Posts Tagged ‘bunny behavoir’

6 things you’d better get used to.

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

So you get a rabbit. He’s adorable (duh, he’s a rabbit), he does cute things every freaking day, he’s learned to use a litterbox, and you’ve got him conditioned to perk up his ears and come running every time he hears the vegetable crisper slide open. But there’s still some things that aren’t exactly perfect. Will he ever be the ideal pet you imagined when you first thought of getting a bunny? No. You can throw out that idea right now. Some things just take time and patience and effort, and of course we love our furry funny friends for all their flaws, but some things will probably never, ever, ever change.

1. Poop. It happens. Some rabbits are more polite than others, some have fantastic litterbox manners, most will keep their pee strictly in the box, but no matter what, expect to keep finding one or two little rabbit pellets rolling around somewhere forever. The good news is bunny poo is really clean. No joke, I looked at some under a microscope the other day and it looks exactly like what they eat. Actually, it’s significantly less messy than what they eat. Which brings me to number 2 -

2. Freaking hay freaking everywhere. My boyfriend found hay on the floor near his desk this morning. At work. Twenty-six miles away. The good news is if someone points out that you have a piece of it in your hair, you can finally use that line about the farmer’s daughter you thought up in college.

3. Jerkface co-workers making hasenfeffer jokes.

4. Rejection. No matter how many times people (and rabbits) tell me rabbits don’t like being picked up, I still wanna pick them up every time I see them. This has resulted in the rabbits running away every time I reach for them, even if I just wanna give them a little nose rub. If you have that rare bunny that likes being picked up – be freaking nice to that bunny.

5. Paranoia. Rabbits are experts at destroying things. Including their own digestive systems. You will learn to watch out for carpet nibbling, carpet digging, cords laying within reach, shoes laying within reach, houseplants that you thought for sure were out of reach, and bite marks on anything from scented candles (which by the way kill) to spider plants (which rabbits have no qualms about killing).

6. Being wrong. “They won’t jump up there. It’s too high.” Wrong. “They wouldn’t eat that, it’s not even food.” Wrong. “They won’t go in the cat box. It smells like predators.” Wrong. “They won’t escape from that pen. I used like four million clips.” Wrong. You get the point.

Despite these things, it’s impossible not to love our little lagomorphs – and even harder not to brag about how awesome they are and what wonderful pets they make.

By the way, my rabbits are completely awesome.

How to Become a BFF: Your Bunny’s Best Friend

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

by SaveABunny volunteer Mai Salvado-Da Rocha

How to Become a BFF: Your Bunny’s Best Friend
For the single-bunny households

My husband and I adopted five bunnies from SaveABunny: two bonded pairs and one bachelor bunny. The two pairs – Nibbles & Laxmi, and Cameron & Peri – provide each other with lots of comforting grooming, sniffing, and snuggling, but Frankie, our bachelor bunny, doesn’t have a bunny mate to snuggle with, so I have done my best to be as good a best friend I can be, considering that I’m not a bunny.

I have worried that Frankie is lonely because he doesn’t have a bunny mate, but attempts to introduce him to other bunnies have failed. He is a paradox; when he’s around other bunnies, he’s aggressive, he makes a sweet growling noise (obviously meant to be very fierce) in his throat, and he comes out of his corner swingin’, no matter how gentle the other bunny is. However, when people come around, he runs out right into the center of the fray, honking with happiness and excitement. When I change my sheets or rearrange my furniture, he doesn’t hide in safety. No, Frankie comes out, sits on my clean sheets, hops under furniture that I can barely hold, makes figure 8s between my legs when I’m walking, and just generally makes his presence very, very known. Because he gets the growlies around other bunnies, yet acts like a puppy when people visit, I’ve come to the conclusion that he is a “people bunny,” not a “bunny’s bunny.”

Even if Frankie doesn’t want a bunny mate, I still want him to get all the benefits of being cute and furry, so I have compiled a list of the things I do with him to make him feel loved and assured that he’s not missing out on anything by being single.

Check ears and eyes at least once a day. When bunnies groom each other, they pay careful attention to the eyes and the ears because those parts of the body are extremely important.  Frankie, a survivor of the terrible Hayward abuse/hoarding case, has one damaged eye. He can see out of it, but it is lacking lashes, so things get into it, and it tears up often. So I pet his head and feel if there are any crusty deposits that have collected in the corners or if there are stray hairs on his eyeball. The crusty deposits are easily removed with your hand or a soft cloth, but when he gets a clump of fur on his eyeball, it’s very hard to remove. I gently manipulate his eyelids until the clump attaches itself to one of them and then remove it with my hand or soft cloth. Most bunnies don’t have this problem because their eyes have lashes, but it’s a good idea to check your bunny’s eyes just the same. And, when you look into his ears, make sure they’re clean and dry, with no fluid or dark flecks in them. If you couple these examinations with lots of petting on the head and face, your bunny won’t even notice you’re playing doctor. (Note: if you find something that seems as though it doesn’t belong, make sure that you contact your bunny doctor immediately.)
Frankie is at his most rambunctious in the mornings and evenings. So that is when I bring out the toys. Unfortunately, Frankie is too smart; he knows immediately which items to turn his nose up to, and which items to chew and bat with his paws. Every toy, wicker ball, sea-grass mat or apple stick we’ve given him has been completely ignored. Instead, he chews every cord he can, tears pages out of books, gnaws on homework (try that excuse with your professor!) and nibbles holes in pillows, sheets, blankets, clothing, and shoes. Note: This wouldn’t happen if we kept Frankie in an x-pen or otherwise contained, but he’s so good with his litter box that we let him have free run of the bedroom. We don’t care if he chews up the bedclothes or papers; we’ve just trained ourselves – or perhaps he has trained us – to accept that any object that he can reach is fair game. Except for the cords. He could hurt himself with those, so we keep those out of the way. He sure likes them, though, and when he’s eyeing one (I can always tell; he gets a naughty look in his eye), all I have to do is say, “Frankie!” and he’ll hop away guiltily. He knows that he’s being extra naughty if he’s contemplating the cords. So, if your bunny is active in the mornings and evenings, those are good times to have more active fun with him: give him paper to chew (phonebooks and newspapers are good) or play tug-of-war with him, tickle his tail, or give him an invigorating, all-over body massage. Experiment, see what he likes, and make sure that he has plenty of water and hay so that when you’re done playing, he can replenish himself.
Frankie, like our other bunnies, likes to nap for most of the day. If you are home at that time, you can slowly insinuate yourself into your bunny’s dreamtime. Our bonded bunnies like to sleep right next to each other, sometimes side by side, and sometimes face touching face. Getting cozy with your bunny when he’s sleeping will probably take you longer than it would if you were a bunny. So be patient. When it looks like he’s relaxed (when his back paws are kicked out behind him or he’s lying on his side or lying on all his paws with his eyes closed), get close to him and get into the rhythm of his sleep. Watch his breathing and pitch your breathing to his. Sit still for a while and calm yourself because no bunny wants to be abruptly woken by a restless human. When you’ve centered yourself and feel that you’re in communion with his sleep, try petting him very lightly – lightly enough so that you don’t wake him – on the head or back. Do that for a while, either until you get tired or until he gets restless. Try that a couple of times, making sure that he doesn’t mind it. If he does, he’ll let you know by moving away.

The next step is to sit with him and ground yourself while he’s sleeping, but this time, try laying your hand gently on his back or side or (as Frankie likes) on his forehead. Keep your hand there, still, for as long as you can. If you get tired, remove it and massage it to get the blood flowing again, and then repeat. The idea here is to get your bunny comfortable with another physical and emotional presence near him when he sleeps – comfortable enough to not run away and keep sleeping. This step might have to be repeated quite a few times, with your hand in different places, before he relaxes. If he did OK with the first step but shied away at the second, then go backward and do the first step over and over until you can try the second again.

Now this is the payoff. When your bunny feels secure enough to sleep with you sitting right next to him with your hand on him, try putting your face right down next to him, first maybe next to his side or back. We all know how tempting it is to bury our faces in their soft fur; if you approach him carefully, as is outlined here, not only will you get a greater chance to do that without him scrambling away, but he will benefit, too, because your presence will be a friendly, caring one, and who wouldn’t want to sleep with that next to him?
Chances are that you’ll have to lie down in order to be comfortable enough to put your face right next to your bunny. Make yourself as comfortable as possible when you’re doing this because constantly shifting will wake him up, and he’ll probably be grumpy without his juice and slippers. At first, try the side and back. Put your face just close enough to touch (and inhale, if possible, that good bunny smell). After doing that a few times, hopefully lying there long enough so that both of you enjoy the experience, try putting your face next to his face. Be careful here; if your bunny is a biter (like Frankie is), that could result in some interesting facial scars. Or, if you accidentally bump your bunny’s nose, he’ll probably be startled awake. So try to angle yourself so that you can touch his face with your face while you lie in a position that’s comfortable for you, too.
When you are finally able to do this, it’s guaranteed relaxation. You get to be very intimate with your bunny, close enough to inhale when he inhales, and feel his breath on your face when he exhales. You can feel his whiskers tickling your skin, and maybe his soft facial fur against your cheek. I’m lucky; Frankie has unusually furry cheeks (we call them his “muttonchops”) so I can easily feel his fuzzy face next to mine. Lying like this with your bunny will calm you, help you forget the trials of the day, and maybe even bring your blood pressure down. And it will give your bunny a sense of companionship, someone who loves him so much and whom he loves so much that he can sleep in his or her presence. If you can manage to do this once a day, depending on your respective schedules, it will be a good way to bond with him and make you both feel appreciated.

When we feed the bunnies their nightly greens, Nibbles and Laxmi dive right in to their bowl, heads first, as though we hadn’t fed them for days and as though they hadn’t been supplied with fresh hay all day. They just love those greens. And when they eat, one of them will often snatch a piece of parsley or cilantro right out of the other bunny’s mouth! But since they love each other so much and there’s no competition for resources, nothing happens; there’s no battle for treats. They just go on, placidly eating, until the food is gone. Now, I do not recommend snatching the food from your bunny’s mouth while he’s trying to eat, but there is one way that you can bond during dinner time. You can take the greens out of the bowl one by one and feed them to him. One of the cutest and most amusing sights in the world is watching, close-up, a bunny eat. He’ll mow down the length of the stem and then crush the leafy parts into his mouth, dripping water or bits of leaf if it’s all too big for him. I like to lie on the floor and feed Frankie and get a very close look at his mouth. His upper lip is divided like a lion’s so that he can squash more food at a time in his mouth, and his little front teeth show through his lip when his mouth moves. His lower jaw moves in a circular way, and he just downs that food faster than you can say, “Greedy bunny!” Feeding him allows him to associate your scent with a reward – his greens – and it affords you much entertainment. Make sure that you wait until he’s done eating before you go because, chances are, he will lick his little paws and give his face a thorough grooming, another adorable scene to watch.

There is no way that you can be exactly like a bunny mate, but in some cases, that’s good. Making your bunny happy is a matter of observing him closely, seeing what he likes and dislikes, experimenting slowly and gently with petting, massaging, toys, and games. As in every good relationship, there’s give and take, so the more time you spend with him, learning about him, the more fulfilling your relationship will be for the both of you. And if you REALLY want to try to be as bunny-like as possible, you can do what I did once and lick your bunny’s forehead. I don’t know if he enjoyed it or not, but it left me with a mouthful of fur and probably the beginnings of a decent-sized hairball.

Resistance is futile, just ask Frankie

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Easter is the biggest time of year for bunnies, and, as it turns out for bunny blogs too! I’m still catching up on all the events and stories from that weekend. Check back soon for pictures from the bake sale and the second installment of Grooming Little Joe.

And if you didn’t catch it in the San Francisco Chronicle, a story submitted by our lovely volunteer Mai was featured in the Easter addition of Eileen Mitchell’s pet column! Here’s an excerpt:

It happens every day. Frankie, our mischievous, rescued bunny, must have radar because, no matter how I vary the routine, he always knows the exact time to come out and assume the position.

Frankie is the Chewer of Saris.

I wear saris every day. This involves taking 15 to 18 feet of material and wrapping it in varied and intricate ways around my body. For one to two minutes, a long tail of material lies on the floor while I fold all the pleats and arrange them above my waist. And in that one to two minutes, Frankie – no matter what he is doing and no matter how I try to distract him with hay – knows that now is the time. He descends upon my sari and sits on it, calm and patient. But then the familiar, instinctive urge grows. I know the signs; I can see them in his roguish black eyes: He crouches, leans his head down and then starts the chewing, an instinct in all bunnies. If I try to pull the sari out of his mouth, he hangs onto it as relentlessly as any stubborn dog and growls in his adorable gravelly ‘resistance is futile’ voice.

Read the full story here.

The numerous unexpected benefits of living with a rabbit.

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

I started volunteering for SaveABunny way back in May. I learned everything I could about rabbits, I wrote about rabbits, I even did outreach events with rabbits once or twice, feigning rabbit expertise. I read all the other bunny blogs. But I have never, ever, lived with a real live rabbit. Until three weeks ago.

As with most things worth learning, one can spend a lifetime (or at least five months) studying a subject, but to really understand it, you have to do it yourself. Of course, cheating doesn’t hurt.

So in case you haven’t had the pleasure, here’s a cheat sheet I made for you of those unexpected things you would probably only learn from living with a rabbit yourself:

1. You can do things with rabbits that make human company uncomfortable. For instance, sometimes I just sit and stare at my bunny while he eats.

2. Since they’re little and don’t have opposable thumbs, they eat every vegetable a different way. It’s eternally fascinating. Yesterday I gave mine bok choy – today, broccoli. Sometimes I leave him trails of lettuce leaves just to see if he’ll follow them. He usually does.

3. They make great exercise machines. Just try catching one when he needs a nail trim.

4. You will never lose a staring contest as horrendously as you will to a rabbit. Your eyes will shrivel up and and fall out of their sockets in two sad piles of dust before your rabbit blinks. Not exactly a benefit, but a valuable experience nonetheless, if only for the massive amount of humbling you will receive.

5. You CAN’T leave a glass of wine on the floor next to a rabbit. They’re worse alcoholics than I am. (At least mine is.) I don’t know how this is a benefit, except that leaving glasses of wine on the floor was probably a bad idea in the first place, and this is an extra reminder not to do it.

6. They actually are constantly doing something cute. You sort of expect it, but then when it actually happens it’s a little bit amazing. I don’t think any other adult animal has an equal cuteness capacity. Maybe pandas.

7. They have a warm spot right behind the ears. When you rub it, it releases pheromones that make you sleepy and hypnotize you so that you keep rubbing. I’m pretty sure on this one.

8. You will spend a lot more time laying on the floor. This will inevitabely result in more frequent vaccumming, extending the life of your carpet and saving you money.

9. You will gain a new appreciation for all green vegetables. Watching someone else get so excited about them does make them more appealing. As a result, you will live a longer, healthier life.

10. Your capacity for forgiveness will increase exponentially.

In conclusion, if you haven’t yet adopted or fostered a rabbit, I highly recommend it.

Rabbit vs. Litterbox

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

As anyone who has been around rabbits for more than half an hour knows, our furry little friends are extremely effecient at filling their main ecological niche: turning plants into fertilizer.

But we love them anyway. That’s why it can be so frustrating trying to litterbox train them. Litterbox training a rabbit is a process mostly unique from what other pet owners go through, in some ways easier and in some ways harder.

Easier, because rabbits are weirdly OCD. Once they start doing something a certain way, they keep doing it that way. So the trick is to get them to do want you want.

And it’s harder, because getting a rabbit to do what you want is completely impossible.

So how do you do it? Honestly I’m still not sure. I’ll share what I read, and what I attempted, but in the end, I’m convinced my rabbit just ended up litterbox training himself.

The first thing I unpacked when I moved to Albuquerque was my new bunny friend, Ellis Jose Francisco. I let him out of his icky cage that smelled like a three-day road trip, deciding then and there that I never wanted to put him back in it. Since I hadn’t exactly told management that I was going to have a small animal running around the house all day, I decided to keep him out of sight in my bedroom. Plus, I was lonely.

I put down a little rug, on which I placed his litterbox, some hay, and a water dish.

He promptly peed in the corner. So, having remembered that the litterbox should usually just go where the rabbit likes to go, I cleaned the pee and placed the box directly on top of the soapy spot.

He peed in box. All was good! Until I wasn’t looking. Then he peed in the other corner.

Not having two litterboxes for him, I cleaned it up and hoped for the best. That didn’t work out too well.

You see, rabbits are very territorial. They mark exactly where they think their home is. And there’s no mistaking it once they do. Fortunately, I had modern veterinary medicine on my side and he was nuetered. (As every adopted rabbit should be!) This not only made him less hormonally inclined to pee everywhere, but it made his pee smell better, too. Relatively.

I realized that after having free run of my room, he’d decided it was, in fact, his room.

I should explain that at this time, I also came down with a nasty sinus infection. I was barely capable of driving to Target to buy Puffs, much less developing a litterbox strategy. Little Ellis Jose peed wherever he wanted, including on my bed, (fortunately I was sleeping on an air mattress, which only required a sheet change and brief scrub with an eco-friendly cleaning wipe,) and all I could do was cough negatively at him.

As a side note, please don’t tell my building management this story. That would be bad for me.

While stuffing my only bottom sheet into the washing machine for the third time in two days, I glanced down at the cage. I’d stashed it in the laundry room until I figured out which key opened the outside storage closet. (Turns out, none of them open it! I’m still waiting for that one.) Since I couldn’t smell anything anyway, I momentarily convinced myself it was fine, and brought it into the bedroom. The litterbox went inside. It was a terrible arrangement, however, and I ended up putting everything and the rabbit on a mat in the laundry room.

This actually worked really well. Since my laundry room has laminate floors that are impossible for furry little bunny feet to gain traction on, Ellis Jose stayed entirely on the mat. I opened the cage door so he could come and go (so to speak) as he pleased. He consistently peed in the litterbox, and almost solely pooped in it so long as I kept it clean.

But just to be safe, I resorted to the one thing I always dread resorting to: Instructions.

That’s right, when you adopt a bunny from SaveABunny, you get an instruction booklet. At least I did. I think it’s $2 extra, but if Marcy has anything to do with it, you’ll end up with one whether you asked or not.

Just as I’d hoped, there were two pages about litterbox training in there. Since a) it’s an entire two pages, and b) you should really put down the two bucks for a copy, I won’t recount everything I read in there. But I’ll share what was most valuable to my experience:

1. Your rabbit needs a place that’s just his. (An icky, road-trip-smellin’ carrier cage does the trick in a pinch – just, uh, try to clean it first. And DON’T put faux-sheepskin liner mats in the washing machine. It won’t be pretty. Trust me.) In order to make your rabbit feel like the place is just his, it’s essential that you not force him in or out of it. If he’s not already terrified of the place, it’s pretty easy to herd him into it. Do that if you need to. I just leave the cage door open with a tiny mat clipped to it, and it makes a nice ramp. He goes in there when he’s mad, scared, bored, or (yay!) has to pee.

2. Keeping some hay in the litterbox seems to help.

3. Be patient. I can’t tell you how to do this. I failed. But I’m sure things will work out better if you can pull it off.

4. Keep the litterbox clean. Seriously. I change it almost every day but it’s extremely worth it. It’s good for about two or three pees and then he stops using it.

The laundry room situation lasted about five days. I ended up feeling bad for him because the mat he had was so small, and he couldn’t get any sunlight (which, I don’t know about him, but is very important for my mental health,) and he looked really bored all the time. I gave him two paper bags to play with (more on those in a future blog), and I laid down a table cloth for him to get across the kitchen to the living room where he could run around, but he stopped using it after the first time and refused to leave his tiny mat. I had to find a better way.

On my first day at my new job, I found a giant stack of carpet tile scraps. If you’re not familiar with this seeming oxymoron, a carpet tile is a rubber tile, in regular tile size and shape, with carpet on one side. Carpet = traction. Rubber = pee-proof.

I made off with half of them. The receptionist gave me a funny look on my way out the door, but I had a plan! Sort of.

After trying many positions and layouts and many variations on those positions and layouts, I ended up with a carpet-tiled area in the living room, under a window, with ample room for the cage carrier in the corner, chew toys, paper bags, hay, a water dish, and even a little bit of hopping around. The plan was to get an x-pen to put around the area, but by the time I was finished with my creation, the pet store was closed, so, with high hopes but low expectations, I just let Ellis Jose run free in the living room for the time being. It’s not like I had any furniture yet anyway. I had one lamp, but the cord and plug were strategically hidden behind two boxes. And I had plenty of eco-friendly all-purpose cleaner.

After some momentary confusion, Ellis Jose became a very happy bunny. He now had the entire living room to run around in! And because he was happy, and he hadn’t peed on the floor yet, I was happy too.

I let him run free while I was gone the next day at work, thinking I would stop at PetSmart for an X-pen on the way home. I forgot, of course. But when I got home, my carpet was happily pee-free. He had somehow become litterbox trained.

I ended up buying an x-pen anyway for when the washing machine repair person gets here. I haven’t used it yet – which is both good and bad.

So take what you will from my story, if you managed to find anything worthwhile. Every bunny is different, so if you find something else that works, by all means go with it. And share, please!

Or if all else fails, read the instructions.

The ultimate eco-friendly urban pet.

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

That’s right, we’re talking about rabbits. Here’s why:

1. They eat hay. The meat industry produces more greenhouse gasses than all the gas-guzzling SUVs in the world. If you want to keep your cat or dog properly nourished, please, feed them pet food with meat in it. Bunnies, however, are 100% vegan – no guilt, no cows, and sea levels stay where they are just slightly longer.

2. Compost. Sure, if you live an apartment building, you’re probably not growing tomatoes (at least not very well,) but there are urban growing plots and back-yard farm communities in almost every city, where bunny poo and leftover hay would be a much-appreciated contribution. Plus, the new plants absorb carbon, and provide you with food, sans pesticides, salmonella, pollution, and expensive cross-country transportation.

3. No walks! No matter how disgusting your sidewalks are, your dog still needs to get their cute little paws all over them – twice a day. I don’t know what goes on in your urban neighborhood, but in mine…. uuhg. Point being, your bunny stays clean and saves you from dealing with the local riff-raff.

4. Bunnies are the ultimate small-space survivors. Of course, no one wants to be cooped up in a tiny pen, and at SaveABunny we always want our rabbits to have free run at their adopted homes, but even if you live in a one-room studio where you watch TV from your bed and eat breakfast at your desk, if the place fits you, it’ll fit your bunny, too. Seriously- they evolved for tunnels.

5. Impress your friends and confuse your landlord! Cats and dogs require big extra deposits, but rabbits tend to fall in the “small pets” category, and if you work it right, you can save yourself some moolah. Plus, you’ve got an instant ice breaker – sure cats and dogs are cute, but they’re not gona provide any conversation fodder beyond, “Oooh, she’s so cute, what’s her name?” Bunnies, on the other hand, are an urban enigma – no one knows much about them, and what they do know, you can pretty much contradict all night long.

So, there you have it, bunnies are the best pet you could possibly have if you’re an adult living in a city and you care at all about the fate of the world. Plus -

they’re really cute!

(This is Alvin. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t love to give him a little eco-friendly rub behind the ears!)

A reminder for all sad, mistreated bunnies who somehow have internet access: There’s Hope Out There!

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

We do lots of rescues at SaveABunny – big ones, small ones, really, really sad ones, and just kind of sad ones – but earlier this year we had a rescue that was both big and really, really sad. If you’ve been following us (or you watch View From The Bay every afternoon) you might remember back in February when we rescued 29 bunnies that had been severely neglected. Here’s the clip if you didn’t catch it back then:

Sadly three of those bunnies were lost to us because of their injuries. That’s what moved the rescue from “Really Sad” status to “Really, Really Sad” status. But the progress we’ve had rehabilitating the 26 bunnies that we saved has been really exciting, and I want to share one example with you to spread hope for hopeless bunnies everywhere. Meet Lionel Barrymore:

Granted, he still looks a little worse-for-ware with that big bare patch on his side, but to get some perspective, this is what he looked like when we first brought him in:

Sorry you had to see that. I’ll add some space here you can scroll past it…

Anyway, Lionel has gone through some tough times. But the amazing part of his story that gives us all hope is that, even after the neglect and trauma that he went through, he is now a healthy, happy, and very sweet little bunny rabbit. (Who, by the way, would be a fabulous addition to any home.) It’s proof that every bunny, even when things seem hopeless, is worth saving.

Check out Lionel’s page on the SaveABunny site.

Read more about the large-scale rescue back in February, and see more video footage of the rabbits.

Hare-brained Coworkers?

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

One of our volunteers, Mark, captured this great shot of his two bunnies, Maryann and Dono, helping out with some filing in his cubicle.

The very next day, he found out Petsource.org was having a pets-at-work-themed photo contest!

Mark has this to say:

“If you could stop by and register on the website (it’s real easy) and
vote once or twice a week for my babies, it would help. One of the
prizes is a cash donation to a shelter of my choice and of course that
would be going to Save A Bunny.”

Thanks Mark! We’re wishing him the best of luck, but the only way to win is by getting plenty of votes, so help out by voting! Vote for Maryann and Dono here.

If you don’t have a login with Petsource, you’ll have to sign up – but it’s easy and totally worth it. I did it at work and timed it for you: almost exactly one minute.

Saving Bunnies.

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

When you go to the SaveABunny website, on the surface we might look like a bunch of bunnies looking as cute as possible (which is really not that hard) to get adopted into loving homes. But behind all the floppy ears and purple web pages, we’re a team of hard-working, dedicated humans. We spend our days – and nights – making sure bunnies all over the Northern California get the second chance they deserve.

So as our first SaveABunny Blog post, I’d like to share a little piece of what goes into saving bunnies on an average day. (Also, I should introduce myself. I’m Thea – volunteer writer. I squeeze in writing for the website and this blog, among other things, into my schedule as a part-time student and copywriter at a local ad agency.)

Last Thursday, Marcy, the founder and head cheerleader of SaveABunny, and I made a stop at San Francisco Animal Care and Control. The shelter was overcrowded and they’d given us a call asking for rescue assistance. It was my first time visiting this (or any) animal shelter, but Marcy is a regular there. The staff all know her, and greeted us with a casual familiarity. They were kind enough to let us drop in well after closing hours, around 7:45. Having just come from a SaveABunny team meeting, were more rushed than we should have been. Lights-out was at 8, but squeezing in those few minutes to check out the new bunnies would mean a world of difference for some of them.

You see, while SaveABunny bunnies are promised love and care for their whole lives, whether they get adopted or not, most shelter rabbits have no such guarantee. Just like all the cats, dogs, rodents, reptiles and other animals that end up at crowded animal shelters, bunnies that don’t get adopted get euthanized. No matter how cute they are.

So our mission at Animal Care and Control was to meet the new bunnies that had arrived and get to know them a little, checking their health and temperament. Our immediate goal for rabbits there is to keep them from being euthanized. No one at San Francisco Animal Control wants to euthanize them – that’s why they call us – but when they run out of room for them, they don’t have a choice. We also post bunnies from local shelters on the website when we don’t have room for them at our facilities in Marin, because it increases their chances for adoption. If we’d had more time and more space, we would’ve taken a few of them with us.

There’s no set rule as to which bunnies we take into rescue – sometimes we’ll find one that has little to no chance of getting adopted, so we take him or her under our wing. Sometimes, we find exceptionally adoptable bunnies that would find homes quickly at a different shelter. Sometimes we meet bunnies that have been traumatized, and with a little hard work and a lot of love, we’re sure they’ll find a home. All they need is time. Unfortunately, it’s time that shelters just can’t afford to give them. So we take those ones, too, and hope that help will come forward.

We entered Room 225 at Animal Care and Control. It was a small room, with cages stacked higher than my head. There were about 13 bunnies in there – plus one guinea pig, a chicken, two rats, a tiny gray mouse and one quail that had been rescued from the back of restaurant. He pecked away happily at a bowl of seeds, occasionally letting out a curious “Squawk!”

We checked up on the bunnies one by one. They all had their own reactions to us – some excited, some timid, some just casually looking up between mouthfuls of the newspaper that lined their cages. Each and every cage had a sign with a big blue stamp on it: “AVAILABLE”.

Many of these were bunnies that Marcy had already met – and most of them looked like they had a decent chance of getting adopted. While she made sure they were all still doing fine, I asked her about the little quail in the corner.

She answered wearily, “Oh, he’ll probably be euthanized. It’s illegal to keep quails as pets, and he’s not releasable because he was raised for food.” According to California state law, no “wild animal” can be kept or sold as a pet. Wild animals are defined species by species, not case-by-case.

“So you mean no one can adopt him?”

“Nope. He’ll almost definitely be euthanized.” I know it’s as heartbreaking for her as anyone else, but she said it almost nonchalantly. I realized why – this happens to animals here (and everywhere else) every day. You just have to do what you can, knowing that you can never save them all. But I couldn’t help feeling especially bad for this little feathery guy. He’d been put in a catch-22 by a combination of well-meaning human rescue efforts and well-meaning human law.

At least bunnies are legal pets. That’s one thing that makes our job easier – and we have to count our blessings sometimes.

Marcy and I moved on to an even smaller room across the hall. If it had been earlier in the day, we would’ve spent some quality one-on-one time with each bunny, making sure they stay friendly and happy. They’re social animals, like dogs and birds (and people), so even the shy ones crave interaction and attention.

This tiny room was where the new bunnies were. Many of them had been bought at a local pet store and then left at the shelter when they were no longer wanted. They weren’t all as well off as the others. Two had just come back from surgery and had big signs on their cages asking to be handled extra gently. One gold flop-eared bunny was huddled in a corner, shivering. I wondered what had made her so timid. A little black dwarf rabbit had been mistreated a different way – she was grotesquely overweight; probably two pounds over her healthy 1.5 pounds. That’s like a human weighing 350 pounds.

We took photos of each one and their charts, to review later. We checked them all for general health – clean, soft fur, healthy toes, and straight teeth. One of many new things I learned was that a bunny with crooked teeth is all but unadoptable; without expensive surgery, he won’t able to eat properly, and he’ll be malnourished. How expensive is the surgery?

“Hundreds and hundreds of dollars,” Marcy answered.

I also learned that there’s a trick to handling these bunnies – sweetness. Marcy took extra care to pet each one and say a few comforting words. A little rub around the ears can go a long way.

She took extra time with the gold flop-eared bunny. When you talk to them, for the most part it doesn’t matter what you say, (although bunnies can usually learn their own names, and possibly a few other words,) what seems to matter is that you’re gentle, soft-spoken and let your genuine concern show in your voice. Marcy had perfected these.

“Hey honey, it’s ok, yeah. It’s ok. I’m sorry. People can really suck, huh? I’m sorry.” She said it softly over and over, and our flop-eared friend seemed to slowly but surely calm down. When Marcy finally closed her cage, she hopped up to look back out at us, completely transformed from a shivering furry lump into a beautiful, outgoing rabbit girl. I was amazed.

“Sometimes they just know rabbit people, and they open up to them,” Marcy explained. But I suspect almost anyone could be a “rabbit person” if they took the time to learn how these special animals work.

As we left, the words Marcy had repeated to the gold bunny also repeated in my head. “People suck.” It was so easy to think that, coming out of the animal shelter. But a little nagging voice in my head argued back, “Wait – not all people suck. We’re here, aren’t we?”