As the proud caretaker of two wonderful rabbits (Acorn, a white .and gray boy, and Blackberry, a jet-black female), rabbit safety is one of my main concerns.
Oh, I thought was one of the smart bunny people. Instead of making every room in my home bunny-safe (no dangerous or forbidden chewables and diggables), I bought dog gates to prevent my bunnies’ entry to certain rooms.
For several weeks my ingenious plan worked rather well. Acorn and Blackberry sniffed and inspected the gates, but seemed to accept their allotted space and gave up their attempts to expand it. Acorn spent a few hours chewing on the wood, but his mission proved fruitless; he soon learned that no amount of chewing could bypass cold steel wire. However, it was I, not they, who was ultimately surprised.
Somewhere, Over the Dog-gate
Two weeks later I entered my home after another day at work. Everything was in normal order-the bunnies’ supply of fresh greens was not depleted, their water bottle was full, and both bunnies were sitting…right…where….
Blackberry was missing. Being one to remain calm until circumstances deem otherwise, I checked the bathroom, pantry, and cage. I’d lived with bunnies for only a few weeks, but I already knew that they adore hiding in cozy “caves.”
Blackberry was nowhere to be found. She was not hiding behind the toilet or laundry baskets, or within the depths of her cage. Still controlling my anxiety, I began checking other locations. Bunnies simply do not disappear, and lacking a wide-open door through which to escape or the heinous crime of bunnynapping, Blackberry should have been easy to find.
I entered my bedroom, stepping over the plastic baby gate. Though not tall enough to discourage a cat, it had seemed the perfect height for barring bunnies.
Upon entering the bedroom I heard a distinct thump as Blackberry disappeared beneath my bed. She had jumped the gate-there was no other explanation.
Blackberry eventually decided to leave the bedroom; or rather, I coaxed her out with a few of her favorite peanut-butter treats. I shut the bedroom door, lest she once again take an interest in it.
From that day forth I shut the door whenever the room was unoccupied. The bedroom was not bunny-safe, and I considered it a lucky break that Black-berry had not chewed through any of the many electric cords.
A month passed without further incident. Then, as myself and a few guests enjoyed one another’s company in the living room one Friday evening, Black-berry bolted down the hall and, without one moment’s pause, leapt clear over the gate and landed on the bedroom floor. I had neglected to shut the bedroom door, having convinced myself that Blackberry’s initial adventure was an isolated incident rather than first in a series.
Though Blackberry’s antics amused my guests, I was a bit chagrined. Keeping doors closed all day and night can create a gloomy, stale atmosphere, and with windows closed during winter months my bedroom’s ambience would quickly become reminiscent of a tomb rather than place of restful repose. I decided that keeping the door shut was not a permanent solution.
I purchased a taller gate. The original one had been intended for infants; I replaced it with a wood-and-wire gate designed for use with dogs. It is more durable than the earlier model, and though a bit more inconvenient to bypass, it has halted Blackberry’s in-trepid leaping. When guests are expected, I generally replace the dog gate with the baby gate. Neither Blackberry nor my property is endangered by her presence, for every room is now bunnysafe. Guests always get a kick out of watching my jet-black bunny fly over the gate, lop ears thrust backwards on her skull to ensure the integrity of her aerodynamics. Blackberry loves to show off whenever new people are around to watch her perform.
Take it from a now-experienced caretaker of bunnies-that new baby bunny may look cute and harmless; she may appear meek, quiet, or skittish; she may seem unable to do much besides eat and look cute, but trust me…when it comes to exploring new territory, even the shyest, most mild-mannered bunnies are insatiably curious. Do not be surprised if your Buttercup, even if she is very young, gets into the habit of jumping or climbing gates, squirming her way beneath doors (Acorn once performed this trick), exploring your bed’s plateau (sometimes while you are sleeping in it), visiting you in the shower, or even digging warrens inside your living room sofa!
Many gates cannot contain rabbits, and doors cannot stand in their way. When making your home bunny-safe, bear in mind that if your bunny cannot first find some path through the obstruction he or she will attempt to dig under or climb over it.
I have personally witnessed teamwork between bunny pairs. Because rabbits are happiest living with a bunny-pal, keep that in mind as well when making your home rabbit-friendly.
Rabbits are not loud, brash animals. Do not be misled by their silence and humble appearance, for within that soft, glossy coat lies a daring, courageous creature; though unable to read House Rabbit Society articles or operate motor vehicles, bunnies possess true intelligence and im-pressive problem-solving prowess behind those kind, innocent eyes.
Like dogs and humans, bunnies do not respond positively to harsh correction. They form negative opinions about those who attempt to train them by aggressive or punitive means. Harsh correction will never teach your bunny to behave herself, but it will cause her to distrust, perhaps even dislike, the person utilizing inhumane training methods.
We love our companion animals and wish them to remain with us for a very long time. Never for one moment believe that any room is one hundred percent bunny-safe, or that any man-made obstruction is tall, strong, or solid enough to discourage Lapin intrepidity. For thousands of years bunnies have survived by finding a way out or a way in.
Be vigilant in your efforts to keep your beloved bunny, or bunnies, safe by protecting them from hazards such as electrical cords, cleaning chemicals, unclean conditions, household plants (many of which are poisonous to bunnies), and other animals who have not been trained to behave gently toward them.
On her tenth or twelfth birthday, Buttercup will thank you for your zealous efforts and the long, safe life she has enjoyed as a result.
By Robert Fox
House Rabbit Journal Summer/Fall 2007: Volume V, Number 2