The ‘Bunny 101’ blogs are intended to be an educational resource for people who have adopted a rabbit as a companion animal. Rabbits are very sociable animals, yet fragile. With the ‘Bunny 101’ blogs, we will take you through the basics of do’s and dont’s of bunny feeding, care and bonding along with other important aspects of living with a house rabbit.
As I start writing the ‘Bunny 101’ blogs sharing my experience about house rabbits, it only seems fit to start off with a dedication to that one bunny that started it all. Her name was Butters, she was and always will be such a special soul, and here is her story.
In 2006, while walking back home to the eastern suburbs from a city job, we spotted a little white rabbit on a nature strip on Anzac Parade in Sydney. The strip was between bus lanes and speeding cars. It was a miracle that this little rabbit was alive. She had been abandoned with no where safe to go. The walk home became a sprint home to get a cat carrier followed by a high speed drive back to try and catch that poor soul. Not knowing much about rabbits, but being a fan of bugs bunny cartoons, all I could think of is to lure her towards me with a carrot. The rabbit was so hungry, she came out sniffing the carrot. I knew I only had one chance to catch her, so with a full rush of adrenaline, I leapt forwards grabbing what I could of her. That was the start of our journey together.
We tried to find her family, we even phoned around trying to place her, but nobody wanted her. We had two cats at home, and we thought ‘well surely a cat will eat or harm a rabbit!’. The cats were indeed interested, but not in a harmful manner (we later found out that domesticated cats are indeed known to become good friends with rabbits). Our cats, Benny and Champ, had never seen or encountered another specie with such long ears, so we watched closely as she came out of the cage like a champion, sniffed the cats and made herself right at home.
That night I knew I could never let her go and I knew somewhere inside me that she and I will be bonded at a very deep level. That little rabbit became known as Butters. Little did we know that she would be the building block behind our transformation and animal advocacy in years to follow.
Butters lived with us for 7 years. She took us through a roller coaster of emotions, and taught us so much about rabbits. She became very bonded with one of our cats, Champ, who mothered her.
Its only through this bond that we discovered that rabbits are happiest bonding to another. In this case she bonded to Champ. She became one of the family, she greeted us every evening, when she heard the keys in the door, at the bottom of the stairs alongside the cats.
When we moved from Sydney to Berry, she adopted the guest room, and slept on the bed every night, mostly with Champ.
She knew when treat time was due; she knew the sound of a chopping apple and she knew we were too soft to say no. She made it clear to the cats that the prime spot in the kitchen was hers at treat time.
When we came home with our groceries, she would pick the greens she wanted – (well she attempted to anyway).
Her favourite treat was mango peel, she never shied away from grabbing it from us.
She had so many special traits, I kept wondering how people could keep rabbits in enclosures outside, and how misunderstood those beautiful souls were. If only people realised that rabbits are just like a cat or a dog. They are sociable companion animals. We learnt so much by observing Butters. She adopted us as her family (we were possibly the ugly looking bunnies) and we knew she was happy.
Butters also taught us how fragile rabbits are. In 2012, I took a year’s sabbatical from work. Within a few weeks of my time off, Butters fell sick to an extreme case of head tilt that lasted 9 months. I nursed her 24/7 and we became so bonded. I took her to my chiropractor to help adjust her spine and neck, I massaged her neck everyday, and she leaned on me when we went to the garden for walks. There was no advice I turned my nose at, I tried everything and our exotics vet in Sydney was always supportive of our journey together. Head tilt is so common in rabbits, most rabbits get better, but it wasn’t to be with Butters. Whatever the disease was that caused the head tilt spread to her kidneys after 9 months and within 2 days the kidneys failed and we had to take the worse and most difficult decision for her. The hardest decision in my life.
Her legacy now lives on in a sanctuary, and in particular the 13 house bunnies we adopted and rescued since she passed on, and who share their lives with us. Her legacy also lives on in us becoming vegan from a series of events that her life and death lead us to.