Are you Considering purchasing a Rabbit for EASTER? STOP RIGHT THERE!!!

Thursday, April 21, 2011


We are a family who has House Rabbits. 

I'll give you a moment to compose yourself as you laugh and wipe away tears. 

Yes. House Rabbits. Free Roam, litter trained, spayed and neutered House Rabbits. Kind of like Cats, with longer ears and the whole vegetarian vibe going for them.

I never planned on being a House Rabbit parent. No sir. I was fine with La Chatte, a neighborhood cat who adopted us upon our moving into HER home. I mean, it wasn't as if we were going anywhere, and she seemed nice enough. I was however, a little shocked. People just move away and LEAVE their pets? Really!?

I later came to find that in Montreal, it is a huge problem - especially on the July 1 - Moving Day. Shelters around the city begin to be flooded with animals of all sorts whose owners decided that , Meh - just not worth the trouble to move the animal. 

Now, there is a pet store in our local Mall, which shall remain nameless. Every time we are in the mall, Emily Begs to go and see the animals. Lizards, Birds, Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Rats, Ferrets...all the way up through $1200 purebred dogs. And I hate it. I hate the whole thing.  I watch children beg and plead for the cute animals...and sometimes they go home with them. 

But what happens after that?  Let me tell you what happens after that Twelve dollar baby bunny is no longer "cute" or "convenient" or "fun".

Jackson is our male gray chinchilla rabbit, with lovely long silky ears. He was most likely adopted as a baby bunny around Easter last year. He was, no doubt, very sweet and cute and fuzzy. He was also, most likely, well behaved and easy to manage.

When they found Jackson ( and another male rabbit) they figured that the two boys had been in the now empty, locked apartment for 2 weeks. They were both undernourished, but managed to stay alive. Maybe the previous owner had left the rest of the bag of pellets out for them. In fact, that is the only way I can figure they were able to not starve to death. Jackson was taken to the SPCA where he was examined, and when he was healthy enough, put up for adoption. His path and ours intersected as we were looking for a guy to bond with our female rabbit. 

We were interviewed, and gave our Exotics Vet name and number as a reference. We got a call, came back and met Jackson and agreed to foster him for a couple of months, to see if he and Coco bonded as well as free up a space in the shelter for another rabbit in Jackson's situation. His neuter was scheduled for the coming Friday and we planned to pick him up after the procedure. 

Of course, Jackson's experience with humans had not been stellar up to this point. It took him some time to relax and heal. It took longer for him to get used to eating a proper rabbit diet of mostly greens instead of pellets designed for Meat Rabbits. He did, however, fall in love with Coco ( who had been rescued after living in a dark basement in a small cage for 2 years). By October, we had gone back to the SPCA and made the fostering into an official adoption. He had a forever family.

Around the same time, some local friends were looking to adopt a dog. They were considering buying a dog for around $500.00 from a breeder. I pleaded with them to not buy from a breeder. I sent them a link to a local organization -The Underdog Club - who places "The Old, The Ugly and the Unpopular" .  They were interviewed by the organization and visited the dogs both in their foster homes and at a socialization/adoption event. They fell in love and adopted a Great Dane puppy who had been abandoned because he ate more than the family expected. Odds are, he was an impulse buy, or purchased from the puppy mills which Quebec is infamous for housing. 

Loki, our current Feline Family member is also an SPCA abandon. Never Neutered. Never immunized. When we adopted him he was already infected with Feline Rhino, a viral infection which stays with the cat for life if infected. His already damaged nose ( kicked in the face? His front teeth were also broken) is now forever really messed up. He can't smell most things due to the after effects of the virus.

What do all these stories have in common? Abandoned Animals. Discarded when the novelty wore off. Animals who became teenagers after being cute puppies or bunnies or kitties and their humans just couldn't be bothered.  

For we in the House Rabbit family, Easter is a terrifying time. I know that people will buy bunnies from pet stores, only to turn them "loose" by summer when their hormones kick in and they become rebellious, sexually frustrated teen Buns - like a smaller, furry motorcycle gang with the ability to rapidly reproduce.

What happens to those rabbits? Well, what would happen to you if we stripped you naked and set you in the middle of the Amazon?  A majority become dinner for larger prey. A few ( very,very few) make it until the cold, or people or cars kill them. Some go on Craigslist where some people may "adopt " them, not knowing anything about the intensive care and feeding that rabbits require, only to be given away again, or set "free". Some become food for peoples pet snakes.

Which is why the proposed ban on selling animals at pet stores in Richmond B.C. is an idea whose time has come. When you read through all those stories on "puppy mills", or the stories on the SPCA website, or the personal stories of many of the dogs in the Underdog Club, you will notice a common theme. Many were bought from puppy/animal mills, or purchased from pet stores who get their animals ( knowingly or unknowingly) through these mills. Many were impulse purchases. 

And none of these deserved to be treated in the way they have seen humans treat them.

So, do me a favor. Research. Consider. Think. If you choose to bring ANY pet home, are you willing and able to provide care, medical attention, nutrition, and social interaction/exercise that this Pet deserves? 

Just because a pet is small, doesn't mean it doesn't need to be seen by a Vet who is knowledgeable about their species. In the case of Coco and Jackson, they see an Exotics vet for yearly checkups and the occasional in between visit for possible ear infections/teeth/sore hocks issues.  When Coco was so ill with Bloat this winter, it was 500 bucks for a 4 day illness. When Jackson was seen a month ago for Stasis - a condition which can worsen and kill a rabbit - it was 170 dollars for a visit AND all of the medication, special food and fluids. Not to mention I had the supreme honor of having to force feed a rabbit with a syringe.

Yes, they were both spayed and neutered, and it wasn't cheap. Yes, they eat a very small amount of pellets, but the majority of their diet is fresh greens - about 8 cups a day for the two of them. And the Hay I buy in bulk from a local farm. They eat a 4 pound bag a week. Oh - and you can't just "leave them alone" when you go on vacation - Rabbits need to be boarded or otherwise cared for in your absence. More $$.

Rabbits need a minimum of 3 uncaged hours per day - more if they can, and in the case of Coco and Jackson, free roam, 24/7. Less leads to muscle issues , as well as gut immobility. They are grazers and built to be moving. Being confined in a tiny cage does not serve their body well.

Which leads me to rabbit proofing - thick plastic cables to encase the cords, small gates to keep them from the bigger things and hundreds of dollars of replaced cables when we forget.

In the words of my vet, who examined Jackson after we had adopted him and after hearing the story of how he had been found in the locked apartment:

"There is a special place in hell for assholes like that."

I sure hope so.

Don't be one of those people.

Want to research more on the care of House Rabbits?

House Rabbit Society is an excellent place to start.

A personal favorite: Binky Bunny Forum. This is my "rabbit" home and these folks have kindly taught me nearly everything I know. Jackson and Coco stories are on there, including their bonding story. I also  LOVE the store and my rabbits adore the Maze Haven, Tunnel and every other product!

13 Baleful Regards:

Rebecca said...

Similar stories with our dogs - one had been rescued from a put bull fighting ring in Phila, and was anxious/dog agressive/starved with mange. We rehabilitated her over a period of YEARS. Our puppy was purchased form a family whose male boxer had impregnated their female boxer (they were, apparently shocked that this would happen. They were moving and were going to give the pups to a shelter if they couldn't find a home for them in three days. Thankfully, we were in the market for a second dog. People are generally unthroughtful, selfish assholes, and pets are no exception to that rule.

Sara said...

When we were at the animal shelter I fell in love with a cat who was left behind in an empty apartment. The notes said the shelter had tried to contact the owner, but she hung up on them every time they called. Poor kitty! Unfortunately, he wasn't available to families with children, or he would have had a new forever home that day.

Mary_Flashlight said...

Our cat Molly was a kitten from one of our friends' cats... oh wait - they had a pregnant cat in the first place because they found the pregnant cat on the side of the road after someone had dumped her. They took her in, got her proper medical treatment, then when the kittens were born, found homes for them all. Those are good people.

The people who dumped their pregnant cat though? They are for suck.

Our other cat who died last winter was a shelter cat. She was old when Tim got her, but lived another 9 years - she was 17 (we think) when she died.

I was raised in the country - I didn't realize people BOUGHT pets until I was pretty old. My farmer grandfather raised rabbits for meat though, so the thought of them as pets is new to me. (Same with the people who buy chicks or ducklings as pets at easter...)

roo said...

Getting our kitty Fiona from the ASPCA shelter last March was really one of the best decisions J and I have made in recent years.

We wonder what her life was like, before, though. She knows how to hunt and kill, so, from my understanding, she must have spent time with her mother (I've heard cats will play with prey by instinct, but only learn how to make a kill from a parent.) She also seems to have had her two front legs broken, at some point.

At first, I wondered if she had been a stray. But she likes people so much, it doesn't seem likely.

On the other hand, I can't understand why anyone would abandon such a sweet cat.

Maybe, like you said, once she grew out of kitten-hood, she didn't seem so cute anymore.

I have to say, with the sheer volume of sweet animals looking for homes at the shelter, I'm sort of shocked anyone would buy from a pet store. Putting every other concern you've noted to one side, it's just so needlessly expensive! Is status THAT important, when it comes to choosing a pet?

By-the-by, I'm a little surprised that bunnies qualify as exotic pets! Is any non-dog or -cat pet an exotic?

Dawn said...

Sigh - I know Becky. It baffles me. But of course we in ECE are frequently baffled at how people treat their children, so Pets aren't nearly as legally binding.

Sara - I hope the kitty did find a home. La Chatte was a lovely cat and I could never quite figure out Why she had been abandoned.

Mary - we have friends who grew up in Mexico and are highly amused at our keeping rabbits as pets. They grew up with them as a highly economic source of protein.

Dawn said...

Roo - I think that Yes, any pet that is not a cat or dog is considered an Exotic. We see people with Birds, reptiles, Ferrets, hamsters, rats, hedgehogs, squirrels, turtles and guinea pigs at our vets. I know they board most animals for the owners when they are on vacation too But they don't accept Cats or Dogs at the practice.

Fiona is lucky to have found you. I agree, they are so sweet natured, even after seeing some really terrible treatment at the hands of humans.

Gurukarm said...

We got our pup Lucy last year through a local rescue org that works with people in Tennessee (and elsewhere, I suppose). She and two littermates had been found, we were told, abandoned on a rural road there.

Apparently they must have been quite badly mistreated before going to foster, because Lucy still, at about 18 mos, is quite skittish of people she doesn't know, especially men. Although, having now had a loving home for at least 13 or more months, she's getting much better, and is willing to make friends with the owners of her dog buddies at the dog park.

Anyway, not to toot my own horn, but when my son started begging for a dog, I knew we would go to petfinder.com or somewhere to find a rescue dog. We've always had animals that came from a shelter or other similar situation, and I strongly believe in having a pet for the love of it, not for any "status" it may convey... :-)

Dawn said...

We've always been a shelter family too - if not for the "found animals that never made it to a shelter before we folded them into our family.

Jackson - the male rabbit has only JUST gotten to the point where he does not Flee from me. Two Years of patient reinforcement that I am not going to eat him, or take his food away. Two years of consistent treatment.

Spaying and Neutering would solve so many issues of out of control population as well as end some of the behaviors that pets are given up for displaying.

Loki - our Cat - was abandoned after his owner moved and "left" him with a neighbor. As an adult 3 year old Male intact cat, he did what any intact male cat would do - Spray for his territory and tried to mount the (spayed) females.

The interim owner listed that as one of the reason he was been given to the SPCA.

Crystal said...

Almost all of our animals have been shelter animals as well, between shelter cats or kittens we've taken in from the barns that my father travels to. We just had to have one of them put down last week - he was 18. His "sister", a fat and whiney calico we picked up at a 4H town fair when a girl in the parking lot was giving away a litter, is 15.

My biggest regret ever is not taking care of my trio of cats when I moved out of my first apartment - we couldn't take them to the new apartment, and no one that I could find was willing to take all three (two came to me as kittens, and the 3rd was the son of one of them), and so the ex I was living with at the time agreed that he would take them to the shelter himself because I was a wreck. It was about two years later that I found out he'd simply locked them out of the apartment, turned in the keys to the place, and left. They deserved better than that.

madge said...

A rather fussy, high-maintenance friend just posted pix of her daughter's New! Pet! Rabbit!

Am dying to send a link to your post and say, "Yeah. Have fun with that."

Too mean?

Hillbilly Princess said...

How do the rabbits and cat get along? When we had a rabbit (he died, apparently of old age, after we rescued him from being a prize at a festival, ugh!) the cats absolutely terrorized him, so he didn't get as much free time as I would have liked. It didn't help that he was tiny, but they're CATS, and he was a RABBIT, and to them that meant FOOD. We've considered getting another, but unless it is a full fledged house rabbit, I refuse. The dogs are outside most of the time, so keeping them separate is not an issue, but the cats are a problem.

Dawn said...

Madge, Not too mean. Do it. Or at the very least ask if she knows where the anal glands are, since she will need to be cleaning them.

HP - Our first cat here in Montreal, La Chatte, was completely cool with the rabbit. They ever slept next to each other and if Coco ever got too "nosy" La Chatte would high tail it out of the room.

Rabbits have a pretty highly defined social strata - at which they are the top.

There is a really excellent guide called the Language of Lagomorphs

http://language.rabbitspeak.com/

This is remarkably helpful and accurate in getting your mind around the How of rabbit behavior.

With Loki, we tested him in the shelter with a shelter rabbit as to his prey drive. He was, and remains, very much a scardey Cat.

Now, does he occasionally enjoy thundering into the room or trying to sneak up on the rabbits. Yes. He tries to maintain a tough cat persona, but honestly, Coco kicks his ass. She actually will growl and chase him out of the room if he has displeased her....but sometimes she will allow him to chase her a bit, and she will even present to him for grooming.

Now Jackson is a Big rabbit. Coco is much smaller ( a Dutch). Jackson just avoids Loki, but will sometimes play, or allow Loki to chase him.

But you are right - Cats are Cats and their play style is to Chase/Catch/Claw.

We introduced Loki to the Rabbits, and supervised/socialized. If we are going OUT for a long time, I will close the door to my bedroom which is Rabbit home base. I also spent a lot of time holding Loki and Letting the Rabbits Come to him, sniffing and checking out, But also making sure he stayed in a submissive position. I used a spray bottle to reinforce that the Rabbits were NOT food, but members of the family.

I think it heavily depends on the Cat, but also the Humans and what everyone is willing to do in terms of supervision. Some folks on the Binky Bunny have rooms that are closed to their cats and ONLY for Buns. On the other hand, I have seen/read accounts of Cats and Rabbits as friends.

judy in ky said...

You are so right; I wish there were more people like you. We have done TNR (trap, neuter, release) for 12 feral cats in our neighborhood. Four have become friendly enough to be adopted and we still feed and shelter the rest outdoors.
I feel that people who abandon their pets are not fully human. How could they be?

 
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