Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tips on Saving Bunny Money

Most owners know that rabbits are not cheap pets-- their medical care as exotic animals can add up, and they seem to love chewing on your most expensive items (clothes, furniture, equipment, etc.). However, there are several easy ways to reduce the costs of their daily care and manage your rabbit expenses more effectively.

Buying small bags of hay from commercial pet stores can get expensive fast! Buying hay directly from a farmer (check out or contribute to the national hay database) can cut costs way down. Ordering hay in 50 lb boxes online from farms is already a bargain compared to the small bags from pet stores, but taking a trip to a local farmer to buy a bale is really the way to go. A bale of Timothy hay, which can last several months, typically costs about $10.

Ask your local grocery store to collect their vegetable scraps for you. Grocery stores throw away tons of perfectly good veggies, including carrot, beet, and radish tops, or the outer layers of lettuces, cabbages, and other greens. Farmer's markets are also a fantastic source for free vegetables. Be sure to never use vegetables that look wilted or old and wash everything extra carefully. Another idea is to try growing your own mint (which grows like a weed), parsley or other herbs in your garden.

A little insider knowledge here can save you some big bucks! If you use Yesterday's News, buy the bags in the cat litter section, as they tend to be much cheaper per pound than the bags sold in the small animal section. Another economical option is to buy wood stove pellets from a hardware store (like Lowe's). A 40lb bag can cost you around $6, depending on where you live. Wood stove pellets are similar to Feline Pine litter, and work just as well, but are up to three times cheaper.

The Litterbox
A litterbox is really just a plastic box, so why pay extra money for a fancy cat litterpan from a pet store, when you can grab a shallow plastic box from Walmart for half the price?

There are a lot of expensive bunny toys available, but it seems more often than not, rabbits just love playing with old fashioned toys that don't cost a cent, like cardboard boxes, toilet paper rolls stuffed with hay, and cardboard tunnels or castles. Buying baby toys (like plastic keys on a ring, etc.) can be cheaper than a similar product sold in a pet store. Just make sure that the plastic is hard, and not the "teething" kind, which can be chewed and ingested.

And one thing not to skimp on...

There's a wide variety of pellets available, with a wide variety of price tags. You don't need to go for the most expensive bag out there, but you do need to make sure the first ingredient is Timothy hay, as opposed to Alfalfa. Alfalfa-based products tend to be cheaper, and you might have to pay noticeably more for the high-quality Timothy-based ones, but with all the money you've saved with the other techniques, this should be a fair trade off!

Graysie contemplating the various aspects of personal finance.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Maloccluded No More.. An Update on Charley

We met Charley back in November 2009, a young bunny at a shelter, days away from euthanasia due to his dental condition. His case taught me not only about rabbit malocclusion, but also about maintaining hope in a desperate situation, and more specifically, about the importance of giving every shelter animal a fighting chance, despite medical setbacks.

It occurred to me today that you all might want an update on his whereabouts and even see a few pictures of him in his new life.

Believe it or not, Charley was adopted by an amazing woman who already owned a toothless rabbit, Pedro, (and a fully-toothed one as well, Rico)-- both of whom had also been adopted from the House Rabbit Network. She sends me regular updates and pictures of him and his brothers. Suffice it to say, he is one lucky rabbit. I'll leave it to the pictures for the rest of the story.

Charley has a happy ending. I hope these pictures remind you of what each animal deserves and what each animal loses when they are denied a chance at life. Shelters are overcrowded and euthanasia for space purposes is still a relevant reality. Remember the direct link between adoption and overpopulation. Spay and neuter your pets. Talk to others about the importance of spaying and neutering. Volunteer. Fundraise. Donate. Educate. Inspire those around you. And perhaps most importantly, don't lose the meaning of "one by one." When in doubt, remember what that "one" means to Charley.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Farm Fresh Hay Database

As dedicated owners, we all know by now the vast importance of hay in our rabbits' diets. And while many of us have realized the advantages of bypassing the retail pet-superstores and going directly to local farmers selling bulk quantities of high quality, organic grass hays, it's true a good hay source isn't always easy to find. Many rural farms don't have websites or advertise in traditional media; news of their products and services tends to spread solely by word of mouth. Thus, those new to rabbit companionship, or even new to an area, may not be in the know about quality hay sources in their cities or towns.

I experienced this recently when I relocated from Boston, MA to Lafayette, IN, and was forced to find a new hay source. After weeks of unhappily buying miniature bags of tough, straw-like hay from a nearby pet store, I found out (due to sheer luck) about a local farmer selling organic timothy hay. Sure enough, the next day I brought home a fresh bale of organic second-cut timothy hay, all for a grand total of seven dollars. It's clear-- cutting out the packaging and shipping costs simply results in a better product at a cheaper price. What's not to love?

As I've been talking to other rabbit owners in the Lafayette area also seeking quality hay sources, I realized how helpful a nationwide (or even international!) database of organic grass hay farmers would be. The plan here at The Rabbit Advocate is to start a user-contributed database of farmers in all parts of the world selling quality grass hays. So, now it's up to you. Please send in your local farmer's contact information (with their consent) including name, website (if available), address, and phone number (if applicable). This way, others can find out about great hay sources in your area, and rabbits around the world will have ample quantities of delicious hay to munch on. I'll add them into the below database as they come. Those that have websites are linked. Hopefully we can make this as comprehensive a list as possible. Thanks in advance for your contributions!


Dotson Farm and Feed: 2919 North 9th Street Road, Lafayette, IN 47904. Hay pickup call first (765) 742-5111

New York

Farmer Dave: 28 Fox Meadow Court, Orchard Park, NY 14127

Friday, June 11, 2010

Keeping Cool in the Summer

Just because their wild cousins don’t have access to air conditioning, doesn’t mean our domesticated rabbit companions are also fine on their own during the summer. Not only are domestic rabbits a distinct species, they also don’t have the ability to burrow in the ground to spend the sweltering hours of a summer day in cool underground tunnels. But I’m sure most readers already agree on the importance of indoor housing for our rabbits.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean we can ignore the dangers of heat and humidity entirely. Upstairs levels of houses/apartments and sunrooms tend to concentrate warm air and negate wind to form greenhouse-like containers of extreme heat and humidity. If you are feeling uncomfortable inside, put on a giant (faux) fur coat to see how your rabbit feels. And it’s not just a matter of comfort-level; it’s a relevant medical concern—heat stroke is one of the top killers of the domestic rabbit. Temperatures above 80 degrees are dangerous, especially when dehydration or environmental stressors are also present.

Tips to keep your rabbit cool on a hot day:

1. A window air conditioning unit is your best friend and absolutely worth the investment. (I only bought an air conditioner once I had my first rabbit.) It's the easiest way to safely cool down you and your bunny's environment.

2. Fans can be helpful, but at a certain point they only serve to circulate warm air. Coupling a fan with an air conditioner can lower energy costs by reducing the needed strength and length of use of the AC unit, while maximizing cooling efforts.

3. A hot rabbit does not want to lie on carpet, so allow her onto an alternate surface or provide a ceramic tile block to lie on. Put the tile in the fridge for an hour for an even cooler surface!

4. A frozen water bottle can make a cool cuddle buddy on a hot summer day.

5. Since rabbits radiate heat from their ears, rubbing an ice cube or dabbing a little cold water on the outside of their ears can assist their cooling down efforts. Applying some water to the back of their necks can increase the evaporative cooling effect too. Avoid getting water into the ear canals though, as this can lead to irritation or even infection.

6. Frequently brush or manually remove loose fur to keep the coat at a minimum density. If you have a long-haired rabbit, such as an Angora or Jersey Wooly, consider trimming their fur with electric clippers (have your vet show you how) for the summer months. In fact, it’s a good idea to keep the fur short year-round to prevent matting and excessive fur ingestion.

7. As with people, adequate hydration is an important part of avoiding heat stroke. Provide a large bowl with fresh, chilled water and serve your bunny's daily veggies extra moistened.

8. If you have the option, a rabbit-proofed, finished basement can be a great place for a rabbit in the summer months, as they are usually the coolest part of the house. Basements tend to also be low-traffic, so make sure you spend adequate time downstairs so your rabbit doesn't get lonely or bored. Move your computer or the TV (don't forget to hide the wires!) to the basement so you can continue spending quality time together. Or allow your bun the opportunity to willingly come upstairs for some socializing when the mood strikes. This may involve helping her understand stairs and how to properly use them.

Most importantly, always be cognizant of the temperature and carefully note any changes in your pet's behavior or appetite. An overheated rabbit will be inactive and could also stop eating, further jeopardizing her health. Take the issue of heat seriously and be proactive at helping your fur friend stay cool. In the event of a heat stroke, wrap ice packs around your bunny and get her to a rabbit savvy vet as fast as possible.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Question from the Audience: Location, location, location

A question from Nancy F. in Boston, MA:

Q: I have two male Newfoundland Dwarf rabbits I adopted at the end of this past summer (Douglas and Andrew are their names). Currently they stay in their 'pen' in the basement.
Here is my issue: when I get home from work I like to bring them upstairs in their carrier and I have a heck of a time getting them to go into said carrier to bring them to the upper floor where they basically have the run of the place (they are litter box trained). Andrew generally seems to be more amenable to going upstairs, but Douglas will squeak and hide and run away when I try to get him to go in so I don't force him (I don't want to upset him). This usually means Andrew gets playtime upstairs and Douglas doesn't. On the occasions when I can actually get them up to the first floor they run and jump and hide and generally have a wonderful time.

I don't try to pick them up b/c they clearly don't like it but I talk to them and pet them whenever I can. How can I 'corral' (if you will) my rabbits in to the carrier more easily? Sometimes it can take up to an hour to return them to the basement and if it's been a long day I can't always afford to invest that much chasing time.

A: I have a suggestion regarding your situation, and I think this one minor change will actually make a huge difference. You say you keep the rabbit cage in the basement; if you kept the rabbit's cage in your living room, the situation would improve drastically. This way Douglas and Andrew would be able to come out of their cage easily and comfortably whenever you opened the cage door. This would save you a ton of time and stress too-- instead of corralling them into carriers (I can only imagine how long that would take!), all you'd have to do is open the cage door and let them out. Since this is easier on you, I'm sure the bunnies would get more time out of their cages as well.

You're right that most rabbits don't like to be picked up, but they also don't like to be confined in carriers and carried about for similar reasons--it is scary! They experience a full range of stress every time they have to go in and out of their carriers, and this stress would be easy to cut out by keeping their cage upstairs. Furthermore, since they are currently unable to see/access their cage (an area of safety) from the living room, they could be experiencing stress from this as well.

If their cage is upstairs in your living room, then you'll no longer have to corral them back into carriers when you want to get them back in their cages; it's much easier to coax a rabbit into a cage than a carrier. Try calling Douglas and Andrew's names and offering them a treat once they've gone inside.

You'll be surprised how much you enjoy having them up there and interacting with you more; they'll become more socialized and you'll also have an easier go of allowing them their out-of-cage run around time.

***UPDATE from Nancy 2/18/2010***
I wanted to give you an update and thank you for your very sound advice. Douglas and Andrew moved into our back hall in a large dog crate last week. They have supervised reign of our kitchen when we’re home and they seem so very happy with the new set up. I can’t tell you how much fun it is for me to sit on the floor and have my coffee with them in the morning. So, thanks very much for your suggestion of moving them upstairs, we’re all a lot happier (Douglas hardly squeaks at me anymore – just a tiny bit if he doesn’t want his cheeks rubbed or he’s scared). Now on to training them to go into their cage upon command!