Friday, October 29, 2010

Rabbit Separation Anxiety?

It’s been a recurring observation in my last few posts – Walter’s been more snuggly lately.  And while I’m loving this side of my rabbit, I’m wondering if maybe he’s going a bit too far.  Last night, I got home from work at a reasonable time and let Walter out of the cage.  From that point on, Walter was beside me for almost the entire night.  If I went into the kitchen, he followed.  If I sat on the couch, he sat by my feet.

I sat on the floor with him for a little while, since I am trying to discourage him from hopping onto the couch.  Walter used this opportunity to squeeze himself between my back and the couch that I was leaning on.  If I moved, Walter gave me a disgruntled look.  Finally, he moved next to me instead of lying behind me and I gave him some forehead scratches while I read my book.  If I stopped for even a split second, the rabbit let me know he was mad.

What happened to my independent bunny?

I didn’t really think anything of it until later.  I got up to use the restroom and shut the door behind me.  Walter, suddenly aware that I was no longer with him in the living room, darted to the bathroom door.  I could see the shadow of his floppy ears underneath the doorway and then heard his frantic scratches to be let into the room with me. I’ve been keeping Walter out of the bathroom because he keeps chewing the door frames and my bathmats, so I thought his scratches were simply because he wanted to play in the bathroom.  When I went to exit the bathroom, I left the door open long enough to allow the rabbit to sneak inside the room, but he didn’t take the opportunity given.  Instead, he followed me right back to our spot on the floor in the living room.

It reminded me of a parent who brings her child to daycare or school: the child kicks and cries for his mommy, not able to bear the thought of being apart.  So, is this rabbit-style separation anxiety?  Or is this a one-time rabbit behavior?  Walter’s gone through some changes recently; we moved to a new apartment and he's now down by one "parent."  I’m not trying to go all psychology on my rabbit relationship, but I know rabbits are sensitive animals.  Is it a stretch to think that Walter’s snuggliness and over-attentiveness is related to making sure there aren’t any more changes coming soon?

Okay, even as I typed that last sentence, I realized it sounded silly.  That seems a bit intense for a little bunny.  Maybe he’s just grown out of his crazy baby phase and is settling into an adult personality of being a calm, affectionate pet.

In other news, Walter’s racing and jumping around the apartment has hit new levels of hilarity.  I will try to take some videos this weekend and post them here.  Happy Halloweekend, everyone!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Walter Learns Couch Boundaries

Two weeks ago, I posted about Walter’s love for playing on the couch.  I complained that he kept leaving droppings behind, and a commenter noted that the rabbit was being territorial and should be kept off the couch until he learned it was a place that belonged to me, not him.

Ever since, I’ve been working hard to keep the bunny off the sofa.  It hasn’t been easy! I’ve had evenings when Walter would do nothing but jump on, get pushed off, and then just jump right back on the couch again, and the cycle would repeat.

Fortunately, Walter’s been a quick learner.  Last night, I spent a few hours reading on the couch.  Normally, the rabbit would have taken this opportunity to join me on the sofa, and I would have had to interrupt my reading to clean up whatever droppings he’d left behind.  Instead, Walter would approach the couch, look up at me or nudge my foot to get my attention, and I would join him on the floor.  He didn’t attempt to jump onto the couch at all! 

Okay, that’s a lie. He did once after I patted the sofa and repeated, “C’mon up, it’s okay!” to him a few times.  I guess I’m sending him mixed signals.

But, when he did hop up upon request, it wasn’t to leave droppings or run around like a crazy bunny.  He climbed into my lap and nestled his face into the crook of my arm for a bunny snuggle session.  We sat together like that for a while – me, reading my book and Walter, grinding his teeth in joy.

This brings me to my next point: Walter has been such an affectionate rabbit lately. It’s wonderful; I lie on the floor, and Walter curls up next to me.  It’s the first time I've felt rabbit ownership was just as comforting as dog ownership.  I wonder what’s gotten into him!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Rabbit and Blood Work: Round II

I dropped Walter off at the vet this morning for his follow up blood work.  In an earlier post, I mentioned that my rabbit had tested “mildly positive” for E. cuniculi, which indicated that he was either just getting over an illness or about to launch into one.  Let’s hope it’s the former.

Walter spent Saturday and Sunday nights at the kennel this weekend, so I knew he wouldn’t be too keen on getting back into his travel carrier and taken to the veterinarian’s office.  In order to butter the bunny up, I fed him a hearty dose of alfalfa sprouts and one large Brussels sprout early this morning.  After he scarfed everything down, I opened his cage door and watched his face light up as he (mistakenly) realized he could hop to freedom.  One hop, a quick squirm, and one firm push on his tush, and he was locked inside the carrier and not pleased.

Upon arrival at the animal clinic, I set Walter and his travel carrier down next to me on a bench and tried to give him a couple of forehead scratches through the wire door.  The rabbit immediately turned around and shoved his backside against the door; he couldn’t have made it any clearer that he was mad at me!

I should be able to pick Walter up later this afternoon, though I suppose we won’t receive the results from the blood tests for a few days.  I’ll post updates here, but in the meantime, will hope that the days of Walter’s parasite are behind us.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Is Walter Over Peppers?

I can’t believe it could be true, but I think Walter is tired of green peppers.  When I first started introducing vegetables into Walter’s diet, I had a couple successes and a few failed foods.  Basil, mint, green peppers, Brussels sprouts, and alfalfa sprouts are consistently incorporated into the rabbit’s meals.  Cilantro and arugula? Not so much.

Because basil and mint can quickly go bad, depending on where I’ve purchased it from, and because it can be hard to find alfalfa sprouts at the grocery store, the standard offerings are Brussels sprouts and green peppers.  I was glad of it, too.  Brussels require no extra preparation, aside from washing.  Green peppers can easily be pre-washed and pre-sliced so that it’s a quick and easy dinnertime option. The selection never seemed to be a problem; the bunny never minded these staple meal ingredients.

Until this past week, that is.  Three evenings in a row, I offered Walter a hearty chunk of green pepper as part of his dinner.  And three evenings in a row, Walter has given the pepper a half-hearted sniff and hopped away from it.  It befuddles me, because less than a week ago, Walter was carrying a piece of pepper with him everywhere he went!

I suppose that, like humans, rabbits get bored of the same food all the time.  I can’t say that I blame him.  So, it looks like it’s time to start changing up his meals.  What are your rabbit’s favorite vegetables?  What’s your veggie rotation?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What are You Doing Here?

I get very suspicious when the rabbit is freely roaming the apartment if I can’t hear him.  Most of the time, this means he’s found a fun place to nap.  But sometimes, it means he’s getting into trouble.  When he’s in this quiet mode, I have to go on a pretty intense hunt around the apartment, and I usually end up finding him in the last place I would expect.  Here is a list of all the weird places that I’ve found him spending time being unusually quiet:

  • Lying behind a large, decorative mirror
  • Trapped inside an empty moving box (he tried to jump on it, but it was open on the top)
  • Sitting in a decorative bowl in the bedroom
  • Underneath various tables, probably chewing the wooden legs
  • Romping through a folded up mattress pad
  • Sitting in a puddle of water from a cup he knocked over
  • Sniffing behind the refrigerator
  • Squished underneath the lower kitchen cabinets, between a large moving box and the wall, taking a nap
  • Sitting on top of a pile of towels in an unpacked moving box
  • On top of the dining room table
  • Inside the closet where I keep his food, bedding, and litter
  • Stuck between the couch back and the couch cushions
  • Burrowing between both couch cushions

 It’s only been ten days! I can’t imagine where else I’ll find this wacky rabbit in the apartment.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Protecting TV Wires from Rabbit Teeth (and Vice-Versa!)

Walter is not my favorite this week.  I don’t know what’s gotten into him, but he seems to be on a mission to chew every doorframe, wire, and electrical cord in my apartment.  On top of that, his cage is smellier than usual, and I can’t get rid of the stink no matter how many times I change his litter box. I can’t imagine he enjoys the smell either.  Maybe that’s why he’s misbehaving.

At any rate, unpacking the apartment while there is a curious rabbit hopping around is tiresome and impossible.  Just as I start making progress, I have to stop what I’m doing to bunny-proof a new section of the apartment.  Needless to say, I haven’t gotten very far in setting up the new house.

One of the biggest trouble spots in my apartment is the entertainment center.  I have this great IKEA bookcase that I use as a TV stand/knickknack display, but it’s completely open.  This means that Walter is able to climb through the shelving to all the cords and cables for the TV, where he finds a delicious and dangerous snack.

IKEA Expedit Bookcase

What can I use to block him from accessing the TV cables?  I’d like something clear, for aesthetic purposes, that fits behind the bookcase so that Walter can still hop on the shelving if he wants, but can’t get to the wires.  Ideas?

Friday, October 15, 2010

How I Met Walter

I did not set out hoping for a pet rabbit.  Originally I wanted a dog.  My boyfriend, who would be housing the dog, was completely against this idea.  In an attempt to find a compromise, I suggested the only other pet I could think of that I would enjoy: a bunny.  Paul relented and agreed.

After doing some light internet searching, I was bombarded with advice to adopt a rabbit from a shelter rather than purchase one from a breeder.  I had the best intentions of doing this.  I spent weeks scouring websites of local shelters, but never came across a rabbit that I fell for.  As the weeks passed, I began incorporating local breeders into my search.

I wasn’t sure what I was looking for.  I knew I wanted a Holland Lop, and I knew I wanted a male rabbit that I would name Walter (I give credit to Paul for the name suggestion). Then, while on Wikipedia, reading information about owning a house rabbit, I came across this picture:

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia (via Orlandkurtenbach)

“That’s the rabbit I want!” I said to Paul.  “You can’t have the Wikipedia bunny,” he replied.  I tried using my pouty face, but that didn’t make the Wikipedia rabbit appear.  So, with my dreams crushed, I continued my search.  I found lots of rabbits that looked friendly and sweet, and even some that made me stop and consider ownership.  I learned that I liked orange and white rabbits – mostly because my family has an orange and white dog.  I liked rabbits whose ears stuck out kind of funny, not just straight down towards the ground; I wanted a rabbit with some character.

And then I came across the website for KNT Trails.  I saw an announcement about a litter that had been born just a few weeks earlier, and clicked the link to view pictures of the bunnies.  And then I saw him: my real-life Wikipedia rabbit.

My very first introduction to Walter's cuteness.

I showed the picture to Paul and, in my sweetest voice, asked if we could go visit the bunny.  Paul obliged.

We drove out to Owings, MD sometime in March and Terry, the owner of the rabbitry, had arranged for all the bunnies to be set in a playpen outside where they were free to hop around in the grass. As we walked up to the corral of bunnies, I saw a familiar orange and gray face nibbling at the grass.  “That’s him!” I said to Paul.  “He’s definitely a Walter.”

Walter was so little! He was about the size of my palm.  He gave me a few licks with his scratchy tongue (I should have cherished those licks, because as he's gotten older, they've become few and far between).  At that point, I was hooked.  Paul, who wanted no part of the bunny corral, gave me a skeptical look.  “Pleeeeeeease?” I asked.  Paul shrugged and said okay.  I set Walter, officially named so, back on the ground and told him I’d see him in about a month.  When I came back a month later, he had grown so much!  After a quick squirm, he settled into his travel carrier and left the countryside for the big city.

How did you choose your perfect pet rabbit?  Did you adopt or purchase from a breeder?  What advice do you have for people looking to find their new house rabbit?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Walter Surveys the Apartment

It’s official: Walter loves the new apartment.  I let the rabbit explore for a few hours yesterday, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him jump, binky, or run so much in one three-hour span as he did last night.

He helped me identify one particular trouble spot during his adventures, though.  The space between the refrigerator and the wall was just large enough for a rabbit to squeeze his way behind the appliance.  After a few frantic minutes of trying to first figure out where the bunny went, and then trying to lure him out from behind the fridge before he got hurt, I had to slightly move the fridge to prevent future sneak-ins.

Other than the refrigerator misstep, Walter behaved really well in the new apartment.  He spent some time darting from one end of the unit to the other, turning the path of unpacked boxes into an obstacle course.  He searched for a new hideout spot, since my couch sits lower to the ground than the couch at Paul’s apartment and Walter can no longer fit underneath.  He, of course, dug at the doors to both the bedroom and the bathroom, pleading to be allowed to enter.  And he sought out all miscellaneous wires and cords left around the apartment in an attempt to satisfy his urge to chew.

This brings me to a really exciting realization:  Walter learned the word “no.”  Whenever the rabbit hopped over to any exposed cord that hadn’t yet been bunny-proofed, I sternly told him no.  Walter would stop immediately and hop away.  I was one proud mama!

But, with any progress comes a few drawbacks.  Walter also learned that I can’t see what he’s doing when my back is turned.  As I was unpacking my kitchen, I saw that he hopped up onto my ottoman to reach the wires coming from my cable box.  I told him no and he hopped off with his best look of innocence.  The minute I turned back to my unpacking, the rabbit hopped back up onto the ottoman.  After four repeat instances of this, I finally had to lock the mischievous rabbit in his playpen.

I’m glad to see that Walter is handling this housing transition so well, but more than that, I’m glad to notice the changes in the rabbit’s behavior and maturity.  He’s one step closer to my ultimate goal of never needing to lock him in his cage at all.  But he’s still got a long way to go.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Don't Dig the Carpet!

Walter moved into our new apartment yesterday.  He was not pleased about the change.

We did most of the moving on Monday, but were too tired by the end of the day to finish the job, including Walter and his cage.  When I returned to Paul's apartment after work yesterday, I let the rabbit out of his cage so that he could hop around while I finished packing.  He loved hopping in, around, and on the empty moving boxes.  But, unfortunately, packing also meant taking down Walter’s cage and putting all his toys in boxes.  The rabbit went from happy to slightly confused to completely terrified in a matter of seconds.

He hid under the couch for as long as we would let him, and luring him into his travel carrier was more difficult than usual.  Paul and I had to resort to serious cornering tactics and then basically just shoved the rabbit into the crate: not my preferred method of getting Walter in there.

Once we got to the new place, though, Walter settled in pretty quickly.  I set up his cage and put the playpen around it so that the rabbit couldn’t discover any unpacked wires or wood items strewn about.  The apartment, as I mentioned in an earlier post, has one major downfall:  carpeting.

It took Walter maybe an hour to discover the joys of digging at the carpet, even within the confines of his playpen.  I am starting to worry that the combination of the rabbit and the carpet will become disastrous and expensive.  What recommendations do you have to deter a rabbit from chewing or digging at carpeting?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Walter and the Couch

I have mentioned in several earlier posts that Walter’s favorite hangout is underneath the couch.  What I haven’t talked about yet is Walter’s love for the couch itself.

It took a while before we decided to let Walter up on the couch.  At first, he wasn’t big enough to make the jump, so we would stack pillows as little rabbit stairs.  This confused him at first, but he eventually got the hang of it.  As he grew, we took away his steps pillow-by-pillow until he could make the full jump on his own.

Once he’s up on the couch, he refuses to acknowledge it as a place to relax.  He prefers to be the sole occupier of the sofa, and likes to dart back and forth like a maniac.  He’ll toss his head or throw in some funky jumps in the middle of his races, but mostly he just enjoys running from one end of the couch to the other as quickly as he can.

Recent attempts by the rabbit have been made, with some success, to hop from the couch cushions to the top of the couch back.  If he’s made the jump, he’s not really quite sure what to do while up there, and you can tell the jump back down onto the seat is a little scary for him.

If Paul or I are sitting on the couch, the rabbit doesn’t let it faze him too much.  We’re simply two extra obstacles in his race course, and he’ll have a fun time jumping over us, on us, around us, or nudging us to get the heck off the couch.

Letting the rabbit on the couch is only problematic in two cases: when his nails scratch the leather or when he's decided it’s his new litter box.  Unfortunately, both things happen about ninety percent of the time that Walter is up on the couch. Trimming his nails would be a good start to fixing the first problem, if I could get the rabbit to hold still and be patient while I did it.  But the second problem seems much harder to fix.  He never urinates on the couch (okay, he did it once when he was younger), but he leaves droppings all the time!  Sometimes it’s just a typical “I’m marking my territory” dropping here or there, but sometimes it’s a full potty break!

I don't want to ban Walter from another of his favorite play places.  I'd prefer to find a way to share the couch with him.  Do you have any tips or tricks on getting a rabbit to stop using the couch as his second bathroom?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Snuggle Bunny?

Either Walter feels like he’s been neglected by his mama lately, or he’s entered a new, cuddly phase of his life.  After running some post-work errands yesterday, I came home and let the rabbit out of his cage.  Walter’s usual routine is to clean himself before exiting his habitat, hop out and acknowledge my presence briefly, and then begin his circuit of sleeping under the couch and exploring the apartment.  But last night was different.

After his quick grooming session, he hopped out of the cage and stopped for a few forehead scratches.  He lowered his head to the ground and began grinding his teeth, so I knew he was happy to be receiving the rubs.  A few pets later and Walter’s entire body essentially melted onto the floor until he was completely transformed into a puddle of bunny affection, nudging for more rubs if I stopped for even a split second.

This makes me think of a tweet I received from a friend of mine on the day before I brought Walter home:
“Bunnies are like that when they're little. They just want to lick and love on you; then they develop an attitude lol”
Is this affectionate, loving version of Walter just a phase? Should I be enjoying it while it lasts?  Am I doomed to a life of rabbit grumpiness?  I certainly hope not.  I’m enjoying this sweet side of Walter, but I do feel bad when I can’t sit with him for hours on end, just giving him cheek rubs.

I suppose this is the part about rabbits that is more humanlike than doglike: the ability to change moods and attitudes.  One day he’s licking my sweatpants as his attempt at grooming me, and then next day he’s pretending I don’t even exist.  Rabbits can be so fickle!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Relocating with a Rabbit

Apartment hunting as a rabbit owner is a nightmare.  That is the lesson I’ve learned this week.

It is hard enough to find an affordable rental in the District in the first place.  Add to that the fact that you own a pet, and you’ve already eliminated at least half of your options.  I don’t know how many Craigslist ads I’ve read through and gotten excited about, only to reach the very end of the listing and read the following phrase: “NO PETS.”  Ugh!

My boyfriend pointed out that most landlords only consider dogs and cats when indicating the no-pet policy.  And he’s probably right, but when I think about the potential damage that rabbit teeth and claws can do to an apartment that already isn’t pet-friendly, I shy away from even bothering to ask a landlord for leniency.

I found a great, affordable apartment in my desired neighborhood.  The website said “pets welcome,” which furthered my excitement.  A few clicks through the website later, and I stumbled across the following:
"Pet Restrictions: Other animals prohibited, including, but not limited to, snakes, ferrets, iguanas, potbelly pigs, rabbits and insects.”
Bummer.  Onward with the search.

Having a rabbit caused me to consider things I never would have before when looking at an apartment.  I worried about wall-to-wall carpeting and the quality of hardwood flooring (and the cost of repairing either flooring option, due to chewing or digging).  I looked at the baseboards and crown molding to consider how easily fixable they would be after Walter noshed on them.  I checked where outlets were to consider furniture placement so that power cords to electronics and lighting would be out of the rabbit’s reach.  I made sure there was an appropriate place in the living area for Walter’s cage.  I thought through the floor plan to ensure that there was room for my belongings, and still space for the rabbit to safely roam.

I finally found a great place that I think both Walter and I will love.  It’s carpeted, so I’ll have to watch his digging claws and his chomping teeth, but I think he’ll love the ability to run around the apartment without slipping on the hardwood floors.  I am also grateful that Walter was housebroken in my boyfriend’s apartment (sorry, Paul!) so that his urge to chew the baseboards at our new home will be kept to a minimum.

I don’t think Walter will be very excited about moving.  Sure, he’ll have a new place to explore, but rabbits are creatures of habit.  Changing up his routine in a major way will surely upset him.  Let’s hope his grumpiness and payback are short-lived.

Did I miss any other key rabbit comforts and safety precautions when considering our new home?  What has your experience been with transitioning rabbits from one home to another?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Last night, Walter did something new.  He started circling Paul.  Paul was standing in the middle of the living room and Walter hopped over to Paul’s feet and slowly started hopping around them.  When Paul moved, Walter stopped and waited until Paul stood still again.  At this point, the bunny continued his rotations around Paul’s feet.

Paul gave the rabbit a few rubs and went back to his work on the computer.  Walter followed, waiting for my boyfriend to notice him.  When Paul got back up, Walter began his circling all over again.

Clip Art depicts what happened last night.

Circling, in unaltered rabbits, is a sign of sexual arousal.  Fortunately for Paul, we had Walter neutered in the beginning of the summer so it’s unlikely that Walter was trying to court my boyfriend.  In cases of altered rabbits, circling is simply a way for rabbits to get someone’s attention and signal an interest in playing.

This is the first time I’ve seen Walter actively try to engage us (especially Paul!) in playtime.  Usually, he’s content to binky around the apartment by himself, but it was certainly refreshing and entertaining to see him trying to solicit some attention from someone, even if it wasn’t me.  (No, I’m not jealous or anything…)

Does your rabbit circle?  How does your rabbit try to get your attention for playtime?

Monday, October 4, 2010

I've Gone to Carolina in My Mind..

Walter and I hit the road for North Carolina this weekend.  After I made him spend a total of eleven hours in the car, the rabbit did not care to be my friend for the majority of the weekend and he spent a lot of time sulking behind the bed in the hotel room.

This was my first time staying at a hotel with Walter, and it was not an experience I’d like to relive anytime soon.  For starters, Walter is an incredibly curious rabbit and will find his way behind every piece of furniture available to him.  At home, this isn’t a problem since everything has been rabbit-proofed.  In a hotel room, this leads to disaster.  Walter made his way behind the nightstand, which housed the power cords to a lamp and an alarm clock, the cord for the cable, and one other wire whose purpose I could not identify.

This meant that Walter had to be locked in the bathroom for most of the weekend, to avoid having my parents and I spend hours chasing him around the hotel room.  This displeased the rabbit, who punished us by trying to chew the waterline for the toilet and then refusing to go to the bathroom in his litter box all weekend.  He further showed his disgruntlement by snubbing me and any food I offered him.  But if food or forehead scratches were offered by my mother, he welcomed it.  Such a bratty bunny.

Thankfully, Walter got over it quickly when we finally got home on Sunday and we’re friends again.

During my drive down to North Carolina, the rabbit’s veterinarian called me with the results from Walter’s blood tests.  Most of the results were fine.  He tested lower than average in some areas, but the veterinarian cautioned me against worrying about these results just yet.  One really positive note is that Walter did not test positive for Pasteurella, which almost all bunnies have.  It’s amazing that he doesn’t have this bacterium.  On the downside, the veterinarian said that the rabbit tested “mildly positive” for E. Cuniculi.  This either means he had the infection in the past, or he is about to develop the infection further.

As a result, I have to be on high alert for Walter.  I’ve been instructed to watch for “absolutely anything abnormal,” which is stressful for me, since I think Walter’s a pretty abnormal animal already.  One of the key things to watch for is Walter’s water intake, to see if he’s drinking too much.  This is hard to do, since he uses a bowl and I can never tell if he’s consumed the water or if it’s just spilled out over the course of the day.  I will need to bring Walter back to the animal hospital in about a month to retest him for E. Cuniculi, or sooner if he starts behaving more abnormally than usual.