Things were hopping in Live Oak, California this week when a domesticated rabbit running loose prompted an animal control officer to do some sleuthing. The bunny zig zagged across the neighborhood lawns like a bumblebee and eventually led the officer to a backyard where he met another 26 rabbits who were the result of pet bunnies who had not been spayed/neutered.
All of the bunnies were surrendered on the spot and are safe now thanks to the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter and The Rabbit Haven, a rescue group that had close to 200 rabbits under its care before this latest influx. So what’s the real story here?
It would appear that education about pet rabbit care is still in its infancy. Too often pet rabbits become a backyard fixture, shut into tiny wire hutches as far away from the house as possible. Their guardians may occassionally visit the hutch with food and water, but what of the rest of bunny’s needs?
Here are six ways pet bunnies will surprise you:
1. They Wear Leashes: Many retailers offer bunny harnesses and leashes that offer bunny the freedom to enjoy some exercise and grazing time under close supervision. Alternatively, wire playpens can be set up with extensions to allow bunny to move about freely during times when their guardians are home and keeping a close eye on their wellbeing. Hawks can easily swoop into an open top pen, so be sure to never leave bunny unattended.
2. Think Green: The lovely little vegans need a variety of leafy greens and Timothy hay to maintain good health. The abrasive hay is especially crucial to keep the rabbit’s teeth from developing points that can cut the tongue and interior of their mouths. Some bunnies need regular vet visits to have their teeth filed. No bunny should be fed more than a tiny serving of pellet food each day as it should be no more than 10% of their diet.
3. Spay & Neuter Saves the Day: Altering rabbits is tremendously beneficial in reducing spraying, aggression and cancer of the reproductive organs in females.
4. They Will Electrocute Themselves:
Yes, it’s true, and while they don’t always get hurt, chewed cords can be a tremendous fire hazard. Any guardian of a house bunny will tell you that bunny-proofing is as critical as baby-proofing a home for a young child. Bunnies are known to chew through electrical cords, an act which mimics their wild behavior to chew through tree roots when creating a burrow. With a few special provisions, house bunnies can be treasured members of any household.
5. They Can Use a Litterbox: Bunnies prefer to live in a tidy environment and do not like their ‘belongings’ re-arranged. Establishing a fixed position for the litterbox, after letting bunny show you the preferred spot, can keep the floors spotless.
6. They Don’t Wish to Live in a Box: There’s no question that no bunny would choose to live his life within the confines of a small wooden box. Hutches deprive rabbits of all natural emotional and physical needs. These confinement cages are a throw back to a time when rabbits were a commodity, raised as meat.
For great tips on how to keep a pet bunny livin’ the good life, visit My House Rabbit.
Story brought to you by the Harmony Fund international animal rescue network.