From Feral to House Rabbit

Clint, Gerald, Bambi and Cinnamon came to us October 2006 after they were taken from a hoarding situation.

It was believed that most of the rabbits were feral, preferring the company of each other to humans, and wanting to be outdoors.

We had no dogs but we did have a large back yard. So I thought, Why couldn’t we adopt a few of these critters and give them a home? The shelter provided us some guidelines to build a “rabbitat.” My husband and my father-in-law built a 10×15-foot “luxury hotel” with a raised floor (our back yard floods in the winter), roof, walls (in the winter), boxes for the rabbits to hide in, and a second level.

We drove to a specific location to pick up the bunnies, which were part of a group on a truck that was delivering the rabbits to their adoptive homes. Clint, Gerald, Bambi and Cinnamon arrived in the their new Washington home in October of 2006.

The four bunnies took up residence in the rabbitat, which is not exposed to the elements at all—it is built on the same principle as an enclosed wooden deck. Washington winters are generally mild, so when cold sets in we house the pair in a dog pen in the heated garage.

Nobody fought. I think this was because they were all in a strange place together, (we have two older indoor cats who are leery of the rabbits and stay out of their way).

Cinnamon had some health complications, including three abscesses, which caused head tilt. After he underwent surgery for the abscesses, his three incisions needed to be drained, and he had to be separated from the others.

I didn’t know at the time that rabbits could become unbonded, but they did. As a result, we brought Cinnamon into the house.

Feral_to_HRWhat a good house bunny Cinnamon was. We set  him up in the guest bathroom, letting him out when we were home. He didn’t mind the cats. He loved to run around the living room and do binkies. Most amazingly, he did not destroy anything, except eat a few buttons off the TV remote, to which I said “good boy” (as hubby rolls his eyes!).

Although he didn’t like to be handled or petted, he still came up to us to socialize when we sat on the floor, or he would jump up to join us on the couch. After a few weeks, he was back outside, where immediately a fight ensued between Cinnamon and Clint. After I got them separated, Bambi was cleaning Cinnamon’s head, and Gerald was hiding in a corner.  Thankfully, there were no major injuries between the two.

The two rabbits who showed visible injuries from life with the hoarder were Bambi and Clint. Clint is missing the top part of his ear. Bambi is missing the top eyelid on the left eye and had scar tissue on her right ear. Over time I was concerned about her eyeball; when she closed her eye, because of the deformed/missing eyelid, the lids did not close all the way leaving a bit of eyeball exposed at all times.

Eventually she underwent surgery to repair the eyelid, which helped a little, but when she closed her eye there was still a small gap, leaving part of the eyeball exposed.  This eye also collected a lot of dirt (she loved to dig when she was in the rabbitat), and she was not able to properly blink to clean the eye (leaving me to clean it for her). I still give Bambi a daily eye drop.

Bambi and Cinnamon now live in the house, while Clint and Gerald, still happily bonded, remain in the rabbitat or the garage. Because of Bambi’s eye and coupled with the experience of knowing how well Cinnamon had done in the house, we decided to make Bambi and Cinnamon house rabbits.

We bought a large dog x-pen and got them set up in the spare bedroom.  They have been happy running around the house, chasing cats and doing binkies for the last two years, while Clint and Gerald remain happily bonded in their rabbitat.  Not too bad for “feral rabbits,” huh?

by Laura Sisk

Editors Note: Laura Sisk always had loved rabbits … from afar! When she adopted rabbit companions that had come from a hoarding situation, her life changed—and so did the lives of the rabbits fortunate enough to be in her care. She also fosters several rabbits for her local Humane Society, for which she provides presentations and information about rabbit care. Her blog is    

House Rabbit Journal Volume 5, No. 8