Why Rabbits?

I often wonder where my love for rabbits came from. No one in my family had ever had rabbits as pets. I’ve grown up with animals – a budgie, 3 cats and 2 horses and I couldn’t imagine not having a pet in my life.

I remember as a little girl, perhaps aged 5 or 6, being taken to see my grandmother’s neighbours’ pet rabbit. His name was Smokey and If I remember correctly he was a single rabbit living in a fairly small hutch outside by the back door. I loved visiting Smokey which was usually once a week or fortnight. I never handled him as such, just a quick stroke of his nose through the cage door. Did this kick start my love of bunnies?

It was around 1998 when I got my first rabbit, a mini-lop called Henry. He was a sweet little bunny who loved a stroke but like so many rabbits he did not like being picked up. He began his life in a fairly small hutch (the kind so often sold and recommended by pet shops) in the back garden. Within a few weeks Henry moved indoors for good because we didn’t like the thought of him being outdoors as winter approached. Unfortunately we didn’t have Henry for many years before he was diagnosed with a bacterial infection which lead to his passing.

 

Henry - My First Rabbit

 

My next rabbit was Alfie, another mini-lop, who was bought from a national pet shop chain around 2000-2001. Alfie was a tiny ball of fluff and so cute! My dad had made a massive hutch for him and he looked lost in there! I’d realised pretty quickly that rabbits needed more space than what was recommended by many pet shops. Alfie also started life outside but like Henry before him, he soon ended up indoors! Alfie had a lot of time outside of his hutch and had access to the whole garden when the weather was decent. He loved a fuss and would happily let you pick him up and do whatever was necessary. He was a real sweetheart! We had Alfie a good few years but he suffered terribly with his teeth. He was fed the muesli type rabbit food that we all now know to avoid. He went on to develop a few jaw abscesses that all required surgery. Looking back, I’m certain his diet was a contributing factor to his dental problems. Eventually, we lost Alfie through a particularly nasty abscess.

Alfie- My Second Rabbit

 

It was a good few years until I found my next bunny, Murphy, a tiny black otter mini-lop bun. Murphy lived indoors with daytime access to the house. He loved hopping up and down the stairs and zooming and binkying in the living room. He would flop a lot on the fireside rug and was a content little boy. In the summer he had access to the whole garden and loved sleeping under the large Hebe bush at the bottom of the garden. He adored our cat and they often played together.

He was a very grumpy rabbit but was an incredibly cute bun. He would grunt and lunge at my mum even if she was armed with treats! He tolerated me doing the bare minimum to him so I guess he liked me well enough. Murphy was neutered at around 6 months old, and vaccinated for myxomatosis – I hadn’t even heard of RVHD at that time nor did my vet mention it.

I had Murphy for nine years. He was a very healthy bunny only having one bout of GI stasis in his lifetime and no other illnesses. In January 2019 I discovered a lump under his jaw. I assumed it was an abscess and rushed him to the out of hours vet. It was not an abscess but an abnormal growth. The vet could have carried out a biopsy and possible surgery but she believed it was very likely to reoccur. At this point I made the heart breaking decision to have Murphy euthanised. He was an old bun and I did not want him to go through the pain and distress of surgery. Murphy had taught me so much about being a rabbit owner. 

Murphy - My Third Rabbit

 

I missed Murphy terribly and the void he left. I started looking at rescue centres as I knew so many rabbits were in need of a loving home. It became clear that most rescues wanted you to adopt a pair rather than singularly. I found, by chance, the website for ARC (Animal Rescue and Care, Twickenham). They had two 6 month old brothers named Ross and Chandler who were neutered, vaccinated and looking for a loving home. I applied immediately and arranged for a viewing. Upon meeting Ross and Chandler for the first time, I fell in love! I agreed to adopt them and arranged to collect them the following week.

Looking back over the past 20 odd years, I’m pleased to see how rabbit welfare has greatly improved. I’m ashamed to say I was one of those ignorant owners at the beginning. I meant well but I could have done so much better for Henry and Alfie. Nowadays information for rabbit owners is widely available online and I have learned a huge amount from rabbit groups on Facebook. I don’t profess to be a bunny guru but I know all the important stuff: housing needs, diet, companionship, enrichment and healthcare.

I have had my boys almost two years now. They are 100% cage free and live happily in their own room with direct access to the garden when the weather permits. They are part of our family and I can’t imagine not having them around. Rabbits are complex animals and have very specific needs but if you’re willing to learn they will bring you so much joy.

Ross & Chandler - My Rabbits

 

To improve the care of pet rabbits in the UK visit the RWAF – Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund for lots of great information.


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