By Franny McKeever
In honor of bunnies, commonly exploited at Easter/Spring time, let me tell you about our bunny Stella. Stella is our “foster failure” bunny. We took her in temporarily, from our local animal shelter. The shelter is a tiny room filled with cats. A bunny was not a priority, which sums up the plight of rabbits in general.
Stella had been recently surrendered after peeing on her adoptive family’s living room couch. This is not uncommon for a three-month-old bunny, marking her
territory, wherever she happens to be.
As it came closer to the day of her spay, a necessary procedure for bunnies, we thought, how difficult could an adorable tiny fuzzball with helicopter ears be to bond with our pair of bonded bunnies, Greta and Linus, already living with us?
Impossibly so, turned out to be the answer. We learned quickly that Greta was downright angry at the new bunny Stella situation! Greta made it clear that no other bunny was meant to befriend Linus. She barely liked me, my husband and our children trying to pat her pal, Linus. This should have been a sign that tipped us off early on, but we continued to insert our human needs on their bunny feelings. We arranged carefully planned field trips to a small penned in area in the front hall of our house. I was the mediator. There were periods of hope and possibility, but it became clear we were at a standstill. We gave up and planned on housing Stella in our kitchen.
Stella has her own interesting personality. She was not happy about sharing HER space with my husband! Though she would sit with me and lick my fingers and enjoy the attention of our four kids, she would grunt at my husband. The thing is Stella is a pretty feisty rabbit and though not really skittish in a shy way, she flips out pretty easily. I believe she thinks the broom is alive! She chases the broom whenever we sweep up – tries to attack it. It’s downright cute – and a little weird. Sometimes we forget and start to sweep and seemingly out of nowhere our gray bunny will fly across the room and grunt at the evil broom.
So Stella has her own quirky personality that the average person would not
associate with a rabbit. In fact, all rabbits have distinct personalities, and anyone adopting a bunny needs to understand this and potentially meet the rabbit before introducing a bunny into their family.
It is also really important to teach children about the fact that a bunny is a prey animal, and we are all potential predators in their eyes. Rabbits want the safety of feet on the ground and usually don’t want to be picked up. I do pick up Stella on occasion to make sure that I can handle her in case I need to. I hold her feet firmly, and she seems to forget that she is off the ground until something startles her. One ear goes up and I see her thinking: “Hey! Wait a minute!” and she tries to jump down. I lower her down safely with conviction and support her so she won’t fall. Since bunnies have fragile bones, children need to socialize on the ground and never do the picking up. My children have grown up, also well educated about feeding a bunny, as rabbits are especially sensitive to the food they eat. Some rabbits are more affected than others.
We learned this with our first rabbit Greta: rabbits can have an intestinal shut down and stop eating, a state called GI Stasis. It can happen for a variety of reasons – sometimes related to their diet. This is essential information for anyone feeding a rabbit. We know that Stella is less sensitive, and we will allow her to meet us at the refrigerator for some lettuce or kale. Only certain leafy green vegetables are encouraged and that is only if you know your bunny is ok with them.
The most important part of the bunny diet is Hay. We use Orchard Grass Hay due to Timothy Hay allergies in our home. Hay helps their teeth from growing and provides the right amount of fiber.
As all animals depend on us to make decisions for them, bunnies can become a real issue at Easter time. On behalf of Stella and our past bunnies Greta and Linus and all the unwanted bunnies in small cages in animal shelters, I say: DO YOUR HOMEWORK ABOUT BUNNY ADOPTION AND CARE. Please think things through before committing to the 10-year lifetime of a pet rabbit. They are not meant for hutches in backyards – spay/neuter them, litter box train them – and they become part of your family, like a cat or dog would.
Bunnies are intelligent, fun and quite well worth your time and effort as pets. They are, however, animals and deserve our respect. They may be widespreadly used to abandonment and neglect and sometimes worse, but we can turn things around! We can learn to love them for who they are and make sure we understand their needs. We can teach our children to value rabbits as all animals should be valued and never treat them as an Easter holiday decorations … Rabbits are always going to look adorable but, as Stella has taught me and my family, there is more to these beautiful furry creatures than meets the eye!
1. Rabbits need to live indoors
2. Rabbits are not a cheap low maintenance pet
3. Rabbits may make a better adult pet
4. Rabbits can live an average of 10 years
5. Rabbits need to be spayed and neutered
6. Rabbits need a careful diet of mostly hay
7. Rabbits need an exotic vet
8. Rabbits not properly bonded may fight and hurt each other
9. Rabbits are social animals
10. Small rabbits do not need less space
The House Rabbit Network is an organization formed with two primary purposes: To rescue homeless rabbits
and find them good indoor homes and also to educate the public about rabbits and their care.
These activities may include: providing foster care for discarded domestic rabbits and arranging for adoption
to permanent indoor homes; assisting humane societies and shelters with rabbits; providing spay/neuter
surgery and veterinary care through arrangements with area practitioners; rehabilitating and socializing mis-
treated or neglected animals;permanently caring for animals who cannot be placed in adoptive homes due to serious health or behavioral problems; and educating the public on responsible pet ownership and humane practices.
🌺🌺🌺For information about pet rabbits, volunteering or donating to The House Rabbit Network go to:
https://www.rabbitnetwork.org/ or call our hotline at 781-431-1211
We are happy to answer any questions.
We are always looking for volunteers and foster homes. We also accept donations …