Spay & Neuter


‘Scooby, Dooby, Do….. If I Can Make It There, I’ll Make It Anywhere…..’  Oh, excuse me, I get carried away sometimes and just start singing…..

Helloooooooo Ladies!  Frankie is here to love and entertain you!  Have you ever seen a more handsome rabbit???  I am all dressed up in my formal wear with no place to go!  Just look at my shiny black fur, and spotless white nose, chest and toes….almost like wearing a tuxedo with spats.  But my eyes……look deep into my eyes…….I have been told that they are my BEST feature.  My right eye is a gorgeous shade of sky blue, and my left eye is a combination of earth and sky, or brown and blue.  Really quite striking, aren’t they?  I cut a rather dashing profile, wouldn’t you say?

I am a young, neutered male, Dutch.  I came to HRN from another shelter.  They sent me to HRN because they had the (totally wrong) opinion that I was ‘slightly cage aggressive’…..what that really means is that I didn’t like being kept in a tiny cage with no room to roam….but, no one even considered my opinion…..’Give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above……DON’T fence me in!’  (Oops, there I go singing again!)  Because of this, I would do best living as a free range rabbit, or in a very large ex-pen. Once I am out of my cage, I am really a very laid back sort of guy…..I enjoy classical music, sunshine on my shoulder, Romaine lettuce, dandelion greens and long hops on the beach….(well, maybe not the ‘beach’ thing, but isn’t it common to put something like that in an on-line description of yourself?)

Well, now that the subject of a ‘cage aggressive’ rabbit has been brought up, I think that this is a great opportunity for me to talk with you about that issue……many rabbits have met an untimely end in other shelters because of those two words.  First, it would be great if you could look at things from the rabbit’s point of view…..consider yourself small, very small….and pretty much defenseless….your eyes are on the sides of your head so you can’t see things directly in front of you, and if you are like most rabbits, you never use your voice.  Yes, I know some rabbits are downright, ‘talkative’ with grunts, growls, purring and snorts, but for the most part, we rabbits go through life silent.  The two things you have for defense are your teeth and your powerful hind legs.  Now, for a variety of reasons, you have ended up in a small cage, so small that you can’t even stand on your hind legs and turn around.  There is nothing to do.  You aren’t getting any exercise.  Your food may or may not be what you would prefer to eat if you had a choice. There is nothing on which to chew. You spend some time rearranging your litter pan, your food dish, your hay and towels, you shred the newspaper lining your cage.  You are bored. You lie down in your newly decorated tiny studio apartment and try to take a nap.  But there are other rabbits in the cages RIGHT NEXT DOOR!  and they are really not the type of folk you want as neighbors. They are really annoying!  There is a constant commotion around you, but you are able to find some solace by turning your back to the world and just chillin’.

AND THEN………some strange Human hand comes in and starts touching you and messing with your stuff!!!  HEY!!!! you want to yell, STOP THAT!!  The human didn’t even speak first to let you know they were there (which would have been the polite thing to do)….you didn’t see them coming, they just appeared because they approached you from the top of your head.  They frightened you.  They are undoing the decorating that it took you all afternoon to arrange.  This is your space, your little corner of the world, and they have invaded it.  Well, you can’t ask them to cease and desist, so you thump, but they ignore you, what else is there to do?  You use your teeth!  And it works!  The Human hand leaves!  You can go back to putting everything in your home back where it belongs….until the next time your space is invaded by an unwelcome intruder.  But, you have learned that using your teeth makes the Humans go away. This was not a good lesson to learn, but you find that it is effective.

So, you may ask, how to cope with this affliction known as ‘cage aggression’?  Well, the first thing is to spay or neuter your rabbit.  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that hormones make all animals (even humans) crazy!  Rabbits are happier and healthier after they are spayed or neutered….so just do it, OK?  Then you need to give your rabbit exercise….and intellectual stimulation….boxes and tubes and tunnels to run and hide through, twigs and grapevines, and toys to toss and chew….and room…..lots and LOTS of room!  Get rid of the cage.  Just think how you would feel locked in your bedroom forever!  But the best way to combat ‘cage aggression’ is to interact with your rabbit.  A rabbit is a companion animal….they are social creatures.  Try clicker training your rabbit…play hide and seek….reward good behavior and ignore bad behavior.  You will be surprised by how quickly you can capture a rabbit’s heart.  TIme, patience, understanding of rabbit behavior, and some well placed treats work wonders!

‘These little town blues….Luck be a lady tonight…..So, set ’em up Joe….’  Looks like I need to sign off and get back to my singing….but, if you are in the market for the most handsomest rabbit out there, I would love to join your ‘Rat Pack’!  See ya Kid!

Yours, (hopefully)

Frankie Blue Eyes

DOB: 2/09

Weight 8#

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In the time my wife and I have had pet rabbits, we’ve dealt with a variety of issues with our furry companions. From behavioral problems to life threatening GI stasis, we’ve been through a wide range of the things that can happen. None of it has deterred us from wanting to keep rabbits as pets. We love these curious, investigative, playful and exuberant creatures and wouldn’t trade them for anything. Below are things my wife and I wish we’d known about when we first started keeping rabbits as pets. I’m offering this as a resource for new rabbit owners, and I hope it helps.

Resources
My wife and I volunteer for the House Rabbit Network (HRN) They have a list of articles about rabbit care , including an excellent Bunny Basics guide that gives a brief and effective summary of bunny care. HRN also has a Blog with a variety of resources. It’s a good place to ask bunny related questions, as most of the people on the Blog are HRN members with experience fostering rabbits.
A lot of people will link to articles on the House Rabbit Society web site. HRS is a larger organization than HRN with more chapters nationwide. Both are rabbit rescue groups geared towards providing accurate information to rabbit owners.
HRS also has more articles and information on their site, including articles on keeping rabbits with dogs, keeping rabbits with cats. HRN has an article on Guinea Pigs as Rabbit Buddies
Rabbit Health in the 21st Century: A Guide for Bunny Parents is an excellent book on how to care for your pet rabbit, and includes a lot of information that isn’t readily available on the web.
How to live with an Urban Rabbit“. This book is a good overall look at bunny care. While a lot of the information it contains is available online, it’s convenient to have it in one place.

Vets
All vets are not equal; There are a lot of vets who are excellent with cats and dogs, but do not necessarily have all the specialized knowledge necessary to care for rabbits. Rabbits are considered “Exotics” and you need a vet who has an exotics specialist on staff. Check with your local rabbit or animal rescue group for vet recommendations. While your regular vet doesn’t need to have a 24 hour emergency care ward, you should find out where the closest one is, in case you need to get your pet to the vet at 3:00 am. Your regular vet is likely to have a 24 hour vet that they work with, if one is available in the area.

Health Insurance for Pets
My wife and I as well as other HRN volunteers have gotten health insurance for our rabbits from VPI. The basic idea is that you pay for the care up front. There’s a form that the vet’s office needs to fill out. You or the vet then fax it to VPI. VPI then reimburses you directly. All the vet has to do is fill out some paperwork and give you the necessary invoice. The first year my wife and I got it for our rabbits it paid for itself within six months. Rabbit care can be expensive. Be sure to read the fine print so you know what is and is not covered.

The Breeder is not necessarily the best source for information
There are a lot of people breeding rabbits who are caring, informed and knowledgeable people. Unfortunately there are also people who breed rabbits who don’t really know much about them, aside from the basics of feeding and housing them enough to reproduce and keep enough alive to turn a profit. I ask that the reliable, well informed breeders please ignore the next few lines, as they aren’t about you. I know HRN members who’ve been warned by some breeders to never take their rabbit to a vet, “Because the vet will just experiment on it.” Some breeders have also advised people to not give their rabbits hay or greens and just feed them pellet food. Anyone who gives that kind of advice doesn’t really know what they’re talking about. There is a lot of misinformation out there that, if followed, will damage the health and well being of your pet rabbit. Be aware of the source of your advice.

Rabbit Diets
Breeders will sometimes recommend feeding your rabbit an Alfalfa based pellet food. Pellets should be a significant component of your rabbit’s diet, but much of their food should come from hay and greens. The HRN article How to Choose a Good Pellet will get you started. The Calvin’s Care Corner – Rabbit Treats article gives the following advice:“An adult rabbit’s daily primary diet is basic; unlimited grass/timothy hay, restricted high-fiber pellets [apx. 1/4 c. per 5 lbs. body weight], fresh veggies [apx. 2 c. per 5 lbs. body weight], unlimited fresh water [especially in hot weather].” Anything else is secondary, and thus a treat. Rabbits are NOT omnivores. Most of the “treats” you see in the pet store are very bad for your rabbit, particularly the yogurt based threats or anything that contains sugar.

Pineapple and Papaya: possible life savers
I highly recommend getting your rabbit(s) accustomed to dried Papaya and fresh pineapple. Many people believe that enzymes found in pineapple and papaya help break down the fur that a rabbit ingests. This is one of those things that have been neither proven nor discredited and there’s debate upon it’s effectiveness even among vets, but at the very least, rabbits love both fruits.

If you like fresh pineapple you’re in luck, because rabbits are very happy to eat the fibrous core that humans generally avoid. Remember to only give your rabbit no more than a teaspoon or a tablespoon of pineapple during any given day. Too much fruit will cause diarrhea.

Lacking the ability to vomit, rabbits can’t cough up fur balls the way cats can. As a result, fur can build up and cause potentially fatal blockages. This can result in Gastrointestinal or GI Stasis. Not all cases of GI Stasis start with blockages and it’s possible that some blockages are caused by GI Stasis. The exact relationship between a blockage and Stasis is uncertain, but avoiding fur buildup is a good idea regardless.

This is also why frequent brushing is necessary, particularly during the major shedding periods.

Calcium and your Rabbit
Rabbits metabolize all the calcium they eat. Because of this too much calcium can be very harmful to your pet. This can include various forms of Dental Disease and bladder sludge. In extreme cases kidney stones are possible. I also recommend you get Up Close and Personal with a Bunny’s Molars

Young, growing rabbits, or rabbits that are nursing, pregnant or are females being used for breeding need a higher calcium diet. That’s why high calcium foods such as Alfalfa hay an alfalfa based pellets are good for them. Adult rabbits who are not nursing or being bred however, should be on lower calcium diets. This includes Timothy hay and timothy based pellets used in place of Alfalfa. High calcium greens such as broccoli and spinach should be fed sparingly if at all.

Get your bunny fixed!
When my wife and I bought Beanbag into our home, we decided to get her four year old female rabbit Fuzzface fixed. This was done largely because the hormone reduction would make it easier to bond the bunnies and because we had a vague awareness that it would be better for her to be fixed. The vets found a tumor on her uterus when they spayed her. Fortunately, it was caught very early. In the vet’s words, “We don’t have any survival statistics, because we almost never find them this soon.” That was the first, but not the last time Beanbag saved Fuzzface’s life. We later learned that “Up to 85% of female rabbits develop uterine cancer by the age of four if they have not been spayed.” (HRN, Why Spay Your Rabbit?)
Neutered Male rabbits are less aggressive, less territorial and express fewer territorial behaviors, such as spraying.

Rabbit Litter
Picking the right litter for your rabbit can be a surprisingly convoluted process. Most clay based litter made for cats will clump around a rabbits fur. It may be ingested when the rabbit grooms which can lead to a fatal blockage. It should ONLY be used if you have a slat bottom cage that doesn’t allow your rabbit direct access to the litter. Litter made from Pine, Cedar or other aromatic wood shavings are bad for most small animals, rabbits among them. The pine and cedar oils can cause significant respiratory irritation. There is some evidence to indicate more serious ailments can result. There’s a cat litter on the market named SWheat scoop. It’s made, as the name implies, from wheat. The problem with this litter is that wheat expands in the stomach and can cause fatal blockages in rabbits. I know of two cases where a rabbit exposed to wheat based litter needed gastric surgery due to a blockage. This is major surgery and aside from being expensive, can lead to numerous health consequences down the road, assuming the rabbit even survives. Corn can have a similar impact upon a rabbit’s digestive system. Because of this I recommend against corn and corn husk based litters. Paper based litters are often a good choice, provided your rabbit doesn’t eat much if any of their litter. Fortunately, the two best options for rabbit litter are also the least expensive. Critter Country Litter ‘N Bedding is a compressed straw bedding. It shouldn’t matter if your rabbit eats it, as it’s essentially straw anyway. While it won’t provide much in the way of nutrition, it at least won’t do any damage. It’s generally cheaper per pound than most the other litters in your average pet store. You can also get Yesterday’s Mews, which is a pellet litter made of recycled news print pulp. Most of the HRN volunteers, myself included, have become fond of using the wood pellets made for wood burning stoves. These biodegrade as easily as straw and paper based pellets, which makes them a good choice for people who compost their rabbit litter. (The Magic Bunny Poo – A Composting Tale) It’s also costs significantly less than commercial pet litters. Most places that carry these pellets consider them a “seasonal” item, so stock up during the Fall and Winter so you have enough for the Spring and Summer. Your local Agway or other farm supply store will probably have them year round, or be more than happy to order them for you. Some wood burning stove pellets contain accelerants to make them burn faster. Avoid these like the plague, as the chemicals they contain will be very harmful to your rabbit. Litter should be changed every two to four days if you use a litter pan, depending on usage. You don’t need much litter in the bottom of the pan, perhaps enough to cover 90% of the pan’s bottom. Rabbits don’t need to bury their pellets the way cats do. You’re basically looking to absorb the urine and prevent their feet from being scalded by uric acid. Putting a little hay in the litter box will also be helpful. If you’re using a slat bottom cage that doesn’t let the rabbit come in direct contact with their litter, then the change frequency can be weekly, assuming you use enough liter to absorb all the urine produced in that time, and you don’t have any mold or fungal problems from the litter.

Bunny bonding, Love is in the air – sorta
Introducing two new rabbits and trying to get them to live happily together or “Bond” them can be a problematic process. A “Quick” bond is two weeks. Three Months is not unusual. Don’t get discouraged. Remember, YOU are the primate with higher brain function and opposable thumbs. Most rabbits can be bonded, given enough patience and effort on your part. These references should help:Love Match: A Guide to Bonding Your Rabbits HRN Blog: Bonding You may be advised to take the rabbits on a drive in the car. The general idea is to stress the rabbits so that they turn to each other for comfort and forget their territorial and dominance disputes. Using a car for this purpose is falling out of vogue for two reasons. First, it’s dangerous as the rabbits are harder to mange in a moving vehicle. Second, it requires two people, one to drive and the other to handle the rabbits. Finally, there are easier ways to do the same thing at home. If you have a cloths washer, you can put the rabbits in a basket on top of the washer during the spin cycle. Keep a towel handy to throw over the rabbits if they start to panic, and keep a tight grip on the basket.

An even easier trick is to put them in a cold dryer.  No, you won’t be turning it on. You’ll just out them in the dryer, and if they start to make a fuss, turn rotate the drum slowly by hand. This will be enough to keep the rabbits on an uneven footing and will allow you significant control over the situation. As a bonus, the steel drum of the average dryer will be easy to clean in the event of territorial wetting or pelleting. Side loading washers are generally too damp for this purpose, and rabbit claws can catch, bend or break in the drainage holes that line a washer’s drum. Simply putting the rabbits in a clean, dry bathtub will also provide a slippery footing and neutral territory.

In my last blog entry I wrote about a stray rabbit that was found wandering around Belmont. Well yesterday morning she began to make a nest. We were hoping that maybe she had a false pregancy (a rabbit can think she is pregant). But just in case it was a real pregnancy, we gave her more hay and strips of newspaper to make a nest. At 10:30am Andy left for work and there were no babies nor hairpulling, so we were becoming more hopeful it was a false pregnancy.

At 4 pm I came home to 8 babies. Mom was lying on the other side of the cage and the babies were huddled beneath a blanket of hay and hair. Jessica, another HRN volunteer, came right over to see the newborns. We checked each one out and placed them in the basket.

Babies and proud Mom

Newborn bunnies are born hairless, deaf, and blind. They are so ugly that they’re adorable. One of the babies had the hiccups and Jessica comforted her in her hand. She named the baby “Bean” because she was jumping with every hiccup like a Mexican jumping bean.

Bean

It’s an exciting experience to witness new life coming into the world. Yet, at the same time it’s sad. There are already so many beautiful, wonderful rabbits in foster homes waiting for their forever homes. These babies will be cared for until they are old enough to be spayed/neutered. We don’t want anymore surprises. Please spay/neuter your pets. It gives the love of your life a more healthier and longer life with you.

~Erica, HRN fosterer, volunteer

The following conversation occured between one of my viola da gamba teachers, we will refer to her as J, and myself. (This is not my other teacher who I sometimes talk about, who has twelve rabbits) J is a bit uninformed about bunnies, but, like many other people, had a bunch in a hutch in her backyard as a child.

…it is the middle of my lesson which is at my home…J looks over to see that our bunny abode condo now has an extra level so that there is a enough space for Eve AND Dorian, our new bun…

J: Wow, it looks like you have the ‘bunny hotel’ over here!!
R: Well, yes, that is Dorian, he is our new little boy, so they need more space…
J: Oh! How cute!
R: Yes, I think we are finally set now that we have two bunnies, we can’t put anymore in this tiny apartment, after all.
J: Well, you can just let them do the rest…you know…they will make lots more bunnies for you!!
R: No, they can’t. They are both fixed. We don’t want more bunnies, there are plenty that don’t have homes.
J: I guess it is good that they are fixed, I didn’t know you could do that. I guess they won’t be ‘breeding like rabbits.’ Oh well.

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UGH!! This is one of SO MANY conversations I have had like this. People tell me, since I have a male and female rabbit, that they will make lots more rabbits. In fact, when we JUST had Eve, people said that too (as if she could make more rabbits without a male–did these people take Sex Ed.?) People always say we should LET them make baby bunnies because bunnies LOVE MATING!! And bunnies are happiest when they are MATING.

Ok, how many other people have had conversations like the one above? Why are rabbits stereotyped as sex-craving-lunatics that need to mate all the time? Yes, I know bunnies reproduce quickly, but so many people don’t know that things can be done about this, namely, spaying and neutering your rabbit. In the meantime, I will continue to be annoyed at conversations stereotyping my sweet, loving bunnies!

-Rachel: HRN Member/Volunteer

Our youngest bunny, Echo was spayed about 3 weeks ago. Her surgery took place later in the day, around 3pm, so she was still pretty dopey when we got her home that evening around 7pm. She was contented to spend that evening being cuddled while wrapped in a towel. I sat comfortably in one of my favorite chairs, my computer on my lap and the bunny on my chest and shoulder. One hand typed and surfed the net while the other scritched the bunny on the head. Occasionally she would get up and reposition herself in the bundle of towel. Mostly, she was just content to lie there quietly accepting scritches and the comforting warmth of my body. (Hey, I can play living heating pad if she wants it!)

Since then Echo has recovered remarkably well. While she was ready to get out and run the day after surgery, we didn’t actually let her get any out time till a week after surgery. We discovered that the stress of surgery had caused her body to purge itself of a large number of pinworms, a common intestinal parasite found in rabbits. Luckily, treating for pinworms is fairly easy and they aren’t terribly harmful to the body of a healthy bunny. Aside from that, Echo has been a happy, healthy bunny who doesn’t seem too concerned with the bald spot on her belly or the healing stitches where her spay took place. For the first couple weeks after surgery, when she did get out time, it was in short half hour sessions. As her body healed, we have her longer sessions out of the cage. Her fur is already growing back nicely on her belly, and its only been about 3 weeks since the spay. Her litter habits have started to become more consistent. She also seems less inclined to scent everything in sight.

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Last weekend, we took a chance and put Echo in the bathtub with our other two bunnies to see how they’d get along. Echo got anxious and scared pretty easily. Whenever one of the other buns would express interest in her, she would immediately try to assert dominance by nipping and grunting. Lookout, our other female bun who is a fairly agressive bully, was amazingly indifferent to this behavior. She would either hop away, stand there just looking at Echo, or just put her head down in the expectation that she was eventually going to get groomed. Beanbag, who has always been the submissive bun in every relationship he’s had, was acting agressive and territorial. We aren’t sure whether he’s defending and protecting Lookout, or whether he’s just trying to establish himself as higher in the pecking order than Echo. Either way, we were very surprised to find that after 20 minutes in the bathtub, Lookout the bully of the bunch, was the one who’d been disciplined the least. Echo was pretty soaked from the number of times we’d had to squirt her with water for bad behavior. Beanbag had a couple of wet spots.

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We plan to try taking the buns to a foreign location next and seeing what they do when all 3 of them are in alien territory. Perhaps, if the weather is good this weekend, we’ll build a pen to put out in the back yard…

-Liz:HRN Member-

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We adopted our youngest bunny, Echo, at approximately 3 months of age. We gave her a week or two to settle in to her surroundings before subjecting her to the indignity of a vet visit. When she did finally go to the vet, she was very relaxed and curious about the experience; flopping calmly in her carrier in the car and snuffling at the vet curiously and his instruments while being examined.
At about 3 and a half months and weighing a health 3.5 LBS, the vet determined that she was old enough to undergo spay surgery. We scheduled the surgery for the later half of the following week. In the intervening week, Echo managed to earn herself a late night emergency visit to the local animal hospital and a round of antibiotics for a scratched cornea. When we took her in for her spay appointment 4 days later, the vet decided to delay the surgery to let her eye heal. (Nice vet didn’t charge us for the aborted surgery or the follow-up eye exam.) Bunnies have very fragile immune systems and he didn’t want to stress her body any more than necessary. So we have rescheduled the appointment for her spay to later this week.
Echo has now been with us for about a month. Her eye has healed and she’s a happy, healthy, curious, trusting little bunny who has never known the hardships that many of HRN’s foster-buns have experienced. We look forward to having her be a part of our lives for many years to come, as was our recently departed bunny, Fuzzface. Our experiences with Fuzzface taught us the value of getting your bunnies spayed or neutered. Once she is spayed, we hope to introduce Echo to the other 2 bunnies in our life, Beanbag & Lookout. We are looking forward to seeing them all piled together in the same cage, jockeying for the best position in the patch of afternoon sunshine.
-Liz: HRN Member-