In-home Nature Show

Jul 10, 2011 by

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Sarah, the resident guinea pig person at the humane society, made an astute observation about who she thought was the right type of person for that small companion animal. After describing their various needs and antics, she noted that if you like watching nature programs, you may enjoy living with a guinea pig.

I can’t speak for guinea pig folks, but it certainly seems to be true for rabbit people. (Note: there are people with rabbits, and there are rabbit people.) Much of the pleasure of living with a rabbit is absorbed through watching them go about their day. There is something wonderfully sweet about the way a rabbit sleeps. I mean, cats can be amusing when they nap, but there’s something special about bunnies-in the way they wash their faces or eat parsley sprigs, and especially in the way they yawn.

Of course, not everyone you meet feels this way. Or, as bunny fosterparent Donna Jensen puts it, if you see a rabbit dozing and you think, “is that all their is?”, then a rabbit is not for you.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

As an HRS educator who’s frequently interviewed by the press, my favorite question has to be “What is it like to live with a rabbit?” After having probably already gone through the ins and outs of litterbox training and cord protection, this is what I tell them: Living with a rabbit means getting down on all fours to find something and having Roxy leap on my back for a horsy ride. It’s Tina picking up my car keys and galloping gleefully around the room with them in her teeth.

Living with a rabbit means watching Bugsy bob and weave his head, and take one tentative step at a time, as he tries to figure out if the piles of dirty laundry in the hall aren’t really monsters. (He goes through this on a weekly basis.)

EMPATHY

Growing up, I used to walk my dog in open fields. At the time, I relished the chase along with her when she took off after a cat or jack rabbit. I wasn’t worried because I knew she wasn’t interested in catching them. Now that I know what deadly stress such an encounter has on a rabbit, I feel terrible for letting my dog do it. Did expending that energy cause them to lose another sprint later that day. Did the experience result in fatal shock? Can I change channels in real life?

EMPIRICISM

Sometimes as I observe my bunnies at work being rabbits, I wonder just what the heck they are up to. By sharing our ideas and observations, some house rabbit behaviors have been figured out: why they lick walls (fleas, most likely), why they dance (a spirited, contented heart), why they circle your feet (a courting move or else out to trip you to get your cookie). One action for which rabbits are notorious but that I’ve yet to hear well explained is why they purposely tip, then roll their food bowls.

Beth Woolbright

House Rabbit Journal Summer 1997: Volume III, Number 10

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