RABBITS FOR ALL SEASONS: WINTER
Those of us with rabbit family members know that rabbits aren't just for Easter anymore—they're a joy every day of the year.
How to have a Hoppy Holiday
Presents (some free) for your pampered pet
If you are like most rabbit owners, the first name on your holiday gift list is your rabbit's name. It appears in the number one spot—above children, parents and spouses. Every bunny should get a holiday gift—even two or three—but how can you, as a good bunny owner, give a great gift (that’s also a safe one)?
Every bunny needs a good to-do list. No bunny needs sweets. Give the chewable gift of untreated wicker, willow, or sea grass mats and baskets and tunnels. These gifts are amusement parks for bunnies. One admission price buys hours or even days of fun. We recommend tunnels, tubes, baskets and mats. These can be found at The Busy Bunny, For Other Living Things, Ikea and Pier 1. Always select an untreated, unvarnished and unpainted product. Avoid sweets such as yogurt drops, crunchy dried nuts and fruit, nut and popcorn sticks, and anything else with a high sugar content. These types of gifts can cause GI stasis and frantic late night visits to the vet.
Most people run short on cash around the holidays. That is no reason to relegate your favorite gift recipient to the bottom of the list. Every bunny loves a good cardboard box. Select a box that is made of brown cardboard, remove all tape and cut a nice hole for a door. Voilá! You have built your own bunny castle. Using a marker, write your king's or queen's name over the entrance to his or her castle. While the products shown here would be the envy of the entire bunny bunch, you can achieve similar results using your own imagination. In fact, you can even add a neat tunnel feature using a concrete form available at your local home improvement store. Add some home accessories by using empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls.
For those really short on resources, a great gift would a rotation of different types of hay. You need to buy hay anyway, so why not try meadow grass, orchard grass, brome, clover, oat hay and even hay cakes. Many of these products will be gobbled up happily by your rabbit. These can all be obtained at Oxbow, American Pet Diner and Farmer Dave. In the event your rabbit does not like the new or different hay, your local shelter or rescue would be delighted to accept the same hay upon which your bun looked down his twitching nose.
For particularly pampered bunnies, the Internet offers a myriad of safe, shreddable, chewable, tossable fun toys for your rabbits: The Busy Bunny, The Bunny Bunch Boutique, Bunny Luv, and Bunny Bytes.
Friends and Relatives
During the holidays, the house is always abuzz with friends and relatives of all ages. This can be a dangerous time for your bunny. Many people will want to lift or carry the bunny and feed it unsafe things in the spirit of giving. If the bunny lives in a common area like the living room or den, it is suggested that the pen or cage be moved to a bedroom that can be locked or at least closely monitored, and allow guests admittance in small groups with you to accompany the group at all times. After each guest has had a chance to visit bunny, announce that it is bunny's nap time and lock the door.
If the bunny set-up cannot be moved, we recommend that you put out a 'treat bowl' of things that guests can hand feed to the rabbit which are part of the recommended rabbit diet—washed leaves of romaine, kale, dill or basil. Guests can have the thrill of feeding the bunny while you can rest assured knowing that the bun is not gorging on yogurt drops or cookies. You must firmly state to all that the bunny is not to be picked up and that the treats you have prepared are the only treats to be given to the bunny.
Many house guests will bestow lavish gifts upon your rabbit. While these friends and guests mean well, it is up to you to monitor the gifts. If Bunny receives an unhealthy treat, simply explain that he got his ration for the day. After the guests have departed, popcorn and nut sticks can easily be broken up and given to squirrels or park denizens. The gift will not be wasted—it will be simply re-gifted to a less fortunate animal with a less sensitive GI tract.
Holiday decorations, while an integral part of your winter months, must be arranged carefully to protect your rabbit. All strings of lights that dangle within the bunny's reach must be taped or tacked up higher to prevent fires and injuries to the rabbit. The water receptacle at the bottom of a fresh Christmas tree must also be off limits—a bunny might be tempted to drink from the receptacle. Tree branches treated with sprays and fire retardants are toxic. Also, ribbons, wrapping paper with tape, tinsel and fallen glass ornaments all represent hazards to the bunny. This is the time to have a few extra exercise pens in your house which can be used to block off the entire tree area while your bunny is out in the living room.
All houseplants should be kept out of your rabbit's reach, and Christmas plants are no different. Christmas cactus, holly, ivy and mistletoe are all toxic. Poinsettia is not toxic but we recommend that your rabbit not be allowed to ingest it either.
Above all, spend quality time with your bunny each day so that you will quickly recognize if she isn't feeling well. Try to keep her on her regular routine as much as possible. Keep your vet's number on hand as well.
By following these gift, decorating and houseguest recommendations, you will sail smoothly through the holidays and avoid crashing on the rocky shoal of illness, injury and emergency vet bills. Hoppy Holidays to all!
Other LIRRG articles:
Rabbits for all Seasons, Autumn: Outside Rabits? Don't Fall for it!
Rabbits for all Seasons, Spring: There is no Retirement Home for unwanted Easter bunnies
Rabbits for all Seasons, Summer: Beware of Heat Stroke and Fly Strike