, it will be too late for you to save them from an attack or worse. You would not believe how many times a month that people tell me that their rabbit plays unsupervised in their yard.

Your rabbit may escape harm for years running in your back yard, but it is only a matter of time before he either gets away or has a problem. These stories that I hear, almost always end with “one day he was just gone”. Well, DUH?!?

Again, if you really love your pet, you will not allow even the chance of this occurring. All rabbit run time should be only in a rabbit safe environment. This means a bunny-proofed part of the house under direct supervision. At least part of the time should be spent with your bunny up close and personally so that you can interact with him.

IF your bunny is allowed playtime outside the safety of your home, then it needs to be with you RIGHT THERE watching and insuring his safety. Not with you inside the house in the kitchen or watching TV. You would not let a two year old play outside, while you took a nap. There is not difference for a pet bunny.

As to how long is long enough, I say that one or two hours daily should be the minimum with three or four hours the best. Younger rabbits will need the longer time period, while seniors might be happy with just an hour or two.

Rabbits are the most active in the early morning and early evening. This is their preferred playtime, but a caged rabbit will take playtime any time he can get it. If your rabbit just lays around during his playtime, it could be because you are letting him out during his nap time. Most rabbits like to sleep most of the day. Mine are napping most days from about 10am to 4pm. They are racing around and playing very early in the morning (6-9am) and in the evening (4-8pm).

I know that we all have our human schedules to keep and your rabbit will adjust eventually to yours. They like their lives to be regular and timely, meaning that if you let them out or feed them at a certain time each day, that they will come to expect it then. Bet you didn’t know that rabbits can tell time?

My rabbits are always waiting for me at their regular feeding or run times. They seem to always know the time and prefer these things on a schedule, but it is better that they get out at all than to not have their playtime. So do not hesitate to let your bunny run at whatever time you can work it into your schedule. I have awaken my buns at midnight to let them out and trust me, they were glad about it. It may have taken them a few minutes to get the sleep out of their eyes, but within minutes they were gleefully hopping around, just glad to be out to play.

The Bunny Guy

The Difference Between Pet Rabbits & Farm Rabbits

This is a heated question among people who love rabbits as pets and those who raise them for profit. It becomes a very charged issue that radically divides the two kinds of people who keep bunnies.

I do not think anyone would argue that the bunnies who are farmed and those who are kept as pets are the same exact creature. One simply had the misfortune of being born as fodder for humans and the other was born into a world where he/she was thought of as a pet.

It amazes me the total dichotomy between the two. I think that regardless of which side of the fence you are sitting, you have to admit that it is perfectly OK for people to keep domestic rabbits as pets. Most people do not realize the smart and interactive pet that a bunny is, when kept indoors with the family. A half million rabbit lovers cannot all be crazy.

Rabbits are clearly the third most popular pet nationwide, after dogs and cats (as evidence they are also the third most euthanized animal in shelters). While their percentage of the pet market remains small, it is growing fast.

The problem arises when as in California, where pet rabbits are still classified as livestock, just as the bunnies raised for meat on a farm. Certainly, our society affords life without abuse or torture to all animals and most of all animals kept as pets. I think most people would agree that to cause an animal to suffer needlessly, whether you were going to eat it or not, is not something we want to condone as a society.

We have made it known through our modern laws exactly what animal abuse is. Unfortunately, most of these statues applies mostly to dogs. They may not be tied to a tree or kept inside a too small cage or crate all day. Why is it OK to put a bunny inside a tiny cage 24/7? Is it just because he is still considered livestock? Does that make it OK, especially in light of the fact that bunnies were literally born to run and hop? How could a rabbit not be frustrated and unhappy unable to do the one thing that he was meant to do?

As our country becomes more and more urban, the number of rabbits living on a farm is dwindling. Where as virtually all rabbits raised 50 or 100 years ago were meant to be eaten, now a very large percentage of them are pets from birth. The trend is for the number of lagomorph pets to increase and the number on farms is going down. It is time for a shift in the public attitude.

Since rabbits are still considered “livestock” in our state, it does not have the same requirement that they be spayed/neutered before being adopted out of a Humane Society or shelter, like dogs or cats do. This is ludicrous. Thankfully our local chapter of the House Rabbit Society insures that every rabbit being adopted at every shelter is done. This is not always the case in other areas.

Our leaders need to establish a clear line between farm livestock and our beloved pets. Humane treatment for rabbits is currently laughed at by many parts of the public. That needs to change.

My personal opinion,
The Bunny Guy

Our Government Needs To Act

I work at two local shelters with the rabbits, but I recently became aware that one of the shelters that I volunteer at now has over 600 cats for adoption. This is insane!

Being a registered Libertarian for over 35 years, I am against over-regulation by our government, but I believe that in this case the problem needs to be addressed by them.

When we have way more cats available for adoption than there probably are in all the pets stores in the county, why are we allowing pet stores and breeders to continue to add to the population? Breeders and pet stores for the most part are completely unregulated and I feel that they add to a huge problem in our society.

Tens of thousands of animals are put to sleep every year, while we allow breeders to replace them as fast as they are euthanized. I feel the cost to the public is much more than these “businesses” profit from their adding to the problem.

The few thousands dollars a year that a pet store or breeder makes from selling animals is overshadowed by the cost to our society, in dollars and more. The pet store down the street from my house which was recently raided and closed by the local Humane Society put more than 50 animals into their custody. The store never had very much business and I am sure the paltry profit that they made from their business venture is nothing compared to how much our local shelter will now spend to spay/neuter, provide medical care and house until they become adopted.

The problem is that most of these companies must simply obtain a local business license and they are in business. There are no inspections for for them to ferret out abuse or the horrible living conditions that most of their animals live in. We hear about stories in the news all the time about puppy mills and pet stores being found to have animals living in terrible conditions. I think that this is probably the case for all animals sold in pet shops, not just dogs.

I think that at the very least, these businesses should have to obtain licenses for what they do, just as any other contractor would have to do. Standards could then be enforced through regular inspections and also the numbers that are bred can also be addressed.

When you have 600+ cats in just one local shelter, there is no real reason for more kittens to be bred and sold in the stores. Yet, that is exactly what is happening here in my city right now. I am sure it is the same where you live.

This also applies to rabbits. We have 4-H groups all around this area who are involved in breeding hundreds of rabbits a year, when we have some bunnies who have been sitting in our shelter who have been there for close to 2 years. I can say without reservation that I am sure some of these very bunnies were bred by 4-H people.

Why isn’t the 4-H teaching our children about RESPONSIBLE breeding, where every animal that you produce has a purpose and a home? I know there is a need for this organization in areas where most people work on farms, but here in our city there is not a farm for dozens of miles. The chances of one of these 4-H kids working or living on a farm is slim and none. Shouldn’t we be teaching them to be helping solve this problem of animal over-population, instead of how to add to the problem?

Personally, I would like to see animals being sold in pet stores in only special and tightly controlled situations. I think that anyone that makes more than a certain amount of money from animal breeding needs to have a license and be subject to inspection. There was recently a bill in front of our California legislature to license and inspect all dog groomers. If we can consider this for groomers, why not for breeders? Animal breeders incur a much higher cost on our society than a wayward dog groomer.

I believe that if we were to assess how much money is made from these businesses and then track how much it costs the public in shelter costs, over-population and money spent on these problems, we would find that the expense is much more than the profit.

Our government representatives seem to be on the side of the businesses, but not the public on this issue. We should tell our local representatives that we want steps taken to reel in these pet stores and animal breeders who are currently running amok.

Our local PetCos and PetSmarts no longer sell dogs, cats or rabbits because the public has convinced them that it is a bad idea. They have done this voluntarily, but it should be the law. If we are going to ever solve the pet over-population problem, this very key facet of it must be addressed. Tell your local congressman!
The Bunny Guy

Have You Sentenced Your Rabbit Girl To An Early Death?

In my experience chatting with the public during educational event, I have found that fully 80% of pet rabbits out there are not spayed or neutered. Beyond the fact that spayed/neutered buns make much better pets, for female rabbits to stay unspayed, it is a virtual death sentence.

87% or almost 9 out of 10 unspayed female rabbits will get cancer or tumors in their breasts or uterus by the time they are 4 years old. So this means that if you do not spay your girl bunny, she is very very likely to become very sick and die, long before her prime.

Most rabbits who are properly cared for will live 8-10 years, with some of the smaller breeds living a 10-12 years on average. If you care at all about your pet, why would you be willing to allow her to become painfully ill and suffer such a horrible early death? Especially, when it is not necessary.

I know that when people buy $10 or $20 rabbits at a pet store or elsewhere, they often are shocked when they learn that it will be $200-400 (our local prices) to get them spayed/neutered. From what I have seen out there, the expense usually means that most bunnies end up not having it done.

Even worse, in our area rabbits are still classified as livestock. This means that unlike a dog or cat who must be spayed or neutered before they are adopted from a shelter, by law, rabbits do not have to be fixed before they are adopted.

Some shelters realize the importance of spay/neutering in order to have a successful adoption. Who wants a male bunny who is going to spray all over the place or a female who will eventually become sick. These shelters and rescues make sure every bunny that they adopt has it done.

Our local House Rabbit Society Chapter here in San Diego provides spay and neuters for bunnies at a half dozen shelters in the county. They raise and spend tens of thousands of dollars each year to insure that every rabbit being adopted has the surgery.

This is a huge undertaking, but critical for the rabbits. Their behaviors are usually a lot better after spay/neuter, which makes the likelyhood of success a lot higher for the adoption. Litter box training is a breeze after bunnies are fixed and it tones down male aggressiveness, just as in other species.

Yet, in light of all the benefits of having your pet rabbit spayed/neutered, most of them are not. We must change the way the public looks at having their pet bunnies fixed, because spay/neuter is part of responsible pet ownership for ALL animals.

Have you sentenced your female pet rabbit to an early death? Have her spayed NOW, before it is too late.

The Importance Of Selecting The Right Vet For Your Rabbit

You may have noticed that I have not updated my blog in a few weeks, due to the fact that I have been suffering from a serious medical condition the past few months.

While I have managed to keep up all my HRS and shelter volunteering obligations, I have been simply worn out after that and have not had the energy and time to do any writing for my site. Now that I am feeling much better, I think that this important topic needs to be discussed.

Last week when I went for my usual day at the shelter, I noticed right away that my favorite bunny who was awaiting spay surgery was not in her abode. I knew instantly that something was not right and went about trying to find out what had happened to her.

I was told that she had passed away during her spay surgery. I did not ask them the gruesome details as to what had happened, but it brought to mind for me the importance of having a very experienced and rabbit saavy vet for your pet bunny.

Rabbits are extremely fragile critters whom are nothing like dogs and cats. To be able to successfully work with them medically, you need lots of knowledge and even more important, experience with their many health issues.

Even for surgeries as routine as spay and neuter, you want only the best veterinarians working on your pet. When it comes to anesthesia, bunnies have the unfortunate tendency to not do well with it. It takes years of experience, to learn exactly how to anesthestize a rabbit without any complications.

Also, common rabbit issues such as stasis, head tilt or infections take special knowledge and experience not gained from treating dogs and cats. You can only become a good rabbit vet by actually working on lots of rabbits, not reading info off the internet or seeing three or four bunnies a year.

Last month a new friend adopted a rabbit from the shelter I work at. She was one of the happiest most friendly buns we have had in a while and this person bonded her with her little Netherland Dwarf boy. She brought them both to the beach in early July and it was then that I mentioned to her that she needed to locate a better vet than the one she had for her two buns. I made this comment in light of the fact that I had lost a couple of buns at the exact vet that she was currently using and I felt it was due to the fact that they were mainly dog and cat vets. They were simply not good at diagnosing or treating rabbits.

Ironically, a week later her newly adopted girl developed a case of head tilt. The poor bunny was rolling from being off-balance. To this inexperienced rabbit owner, she was having a seizure.

When she rushed her rabbit into the vet that I had tried to talk her out of using, the vet told her that her rabbit was doomed to a life of suffering and pressured her to have the bunny put to sleep.

Not knowing that the bunny was not having seizures, she made the tough decision to save her girl from suffering needlessly and had her put down. Little did she know that most head tilts are caused by ear infections or possibly E. Cunniculi, both which can often be cured with proper medication and care.

I was quite angry with the vet for not referring her and her rabbit to a more saavy and knowledgeable vet. This girl thought that she was doing the right thing, especially in light of the vet’s insistence that she follow his advice.

It was a couple weeks before I decided to tell this girl that her bunny could have possibly been saved and that I felt she had been too hasty in putting her to sleep. I knew it would be devastating news for her to digest, but sometimes the best lessons in life come after a significant emotional event, as psychologists call it.

You can easily see in hindsight what the importance of having of having the proper veterinarian in this situation, but in reality it applies to virtually all vet visits because as my first story illustrates, even routine procedures such as a spay and neuter can have a deadly outcome if an inexperienced or unknowledgeable vet is utilized.

I know we are lucky that here in San Diego we have about a dozen very good rabbit specialists. In many areas, you may have to travel hundreds of miles to reach one, but do not underestimate the importance of locating and becoming familiar with an expert.

Many people in many areas of the USA have the mentality that rabbits are disposable pets and because they can be had for $20 or less are easily replaced if one passes away. For this reason, in many areas the vets will rarely see bunnies brought in, because the people who own them would not consider spending $500-600 to medically care for a rabbit that they bought for just $20. If the rabbit has a serious illness, the owners do not spend money to treat it and opt to simply purchase another new bunny. I have been told this first hand by vets who live in other parts of the country.

I recommend that everyone use the resources provided by the National House Rabbit Society website and your local HRS chapter or rabbit rescue. An important task of the HRS and any rabbit rescue is to communicate to the public who the best vets are for treating their sick bunnies. This knowledge is hard to come by and usually must be learned through trial and error. When your bunny is sick or dying, it is not the time to start interviewing or trying out a new veterinarian for your pet.

All experienced rabbit lovers know that it is critical to develop a relationship with a rabbit specialist vet while your rabbit IS HEALTHY… NOT WHEN HE BECOMES ILL. I will say this again, if you want the best chance of your rabbit surviving a serious illness or injury, you must have an experienced rabbit vet waiting in the wings to see and help your bunny. Frantically searching for a vet for your rabbit while he is suffering and hours make a difference, is not the way to do it and it drastically reduces the chances of your rabbit surviving his problem.

It is highly recommended to have a rabbit specialist see your bunny when he is healthy and not sick, so that a blood panel can be run to provide a baseline from which your vet can more efficiently and quickly diagnose future problems.

The reason for this is that a rabbit’s blood test values can vary widely from rabbit to rabbit. In order to not have your vet wasting precious time trying to diagnose a problem, it helps a lot to already know what the normal values for the tests are, for your particular rabbit. Yes, it costs a couple hundred dollars to run these tests on a healthy rabbit, but it can be the difference between life and death when your bunny is sick.

I am not going to say that either one of the bunnies I wrote about would have survived or not, had a better vet been used, but I do know that GOOD rabbit vets have a much lower mortality rate when working with sick rabbits. When it comes to treating rabbits, experience is everything.

I have learned this lesson the hard way and I try and coach every bunny lover that I know of the consequences of not having the best possible vet for their buns.

Nothing is more heart wrenching, than to lose a bunny with whom you were very close and bonded with. Nothing replaces the kisses and nose bonks that we get from a beloved rabbit buddy. Naturally, we all want our “special friends” to be with us on this earth, as long as possible.

I have personally made these same awful mistakes and so this is why I so adamant that every bunny owner should have a good relationship with a rabbit specialist vet in their area.

Having problems locating such a vet? A simple phone call or email to a local rabbit rescue or your local HRS chapter should provide you with a short list of all the vets whom can help you in your area. Please do not wait until your rabbit is desperately ill to start your search, because at that time it is probably too late.

The Bunny Guy

Bonding 201

Well, it has been a couple weeks since I updated this blog and when I last wrote I was just beginning the process of bonding. Star is one of the most confident and aggressive rabbits I have ever met and I held little hope that bonding her with Snickers would be an easy task.

Instead, it went incredibly smooth and the two are now completely bonded. They kept surprising me with their eagerness to work things out and be together. It was actually me that held them back, because I was in disbelief that they could bond so quickly.

It all started when we were leaving for our usual Thursday bunny night out. Each week, we usually meet a bunch of other bunny friends at a night street market and we bring our rabbits in their strollers. We walk around the street fair and eat ethnic food. It has become a ritual.
Star and Snickers Bonding
As we were putting Snickers and Star into their respective pet carriers, Denise decided to put Snickers’ carrier up close to tell Star that she was getting a date tonight with the little boy. In response, Star lept out of her carrier into the one Snickers was in. We were pretty surprised, but she obviously WANTED to be with him in there.

The two rode all the way to the street fair and when we got there, we put them both into the same stroller. They were a little off guard about not having their own individual strollers and danced around inside the one they were both in, trying to avoid each other.

Star nipped him every so often, because he would thump at her. Any aggressive behavior on his part was met with a gentle nip. I noticed that she was not actually biting him but was giving him the same gentle nips that she usually gives me when she is trying to tell me something.

Because Snickers has such long thick fur, Star quickly learned that she could not nip him on the butt. She even tried a gnawing chewing nip to get through to his backside, but always came away with a mouthful of his fur. Star started chewing on his face instead.

This resulted in Snickers getting a funny stripe of short fur on his face. After a few more days that became a mohawk hairdo. We joke that Star was becoming a hairdresser. Now, even the mohawk is gone and all the hair on Snickers face is now cropped short.

Since the two got along well together in the pet carrier on car rides and in their stroller at the street fair, I decided to do all of their bonding inside those two things. Every day they spent at least an hour in the pet carrier or stroller. Eventually, I just used the stroller and they got to where they could spent 3 or 4 hours in it together.

It is the super small size of the stroller and carrier that helps to make the bonding process easier. As I have said before, space is your enemy when you are bonding. The smaller the space you put your rabbits into, the less stressful it is for them. It also forces them to not ignore the other rabbit and deal with them being close.

When the two of them would start bickering, I would grab them and force them to lay side by side and cheek to cheek. I would pet the tops of their heads and ears and make them remain calm. If they tried to nip, I would not let them and make them lay there and be pet. I would always end a meeting like this so that they would always part on a peaceful friendly note. You can never let biting or fighting end a bonding session. It will only teach your rabbits that if they fight, that they will get separated. They must be shown that having a tiff does not cause them to be taken away from each other.

Snickers was very unhappy about being schooled by Star. He rarely retaliated by biting her back, but did box her regularly. Remember, Star is three times his size. Snickers was constantly thumping to tell everyone that he did not want to be near Star. This was extremely insulting to her and she would nip him every time he did it. I would have to intervene when he would just not stop thumping and therefore Star would not stop nipping him. This is when I would usually end the bonding session and make them lie quietly together before letting them go back to their respective abodes.

Every time I got a chance to take them both someplace in their stroller, it became a great bonding session. The two spent all day in it at a bunny friend’s BBQ for teenager’s graduation. They even went out to dinner with us and sat there bonding, too.

In a little over a week, I felt it was time to try them in an x-pen and so after a long day at the park at an HRS event, I put them in one together at the beach. Their first time in an x-pen was very successful and they even shared their salad there on the sand. I think they were too tired out from their 8 hours in their stroller together to fight about being in the x-pen.

The next day after the beach, Ricky went into stasis for two days and so bonding efforts were abandoned in order to nurse our sick bun. I was concerned that after two days of not working on their bonding, that I would have to start over, but I was very wrong.

I sent up a 3’X3′ x-pen on the patio and put Star and Snickers inside with a fresh new litter box. I did not use either of their regular litter boxes, because I did not want them claiming it as their own. They did relatively well for about three hours with Star only nipping Snickers when he would thump to tell me he wanted out of that pen with her.

Star is very in tune with me and most of the time I could just sternly tell her to STOP and she would obey. Only a couple of times, did I have to physically step in and stop them from harrassing each other. I was extremely pleased that they were almost bonded and that all I had to do was to figure out how to get them to share their abodes together.

After three days of at least three hours in the tiny x-pen together, I decided to see if Snickers would tolerate Star in his indoor x-pen. I let Star loose inside for about an hour and while there was some thumping and nipping, there was no real fighting. I still cannot believe that we had gotten this far without any blood. When bonding Ricky and Lucy, there were terrible fights and poor Ricky would get so many bad wounds.

The day after they spent some time together in Snickers x-pen, I decided to see how they would play together during their run time. I made them spend about three hours in the tiny x-pen on the patio, then I let them loose to run and play there. It was instant party time. The two were racing around and doing non-stop binkies. I think it is what they wanted all along.

Usually, when I am bonding I would be concerned about chasing games. A chasing game can quickly turn into a rabbit brawl and I was not sure if I should let the two do it. I soon realized from the binkies that they both would do while playing chase, that they were having the time of their lives. Star rarely binkies with abandon, but Snickers would do one and she would do a bigger one. They were actually playing together.

It has been three days since this revelation and last night, they both spent the night in Star’s two story condo with a big four foot x-pen attached to the front. It went well, but I think six month old Snickers might have kept Star up half the night with his unlimited energy.

Still, I think that at six years old, this new younger boyfriend is going to keep Star young. I overheard a comment at the HRS educational event we were at last weekend, that Star is a “Bunny Cougar”. I thought that was priceless.

We are still working out some small issues, like Snickers is an Angora style rabbit and needs high protein pellets to keep his fur nice. We give him a couple teaspoons of alfalfa pellets each day. Star is part Rex and can never have those kind of pellets or she will gain weight and be unhealthy. We are going to have to separate them when they get them, but Star is like a kitty and likes to come back and nibble on hers all day long. Snickers does eat them faster and so we are trying to let him eat his apart from Star. It does not matter if he eats some of Star’s pellets.

Since Star has a digestive condition called mega-colon, I was worried about her grooming Snickers and ingesting his long fur. It is a good thing that she is a big hay eater, because the fiber from the hay will help keep any problems from occurring from this.

Star gives Snickers lots of kisses all the time. She always was a kissy bunny and kissed me all the time while she sits in my lap. I have yet to see Snickers kiss or groom Star in any way. I would have never thought that Star would end up as the submissive bunny in any relationship. It remains to be seen whether this is true, but it appears as if Snickers is the dominant bun.

You never can tell how things like this will turn out in the bunny world. Sex and size absolutely do not matter when it comes to figuring who will be the dominant rabbit after bonding. Even personality seems to not play that big a factor, since Star is the most gregarious and confident bunny you will ever meet. It just goes to show the rabbits themselves are the ones who figure all this stuff out.


The Bunny Guy

Preparing Myself For Bonding Bunnies

I am torn about trying to bond Star with our little foster, Snickers because for the past two years she has been bonded with “me”. I know that if she gets a boyfriend, that I will not be as important to her and I have to say that I am preparing myself for the “withdrawal”.

In all my years of having pet rabbits, I have never been as close to a rabbit as I am with Star. We have truly been joined at the hip, since we decided to adopt her after fostering her through three months of surgeries and recovery from her awful eye wound.

She became the “third wheel” in our previously two bun family. Ricky and Lucy had the run of the front of the house and in order for her not to be stuck alone in another part of the house, I started letting her sit on my lap for periods of time during the day.

It was from this that she because extremely socialized and she will actually tell me when she needs to use her litter box while sitting on my lap. She started going places with me, like on short errands and trips to the HRS and I learned that she likes being on the go.

All of this is very unusual for a rabbit and I have enjoyed that she wants to be so close to me all the time. Several nights a week, I even let her snuggle with me in bed until she tells me that she is ready to go back to her condo. Needless to say, I am just CRAZY about that rabbit.

I have become painfully aware that if she does become bonded with this new little bunny, that a lot of her time that she spends with me will become time that she spends with her new boyfriend. Will I be jealous? Will I miss her constant company?

We plan on starting them off with some dates next week and see if they look like they have a future together. Star is the scrappiest most headstrong rabbit I have ever met and she has no fear, especially of other rabbits. Snickers will have to learn to be very submissive to her if this is going to work. Star is VERY demanding when it comes to attention and he will have to be to handle that.

I will be posting updates and pictures of the progress as things go along. It took six weeks of four to five sessions a day, every day to bond Ricky and Lucy. After a month, we were wondering if it was ever going to work. We eventually found the formula and so I know that if we are consistent and in it for the long haul, that success is a lot more probable.

For those of you who have not bonded two rabbits before, it is a process by which you introduce and then socialize two bunnies into living together. Rabbits are extremely territorial and it is rare that bunnies who are not from the same litter will easily allow other rabbits to share their territory. Occasionally, this will happen organically and take no effort at all, but most of the time it requires a concerted effort to make it happen.

You start out by having the two rabbits go on a “date”. This is an introduction and should occur in neutral territory that neither rabbit considers “theirs”. The smaller the space the better and you should have a water bottle set on spray very handy.

Watch the two rabbits very closely for their body language. If any aggressive signals or stances are taken, a quick squirt with the water will usually slow the aggression. Look for ears back or tail up postures. If one of the rabbits sticks his head underneath the other’s body, that is an aggressive behavior. It is a DEMAND for grooming and if the other rabbit is not prepared to be submissive, this could result in some biting or fighting.

Ignoring each other is not a good sign, either. You want the two rabbits to acknowledge each other and grooming is the optimal outcome. Any kind of mounting is extremely aggressive behavior, but not necessarily bad. If the rabbit being mounted accepts being submissive and does not fight back, then it is good. If the rabbit being mounted resents being dominated, then mounting can result in some serious fighting. Discourage all mounting if the bunny does not like it and do not allow it in future meetings to avoid them fighting.

Mirroring or copying the other rabbit’s movements is a good thing. It is a good sign if both rabbits are sitting there taking a bath. If both rabbits are not paying attention to one another, be prepared for any sudden aggressive behavior because it can often occur very quickly.

If there is any kind of tiff or fighting, never allow the bonding session or “date” to be over immediately. This will teach the rabbits that if they fight, the bonding will be over. Instead, force them to lay side by side calmly without letting them fight or nip each other. I make them lay cheek to cheek and pet them both. I praise them and make them stay like that for at least five minutes before ending the bonding session. This is important.

This is a lot more to share with you on this subject but I will save that for a future update when report how things have been progressing.

The Bunny Guy

Gimmee Shelter

I had a person come up to me the other day and ask me what their friends should do with a rabbit that is living inside a cage in their garage. My answer was easy, “Take him to the local shelter and relinquish him so that he can get a nice new home with someone who cares about him”.

Their response was, “Isn’t there a petting zoo around somewhere”?

This implied that it would be better to dump the bunny at a zoo or even set him free, but anything would be better than taking the rabbit to the shelter. Really?

I work at a couple of local shelters and it is true that they sometimes euthanize rabbits there. Thankfully, the days of putting bunnies to sleep because there is no room for them in the shelter are not as common as they used to be. Still, rabbits occasionally do get put down for illness or behavior issues because shelters do not have the resources to spend on their medical care and there are still some antiquated rules about animals that bite, but this happens for less than one percent of the buns that are admitted to the shelter.

What do you think the odds of dying are for a rabbit that is released into the wild? My guess would be that it is less than 50-50 that the animal survives a year. Isn’t that a more sure of a death sentence than the one in a hundred chance of a bad outcome at the shelter?

I know that shelters have gotten a bad rap with the public because they admittedly do euthanize some of the animals that come to them, but the public is more to blame for that than the shelters are, in my opinion. Why do people continue to purchase pets from the malls and local pet stores instead of giving homes to animals in the shelters and those living with rescue groups? I personally think that most people do not give consideration to the fact that when they do this, they are now part of the problem.

When a pet is purchased instead of being adopted, that is one more critter who will languish in a cage at the shelter instead of going to a new home. That is also, one more animal that will now be bred by a breeder to replace the animal in the pet store that the person just bought. It continues the cycle of breeding more unnecessary pets.

The shelters are not places to be feared. They are bastions of hope for thousands of animals who are in need of some caring people to give them the forever home that they crave. The public should not shun their local shelters. They should be supporting them by adopting from them, but also taking animals there to find new homes when necessary.

Better to end up in the shelter where there is at least a chance of a new life with some new people who will give better care and more love to an animal, than to allow the little guy to be neglected and abandoned. When this goes on long enough, his condition becomes so bad that when he finally does end up at the shelter, that there is not other recourse than to end his life.

Many people simply set the animal free, so that someone else will find him and end up with the responsibility of taking him to the shelter. That is pretty sad. How can people be so heartless?

I think folks justify it in their minds by demonizing the shelter and rationalizing that setting their pet free or locking him away in a cage someplace out of sight, that it is actually better than being in the shelter. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The ultimate betrayal is preventing your pet from being able to finally get a new home where the people will have more time and love to give to him. You can rationalize running out on the commitment that was made when bringing the animal home in the first place, but then why not just let the pet move on and go somewhere where he is truly wanted?

Shelters are not the enemy and while no animal wants to end up there, for most it is a chance at a new life and a new beginning. Embrace your local shelter and even donate and volunteer there. See what is actually going on by becoming involved. I do not think there is a shelter in this country that does not need fresh new volunteers to help them in their quest to find new homes for their charges.


The Bunny Guy

How To Save 75% On Your CareFresh® Bill

If you are being a good bunny parent and cleaning your rabbit’s litter boxes at least every two days (every day for rabbits over 5 lbs.), then you realize that one of the biggest daily expenses of keeping an indoor pet rabbit is the absorbent material that you put into their boxes to soak up their urine. Whether you use CareFresh┬« or wood pellets, throwing out a litter box full of the stuff adds up and can easily cost $20-40 a month per litter box.

Having several rabbits or litter boxes can multiply the expense and I will share with you how my wife, Denise has learned to save about 75 percent of our CareFresh bill on the four litter boxes that we clean each day. It will cost you less than $20 to get enough material to work for four or five litter boxes and you will save enough CareFresh® to pay for it the first month (or purchase one already made from The Bunny Guy Store).

Go to your local hardware store and find the honeycomb plastic grating that goes into suspended overhead lighting fixtures. Actually, any kind of metal or plastic grating will work, but metal grates will get eaten up by the caustic rabbit urine and plastic will not. The kind we buy is used in lighting fixtures and is easily cut to size with a diagonal wire cutter or wire snippers. Since it comes in 2X6 foot sizes, cut a couple extra grates and give them to your bunny friends. They will hug you for it when they see how much it saves them.

If you prefer not to make your own or are not handy with tools, then you can purchase one of these grates that I have made by clicking this link to visit my store.

After we have lined the cleaned litter box with the usual absorbent material, the grating is placed on top. Then the box is filled to overflowing with the hay. Don’t skimp on the hay and you will find that y our rabbit will eat more hay. They like to forage and pick out the good parts, so the more hay you give them, the more good stuff they will find to eat.

When your rabbit digs down into the hay in their box, they will not disturb the absorbent layer under the grate. This means that when you go to clean their box, you will find that they always pee into one corner. You will be able to scoop out the wet absorbent material, dump the rest that has not gotten wet with urine into another box or bucket and then clean the litter box with vinegar and water (this prevents the buildup up those white calcium deposits).

You will discover that you will be saving 75 percent of the absorbent material each time you clean the box and another added benefit will be that your rabbit will not get those yellow stained feet from standing in his pee.

This is just one of dozens of bunny secrets I share in my new book, The Bunny Lover’s Complete Guide To House Rabbits available from my store on this site.

Everyone that I have shown this trick to has come back and thanked me for it. Hope you find it useful, too.

The Bunny Guy

Oh Oh, We Have Another Foster

Through circumstances seemingly out of my control, we gained a new foster bunny about a week and a half ago. His owner suddenly found herself in the hospital and this bunny was one that someone had basically dumped on her when they found him.

To make a long story short, we now have a little fuzzy guy about 4 or 5 months old who is living in our kitchen. He is an unneutered Jersey Wooley boy whose Netherland Dwarf genes are fully apparent. He is quite the jumper and never misses a chance to scamper off with us in hot pursuit.

Normally we have a strict “no foster” rule in our house because we are past “foster failures”. We can never give up a bunny after he has lived more than a few months in our home. We always fall in love and end up not putting him up for adoption.

It looks like the first step is getting this little guy whose name is now, Snickers to the vet so that he can be fixed. He is starting to get quite the smell that unneutered males are famous for. We are talking about ordering an addition to Star’s condo, so that we can get our kitchen back.

For the first week he was here, we had to go out to eat or do take out because we could not cook in the kitchen. We moved some of Denise’s prized orchids and now there is at least enough room to walk through it now.

Denise wants to try and bond Snickers with Star, but that is over a month away from happening and the clock is ticking. I fear we may have somehow increased our bunny stock from three to four. haha

Personally, I do not see Star bonding easily with this boy unless he becomes extremely submissive. She is the biggest fighter I have ever known and she either likes a bunny or doesn’t right off the bat. She has already given Snickers a few good nips on the nose since he has been here and so I am not holding my breath. One can always hope, right?

Snickers posing at the beach in Feb. 2012