Life with a Visually Impaired Rabbit

Despite her loving relationship with her partner, Alex, my one-eyed Bielinka faces a couple of problems in her everyday life. She isn’t as big and strong as her partner. She has a dominant nature and she tried to assert her dominance for the first few weeks, but she was unsuccessful.

At first her partner seemed surprised by her attempts at being the dominant one. Gradually, he started to resist and later didn’t allow her to attack him.

We can theorize that her will for dominance helped her to survive with her siblings and the beginning of her life with Alex. It is certain that her relationship to both me and Alex has been influenced by her medical condition. At one point, before her eye was removed, I had to put drops in her eye a couple of times a day, and I’m sure this was uncomfortable fo her.

I think she remembers this, and that is why she prefers to stay about a metre away from me. She remembers how I had kept her in my arms to administer the drop, and she doesn’t trust me totally.

Bielinka and Alex seem to love each other very much. But if I am going to give them some food, especially some treats, I have to place the food in two different places — or better yet, two different rooms. Otherwise, I have to stay between them in such way that Alex can’t reach her.

If I don’t separate them, he attacks her to get another treat. This isn’t because they don’t have enough food or treats.

I also have noticed that she starts to eat a bit later than Alex. She sees food only from one side, so if the veggies aren’t in one exact place she has to find them.

Although Bielinka jumps very well, that can be dangerous for her because she can’t accurately measure the height of the cage where the door is. She could injure herself easily. I never forget to open her cage from the side, not from above.

Also, if you have a rabbit with vision problems, it’s important to remember the effect on the rabbit when you re-arrange large objects in their free-roam space. To be close to my rabbits, I sit on a small low chair while I am with them. If they run to the next room I take the chair there, too. A couple of times I have forgotten to take the chair, and Bielienka has run into it. It wasn’t really dangerous, because the chair is small and light. But you can cause serious injury to your rabbit if you change the position of bigger and heavier furniture.

Once I was vacuuming and moved a table. When I finished and turned to put back the carpet, Bielinka wanted to leap onto the table – she didn’t see that it wasn’t in its usual place. She fell down and hurt her leg. If you do change the position of objects in their space, you must then show your rabbit what has changed.

Steps are especially dangerous for a rabbit with vision challenges. If stairs are steep, a fall could break tiny bones.

You also must be careful not to step on your rabbits. If you walk quickly as you are preparing to leave your house, rabbits who are visually impaired don’t know where your legs will go. They are happy to see you and might run to you, so you must be careful not to tread on them.

Bielinka is more alert than my other rabbits. When I approach her it´s better if I start to speak to her so she knows that I am approaching her. A couple of times I have startled her and she has been prepared to attack. In such moments we must understand that rabbits are prey animals and this is normal reactive behavior for them, especially if they are visually impaired.

Watching Bielinka run, jump or even shred the carpet, I am convinced that she is content and happy in her life with her mate and with us, too.

by Ms. Evka Vašková, Slovakia, Europe