Pet Questions? TGoecke@thegreensheet.com

"What Should I Do With My Rabbit?"

Bonding with your new bunny 

by The Greensheet in Paws and Claws on April 12, 2013
They don't want me?

Bunnies usually aren’t the first animal that comes to mind when pet shopping. There is one time of the year that this is an exception, and that is… you guessed it! Easter! Because what’s cooler than getting an actual “Easter bunny” in your basket? I’ll admit, it makes for a pretty cool surprise, but when Easter is over and you realize it doesn’t respond to “fetch,” you might find yourself questioning whether you should keep your floppy-eared friend. Or maybe it was your choice to buy one, but you didn’t really understand their timid nature until later. Regardless of your reasoning, know that there are things you can do to build a better relationship with you rabbit. Invest the time, patience, and effort, and you’ll be surprised with how charming rabbits can actually be.

Let Thumper come to you

When I first bought my buck bunny BamBam, he had some major hesitations about me. I would let him out of his cage and he’d immediately slide under my bed, hiding for like ten minutes straight!  Rabbits, unlike dogs and cats, are a prey animal. In their eyes, anything and everything that’s bigger than them is ready to pounce, so when he knew I was nearby, he wanted to get as far away as possible.  But don’t give up.  Unless you’re dealing with a wild bunny (which is a huge no-no!), it will, with time, begin to trust you. Give it a good two weeks and you’ll see massive improvements.

Until he’s ready to come to you, wait patiently in the corner.  Let him sniff you, and keep a stash of treats handy--sweet bribery is a great way to win over your rabbit’s heart.  In a couple weeks, you’ll notice a big reduction in fear.  That is if you don’t pick him up, initiate interaction, or get in his bubble.

Think small

I don’t have exact measurements or anything, but the average brain size of a rabbit is pretty small--too small for it to comprehend that you are a complex-thinking individual. Dumb down for the sake of your intellectually challenged friend.  And since your size is a big barrier to getting closer to your rabbit, try to stay small. Sprawl out on the floor, to the point where he could be taller than you if he tried.

Rabbits play too

Surprise! Rabbits can be full of character once they’re past the timid stage. Buy a couple toys like round wooden balls, or mazes, or simply leave an empty bag of chips on the floor, and your rabbit will find creative ways to entertain himself. Empty bags are a hit with my little guy—sometimes it's like he morphs into a dog, toting it around the room in his mouth. Odd, but quite amusing!

Licks of love

The moment you’re greeted with little sandpaper licks is the moment you know you’re loved. And sometimes, they don’t stop! Bammie has his pitfalls, but when he is in a loving mood, he doesn't hold back. It's not unusual for him to sit at my feet, licking my toes for three minutes straight. I'll be tempted to push him away, as I’m an extremely ticklish person, but bunnies are really weird about rejection. When you push them away, they take it harsh. They really, really do have feelings!

Flopping down next to you is another way rabbits and bunnies show affection. During the times I'm sitting or laying down on the floor, BamBam will plop down about a foot across from me, and inch closer if he thinks I'm not noticing.

Know the bad signs

At some point, you’re going to do something that riles up your bunny.  If he doesn’t run, he’ll use bunny talk to tell you off. The classic “thump” is probably the most obvious gesture because it sounds like a 10-pound encyclopedia being dropped on the floor.  It’s the loudest way for your bunny to yell at you without opening his mouth, and it’s your cue to stop what you’re doing.  The first time I heard my bunny thump was when he was around 9 months old, and I remember thinking there was someone in my house! Low and behold, it was just BamBam, not feeling comfortable with Shark Week on TV.  Think of thumping as a “bunny siren,” warning all creatures nearby to watch out for imminent danger!

If you’re not paying close attention, there may be times that you’re being shunned in a more silent fashion. Ferocious digging, and feet flickings (it’s an attempt to give you a mud bath) are some other common ways they display their un-affection. When BamBam doesn't agree with me sitting in his favorite spot, he will paw dig at my leg until I move! 

Find it a friend

If your bunny is too timid, often times having a friend will help the situation. Find a rabbit that’s similar in size and demeaner, so that one isn’t ganging up on the other.  Also make sure that they’re of the same gender, otherwise you might be in trouble!

If a bunny just isn’t your kind of pet...

Many people fall under the impression that since their domesticated bunny acts wild, it can survive in the wild. This could not be farther from the truth. If you’re not able to tame your bunny, or you feel like it’s not the right pet for you, then please take it to a local animal shelter that accepts rabbits. Domestic rabbits CANNOT survive by themselves in the wild.

After being a rabbit owner for years, I can honestly tell you that they’re great pets if you’re willing to love and care for them.  If you’re still questioning whether you can fix the relationship with your rabbit, then keep researching, and have patience! You might be surprised by how attached you can become to a rodent!

Have questions about your bunny? List them in the comments below!

Hating being held :/ Written by Taran Goecke, Head Writer at The Greensheet

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