Thursday, July 12, 2018

Life With A House Rabbit

By Angela DeRiso

A Rabbit Rescued At The Right Time
I took Lily in during August of 2015, after I found her running loose in the subdivision I lived in. Just by her coloring alone, you can tell she wasn't a wild rabbit. A white body with dark gray Siamese points does not make for good camouflage. It's likely she was bought as a gift for Easter, then dumped when someone got tired of caring for her. It's an awful recurring story every year for rabbits everywhere.
She lived in my bathroom a few months until I built a two level enclosure with NIC cubes and zip ties. Originally, I was only suppose to foster her, but I couldn't help but fall in love. It wasn't just that I had worried over her safety out in the wild, but that the time she turned up in my life was so meaningful. My Grandmother had passed about a week earlier, and I had actually been discussing pet rabbits with her not so long before. I guess those coincidences were significant enough for me that I couldn't let her go.
The Daily Routine
As soon as I'm up in the morning, Lily is waiting for her bowl of greens. I usually offer 3-4 types and rotate each week. I open the door to her rabbit-condo to allow her to run freely in my bedroom. She then begins her house rabbit duties of digging in the sheets, performing numerous binkies, running crazy-fast laps around the room, and sniffing out any trouble she can get into. She loves the cat tunnel I recently bought her, and cardboard boxes are always a hit for chewing and getting herself in. Usually she decides on her own when to go back home, or she can be bribed with treats.
The middle of the day is spent sleeping, or lightly napping, with the occasional trip to munch on hay or get a drink of water. Activity resumes at dusk when Lily awaits another foray out of her condo. This time is when most of the crazy-fast laps happen. I can be laying in bed reading a book, while she is zooming around the room at warp speed. I don't know how she does it to be honest. I wish I could move that fast.
The nightly outings conclude with her request for treats. This is when she sits at the end of the bed and just stares at me. As soon as I swing my legs down from the bed, she's running circles around my feet. I make papaya chips for Lily with my food dehydrator, and she loves these to the point of being frantic. I have to be quick with delivering the treats to her or I get nipped on my feet.
A quick nod must be given to rabbits' thieving abilities. One has to be aware of the height at which they store treats and or important documents. Lily has not only made off with an entire bag of treats, but also one of my credit card bills. This is why she's now blocked from going under the bed. She was extremely disapproving when I enacted this new rule.
Sassy & Demanding
More than anything, I've found that Lily has a very strong sense of how things should be. She will protest if she's not let out at a certain time, or if she hears a sound she doesn't like. She's not above kicking her back legs at me when I catch her doing something she's not supposed to, like chewing on pillows, or tearing up carpet. Also, if I dare to stop petting her she nips me until I start again. She never bites hard enough to draw blood, but enough to startle me.
Lily only allows one tool for grooming, and that is an eyebrow brush from a makeup kit. I've tried flea combs, and rubber brushes. Both were met with protest. The rubber brush was seized and attacked repeatedly. While small, the eyebrow brush does work and she enjoys it enough to assume loaf position while it's in use. Mind you, this is when she allows grooming, because sometimes she just isn't in the mood. I have also been able to pull out tufts of loose fur with my hands, but that's only allowed for a few minutes before she runs off.
When giving Lily treats such as banana or some other rabbit-safe fruit, I have to watch my fingers. She usually yanks it away. The papaya chips bring about the highest chances of foot nips if I'm not quick enough. Lily will actually sit on my bed while I'm at my computer working on something and just stare at me. I have to say that there's something disconcerting about that face and those forward facing ears just holding that position for so long. It's like she's plotting. However, if I go over and give her a few minutes of petting, she understands I haven't forgotten about her.
She's A Brat, But Too Cute Not To Love
With all the nips, chewing, thieving, and demands, you'd think I'd lose my temper with Lily. I don't though, because I know she's just doing what rabbits do. Even if it comes off as bratty. I also end up laughing a lot with her silly antics rather than be mad. Seeing Lily change from a scared ball of fur to an indoor rabbit that flops down for a long nap during the day is huge. She knows she's safe now. The binkies alone are proof of that. I'm glad she came into my life when she did, and I think she's probably grateful in her own way too. I think she's too feisty to admit it, though.
As of this writing, Lily has been with me for about two and a half years. At the time of her rescue, my vet estimated her to be under a year old, making her approximately three and a half years old today.
If you would like to share your life with a house rabbit, please adopt from a rescue near you.
For a full range of rabbit topics including care, diet, housing, and health, visit The House Rabbit Society

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

So you bought an Easter bunny....

So you bought an Easter bunny…

It seemed like a great idea at the time.  After all, what’s more cute than a fuzzy little baby bunny?  This innocent creature seemed like an easy, adorable starter pet, right?  Now, that cute little ball of fluff has grown up.  He’s turning into a hormonal teenage brat, being disrespectful, urinating everywhere, chewing on the furniture, and generally making himself as unwelcome as any other surly teenager.
Now what?

Don’t give up on your bunny!  Rabbits are the third most abandoned pet in the United States.  There are actions you can take to live in harmony with your bunny.  They can make adorable, hilarious, and wonderful house pets.  You just need to know how to care for them.

Spay or Neuter

First things first – your raging hormonal bunny will continue to have said hormones until he/she is altered.  Spaying and neutering is necessary for the health and well-being of your pet bunny (as well as your own sanity!)  Rabbits have a very high chance of getting reproductive cancer if they are not altered, and they will continue to exhibit territorial behaviors if all those hormones are coursing through their fluffy bodies.  Be sure to have a rabbit-savvy vet perform the procedure.  Do not fast your rabbit before surgery (they are physically unable to vomit, therefore holding back food is dangerous and unnecessary).  Males can generally be neutered at about 3 months of age, and females can generally be spayed around 6 months of age.  For more on spaying and neutering, visit

Bunny Proof

Bunnies are like any wayward toddler or inquisitive puppy.  They will happily find things to chew (baseboards and remote control buttons being a common favorite!).  They will also chew more dangerous items such as electrical cords.  These behaviors are instinct, so it is up to you to keep your bunny and your possessions safe!  Be sure to cover electrical cords, keep important items out of reach, and provide plenty of toys and entertainment for your bunny.  A bored bunny is a destructive bunny!  For more on bunny proofing, visit

Bunnies like to chew!

Find a companion

Rabbits are extremely social animals, and are much happier living with a friend.  However, you can’t just throw two rabbits together and expect them to get along.  Now that you have already purchased a bunny and are doing research, you know that rabbit rescues exist!  Your local rabbit rescue can help you find a compatible friend for your bun and help with the bonding process.  Yes, it is a process!  You and your bunny will be much happier with another bunny friend – after all, nothing is cuter than seeing two bunnies snuggle with one another!


Provide proper care

In addition to providing an engaging environment for your bunny, you need to offer your bunny proper housing (not a tiny pet store cage!), food, and vet care.  The pet store or breeder may have given you misleading information about care.  Rabbits have specialized digestive systems, so proper diet is very important.  Unlimited grass hay (timothy, orchard grass, etc – not alfalfa) should always be available.  You probably purchased those fancy-looking pellets with colored bits and seeds in them.  Time to wean your bunny off of those (they are terrible for a bun’s health) and start him on plain, quality timothy-based pellets.  Fresh greens should be offered every day, and treats should be kept to a minimum.  Oh, and throw out those pet store treats you probably purchased.  Most of them are complete junk.  Instead, offer small bites of fresh fruit or homemade bunny cookies.  Here's an example recipe:

Sharing your home with bunnies is a wonderful, rewarding experience when it is done right.  You just need to understand the behavior and care of these hilarious, adorable creatures.  Don’t forget, your local rabbit rescue can always offer specific advice as well.  Are you in the Tampa area and thinking about adopting a companion for your current bunny?  We can help!  Visit for information!

*Carrots are a treat!  Feed in moderation :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Starter cage or garbage cage?

So you all may have seen Petco's holiday ad for small animals and "starter kits" before it was pulled from the air.  Thanks to a public outcry and a petition signed by many concerned small pet parents, Petco made the right decision to take the ad off the air.

What if you purchased one of these tiny "starter cages" before you knew better?  Yes, I was one of those people many years ago!  Good news, you don't need to throw it away!  You can re-purpose it!  It may be a tiny pet prison as per its intended use, but there are several other ways to use it.

They make great litter boxes:
Yes, "starter cages" are MUCH too small for your small pet to live in, but they make a great litter box.

From tiny pet prison to luxurious litter box!
Post-surgery recovery room:
There is an occasion when you may need to keep your bunny confined in a small space: post-surgery.  We don't exactly want them to be jumping up on the couch or doing Bunny 500s post-surgery (and some bunnies will try!)  In this case, a "starter cage" could be a handy place for a convalescing bunny.  Just don't forget to let them have supervised time out of the cage, and let your bunny free as soon as she is better!

Travel accommodations:
A starter cage might be a bit more comfortable for your bunny on a long car trip.  Some bunnies do prefer the closed-in feeling of a traditional carrier, but others may appreciate having a little bit more room to stretch out.

A little garden:
Instead of keeping bunnies in, how about keeping bunnies out?  Plant an herb garden, and use the cage to keep hungry bunnies out!  They would appreciate it if you shared the bounty though!

Another alternate use for a starter cage garden is to use it for a butterfly garden.  Plant milkweed and other butterfly-friendly plants, and wait for the butterflies to come!  When you see caterpillars, place the cage on the tray to protect them from birds.  Soon, you will have some beautiful butterflies to free!

Do you have any other ideas to re-purpose a starter kit?  Let us know!  Rabbit rescues have an over-abundance of them since they get "donated" to us!  Oh, and please don't give them away to other people, since they really may be used as a tiny pet prison.

For more information on appropriate rabbit housing, please read this blog.  Contact us if you have any questions! 

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.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Back to School Bunnies?

It’s that time of year again - back to school time! But should a rabbit be heading into the classroom? The truth of the matter is that having rabbits in the classroom rarely, if ever, works out to the advantage of the rabbit, the teacher, or the children.

Adorable bunny ready for school!  Okay, not really.  Let's make sure all pet rabbits are home schooled!

There are many factors that make having rabbits in the classroom something to avoid. Below you can read some of the main points in TBHRR’s reasoning not to adopt bunnies into this situation:  

  • Rabbits live a decade or more. This means that not only will the teacher be responsible for this new pet for quite a while, but rules regarding classroom pets may change in this time as well as the teacher’s own career path or desire for a classroom pet. 
Rabbits can live as long as some breeds of dog!  Nikolai here is almost 14.

  • Rabbits require a constant supply of hay, as it makes up 80-85% of their diet. This presents a problem not only of keeping supplies on hand, but also many children are allergic to hay. In the same vein, the children could be allergic to the rabbit itself. Allergies are one of the most common reasons we see for rabbits being abandoned at shelters. 

  • Rabbits are crepuscular and therefore will not be active during the day when the children are in school. They will mainly want to nap and have quiet time, only wanting to come out to play and interact during dawn and dusk.  

  • Rabbits are prey animals and as such, don’t enjoy large groups, loud noises, or children running.

  • Rabbits also do not enjoy being picked up. They have extremely strong back legs and can kick with such force that they can break their own back if not properly handled. For this reason, we do not let children under the age of 16 pick up rabbits.

  • Rabbits can and will bite and scratch. Since their way of communicating is very subtle, and they are not very vocal, most children do not realize that the rabbit is getting upset and can get injured before they realize anything is wrong.  All of us in rescue have been bitten or scratched by frightened rabbits - it hurts!

  • Rabbits require a large space. We recommend at least 16 square feet, which is the size of a standard puppy exercise pen. The cages typically marketed for them in pet stores are horribly cruel. They do not have room to play or keep themselves clean. They also lead to them becoming aggressive and they become foul-smelling quickly. The sort of space a rabbit requires is hard to accommodate in a classroom setting. 
Bunnies need large habitats, not tiny pet store "starter cages".  Not many classrooms could provide this.

  • Rabbits are very sensitive to stress. If they are being moved around in a car daily or on the weekends, they can stop eating and go into gastrointestinal stasis. Rabbits require consistency in their life and should never be sent home with different children.

  • Rabbits need to see an exotics vet that is rabbit savvy. If the rabbit were to go into stasis or fall ill in some other way, they usually pass away fairly quickly. These vets are quite pricey and if the rabbit is ill, vet visits are an emergency. Everything from an ear infection to a day of not having a bowl movement can be deadly in a rabbit. 

Think bunnies are cheap pets?  Think again.  This was my latest unexpected vet bill.  Bunny stopped eating...cost me almost $400.  In addition to emergency care, they need yearly checkups by a rabbit-savvy vet to make sure they are healthy.

  • Rabbits require a variety of rabbit-safe fresh vegetables daily, which can be hard to provide at school. Their GI tract is very delicate, so if a child were to mistakenly give the rabbit the wrong vegetable or slip them something inappropriate, it could be fatal to the rabbit.

  • Rabbits do enjoy being part of a family and receiving attention. They cannot usually get this in a classroom since they are most active at dawn and dusk. They also require at least 3 hours of time outside of the cage each day to play and have some more mental stimulation. Without this they can go ‘kennel crazy’, and start to be aggressive or withdrawn.

  • Rabbits are not low-maintenance or low-cost pets. They require specialized food, a large space, toys, games, and ways to enjoy their natural behaviors such as chewing, digging, and running. They also need a yearly checkup at the vet,  regular nail trims, and to be groomed at least once a week.

If the goal of a classroom rabbit would be to teach the children about them, TBHRR would be happy to come in with a few bunnies and do a presentation about house rabbits and adoption. 

In conclusion, if you are still thinking of having a rabbit in the classroom...