This weekend Matt and I finally rejoined the ranks the the rabbit fosterers. We also brought home Cheyenne, who will be living with us permanently as a sanctuary bun since she is now almost completely blind.

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Winona mid-leap – she loves to dance

Our two new foster-buns are Tatum and Winona.

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Tatum relaxing in the willow basket

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Winona flopped beside the willow basket

Here’s a quick sketch of yesterday evening’s activities and some observations on the girls’ personalities. (I promise there will be pictures coming very soon of these two sweet little girls.)

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Tatum is currently being given antibiotic ointment for conjunctivitis so she has at least 3 sessions a day of ointment application and snuggling. (The snuggling is to keep her occupied for 10 minutes after putting the ointment in so she doesn’t just groom it off. But she also really loves to snuggle, so this is no hardship.) Last night while we were snuggling, Tatum decided to groom my face. I was so thrilled.

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Tatum is a real sweetie and I am really looking forward to finding her a good home. I hope we’ll be able to find an adopter for her who already has a rabbit and is looking for a companion. Tatum would dearly love to have a friend.

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While Tatum was getting her medicine, Winona got to run around and play in the giant pen we’ve set up. Watching Winona move around the pen confirmed her new nickname in the household; Mz. Muppet. She’s got a very expressive and distinctive face, but her loose-jointed way of moving really makes her look like one of Jim Henson’s better creations.

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Winona is very social, gentle, and affectionate. Though more active than Tatum, she’ll still happily stretch out in your lap for some attention. When you scratch between her ears and down her jaw, she tooth-purrs. Her purr is louder than any bunny I’ve ever met before, it sounds like a pair of castanets! Like Tatum, I am looking forward to finding a loving adopter for her. She’s such a sweetheart and she really deserves a good home with people who will enjoy hanging out with her.

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After the foster-buns had been settled in for the night, we went upstairs to spend some time with our own buns. We offered our terrible trio (Beanbag, Lookout, & Echo) a bit of romp time but they weren’t feeling very active and quickly retired to their cage. Since the trio opted out, we decided to give Cheyenne her first chance to expand her knowledge of her new home.

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Cheyenne settling into her new home

It was completely fascinating to watch her “map” her surroundings. When she was first put down, she slowly sniffed the area and walked around bumping into things to figure out where they were. Cheyenne walks with all 4 feet when she’s first exploring an unfamiliar environment. Sighted rabbits don’t normally just walk one foot in front of the other; when moving slowly most rabbits still hop with the hind feet and walk with the front. (Once they speed up, they gallop in a fashion very similar to their close cousin the horse.) You could see through the pattern of where she went that she was creating landmarks in a mental map. Every time she re-confirmed the location of her landmarks, her movement between the landmarks would become more confident and natural. Eventually, she knew how enough of the space was laid out that she could move around it almost as naturally as a sighted bunny. It was incredible to watch her creating a mapping algorithm. I’m very curious to see if she will remember the map 24 hours later.

Cheyenne’s explorations around the room seriously upset both Holly and Lookout. Holly would frantically dash back and forth at the front edge of her cage grunting at Cheyenne when she passed by. Matt used the squirt bottle to let Holly know that her behavior was inappropriate and she eventually calmed down a bit. (Being wet and needing to groom is a great distraction from bad bahavior.)

Lookout was exhibiting the same possesive behavior as Holly but she was also chasing Beanbag and Echo away any time they tried to come near the front of the cage. We tried to squirt her a few times, but it didn’t really slow her down. Eventually Lookout got so upset that she was bullying Bean & Echo even when Cheyenne was nowhere near the cage. At that point, I took her out of the cage and spent the rest of Cheyenne’s romp time soothing her, telling her that I understood that she was doing her job and protecting her warren.

Unfortunately with Lookout out of the cage “protecting the warren” suddenly became Echo’s job. Echo is a friendly and curious bun. She was very distressed by being responsible for the safety of the warren. But being next in the heirarchy meant that she was in charge while Lookout was away. It was obviously upsetting her. Rather than continue the cycle of upset, we decided it would be best to put Cheyenne back in her cage and let everyone calm down. Hopefully all of the rabbits will eventually become accustomed to each other’s smells (since they share the same romp space) and the territorial behavior will calm down as it did when we first brought Holly home. Till then, we’ve decided that when Cheyenne is given romp time we’ll confine the trio to the top 2 floors of their cage so they don’t get so upset by her invasion into “their space”.