By Suaz Forsythe, Wrangling Partner, Rabbit Wranglers
When I arrive home after eight hours of doing what I love, I am greeted by my four furry companions—each in their own way. My neurotic terrier tries hard to get the first kiss, but must step over the ever-hungry cats and a very determined rabbit. That’s right my rabbit greets me at the door.
I am given the obligatory 10 minutes to entertain the shaggy one and feed the two with snake-like tails, but suffer the consequences of a rabbit head butt and a demeaning stare until treats are presented. Shredded wheat biscuits (un-frosted) are the treat for today and are accepted with a “what-took-you-so-long” attitude and an obligatory growl. I am rewarded with a shake of his tail upon his retreat to his cuddle cup, where he grooms himself, kneads the blanket then turns around three times before laying down.
This is normal at my house. But it wasn’t always. Sure, I’ve had a rabbit since my college days, and although they had a lot of “out time,” they retreated to a cage when I wasn’t home. When entertaining some friends, I heard one of them comment on the bunny in the cage in the basement. “Why would you have an animal if you are going to keep them caged in a room that was not visited often?” she asked. I fought back the urge to scream, “But he’s out all the time, he’s just in the cage when I’m away or have friends over who might step on him,” which at that time in my life, was all the time.
I also tried to justify that, well, it was a really great cage. Its design came straight from The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, the only real-life movie by Dr. Seuss, with his distorted view on life and the confines within which we are kept. I admit, that’s the confines within which I wanted to live, so I thought the rabbit would enjoy it just as much.
He didn’t. And, thankfully, after the sting of the comment from the friends’ friend wore off, I moved Bogart to the first floor and have thoroughly enjoyed the last seven of his eleven years with him by my side. I credit him for turning me into a full-blown vegan. I tell people I’m a messy cook so anything that fell to the floor, the rabbit had to be able to eat. But that’s not 100% true. When you have a sentient being living with you, and I mean living with you, it’s hard to eat the others like him.
Whole Foods opened my eyes to the difference between food rabbits and house rabbits. Zilch. Nada. Nein. They were, are and will always be the same sentient being. With a rabbit at your feet, making dinner becomes a production. The five-second rule of items dropped on the floor is nil when you see the enjoyment of a bunny running with glee upon finding a treasure. Did you know radishes and green olives make a great snack? I certainly wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for Bogart.
And, what about their excrement you may ask? Well, you can litter train them. Actually, that’s a myth. They train themselves. I let them tell me what corner they want (elimination is a vulnerable action, so seeing on three sides makes them feel safe) and add a few more litter boxes about for good measure. Rabbits are very clean animals, even more so than cats (and their poop is a lot less, um, pungent). We’ve even found a litter substrate that can be composted! Our rabbits’ poop is in high demand from gardeners. I can’t say the same about my cats’ poop.
I find what makes my cats happy is being fed and a nice soft spot to soak up a sunbeam; my dog, a scratch behind the ears and telling him I love him even though he peed indoors…again. But discovering what makes my rabbit happy—it’s something different every day. Today, for Baxter, it’s an extra large cuddle cup, yesterday, it was massaging his eyes and his very long nose, the day before it was a shredded wheat biscuit. Maybe tomorrow, it will be meeting a new bunny.