Friday, April 6, 2012

Tag, You're It!

Last night, Walter and I played what I can only describe as Freeze Tag. After being out all evening, I came home to a very snuggly rabbit, in desperate need of attention. I gave him some forehead scratches, but he seemed to be in a much more playful mood. So, while kneeling on the ground with Walter, I did a (very modified) binky. At first, Walter was really confused, but he was definitely paying attention. So I did it again. And then, to my surprise, he binkied back!

I just need some love!
I used to do this stuff with my dogs, make the “I want to play” pose (stretching your arms out and sticking your butt up in the air). They would always respond in kind. But I never expected my rabbit to do this, too!

We traded binky hops for a few minutes, and then Walter turned the game up a notch. I would fake-hop, he would dart around the room and end with a jump. But then he would freeze. Until I gave him a gentle bop on the nose with my finger, at which point he would wait for me to fake-hop and freeze, and then he would run over and bop his nose on my nose.

This went on for a while! It was so cute and silly to feel like I was actually playing a game with Walter, rather than trying to engage him and failing, or just watching him entertain himself. I could tell he was having a fun time too. After our hour of freeze tag, he happily hopped into his cage for bedtime: no stomping, no struggle. This was also a nice surprise.

Okay, Mom, I'll go to bed..
All in all, Walter’s been doing great, so long as you don’t count the fact that his nails have grown wildly long and he still won’t let me trim them. I found out his veterinarian (who I posted about here) moved to the Upper West Side, so I either need to find a new vet, or trek across the park to get Walter in for his check-up and nail trim. I have noticed an uptick in Walter’s need for attention lately. This is definitely due to my late arrivals home after class or the gym for the past few months. In the mornings before I go to work, Walter has taken to standing between my feet while I ready our breakfasts. Hopefully I can find some rabbit-only time for him this weekend to make up for my neglect during the work week!

What games do you and your bunnies play?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Hunt for New Vegetables

I can be really, really lazy. This sometimes affects my decision on the food I give Walter. Like, maybe I don’t feel like chopping up a pepper into portion-appropriate sizes (I know, I said I’m really lazy). So what ends up happening is I buy a big bag of some sort of leafy green and give that to Walter until the bag has run out.

This is bad for a few reasons. First – it means that, aside from getting pellets, Walter is not getting any sort of nutritional variety. Second – I usually choose to buy bags of kale or spinach. I was browsing the House Rabbit Society website the other day to determine if rabbits could eat baby bok choy (they can) and I noticed this:
(!)=Use sparingly. High in either oxalates or goitrogens and may be toxic in accumulated quantities over a period of time
Now, I don't know what oxalates or goitrogens are, but it seems like they're a terrible thing.  Guess which were the only two greens on the list with an exclamation point after them? Yep – spinach and kale. Whoops!

So, it’s time to try out some new veggies. Last night, I offered Walter mustard greens and baby bok choy. He sniffed the mustard greens for a while and attempted to eat them twice before either deciding he didn’t like them, wasn’t hungry yet, or couldn’t find a good spot to take a first bite. He gave the baby bok choy more of a chance, and actually nibbled at the leaves for a few seconds before hopping away to something more interesting.

Over the course of the evening, Walter revisited his food, but wouldn’t actually eat it until I hand-fed him. By the time bedtime came around, there were no signs of bok choy left in the food dish, and when I woke up this morning, Walter had eaten the rest of his mustard greens.

I need to be better about getting Walter his three vegetables eat day. We’re usually stuck at two. Last night, he had three, if you count his carrot dessert – which is his favorite part of the day.

What should we try next? We’re very familiar with basil, parsley, cilantro, collard greens, mint, and dark-leaf lettuces. What greens does your rabbit like best?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sugar Addict

Walter and I have a new routine: dessert time. I didn’t used to give him treats that often. Mostly because I never remembered to buy things like blueberries or bananas, but the other day I bought a bag of baby carrots for myself and figured I would share them with Walter.

When Walt was younger, I would give him only teeny tiny tastes of treats. I didn’t want them to mess up his digestion and I didn’t want it to cause poor eating habits or unnecessary weight gain. Now that he’s passed his one-and-a-half year birthday, I’ve decided he can handle some more sweets. This has led to Walter becoming crazy about carrots.

Every evening, I notice Walter will sit and stare at my closed refrigerator. If I open it, he starts sniffing the vegetable drawer like a madman. By this point, he’s already been fed his kale or parsley or whatever veggies make up his dinner. Now he’s just searching for a snack. So, because it makes him happy and because it distracts him from chewing on my walls for maybe three minutes, I oblige.

As soon as Walter sinks his teeth into the baby carrot, he darts off with it like I might change my mind and take it back. If I hang onto the carrot to try and encourage Walter to eat it from my hand, we end up playing carrot tug-of-war, with Walter yanking the carrot with his teeth so hard that bits of the carrot go flying everywhere.

Sometimes I try to get Walter to chase the carrot. I’ll hold it and move it around a little bit, assuming he’ll hop after it, but he gets really easily confused about where the carrot has gone. I thought his eyesight or sense of smell or something would aid him in this game a little better, but he’s absolutely terrible at following the carrot as I wave it around.

After his carrot treat, he’s noticeably more pleasant. He’ll show off some of his funny jumps, run around the room, or patiently let me lift him on my lap for some snuggles. Or maybe he’s just experiencing a sugar crash and doesn’t have the energy to fight my attempts to hang out. At any rate, here’s a ten second video of Walter enjoying his carrot noms. I know all these videos have been really short, but it is really hard trying to capture a rabbit on camera – he moves too fast for me!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bunny Bathroom Problems?

I read online somewhere that rabbit owners are obsessed with their rabbit’s droppings. I, of course, thought that was gross. Why would I want to investigate Walter’s litter box all day long? Ew.

As a rabbit owner, I pay a decent amount of attention to what’s going in Walter’s litter box. At the vet’s office, Dr. Pilny asked if I noticed excessive urination or if the litter box felt heavier than usual when I went to clean it. I answered honestly that I had no idea; the box could feel heavy due to a greater amount of urine… or I could have just been a day or two behind schedule in cleaning the litter box.

But in the last twenty four hours, I’ve been paying really close attention to Walter’s droppings, and this is where I need some help. I’ve noticed the color has changed. Normally, it’s a dark brown. In the last day, it’s been gray. Aside from color, everything else is the same – same size, same consistency, same amount and frequency. What could be causing the color change?

I’ve also noticed that Walter is not eating his pellets. I gave him some mint on Saturday that he was only mildly interested in, but his pellet intake is much lower than usual. He’s done this before – in the past, it’s been his way of telling me he wants a new variety of greens, and that could very well be the case this time. I’ll pick up some fresh veggies on my way home tonight to test this out.

Aside from the color of his droppings and Walter’s disinterest in pellets, he seems to be normal. He’s been hopping around, snuggling, trying to dig his way into the bedroom (which is occasionally off-limits, though he’s been known to sneak his way in), and chewing on his honey-hay log.

So, any ideas what’s going on?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Walter’s First NYC Vet Experience

I took Walter to meet his new veterinarian on Saturday. Dr. Anthony Pilny was listed as a recommended veterinarian on the NYC House Rabbit Society’s website, and as he was the closest vet to my apartment, I decided to check him out. Fortunately for me, he’s available on some Saturdays for appointments, which works out well for my schedule. I thought Dr. Pilny was great – he’s very knowledgeable about rabbits, took time to truly listen to my concerns, and really communicated with me about Walter’s health, behavior, and steps going forward. With pets, patient care is about not only the animal but the owners, and I thought Dr. Pilny was really tuned in to this.

Dr. Pilny said that Walter looks really good, aside from gaining a little too much weight. So now we’re on a bit of a diet – reducing his pellet intake from being not measured (but approximately 1 cup a day) down to half a cup a day. Walter will still get a heap of veggies and hay, and hopefully now that he’s able to run around the apartment, he’ll lose some weight rather quickly. We only need him to lose about a pound, so it shouldn’t be that hard.

While waiting to see the veterinarian, I met with a woman who works with the NYC HRS. She came in with two of her buns, and I was envious of how well they dealt with being picked up, cuddled, and otherwise handled. She offered to give me some tips if I stopped by the Petco on the Upper East Side, where she organizes rabbit adoption events, which I might just take her up on. She also tried to talk me into adopting a second rabbit, which I’m still on the fence about. I’m not sure my landlord would like it, seeing as I had to talk my way into getting just Walter into the apartment.

Does anyone else know of people or places in NYC that help rabbit owners learn how to handle their bunnies? I would love to meet with someone in my home who can show me how to work with Walter so that I can pick him up, trim his nails, get him into his travel carrier without chasing him around the room, etc.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Live, from New York!

Well it took a few months longer than I anticipated, but Walter and I are finally moved into our new apartment in New York City.  So far, Walter seems to be enjoying our new home, taking time to explore, finding his new favorite nap spot (underneath a console table), and taking advantage of his newfound freedom.

For the past few months, Walter has been locked up in a small playpen in my brother’s basement, which meant that he rarely got a chance to stretch his legs and hardly ever had any visitors. I felt badly about this arrangement, but my brother was giving us a free place to live until we found a permanent home, and I wasn’t going to let my rabbit be my source of complaint.

As a result of living in a suburb of New York, carless for the last month, Walter has not been to the veterinarian for many months. His nails are extremely long (I found the nail scissors, but of course he won’t let me trim them myself!) and he’s started showing signs of e. cuniculi again.  Argh!

I’ve noticed he’s been drinking excessive amounts of water (this could be due to the summer heat, though) and shaking his head a lot (this could be due to two flies who also live in my home).  I am hoping to get him to the vet next week; there is one just a few blocks from my apartment.

In the meantime, here’s five seconds of Walter jumping in celebration of the new living room rug:

(This is for you, Olivia, since you don’t believe he ever plays!)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Life in New York, Part I

Hello, there! It’s been a few months since I took a blogging break, and I figured today was a good day to update.  Walter and I are officially New Yorkers, though right now we’re camped out in the ‘burbs at my brother’s house.  This means that, since the house is not exactly rabbit-proofed, Walter has been relegated to the basement.  Of course he hates this.

When I first set up shop in my temporary home, Walter had a prime second floor location. But, as it’s summertime and the house has no air conditioning, the upstairs got way too warm for a rabbit.  So, down to the basement he went.  It’s much cooler, but it’s also darker and Walter hates that no one ever comes by to visit him.

He’s escaped the confines of his cage four times so far.  The first time, he was still upstairs.  I came home and found him hip-hopping around his bedroom, and figured I would just sit with him while he enjoyed a little bit of freedom.  This bedroom, however, has a set of stairs that leads directly to the attic.  I didn’t think much of it because I’ve never seen Walter try to climb stairs, but within a matter of minutes, Walter had hopped up the entire flight and started roaming around the finished attic.  Getting him back downstairs was a definite struggle, but not nearly as much of a challenge as getting him to accept his home within the rabbit jail.

The second time he escaped his jail, I was still in bed upstairs and heard some rustling down in the living room.  Assuming it was my sister-in-law walking around the house, I ignored it and continued sleeping in. (Unemployed people have no reason not to sleep until noon, right?) When I finally dragged myself out of bed and made it downstairs, I found Walter poking his silly rabbit nose out from behind the couch.  When I went to bed the night before, he was secured in the basement!  How did he get up there, and for how long had he been hopping around?!  I let him explore for a little bit and then took him back to the basement.

This was short-lived, however.  When my brother came home from work, I heard him shout up from the basement: “Uh, your rabbit is missing!”  Crap.  Walter had wedged himself under a large and unmovable cabinet.  Double crap.  I had to use a skinny flagpole to thwack him out of his hiding spot.  Neither of us were pleased.

The final time, I was not home, but my brother found him lurking around the basement, and I’m not entirely sure how he was able to get Walter back into his playpen/cage set-up.  After this time, I found some shoelaces and tied the playpen a lot more securely to the cage, and Walter hasn’t been able to escape since.

After these escape attempts and after having been kept in this rabbit jail for three weeks, I decided Walter needed some serious time to stretch his legs. I brought him out to the patio, which is enclosed save for a small entrance, which I blocked off with the playpen.  Walter loved it! He spent the next few hours running, jumping, eating leaves, and relaxing in the big concrete space.  At some point, I decided he should go out onto the lawn. This was a mistake.

After being startled by the neighbor’s dog, Walter darted from one end of the playpen to the other, breaking through the enclosure seam and out onto the open lawn.  Realizing that he now was a free rabbit, he froze.  I think he knew he didn’t want to run away anymore than I wanted to try to chase down a renegade rabbit.  In an unusual moment, Walter let me pick him up and place him back onto the patio, as I promised never to make him go out and enjoy nature ever again.

I guess I do have an urban bunny!