Monday, March 2, 2015

Don't Give up on your Bunny: Re-homing Alternatives

It is something rescue volunteers hear on almost a daily basis: “I need to find a new home for my bunny.” We have been cited every excuse from the bunny's fur not matching their work clothes to the death of the rabbit's owner. Some of the cases break our hearts, and some make us want to tear our hair out!  We know there are cases that truly render an owner unable to care for their pet, but most of the time, people simply don't want to put the effort into keeping their bunny.

Below is a list of situations you may be facing, or may face one day, along with possible solutions for these cases.

In this case, the best offense is a good defense. Make sure you know when your current lease is up. Know if you are going to renew or not and plan ahead. Only look at places listed as pet-friendly or that allow caged pets. Get it in writing that you are able to have __x__ number of rabbits. If something unexpected happens and you must move suddenly, reach out to a friend or relative that your pets can stay with until you find a place to bring them. Don’t give up! Your rabbit looks to you as family. Being with you is what they look forward to every day. A bit more work is nothing when you are talking about discarding a life. 
Look for pet-friendly logos when searching for an apartment!  Always check to make sure rabbits are allowed.
This is one of the most common reasons we see rabbits being surrendered. Many times, it is not the rabbits themselves people are allergic to. More often than not, it is the hay. So what can you do? A less dusty hay, or a different cut, is a good place to start.  Some people find second or third cut hay to be better for allergies. If that doesn’t work, try a different hay all together. Although timothy hay is most commonly fed to bunnies, there are many other options. Orchard grass, bluegrass, or brome are easy to find and may not give you such a bad reaction. Keeping they hay out of the house, using hay racks instead of hay spread out everywhere, and confining the hay to one room will all help alleviate allergies. If someone else can’t take up the hay-related duties, wearing a mask and gloves may be an option. 

Allergies or not, our furry friends need plenty of hay to stay healthy!
So what if the allergy problem actually is the bunny? There are options for that as well! Keeping the rabbit in one area of the home, so that spaces like your bedroom are a ‘rabbit free zone’ will give your allergies a big break. Try putting a HEPA filter near the rabbit’s area. This will help a great deal. Getting your rabbit groomed is another big help. You should do this outside, but if it is too much for you, most rescue groups offer bunny grooming services as well as some vets.

If your allergies are still impacting you, see your doctor about allergy medicine. A pill a day is a small price to pay for the unconditional love of your fuzzy family member!

Behavioral issues
Aggression – You got a baby bunny, all sweet and adorable, but now it is 6 months old. Your little angel is getting territorial - lunging, grunting, maybe even biting. What happened?! Well, your baby bunny is turning into an adult bunny - and guess what?  You now have a hormonal teenager.  Luckily, there is an easy fix to that problem, and it is getting them fixed! You can find a list of low cost spay/neuter facilities here:
Altering your rabbit will not only reduce aggression, but also lessen the desire to chew, make litter box training easier, and stop the chance of reproductive cancer, which is very common in unaltered rabbits.  It will also eliminate that strong, unfixed bunny smell.

What if your rabbit is already fixed, but you are still seeing issues? There are many reasons this could be happening, and many things you can do to help your rabbit. 

Cage aggression – lunging, grunting, and all around being hard to handle in the cage, can be happening for a number of reasons. Is your cage too small? The plastic bottom cages typically sold at pet stores are far too tiny. We actually use them for litter pans! These can cause your rabbit to go "cage crazy." A bigger area where they can have a constructive outlet for their energy is key. Is your cage a closed top cage? Try an exercise pen or even free roaming. You would be amazed at how much that simple change will turn your rabbit around. 

Food aggression – Have you ever started to put your rabbit’s food down when suddenly there is a ball of fur flying at your hand, knocking everything out and making a big mess? We have been there! With a little patience and persistence, this issue can be resolved. First, you will need to set up a very consistent routine.  Feed your rabbit their hay, greens, and pellets at the same times every day. Next is the hard part - not letting your rabbit’s temper tantrum prevail. When they spill those pellets everywhere, they are getting a reward for that bad behavior. What you will need to do is slowly put the pellets down into the cage and not let them have any until they are behaving appropriately. If the rabbit is taking it so far as to bite when you put food in, use a ladle or something similar. When they bite, they get no reaction and will eventually stop doing it. Making them eat their veggies by taking them one by one out of your hand (or a pair of tongs), will slow them down and also reinforce they only get good things when being good. 

Bored bunnies - Rabbits are intelligent and need things to do.  If they don't have enough to keep them busy, they will find ways to get into trouble!  Regardless of how many toys they have to distract them, it is still your responsibility to "bunny proof" your home.  This is for your bunny's safety and for the well-being of your belongings!  Wires should be covered or kept out of reach.  Put a tile or digging box over a favorite digging spot on the carpet.  Block off access to things you do not want your bunny to chew.  Sometimes bunny proofing may look a little funny, but it goes a long way toward your bunny's safety and your own sanity!

If you like your remote buttons intact, keep them out of reach!

We have heard it many times: “I can no longer afford my rabbit.” There are many, many things you can do to cut costs while not compromising care!
Litter – try using the giant bags of Equine Pine from farm supply stores. They are about $6 and will last you all month. Newspaper can also work.
Hay – Try local. While mail order hay is awesome and we love it, it can be pricey. Your local hay depot or farm supply store may have a great deal on bales or compressed bales.
Pellets – This is one area you don’t want to skimp on. Splitting the cost of a bulk order with other local bunny lovers will save you space and money!
Veggies – Go to your neighborhood produce stand or farmer’s market and see if they will give you some of the loose leaves of lettuce for free. Many large grocery stores will do this as well.
Toys – There is no need to spend a fortune. A toilet tube and a phone book are just as fun for your bunny to fling and chew as a $20 toy.

Bonding difficulties 
You absolutely adore your bunny, so you went out to get him a buddy. Now, they don’t like each other. There are a couple of options. First, if you have adopted, the rescue or shelter should be able to help you find a better match for your bun. If you did not adopt, reach out to your local rescue or House Rabbit Society Educator and see if they can help you bond your bunnies. If they absolutely will not bond, you will have to make arrangements to have two separate accommodations for the bunnies.

Rescue groups do what they do for the love of the rabbits. We don’t turn a profit, and we don’t do it for our sanity. There are just too many needing to come into rescues, and not enough people stepping up to foster, adopt, or donate. This is the fact of the imperfect world that we live in.

Since TBHRR has such a long waiting list to pull from shelters, we do not accept owner surrenders. There are some rescues that do accept owner surrenders.  Some may wish for you to foster your rabbit while they find him a home.

There are also shelters that will take your pet. Some are open admission, meaning they will take your animal regardless of space, and some are not. You will need to call ahead to make sure what type of shelter you are taking your pet to if you are wanting to drop them off at a shelter.

Rabbits are potentially a decade or more of commitment. You made that commitment when you took on a bunny as part of your family. When you give up your pet it will miss you, be sad and lonely, and not understand why it is not home. We tell you this not to shame you into keeping your rabbit, but to show you what we see every time we get an email with someone wanting to surrender their furry family member. 

If you are having any issues or need help, please contact TBHRR and we will work with you on a solution to keep your bunny.

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