Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Question from the Audience: One or Two?

A question from Suzanna C. in Tampa, FL:
Q: I am thinking about adopting a pet bunny. I have been thinking and reading a lot about pet rabbits and now I'm fairly convinced that they would make ideal pets in my life right now. I just don't know if I should get one bunny or a bonded pair (of course neutered/spayed). We work full time so would be gone most of the day. My only concern with a bonded pair is that I don't know how affectionate they will be to us humans. What do you recommend?

A: It's great to hear that you're doing thorough research about rabbits before you adopt. Being completely aware of what to expect, knowing what you're getting into, and planning accordingly may be one of the most important steps in fostering a positive petcare situation.

As I frequently mention, rabbits are social animals. They are happiest in the company of others and since they are more occupied when in pairs, they're less likely to be destructive or get into trouble. Pairs also help groom each other, making for cleaner, healthier pets. And since you mentioned that you're gone for most of the day, I would especially recommend adopting a bonded pair. Pairs keep each other company while you're gone, and are therefore less bored and more happy!

Don't worry, it's not much extra care or effort to own two rather than one: a bonded pair can use the same cage, same litterbox, same food and water bowls, etc.

It's not uncommon to wonder whether or not a bonded bunny will like you the same way as a single bunny will. People often ask if their relationship with their single bunny will change once they get a second rabbit. However, because I've noticed that the relationship rabbits have with humans is separate from the one they have with each other, their status should really have no bearing on how they view you. Overall, the notion that the more attention you invest, the more attention you get back rings true regardless of how many rabbit friends are involved.

I recommend visiting some bonded pairs at a nearby rescue or shelter and seeing how you get along with them. Like all animals, rabbits have distinct personalities, unrelated to who they're already bonded with. All in all, bonded bunnies can be just as affectionate as single ones, and they'll sure appreciate having each other to snuggle with while you're gone during the day!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Introducing a Fantastic New Service for Rabbit Owners in the Greater Boston Area...

StressLess Groomers is a brand new in-home nail cutting service for rabbits in the greater Boston area. It was conceived after my good friend and MSPCA volunteer, Kelly, and I made several bunny nail-trimming visits to a few of our friends' houses. We realized some people weren't able to trim their rabbit's nails themselves, and some people just didn't want to impose the stress on their rabbit. Some were especially concerned with the stress of travel, and others were worried they would injure the rabbit. And that's where an in-home service like StressLess Groomers can come in handy!

Check out the website www.stresslessgroomers.com for rates, appointment times, covered areas, testimonials, and more. If you have any questions, or would like to make an appointment, email us at stresslessgroomers@gmail.com.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Petfinder Love

The incredible Petfinder, an online tool that allows users to search for adoptable animals in their geographic area by breed, age, and gender, mentioned The Rabbit Advocate in a recent blog post. Thank you to Petfinder for serving homeless and rescued animals and continuing to help educate the public!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Rabbit Advocate Info Day Was a Success!

Thank you to all those who came out for the 1st Annual Rabbit Advocate Info Day! We had a great time, met some awesome people, raised a little money for the Boston MSPCA, and got Tiny, Fluffy, and Thumper a little adoption exposure! Special thanks to Especially for Pets for their generosity, consideration, and dedication to educating the public about all types of animals.

Thumper and Fluffy being charming, as usual

Tiny makes a new friend

Fluffy getting some bunny love

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Essentials: Health Care Overview

A good owner should constantly be aware of any changes in their rabbit's behavior and digestive habits, as differences in these areas are the most telling about overall health. Symptoms that rabbits exhibit are subtle; acting lethargic or suddenly disinterested is a sign of trouble, while anorexia and changes in droppings and urinary habits are surefire signs of medical problems. A rabbit in pain will lie with its extremities pulled in tightly, eyes half-shut, will want to be left alone, and sometimes grind its teeth in pain. If your rabbit is acting this way, seek immediate medical assistance.

Rabbits should get a thorough look-over about once a month to make sure everything is running smoothly, though preventative care is key to keeping your rabbit happy and healthy.

Different breeds have different grooming needs. Angoras and other long-haired breeds require daily grooming, while most short-hair breeds need just a weekly to biweekly brushing. During molts, increase the grooming frequency and make sure to remove loose fur so that the rabbit does not ingest too much of it.

Rabbits should get their nails clipped once every two months. You should also check their teeth, eyes, nose, and ears for any abnormalities or changes, and look over their bodies for any signs of lumps, abscesses, infection, scrapes, or parasites. Approximately every two-three months, you should check the genital area to see if the scent glands need to be cleaned.

Feeding your rabbit a healthy, balanced diet can eliminate many of the health problems domestic rabbits face. Offer unlimited hay, a variety of vegetables, and a restricted amount of pellets, about 1/8 cup per 4 lbs of rabbit. Rabbits have highly sensitive digestive tracts, so monitor their intake and output very carefully and note any changes. As aforementioned, abberations in this area are the largest indicators of a serious medical problem.

Spaying and neutering is an essential part of rabbit health care. The surgery eliminates a variety of health problems and adds years to a rabbit's life.

Make sure to clean your bunny's litterbox and food and water bowls frequently, providing clean, fresh water on a daily basis. Rabbits should be housed indoors to ensure they remain physically and mentally healthy. Inside, watch out for poisonous plants, electrical cords, lead-tainted paint. During the summer months, pay close attention to the temperature in your house, as temperatures above 85 ºF can be disastrous to a rabbit's health.

The more you bond with your bunny, the sooner you'll be able to detect changes that may indicate a medical problem. In the case of rabbit health care, love just might be the best medicine.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Question from the Audience: Fur Loss

A question from Adam B. and Maggie H. of Boston, MA:

Q: We successfully adopted Gus, previously Murphs, from the MSPCA a few months ago, and have been having a great time with him ever since! There is one thing we have noticed recently: in front of his ears on the top of his head, and right behind the base of his neck, he has some patches of shorter hair. The skin looks fine underneath and he doesn't mind us touching them, is there anything to be worried about? He stayed with a friend in VT for a few weeks and she had a black lab pup, but they always interacted well. Could it be that he lost the hair there from stress? Or did we just not notice this short patches before?

Family Photo with Adam, Maggie, and Gus, formerly known as Murphs

A: Rabbits do stress shed, like dogs and cats, but it sounds to me like Gus is probably just going through his semi-annual molt. During a molt, which can last for varying periods of time, rabbits lose a lot of fur, and it can often fall out in clumps, creating bald spots or spots with very short fur. It really isn't anything to worry about.

During a molting period, make sure you brush Gus frequently or remove his loose fur by hand, so he doesn't ingest too much of it, as rabbits can get hair ball blockage in their GI tracts that requires surgery. (Rabbit's cannot throw up, like cats can, to expel hairballs.) Especially during a molt, make sure he is eating a good amount of Timothy hay and drinking plenty of water; the fiber in the hay and the moisture in the water will keep the fur moving out of his system.

You definitely want to be concerned if the area includes dry flaky patches, red irritated skin, open sores, or if he seems to be constantly scratching at it. These symptoms could indicate parasitic infection, like mange or ear mites, and he should be checked out by a veterinarian for treatment. But since Gus isn't presenting with any of these signs, it's sounds like all he needs is a thorough brushing.

Gus making an eat.