Lap Rabbits

Jul 10, 2011

I found this next to a delicately nibbled copy of the Winter 1994 HRJ. Perhaps it (or an edited version of it) would interest your readers…

As a lapine resident of a House Rabbit Society foster home, I’d like to offer my perspective on Jacquie Lewis’s letter about “lap bunnies.” My ability to understand humans is far from perfect, but I feel confident at least about reading the emotional temperature of our household. “Overrun” and “overwrought” are not the way I’d describe things at all. Like most rabbits, I can recognize stress, regardless of the species exhibiting it. Our humans seem remarkably free of it–especially when they’re with us, if I may brag a bit. It is true that they don’t subject us to the “sessions” mentioned by Jacquie Lewis, but I don’t think it’s for lack of time. They seem to have plenty of time to hang out with us; in fact there’s something almost rabbit-like about the way they sit quietly on the floor among us.

What is it about this lap-sitting behavior that Ms. Lewis craves? Humans don’t seem to require it of each other. It’s so difficult to communicate when I’m stuck on someone’s lap! I can’t get in touch with the person at all. But then maybe communication and sharing are not the purpose of this activity? I’d like to give the benefit of the doubt, because I know humans have some wonderful qualities, once you get to know them, but it really does seem as if they want us on their lap for their own pleasure and not as part of a mutually agreeable experience. In this foster home, I’ve learned to get along with cats, dogs, and humans, as well as a wide variety of rabbits. I’ve learned that inter-species relationships work best when both parties try to see things from the other’s point of view, rather than imposing one’s own wishes on others. For instance, I’ve noticed that humans have incredibly delicate skin, and that a simple nose-nudge is all that’s needed when you want attention. Nips are unnecessary and even counterproductive (unless you like high-pitched shrieks). For the same reason, when grooming a human, it’s best to restrict yourself to licking. Even the gentlest nibble can cause pain.

I suppose there are rabbits out there who enjoy this strange custom regarding laps. I don’t presume to speak for all of us. I do want to correct the impression of HRS foster homes. I’m quite certain that we rabbits would be the first to notice, and to suffer, if the atmosphere were as Ms. Lewis imagines. I’m very happy to report that we’re thriving. Bananas twice a day instead of just at bedtime would be nice, but other than that, we’ve nothing to complain of, which is more than most of us can say of our previous homes. And I think many rabbits would share my heartfelt thanks to the humans who take the trouble to learn a bit of our language, down here on the ground where we speak.


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