A Happy Adoption, Plus a Rescue!
by Cathy Ferree, bunny rescuer and Zooh volunteer
I adopted big, beautiful Snowy from Zooh Corner in January of 2000. At about that same time, I found out about a neglected little lop eared bunny living in a wire floored hutch alone, often without food or water. I approached the owners about the bunny in a friendly way. I figured it was the best way to get this bunny away from a bad situation the soonest possible, although it would have been more natural to tell them off. They didn’t know much about rabbits and had been feeding “him” hamster food! I told them I had just gotten a rabbit, and they asked me, “Do you want another one?” I hadn’t planned on getting another rabbit so soon, but I knew I had to rescue this neglected animal or I wouldn’t be able to sleep nights. I called Zooh Corner to see if they had space, but there was already a very full house. I was told that I could be a Zooh Corner “FosterFriend.” Zooh Corner would pay for food & vet, etc., if I could keep the rabbit at my house until a good home was found – but first I needed to bring it by so we could sex it and make sure no immediate vet intervention was needed.
I called the owners to tell them I would come to get the bunny. When I got there they were giving him water and food and he was very frightened, but I managed to get him in the carrier – and I went straight to Zooh Corner. Alex examined the bunny and found that it was extremely thin and so neglected that the toenails practically curled back into its paws. Not only that, he was a she (and a very pretty one at that)! This news meant that this bunny could become a companion to my other rabbit, Snowy, who was a male.
I had to have a separate cage and space for this new rabbit, Chloe, because she would need to learn about being a house bunny, and would need to be spayed before the bunny introductions could start. (Note: It is also advisable to quarantine all rescue rabbits for 30 days before letting them and their things come into contact with your established rabbit friends. –Ed.) We were just getting to know Snowy so it was a bit of a strain having Chloe in the house, but introducing her to real rabbit food and freedom were consolation enough. After so long living alone in a small hutch outside, this poor little bunny was frightened of people, scared of freedom and having never had a toy, she didn’t even know how to play! The first time she was out of the cage she crawled tentatively around the floor. After about a half an hour she began taking little hops and a little more comfortable look was in her dull eyes. I had been letting her out in a bedroom, but this proved too much for her, she wouldn’t come near me and would try to find hiding places. Alex suggested letting Chloe out in the bathroom and for me to sit on the floor and read a book. Having my focus on the book made me less threatening in Chloe’s eyes and she began to come closer to take a look at me. In a few days she would allow me to pet her behind her ears. Her eyes were bright with curiosity and she would race around the room. What a difference from the listless little bunny we began with!
One day Chloe began making funny grunting noises and would nip at me if she felt I was blocking her way when she was out of her cage. If I walked into the area she was free in she would run circles around my feet. Snowy became aware that there was another rabbit the house when he could see us moving her cage down the hall, and then we had an incident where he jumped over the gate and ran up to her cage! Chloe reacted very aggressively to Snowy, rattling the cage and looking threatening. Alex assured me that these behaviors would change after she was spayed. Chloe was spayed and all went well. As she healed, she was calmer and the aggressive behavior began to disappear, so I began to place Chloe’s cage next to Snowy’s for an hour or so at a time so they could become familiar with each other. Snowy was surprisingly cool about it all, but he had lived around other rabbits at the Zooh. When I let him out of his cage he could see Chloe’s cage through the gate. Then I began letting Chloe out in the hall with a gate at one end. Snowy would be free in the living room and they would meet at the gate. They were both so casual about this, except for brief moments of intense interest at the gate, that we continued this way for a few weeks or so. Then one day I had Chloe and Snowy out this way and I removed the gate. I carried the gate with me to separate them and I carried a squirt bottle of water in case I saw aggressive behavior, but for 20 minutes they stayed in their own areas and didn’t venture into the others area. Then Chloe cautiously hopped into the living room. When Snowy noticed her he ran past her bumping her as he went. I separated them and they each went back to their own area, but came back to meet at the gate.
We would have these sessions occasionally over the next few days until I saw them sit quietly next to each other, Snowy making the first move to groom Chloe. Yeah! They continued spending the night in separate cages. Days later, after a long day of being out together, spending time in and out of Snowy’s house together, I felt I could leave them in Snowy’s house over night. I listened for disputes that night but all was quiet!
I now own (she thinks she is the owner? Ha ha! -Ed.) two dear bunnies that live happily in the same house and are the best of friends. It’s a happy ending for a lonely little Lop Eared bunny, Snowy and us!