Monday, November 29, 2010

Adventures in Bunny-Proofing

I decided to jump-start my Thanksgiving break on Tuesday, and set aside the afternoon to completing some unfinished household projects.  The most important project was a major bunny-proofing effort in my living room.

I mentioned in an earlier post that my entertainment center is an open bookcase, meaning it has no backing and you can see through to the wall.  This was fine in my pre-rabbit life, but now means that Walter has easy access to all of the television cables, which he loves to chew.

(Side note: why is it that my rabbit seems to seek out these wires to chew?  I could understand the chewing if the cords happened to be in his way, but he goes through great lengths to get to them!)

In my head, I dreamt up a clear behind-the-bookcase blockade.  When I got to Home Depot, I had no idea where to begin.  After wandering aimlessly, while trying not to look like a stereotypically lost girl in the home improvement store, I finally asked for some help.  The salesperson directed me to the display of polycarbonate, acrylic, and glass sheets.  I chose acrylic, since it was lighter (and obviously less fragile) than glass, but cheaper than polycarbonate.  I picked out a sheet that measured 36” x 48” and bought a knife that claimed to easily cut through the material.

Because there is an extension cord behind the bookcase that took up some space, the bookcase sits about three inches out from the wall.  Three inches is enough space for Walter to squeeze himself into, so I decided that I would need to block this off, too.  Essentially, I was building three acrylic walls behind the bookcase: one to cover the back of the bookcase itself, serving as a clear backboard, and two to serve as clear walls to cover the three-inch space between the bookcase and the wall.  I chose Krazy Glue as my acrylic-on-acrylic adhesive.

My plan seemed simple.  I measured twice and planned to cut once.  But the knife I bought didn’t cut the acrylic as easily as I anticipated.  After scoring the material over two dozen times, my frustration set in and with force that came out of nowhere, I managed to break off a piece of the material.  It didn’t break off in a straight line as I intended it to, but it did break off just wide enough and long enough to suit its purpose.

After getting the two side pieces broken off, I glued everything together, organized all the wires and cables behind my entertainment center, and stared proudly at my workmanship as Walter unsuccessfully sought ways to outthink my contraption.

My clear Walter-proof wall works well and looks good, so I am pleased that my dreamt-up blockade has become a reality.  Additionally, I set out some clear doormats at each doorway, since Walter has recently taken to trying to chew his way through the carpet into rooms with closed doors.  I also found a jar of lemon oil and rubbed some of that on walls that Walter likes to chew.  So far, both items have been successful, though he only had a day to experience all the changes before I brought him to the kennel for Thanksgiving.

I bring Walter home tonight, so we’ll see how all my bunny-proofing measures hold up to his antics over the next few days.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Quick Update

Oh goodness, I’ve been neglectful of you lately, blogosphere.  It’s been a busy time at work, so I haven’t had as much time to devote to chronicling my rabbit’s neuroses.

The general update is that Walter has become very aware of my medicine-giving tactics and has since made it almost impossible to give him his daily dosage.  I’ve had to resort to hiding the medicine in a pile of alfalfa sprouts, which he quickly gobbles up.  I honestly don’t even know if this is a safe way to be medicating my bunny.

As a result of Walter hating medicine time, and ultimately, hating me for putting him through it, we’ve had a rough few days.  Instead of being the cuddly bunny he’s been of late, Walter spends a lot of time avoiding me and frankly, running away from me.  I bought him some new toys over the weekend as a peace offering.  It did not work.

Walter will be spending a handful of days at the kennel for Thanksgiving, which I am sure he will hate even further.  The only upside to his kennel stay is that I can trust the veterinarian and/or vet techs to be able to medicate Walter properly while he’s there.

I will try to blog before and during my Thanksgiving vacation, but in case I am unable to, I hope you all have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


It was a warm summer day and Paul and I had been running errands all afternoon.  One of those errands was to pick up a bag of pellets for the rabbit.  This was back when we were still feeding him the addictive Healthy Select Rabbit Diet.  Once we got home, I put the bag of food away and didn’t give it a second thought until dinnertime.

When it came time to feed Walter, I opened up his new bag of yummy goodness and started to pour out his mealtime serving.  The food looked a little different: all the pellets were sticking together in loosely formed clumps.  It looked like maybe the dried berries in the bag melted from being the warm car all day, and formed this strange cobwebbed food mixture when they dried back up.

I showed it to Paul and asked if he thought it was still okay to give to Walter.  “I’m sure it’s fine,” he said.  For several days, we fed Walter the pellets from this bag of food.  We were probably halfway through the bag when grossness struck.

One evening, I took the bag out to prepare Walter’s dinner, and left the bag opened while I walked into the other room to grab something.  When I came back to finish the task of giving my rabbit his dinner, I noticed a few small, skinny, neon greenish yellow colored worm-looking things crawling out of the bag.  I shrieked.  Paul came running.  Before Paul even made it across our apartment to the kitchen, I noticed several more of these wormy creatures crawling all over the counters.

We set to squashing these unidentified mini-monsters.  I threw the bag of Walter’s food away.  We started finding them all over the apartment – in Walter’s food bowl, crawling on the walls, climbing windows, everywhere.  “What are these?!” I asked.

The answer?  Weevils.

Weevils are common household pests, and can actually be very often found in pet food.  They eat their way through the bag of grains, lay eggs within the grain itself (in our case, the grain was the pellet), and when the eggs hatch, the larvae eat their way out of the grain.  It’s pretty gross.  What’s even grosser is how quickly they reproduce.  A weevil infestation is a quick one.

After the evening of smushing green wormy-things that were weevil larvae, we started finding teeny tiny brown moths flying all over our apartment.  Fortunately for us, these bugs were stupid and easy to smash, since they never flew away in time.  Unfortunately for us, there were so many of them.

So, how do you get rid of a weevil infestation?  You start doing what Paul and I called “Weevil Huntin’.”

First, either throw out all your grainy food or freeze it for four days.  This includes cereal, rice, and pasta.  For better odds, get rid of (or freeze!) everything you have.  If you do freeze your food, make sure it stays in the freezer for at least four days. This is the amount of time it will take for any weevil eggs that have been laid to die.

Then, set to cleaning.  Paul and I found the weevils’ main hiding place in our hallway closet, so we attacked that the hardest.  Using a bleach-mixture, we sprayed and scrubbed every surface we could find.  This sounds like a grueling task, and it is, but it was worth it to be rid of the weevils.  Clean the insides of cabinets, clean tiny crevices where you think a weevil might lurk.  Clean like this for a few days in a row.  Again, tiresome.  Again, worth it.  We had to go through this process twice, since our first food-freezing and cleaning efforts weren’t quite enough.  But after the second time, we were completely weevil free, and glad of it.

As it turns out, that “cobwebby” look to Walter’s food was a sure sign of weevils.  After I saw that, I should’ve tossed the food out immediately.  When weevils eat through the grains, they leave a sticky residue behind, causing all the other food to sort of clump together and form a food “cobweb.”

So, lesson learned.  It’s important to store your pet’s food in well-sealed containers.  I like the Rubbermaid Flex & Seal Cereal Containers.  They’re air-tight, easy to grip, and easy to pour.  And they hold just a little more than one bag’s-worth of rabbit pellets.

It’s also important to check out the food you’re purchasing, preferably before you purchase it.  I check out Walter’s pellets thoroughly, at home at least.  Because weevils are brown, it’s hard to see them amidst all the pellets in the bag.  But, I’ll do a check when I pour Walter’s serving into his food dish, and I keep my eye out for any signs of cobwebbing.

And, I try not to think about how many weevils Walter might have consumed.  Ick.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In Memory of Buster

I created this blog as a rabbits-only space, but today I’d like to take a break from talking about Walter and say farewell to my dog, Buster.

My family got Buster and his brother, Rocky, from a pet store in Connecticut.  We originally went there to bring home a hyperactive beagle puppy.  But, after having lived with a beagle for eight years previously, my parents were ready for a calmer dog.  We noticed two handsome Brittany Spaniel puppies were together in the same crate, just below the beagle.  My parents asked the store employee if we could see both dogs.  As soon as he was free, the tri-colored puppy, who we'd later name Rocky, started running around the store.  The orange-and-white pup, Buster, on the other hand, came right to us for some snuggles and bellyrubs.

We couldn’t choose between the two of them, and after learning that they were littermates, couldn’t bear to separate them.  So we brought them both home.  In the car, Buster sat calmly in my sister’s lap.  Rocky, however, tried to escape to the trunk of our Subaru station wagon.  It would be a recurring juxtaposition – Buster seeking affection and Rocky seeking freedom.

The two dogs were inseparable and became an important part of our family.  Around the age of three or four, Rocky developed epilepsy.  Our freedom-loving dog transformed into a lethargic, sad animal right in front of us. After spending five years suffering through weekly seizures and heavy doses of medication, my parents decided it was time to let him go.

Buster was never quite the same after Rocky died.  He became anxious.  He would follow us around the house, afraid to let us out of his sight.  While he was always a very affectionate dog, he became needy; he wanted to be touching you at all times.  As the years passed, Buster developed new fears of everything: puddles, small dogs, big dogs, other people, and more.  But, he was still our sweet Buster.

A few months ago, at the age of thirteen, Buster was hit by a car.  He survived, but was rather disfigured.  His jaw had disconnected from the rest of his skull, and the veterinarian had to put wires in his mouth to hold everything together.  His face was completely crooked.  After hearing the veterinarian make lofty promises about Buster’s recovery, my parents decided against euthanizing our hurt, miserable dog.  Buster, already arthritic and suffering from bowel problems, had a long way to go.  He couldn’t eat solid foods, he was incontinent, and he was in serious, constant pain.  The veterinarian never made good on any of his big promises for Buster’s future.

My mother called me last night to let me know that she and my father, along with a veterinarian, decided this past Thursday that it was time to let Buster go.  It’s for the best, and I’m happy to think that maybe he and Rocky are up in doggie heaven, chasing squirrels and eating pigs’ ears and stealing each other’s toys.

Buster, you were a wonderful dog and I will miss you dearly.  Say hi to Rocky for me!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Lessons in Giving a Rabbit His Medicine

Paul and I attempted to give Walter his medicine last night, very unsuccessfully.  After watching the video provided by a commenter in my last post, I felt confident in my ability to use a blanket to wrap Walter in a “bunny burrito” long enough to squirt the medicine in his mouth.  But this proved easier said than done.  We just couldn’t get him to stay in the bunny burrito.  Just as I thought we’d wrapped him up securely enough, he’d wriggle out and dart to one of his hard-to-reach hiding spots.  I was able to give him maybe one-tenth of the required dose through the course of the night.  After spending about an hour chasing Walter around the apartment, probably scaring the bejeesus out of him, I gave up.  By bedtime, Walter was terrified of us; he wouldn’t even come over for a peace offering of basil.

I went to bed frustrated, but woke up with a new plan.  The video showed the rabbit handler sitting on a stool – a place that is out of the rabbit’s element.  I needed to recreate the same situation for Walter.  Trying to pin Walter down on the carpet was fruitless; he would always have an escape route.  So, what could I use that would block off all his exits?  My answer: the dining room table.

I had seen Walter hop up onto the table from the dining chairs enough to know that it was a scary jump down from the table for him.  Too scary for him to attempt it, in fact.  I asked Paul to lay a towel on the tabletop and lift Walter on the table. (To Paul’s credit, he is a much firmer rabbit handler; picking the bunny up still scares me, and I’m sure Walter can pick up on this.)  Once on the table, I wrapped Walter into his bunny burrito and gave him a few forehead scratches while Paul got the medicine ready.  To my surprise, Walter calmly let me insert the syringe into his mouth, behind his teeth, and squirt a little bit of the liquid towards the inside of his cheek.  This was a huge improvement from the night before, when Walter would shake his head and violently run away at the first touch of the syringe on his mouth.

After the first squirt, I let Walter take a short break to lick his lips.  I placed the syringe back in his mouth and repeated the process.  Two more small squirts later and Walter had taken his entire dose of medicine! Paul and I praised the bunny for his good behavior and then gave him a small bit of carrot as a reward.

I’m still nervous that we’ll encounter another medicine-taking struggle for tomorrow’s dose, but I’m confident in the tabletop bunny burrito, and proud of both myself and Walter (and Paul!) for figuring out how to get through the first round.

A big thank you to those who have left comments or tweeted at me with tips and tricks to make giving my rabbit his medicine a lot easier.  I appreciate all your help!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Rabbit Rx

Well, Walter’s mad at me.  After our dog-sitting experience and after five days of not being able to run around, Walter was definitely relieved to be home.  I let him have as much out-of-cage time as I possibly could on Wednesday night and then again on Thursday.  But, as with every night, eventually he had to be locked up for bedtime.  This morning, I woke up for work and wandered over to Walter’s cage with his breakfast, as usual.  Walter did not greet me with his usual nose noozle.  Instead, he proceeded to try to chew his way out of the cage – something I find hilarious to watch, but simultaneously makes me feel bad for my little bunny.

He’ll be glad when the weekend comes, though.  I promised to give him extensive out-of-cage time, though I purposefully made no mention of the medication he has to start tonight.  It’s his E. Cuniculi treatment.  Off the top of my head, I can’t remember what the medicine is called, but I do know that I have to use a syringe to squirt it into Walter’s mouth.  This is going to be a really difficult task.  I can barely get my rabbit to hold still for me to inspect his ears! How am I going to get him to let me squirt a few milligrams of liquid down his throat? (Side note: I was actually told to squirt it towards his cheek, so as not to choke the bunny.)

Fellow bunny-lovers, do you have any tips for me?  What’s the most painless way to get my rabbit to take his medicine?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rabbit Health Mysteries, Part 3

A few weeks ago, my rabbit tested “mildly positive” for E. Cuniculi, which indicated that he was either just getting over an infection or about to launch into one.  We waited a few weeks and re-tested, and Walter’s veterinarian finally called yesterday with the results from this follow-up blood work.  Unfortunately for Walter, his “mild positive” has escalated into a “full positive,” which means he does in fact have a parasitic infection.  My poor bunny!

It seems that standard treatment is to give the rabbit an oral medication for three months.  When telling me about the medication, my veterinarian asked if Walter had any favorite food flavors.  Apparently, the pharmacist alters the rabbit medication so that it tastes like a rabbit’s favorite food, making it easier to give the rabbit his daily dose.  I’m not much of a sweet-treat-giver for Walter, so I wasn’t able to give him any suggestions.  The veterinarian said he’d try for grape or banana, and if Walter didn’t like it, we could try another flavor.

So I guess I should go out and buy a couple grapes and a banana for my bunny, to get him used to the flavors.  I’m really nervous about getting Walter to take his medication every day, but I’m hopeful that after these next three months, but rabbit will be back to his normal, healthy self.

What is your experience with treating a bunny that has E. Cuniculi?  What flavor did you choose for his medication?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rabbit Meets Dog: An Update

So Walter and I have been dog-sitting for a few days now, and I wish it was going better.  Friday morning, I arrived at my friend’s house to set the rabbit up in his temporary home.  I chose their guest bedroom, since it was close to where I’d be sleeping, and therefore easier for me to check in on him or spend time with him.  When I returned in the evening, my friend was still home and we decided to introduce Roxy and Walter.  This was a mistake.

Roxy, anxious about another animal in her home, had been crying and pacing in front of the door to the guest bedroom all day.  We opened the door slowly, holding onto Roxy’s collar in anticipation of an attack.  At first she just stared the rabbit down.  But then suddenly, she darted out of our grasp and towards Walter’s playpen, effectively nose-bumping with him rather hard.  We got a better grip on her, and after two more nose-bump incidents, decided that the introduction needed to be over.  I expected Walter to be startled – and maybe he was hiding his fear – but he just went about his business, hopping in the playpen.

But having to listen to the dog whine and sniff outside his door all day must’ve been terrifying to Walter.  Add to that the anger of having been caged up all day, and Walter turned into a menace.  Much later that evening, I found Walter’s playpen area a complete disaster – his travel crate had been completely overturned, his hay had been knocked everywhere, and the blanket covering the floor had been torn through in his attempts to dig his way out.

After a sleepless night of listening to Roxy cry nonstop (no exaggeration – she cried from midnight until 8 in the morning), it was time to move Walter somewhere less available to the dog.  I didn’t want to have to do this, but Walter had been banished to the unfinished basement.  I felt terribly about this.  But, with Paul’s help, Walter got situated in his second room for the weekend.  Again, he was angry, but at least Roxy couldn’t get to him this time.

Walter spent about twenty-four hours in the unfinished basement until I came to check on him yesterday afternoon and found that he had somehow escaped his playpen! I have no idea how he did it.  He didn’t break through the seam of the enclosure, he didn’t somehow sneak underneath the gate.  He must’ve hopped the fence! That’s a big jump for a little bunny.  I have no idea how long he was free for before I found him.  There are any number of ways for him to get hurt in that part of the basement.  It was time to move him again.

The only other option at this point was the finished part of the basement.  I didn’t want to do this – the basement is brand new, and between the potential for Walter to dig, chew, or urinate on the carpet, I didn’t want to risk ruining my friend’s brand new basement.  So I put him in the bathroom.  I think this is the most ideal place for Walter.  The floors and baseboards are all tile, and using the playpen, I blocked the wood vanity and the wood door frames, so there is nothing for him to chew.  He gets almost free range of the whole bathroom, so he has a little bit of room to run around.  And I know he loves the coolness of bathroom floor tiles.

He’s still not super happy, but as long as we can get through the next few days, I promise I’ll make it up to him with lots of out-of-cage time in our bunny-proofed home.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Rabbit Meets Dog

Walter and I are dog-sitting for a friend for the next few days.  My rabbit’s exposure to dogs is limited to Buster, my family dog, who is thirteen years old, arthritic, and scared of everything.  They’ve only met twice.  The first time, Buster shook with fear while Walter hopped around him, sniffing and trying to make friends.  This ended badly – Buster got sick and threw up out of anxiety.

Buster (left) and Rocky, our family dogs (RIP Rocky)

Buster wasn’t always scared of small animals.  He used to chase squirrels, rabbits, and even attempted to chase deer in our yard.  I guess with old age, he began to fear the critters that could outrun him.  While I do feel badly that my dog was terrified of a little Walter rabbit, I was grateful that Walter’s first meeting with a dog was such a gentle, unaggressive one.

Not to say that Roxy, my friend’s dog, is aggressive or anything.  She’s a really sweet, affectionate puppy.  But she’s also incredibly curious and still has that keen hunter’s instinct.  I fear that her curiosity will lead to an injured bunny, even if it was just an accident.

Roxy, in a quiet moment

So, Walter will be kept in a separate room from the dog and me for most of the weekend.  I feel terrible about locking him away for so much time, but I don’t trust that he’ll be able to safely roam free with the dog around.  They had their first meeting today.  After setting up Walter’s temporary playpen/cage, Roxy snuck into the room and whimpered while staring the rabbit down, checking him out.  Walter, to my surprise, didn’t hide from the dog but instead ignored her completely.  He went about his routine, investigating the playpen, chomping on some hay, and looking for ways to escape the confines.

I am dog-sitting until Wednesday.  I have a feeling it will be a long five days…  Wish me (and Walter!) luck.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Choosing the Right Rabbit Food

Despite all the reading I had done prior to bringing Walter home, I still could not figure out what kind of pellets to start him on.  His breeder informed me that she fed all her bunnies Manna Pro, and would give me a baggie full of the pellets to mix into his new food for an easier transition.  At first, I figured the easiest thing to do would be to just continue feeding my rabbit the Manna Pro brand.  Unfortunately, the only stores that carry this brand were really geared towards the farm owner or multi-rabbit family.  I couldn’t find a bag of food that was under fifteen pounds! That was way too much food for one little rabbit; the food would go bad well before Walter was able to eat it all.

So, I just went to Petco and surveyed their selection.  After much debate and overwhelming frustration at my inability to decide or recall suggested brands from my rabbit books, I chose Healthy Select Rabbit Diet.  It was a timothy hay-based food, and contained flowers, herbs, and vegetables in the mix.  In my mind, this sounded delicious!  I purchased a five pound bag and brought it home to Walter.

I mixed it in very gradually with the Manna Pro pellets.  Over the course of two weeks, I put in more of the Healthy Select and less of the Manna Pro.  One day, I noticed that Walter had begun tossing out the Manna Pro pellets and only eating the Healthy Select.  I took this as a sign that he was ready to transition over completely.

And that’s when I started to learn that Healthy Select was like crack cocaine for my bunny.  He would only eat the tastiest portions of the pellet mix – the dried corn kernels, the oats, the dried flowers and vegetables – and he couldn’t get enough of them.  After every meal, I found the timothy hay pellets tossed on the floor of his cage, where they would remain until I cleaned them up.  I started noticing that Walter’s stool was softer than it should have been and knew immediately that his eating habits were to blame.

I went back to Petco.  This time, I picked up a bag of Oxbow Bunny Basics/T.  Again, I slowly started mixing the new food in with the rabbit’s meals.  Again, I’d find all the healthy pellets on the floor.

I had had enough.  As confirmed in my book, rabbits will eat based on taste.  Clearly, Walter was eating the dessert portion of his meal without eating his entrĂ©e.  He was gaining some considerable weight and his stool was still not looking good.  It was time for a total diet overhaul.  So, out with the old food completely – and in with the new.

Walter would not eat his new pellets.  He would let his bowl of food sit for hours in his cage, untouched.  I did not relent.  Eventually, he learned that it was this or nothing, and began to eat the pellets.  It’s been several months since then, and I’m happy to say that Walter will scarf down his apportioned pellet serving without complaints.

This taught me an important lesson.  Not all pellets are created equal.  I think it’s a misconception that all pet food producers truly have the animal’s nutrition in mind.  For rabbits, foods such as corn, seeds, and oats should be avoided at all costs.  These foods really are like a drug to the bunnies and quickly lead to bad eating habits, which of course can lead to bigger health problems.

What do you feed your bunnies? 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ready, Aim, Fire!

My rabbit peed on my friend on Saturday night.

A friend from high school was in town for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.  She came over on Saturday evening to catch up and just hang out.  Walter had been, for the most part, on pretty good behavior almost the entire day.

But something about my friend set off a series of bad bunny behaviors.  First, Walter started leaving droppings around the house on the carpet.  We’ve been living in the apartment for three weeks now, and this is the first time he’s done that.

Then, after telling my friend how well-behaved Walter had been lately, I decided to let him up on the couch for a few minutes.  This was a terrible decision.  I knew from the very moment Walter hopped up that something was not quite right.  He stood in the center of the couch, between my friend and me, and hopped in a few small circles.  Then he stopped, facing me.  The next thing I know, my friend shouts, “Oh no, WALTER!” And that’s when I see the urine stain spreading quickly on the side of her jeans and all over my couch cushion.

What was that all about?!  He hasn’t done that since he was a bitty baby bunny, and even then it was just one time.

I locked Walter up in his cage and he was grounded for the rest of the night.  The next day, he was right back to normal.  No attempts to hop on the couch, no accidents, nothing.  What is going on with my Walter boy?