City Bunnies

Finally the remodel of our row house in San Francisco’s Eureka Valley neighborhood was done! A year of dust, hotplate dinners, and showers at the gym had morphed into handsome hardwood floors, the requisite granite counter tops, a cool looking deck with a hot tub-and a new six figure mortgage. As long-time metropolitan dwellers, we love all that a city has to offer (museums, concerts, diverse population, excellent restaurants)… and we tolerate the challenges (hustle-bustle, difficult parking, traffic).

Making the place in which we live a kind of refuge has always been important to us. After the remodel, the only thing missing to make our “new house” a home was an animal to share it with us. Being experienced lop-eared bunny parents- three different rabbits has been part of our lives at three separate times-we figured another rabbit would be a likely choice.

Little did we know that a pair of bunnies would turn out to be the perfect urban pets. This time we decided to seek out a homeless bunny. We discovered Save-A-Bunny and got talked into meeting a bonded pair of baby mini-lops currently living in a foster home. When their foster mom brought two scared bunnies-a timid gray-white female and her slightly larger chocolate brown brother to our house-we fell in love and decided we wanted to share our new home with them.

We were questioned extensively about our “rabbit savvy” (Yes, we had covered electrical cords from previous rabbit inhabitants; Yes, we promised to allow the rabbits to live indoors only, etc. etc.) and about our commitment to being responsible parents.

We thought of names–sophisticated enough for city bunnies. The almost-white girl was rechristened “Chiaro,” and her brown/black brother became “Scuro.” Italian-speaking readers will know that chiaroscuro is the wonderfully melodious term for light and dark in that language (the bunnies’ new mother is an art historian-dad calls them “Kiki” and “Ro”).

So why are Chiaro and Scuro such terrific urban pets? They make no noise–our downstairs tenants say they hear only an occasional click-clack of bunny toenails. They don’t need to be walked–as “free range” rabbits (kitchen and outdoor deck area) they get plenty of exercise. A wire “kiddie” door keeps them from attacking the rest of our house.

An extra pet bonus: these rabbits are box trained. They very quickly learned the location of their litter box, and there are never accidents. Their sleep habits coincide well with our busy lives: while we’re gone during the day they hang out on the kitchen chairs (covered with old towels to minimize bunny fur), underneath the table. In the evening they wake up to join us in our evening glass of wine and snacks. Night owls that they are, they entertain each other after we’ve hit the sack.

As we’re enjoying a glass of pinot noir and catching up on how our days have been, the bunnies jump up on the couch to swarm at us for an almond or peanut snack-which we happily trade for bunny snuggles. San Francisco evenings are chilly, and we love our new fireplace… so do the bunnies. They like to relax and flop out in front of it; a comforting antidote to big city life.

On those beautiful Bay Area days, Chiaro and Scuro get to explore our new deck: it’s fenced off and bunny-proofed. They absolutely love to go out there; if we’re not quick enough in the morning to let them out, they stand mournfully near the door, hinting. Their dad even planted two flowers boxes with greens, and the bunnies are allowed to mow them down every week or so. And-lucky for these bunnies-we live in an urban area where organic greens are readily available. They get lots of them, and if they become the least bit hungry, they stand near therefrigerator to remind us of who rules this house.

Rabbits like to chew everything: paper, rugs, table legs, etc. We try to provide plenty of chew toys (egg cartons, unfinished wooden boxes, old phone books, rug remnants, untreated baskets, etc.) rather than sacrificing our living room furniture. Now three-year olds, they have even been known to jump up on the table to attack a vase of flowers. (Needless to say, decorative arrangements are now taken well out of their reach).

And what’s different about having two bunnies, rather than the single rabbits we’d had in years past? These guys give new meaning to the term “bonded pair” as they almost constantly groom, lick and cuddle together. Consequently, they have less need for us, their human companions. While we’d like to pet them more, we give them their space, recognizing their dependence upon one another. And, on those evenings when Chiaro and Scuro are stretched out in front of the fire looking incredibly adorable, and their two guardians are into serious unwind mode…well, it just doesn’t get much better.

By George and Prudy Kohler

House Rabbit Journal Summer/Fall 2006: Volume V, Number 1