Rabbits make great pets – at least for the right people.
Rabbits are unique creatures of the animal kingdom that are often misinterpreted and mishandled.
In face of the recent rabbit abuse incident—the Apollo incident—we at Ah Beng Pet Store burrow deep to uncover some hare(hair)-raising truths about the endearingly-dubbed: Bunnies.
According to the House Rabbit Society Singapore (HRSS) and SPCA, over 1000 rabbits are abandoned every year, and out of the 604 instances of animal cruelty last year, 61 cases involved rabbits.
More often than not, the condition in which these abandoned (and often abused) rabbits are left in are dire, as in the case of my adopted rabbit Fluffy.
6 years ago, my uncle showed up at my house with this mangled and mousy looking creature in a steel wired cage, her ears tilted far back – a behavioral sign I later learnt, expressed much discomfort and unhappiness.
You might have heard of bunny aficionado and advocate for rabbit welfare, Ms Jackie Fong, and her brainchild Bunny Wonderland. Co-founder Lynne expands on rabbit behavior:
“Rabbits may not talk but they sure communicate a lot through their body languages. A healthy and active rabbit will enjoy digging into their toy boxes and binkying in the air. You will have a very relaxed rabbit if you find one flat on the ground with its leg spread out to the side or behind. However, do watch out for some signs if your rabbit is unwell. Some rabbits will grind their teeth very loudly while others may tuck their limbs under their body like a loaf and hide in a corner. If you observe such signs, your rabbit is likely in pain and needs to be checked by a rabbit savvy vet as soon as possible.”
I admit, when I first laid eyes on 2-3 year old Fluffy, I was taken aback. She wasn’t as pleasant or elegant looking as the rabbits in picture books or posters in pet shops, instead, was severely malnourished and neglected; her fur coat had a yellowish tint, and matted with clumps of what I assume was her own excrement which took the entire afternoon to cut and brush out.
Fluffy when she was abandoned by her previous owners who apparently
thought the “being a responsible pet owner” thing wasn’t in vogue
Range Free, Cage Free
After much research, I sectioned off a space in the living room for an indoor rabbit-proof playpen, put down some anti-skid mats and rugs, a litter box full of hay, a water bottle and some blankets for burrowing.
An example of a rabbit proof-playpen
(Photo credits: http://www.bunnywonderlandsg.com/tips/#housing)
My house quickly smelt vaguely of hay and “wet dog”, a collective scent that reminded me a little bit of a petting zoo, and no matter how diligently I cleaned her playpen or groomed her, there was no escaping having little white fur balls floating around the house.
Less than a week in her new abode, I found Fluffy in her hutch sneezing and trembling.
Petmd, much like its human-tiered equivalent (Webmd) yields for its reader less than desirable and speculative results that frightens. So I brought her to the nearest veterinarian clinic to be diagnosed by an actual professional (clearly I wasn’t).
Shooting a syringe full of medication into the mouth of a seriously neglected, disapproving and aggressive rabbit was no easy feat. Attempting to do so 3 times a day was virtually impossible. Fluffy’s boxing startled me, and her bites left wounds deep enough to scar.
A Bunny Wonderland
Each medication session was tedious; getting her accustomed to having me in near her playpen, getting acquainted with my hands, and then having the syringe in her mouth.
Slowly but surely, Fluffy’s illness alleviated, as with her aggression.
Over the next few months, I spent hours a day sitting in her playpen reading or writing for school, sharing a snack with her (she likes bananas) or just watching her go about her bunny business.
Fluffy’s play area expanded too – she got a dedicated space in the backyard for a sheltered outdoor playpen, where she would run around my feet in circles or chase her tail (displays of happiness) – a rewarding sight after a trying few months.
The once aggressive and distrusting creature was now a happy, borderline hyperactive bunny that I called family.
Fluffy at home
Perhaps by now, you notice I detail my story in past tense. This isn’t a simply a story of binkies and bunny wonderland.
While she had her bunny wonderland for the next few years, sadly, she passed this August while I was abroad.
Family members who took care of her in my absence found her on her side, eyes closed, fur ruffled, lying by her litterbox one fateful morning. A quick inspection showed no signs of physical harm, and a recent visit to the vet did not forewarn her death.
Rabbits are sensitive prey creatures, meaning that even a seemingly healthy rabbit could easily die for many reasons, and sadly, I never got to know the reason why my rabbit passed.
Rabbit rescue groups like Bunny Wonderland has assisted “over 200 rabbits that were neglected, abused or abandoned”, and have met with several complicated cases; with rabbits in far more dire conditions than Fluffy’s.
One such example is Apollo, a 3-year-old cross breed Lionhead lop.
A forlorn Lynne shares: Apollo was “hit by a wooden rod and suffered multiple fractures on his spine and limbs. He could not defecate on his own and require dedicated care 24/7. His condition is beyond poor and no vet was able to help him. We could only do our best to keep him comfortable”. Sadly, he “passed away 1 month after we rescued him”.
Lynne laments, “Many parents acquire a rabbit for their young child thinking it’s a good way to teach them about responsibility”, and this often results in mishandling or poor care of the rabbit.
Contrary to popular belief, rabbits are not easy to care for. “[R]abbits are sensitive prey animals that require the dedicated care from a committed adult. They require a disciplined diet of hay, fresh greens and good quality pellets to stay healthy. They should not be confined in a cage and should be given ample roaming space.”
“Caring for a rabbit definitely is not easy and should not be taken lightly,” asserts Lynne.
Somebun Needs A Home
As a bunny owner myself, I feel compelled to dissuade families from bringing a rabbit into your family unless you are able to provide the right care for these sensitive, special creatures, lest a repeat of an Apollo incident.
With the high statistics of rabbit abandonment, there are many rabbits that are up for adoption, and Bunny Wonderland is always happy to assist in potential adoptions. Remember, somebun needs a home!
For rabbit owners or prospective owners, Bunny Wonderland also has a well-detailed guideline on proper rabbit care that you should check out.