Photo and statue by Franz Bergmann
Getting old is not fun at all, at least not physically. We reach a certain stage and we're disappointed daily in all the little signs that our body are aging – and showing it.
House rabbits usually live between 8 and 12 years, but years alone is not a very useful way to predict whether your rabbit has achieved Elderbun status or not. Usually it is the medium-sized rabbits who have the longest life spans, but size isn’t a really good indicator either. Happy rabbits, rabbits who get lots of exercise and mental stimulation, have a good weight, have close bonds with another rabbit, and have a deep relationship with their human seem to live longer and stay healthier.
How can you tell if your rabbit is starting to fit into the “geriatric” category? There is no hard and fast rule. Rabbits do tend to get some little white hairs around their ears and face. Their coat may change, either feeling softer and finer or coarser and shaggier. Their nails can begin to turn outward, so it becomes even more important to keep those nails clipped. They can become less active. They may have trouble getting into their litter box, and stop jumping up on furniture.
There are also elements of aging that you can’t see. Their eyes may begin to fail, so they may begin running into things. You may not even notice this at first, or just think it is a clumsy moment. Those high-maintenance teeth can become even more of an issue, and cause trouble with healthy eating or even sinuses. Kidneys don’t usually work as well, and bladders can build up sludge more quickly. Livers start to be less efficient too.
The point is this: at a certain age, your rabbit is going to have some special needs, and it will be even more important than ever to keep a close eye out for changes in habits. Avoiding certain activities can tell about pain that your friend is trying to avoid – so, for instance, if your rabbit quits using the litter box, is it because she’s got arthritis and it hurts to jump over the side an into the box? Has your rabbit quit eating as much hay because of dental pain? So watch. Carefully. Notice everything, and try to figure out what might be causing the change in habbit.
We’ll be taking a look at some of this in more detail, and offering some ideas on how to make your Elderbun more comfortable, so keep watching for the next installment!