Your Bunny and the Holidays
It’s holiday season again, a time of year that can be both fun and stressful for you and your rabbit. In the midst of all your holiday preparations, here a few tips to keep your bunny safe and happy over the holiday season.
Plants & Christmas Trees
Be aware of seasonal plants that are brought into the home.
Despite common perception, Poinsettia plants are not poisonous. That’s not to say your bunny should eat them, since they can cause mild intestinal discomfort in some sensitive individuals. But they should not cause serious illness.
Some holiday plants, such as holly, mistletoe and certain types of ivy, can be toxic. To be especially safe, keep ALL plants and fresh green decorations up and out of your bunny’s reach. Put them in a room where your bunny doesn’t usually romp, or place them high enough to be out of reach of little teeth.
Pinecones are generally safe distractions and make festive bunny chew and throw toys at this time of year.
If your Christmas tree has not been treated (with fire retardent, pesticides, etc) or painted, then it should be safe to chew. Note that natural chemical compounds in some evergreens may cause the bunny’s urine to turn more orange than usual, but this is not a health concern.
Take a critical look at your tree before placing the ornaments and lights. Low hanging decoratoins could be inviting toys. On lower limbs, use safe plastic or wooden ornaments a rabbit can safely nibble, tug, or steal. Always supervise closely when bunny is loose around the tree.
Lights, Cords, Decorations
Those of you who have Christmas trees also may also have extra electrical cords and lights, which bunnies can and will chew. If possible, put your Christmas tree in a room where Bunny doesn’t play. If this isn’t possible, you can make your tree “off limits” to your rabbit by placing a puppy pen around it, or you can use the pen to section off the part of the room where the tree is, keeping bunny safely away. This will help keep you and your rabbit safe from chewed electrical cords and preserve your favorite Christmas ornaments, as well.
If you put up electrical decorations during this season, make sure the cords are well out of Bunny’s reach. Plastic wire protectors from Radio Shack may help slow down a curious bunny. However, the wire wrap will not necessarily prevent a determined rabbit from chewing through the plastic to the wires. So after wrapping the cords in the wire wrap, you should still tuck them out of rabbit reach.
Be alert about synthetic tinsel and garland which, if ingested, could cause tummy trouble or impactions. And be conscious of potpourri. Some rabbits enjoy nibbling on it, and there’s no telling what potentially harmful chemicals or preservatives might have been used in the potpourri you’re using.
While wrapping and opening gifts, keep in mind that tape and ribbon are not good things for rabbits to eat, but they seem to be especially attractive playthings to some bunnies. As a substitute, give white tissue paper and you’ll enjoy watching some happy playtime.
‘Tis the season for candles and fireplaces. Keep the first high out of reach and the other enclosed so your bunny can’t investigate too closely. Even cold ashes can be harmful, as they are very caustic if combined with water (including saliva!).
Be aware of low-lying candy, snack bowls, and gingerbread homes, or your buns will have a (potentially dangerous) feast on holiday treats. Coffee tables and end tables are usually low enough for a healthy bunny to easily hop up and partake of your festive offerings. Salty snacks are particularly risky, since a rabbit can actually ingest a fatal overdose of salt if she eats too much (e.g., chips, salted nuts, etc.)
Company and the Hubbub of the Holidays
Many families have friends and family members for short or long visits around this time of year. This will inevitably interrupt your rabbit’s customary routine and atmosphere. If you have family members who don’t understand house rabbits, make sure you take the time to prepare both your company and your rabbit for what to expect. This could be a great opportunity to educate your friends and family about rabbits and rabbit behavior.
To reduce your rabbit’s stress, try to stick as close as possile to her routine. Make sure you remember to give her plenty of attention and reassurance. If your bunny is particularly sensitive to noise and activity, you may even want to move her to a quieter room while your company is visiting.
Don’t be shy about laying down some ground rules for your company, especially if they include children. Never leave your rabbit unsupervised with a child. Small visitors may be tempted to chase, pick up, or inadvertently mishandle your bunny. It could take only a second for a potentially crippling or even fatal accident to occur at the hands of a well-meaning, but overly affectionate child.
If you have guests who are particularly interested in visiting your rabbit, don’t allow them to handle the bunny without first properly instructing them about safe handling. Let visitors know that a rabbit’s digestive system is very delicate, and though she may be adorable when she sits up and begs for treats, that giving in and overfeeding her could be killing her with kindness.
With these precautions in mind, we wish you and your bunnies a fun-filled, joyous holiday season!