I could have come up with a more creative title for this post, true, but the rabbity knowledge I’m about to drop on you is really just a continuation of the learning I started a few weeks back.
I just finished my second night of solo Bunny Watch, and I have to say, I’m kind of enamored with these guys – they’re pretty darn cute. My favorite “rabbit thing” so far is when they get excited once I set them into their play pens and they do a binky, which is the signature Bunny Happy Dance. Witness:
Cute, right? Yeah, I thought so.
Anyways – binkies aside, here are a bunch of things I learned about rabbits in order to sassify some badge requirements:
2) COMMON CAUSES OF POOR HEALTH AND DISEASE AMONG RABBITS:
I have two words for you, and these words are “poor” and “diet.” Well, I also have a third word for you, and that one is “hay.” As in: if you don’t feed your bunny HAY, your bunny will have a POOR DIET and will probably have diarrhea, messed-up cecotropes, dental problems, hairball issues, obesity, and general digestive distress. Hay is a rabbit’s best friend – and by default, yours as well. It’s good for their teeth, it keeps furballs & other stuff moving through their systems, and it provides the correct nutrition for these delightful lagomorphs.
…AND KNOW WHAT TO DO FOR THE FOLLOWING:
I’m going to toss out a blanket “Take your bunny to the vet!” here. These little guys are super sensitive, and if you decide to throw on your Dr. Doolittle hat, you might hurt ‘em (please Hammer, don’t!). However, since I needed to know this stuff in order to knock off this badge requirement, here goes:
- Nasal catarrh: It took me FOREVER to figure out what this is – it’s “snuffles,” which sounds sort of cute, but is actually an awful problem for some rabbits. Basically, it’s sneezing & a runny nose, but usually becomes chronic once they have it, which sucks for everyone involved, mostly your little furkin. Usually caused by bacteria, it can be handled somewhat with the correct antibiotics, but can usually be prevented (and managed) by making sure the bunny’s diet is healthy.
- Parasitic nasal catarrh: Equally difficult to research, but is basically similar to above, but caused by a parasite & treated with – you guessed it! – anti-parasitic drugs.
- Ear canker: Ah-ha! The simple term for this is ear mites. Number one – don’t try to use something like Frontline to cure this: it will KILL the rabbit. Cut and dry, dead as a doormat. Number two – go to the vet. They’ll likely prescribe a topical anti-parasitic that you’ll apply to the problem areas and voila! Mites be gone.
- Tularemia: When this occurs in humans, it’s known as Rabbit Fever, which is a lot less disco-oriented than you might be thinking. All of the reading and research I did on this one indicates that you’re not going to find this in domestic rabbits, so there’s also nothing to be found on how to treat it…unless you’re an unlucky human who caught the disease while hunting wild rabbits! If so – sucks to be you, Elmer.
5) KNOW THE CAUSE AND REMEDY FOR DOES THAT DESTROY THEIR YOUNG
Yes, this happens – mothers will eat their young. It’s really horrible to even think about, let alone research for the benefit of this project, but in a nutshell – if momma gets freaked out and her emotions get thrown out of whack, she might just…you know. Ugh. To prevent this, momma bunnies need to feel safe and secure – they should be kept on their own in a peaceful, private, quiet area with adequate food and water, and disturbed as little as possible. However, hopefully you won’t encounter this issue at all, since you should make sure your buns are spayed and neutered in the first place! Volunteering with a rabbit rescue organization is a bit heartbreaking – breeding is unnecessary and there are SO MANY RABBITS that need to be adopted into a good home. Don’t breed. Fix your wabbits. Simple as that.
6) KNOW THE CARE THAT SHOULD BE GIVEN YOUNG RABBITS UNTIL THEY ARE WEANED
Once the kits are born (usually under the cloak of darkness), separate the momma in order to check on them, because she will get protective of her kiddoes. Rummage your hands through the used bedding to hide your scent, then carefully move the bedding around until you can get a visual on the litter; if any are stillborn, remove them. Otherwise, leave the babies alone – the momma will take care of them and she doesn’t need you mucking it up!
Make sure momma has a lot of food & water, since she’s going to be working hard to produce food (milk) for the babies for the better part of the first two months. This is the only thing they should eat for the first few weeks, as cute as you might think it would be to feed them other crap. Between 3-4 weeks, you can introduce small amounts of hay & pellets, then even more between 4-7 weeks. At around 7-8 weeks, the kits should be weaned from the milk, and momma will probably be a lot less crabby.
But really – this should never be something you have to think about, because as I may have just mentioned – you should get those little bun-buns fixed so they’re not popping out babies left and right!
# 7) KNOW THE CARE THAT SHOULD BE GIVEN RABBITS DURING COLD WEATHER & HOT WEATHER:
First and foremost – rabbits should live indoors!
However, if you have outdoor rabbits, bring them inside during inclement weather if you can. If you absolutely must keep them outdoors, make sure the hutch setup is geared towards the conditions so the rabbits are protected from the cold, wind, rain, and sun. Besides adequate shade and ventilation in hot weather, they should also be provided with lots of water. Fun fact: rabbits can’t sweat or pant to regulate temperature, so their big ol’ ears actually serve as a de facto cooling system!
# 9) KNOW THE PROPER FEEDING FOR ADULT RABBITS
Here’s the magic ratio for our herbivore friends: 75% hay / 20% veggies / 5% pellets (and tons of water).
As you (and I) learned earlier, hay is the magic ingredient here. Timothy is apparently the buns’ favorite, and it’s a whole lot more plentiful and cheaper at feed stores than it is at your local pet supply palace. You feed it to them by stacking a ton of it right on top of their litterbox; sounds weird, but yes, bunnies do…um…poop where they eat.
As far as other stuff goes: about ¼ cup of timothy-based pellets a day (make sure they don’t contain harmful alfalfa, corn, nuts, seeds, or fruits!); freshy leafy veggies & herbs (carrot greens, cilantro, Italian parsley, dill, basil, mint, romaine…you get the drift); occasional FRESH (non-packaged) treats – about 1-2 tbsp of cut-up carrot or seedless fruits will keep your bunny stoked on you and life.
# 10) KNOW THE PROPER WAY TO PICK UP AND CARRY A SMALL RABBIT, A MEDIUM-SIZED RABBIT, A LARGE RABBIT.
Fact of the matter is, most rabbits aren’t too psyched to be held, but hold them you will. When you do, the biggest thing to remember is to always support the back legs; they are fragile creatures and can easily fracture their spines if they kick out their back legs too quickly. For this reason, as soon as you pick them up, make sure you immediately turn their body towards your chest, still cradling their backside – do this in one fluid motion, otherwise you risk dropping and potentially injuring the bunny. When you place the rabbit down, make sure it lands softly on all fours. From my experience so far, I can tell you that they’re squirrelly little buggers and if you let those legs kick out, everyone will be unhappy.
I drew that supremely amateur picture of a rabbit at the top of this post to satisfy badge requirement #12: ‘Make a rough sketch of a rabbit and label the various parts of the body.’ If you, too, want to know how to draw a supremely amateur picture of a rabbit, I suggest this online tutorial called…wait for it…How To Draw A Bunny.