He loves me, he loves me not.

does your rabbit hate you?

(picture credit: brokenwindowpain@tumblr.com)

We have a special treat today - a guest post by our lovely Customer Service Wizard, Jessica!

The internet is full of adorable preloved bunnies looking for homes.

adoptable rabbit

(picture credit: CO House Rabbit Society)

And then there’s people like me that post tons of pictures on social media and make it look super easy to have a bunny.

Blizzard the bunny

This is Blizzard, aka Blizz or Blizzy, a 1 year old albino Holland Lop.

As most pawrents know, when you adopt a pre-loved dog or cat, you have no idea what they’ve been through and how those experiences affect their behavior. Rescued bunnies are even more mysterious because they were prey animals who have been domesticated fairly recently (1,500 years ago versus 15,000 years for dogs).

While I knew all these things, I doubted any furkid of mine would not adore me immediately because I’m an “animal person”; I’m the one people come to ask for advice. And then along came Blizzard, whom I found under a tree in the parking lot at Target. Our vet, Dr. Brad, thought he was under 6 months old, and it was obvious he was recently neutered. I interpreted that to mean if we raised him just like Ears, whom I adopted at 8 weeks old, he would be just like Ears. Ears acts like a dog 99% of the time. He gives lots of kisses, stuffs his head under your hand to be pet, spends hours couch cuddling with us, and sits in front of the magic white refrigerator box waiting for it to open.

Ears the Rabbit

Ears, 4-year-old Agouti Mini Lop

After Blizzard lived with us for about 3 months, I realized I had it all wrong. My hubby, who never lived with a rabbit until Ears, suspected Blizzy was very different from the start, but I kept telling him he didn’t know what he was talking about. Blizz seemed to like being picked up and cuddled, and I was sure he and Ears would bond after he had settled in.

As reality set in, I frantically consulted many bunny expert friends about bonding bunnies and bunny behavior as Ears and Blizzard tried to fight every chance they got and Blizzard stopped letting me pick him up. When I’d open his door on their shared Wabbitat (they live together but are separated by chicken wire), he’d hide behind his litter box. Of course, he didn’t do this to Dad, which made me feel even worse because I am around him the most.

home made rabbitat

The Wabbitat, made by Dad

As ya'll know from the Top 10 Cuties, I'm a huge fan of Miss Bunz.  Her mom, "Mamarazzi", wrote a fantastic article about what they went through in their relationship after Mixx Bunz was adopted.  So I consulted the wise Miss Bunz and followed her guidance.

Miss Bunz

(picture credit: Miss Bunz)

Low and behold, after Easter dinner this year, Blizz let me pet him for 90 minutes on my lap! Little by little we made great progress … until about 3 weeks ago. And now, for whatever reason, he sniffs me and runs away. I am doing my best not to take it personally, but it still hurts my feelings. I’ve restarted lying on the floor and letting him crawl all over me, not picking him up, and generally taking a hands-off approach.

I know we’ve made so much progress in the last year. Blizzy’s such a happy little guy who loves exploring/chinning the entire house daily and our fenced-in backyard—with hoomin supervision. I can trim his nails without putting him in a burrito. His three dog and two cat siblings are kind to bunnies and don’t mind when their personal space in invaded. He enjoys road trips. And yesterday when I started writing this at our kitchen island, Blizzy put his two paws on my feet and chinned me, so that made me feel a little better.

Something else that makes me feel better is when I help with monthly bunny socializing at the Colorado House Rabbit Society (COHRS). I expect most of the residents not to be friendly considering the challenges they encountered before their arrival, but they’re grateful for any attention I give them.

Eliza Loovis restarted the COHRS Bunny Socializing Program in February, and I’m honored to be her assistant along with her daughter, Liv. We hold it the last Sunday afternoon of each month for two hours at the COHRS Bunny Barn in Broomfield. The goal of socializing is to show our residents that people are friendly and they can trust us, which increases their adoptability. One or two volunteers (couples or parent/child teams) sit quietly in exercise pens with a bunny or bonded pairs for 30 minutes at a time and provide treats and fresh greens for bribery. Eliza, Liv and I rotate the bunnies and keep track of how much socialization time each one has received. Socializer volunteers authorized to pick up bunnies and take them out of their cages can also come by the COHRS whenever they want for socializing time. About 10-15 volunteers participate in the monthly group sessions.

Just like the COHRS, your local rabbit rescue or House Rabbit Chapter has a wealth of information to help you and your bunny.  Additionally, they may offer tune-up and other classes to teach you about your rabbits.  What's helped me the most is talking to other pawrents/guardians in person and on social media about what has worked for them.  Facebook has many rabbit groups: I've met so many nice people on there and through Small Pet Select!

The biggest keys to your bunny's heart are love, communication, setting a daily routine, and patience.  It is impossible to set a timeline as to how long it will take for your rabbit to fully trust you - it can take some bunnies a long time.  Respect their need for space and time and don't try to force bonding by picking them up frequently.  Let them come to you.​  Love your bunny anyway, as I do.  No matter how small the hops, rabbit guardianship will be rewarding in the end. (J. Bielawski, personal communication, 20 June 2107).

[1] DeMello, Margo (1 Feb 2013). Rabbit and Human Coexistence. House Rabbit Journal Volume 5, Number 8. Retrieved from http://rabbit.org/rabbit-and-human-coexistence/

[2] Keeping Company with Rabbits (10 Feb 2013). House Rabbit Society. Retrieved from

http://rabbit.org/keeping-company-with-rabbits/

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Wolf
 

Please contact Wolf at wolf@smallpetselect.com if you are interested in becoming a guest contributor to the blog! Wolf has been involved is rescue and rehabilitation for over 25 years, acting as a foster, handling medical fosters, and dealing with behavior problems. She has also owned her own special needs pet care service, and an animal nutrition store. She has deep knowledge of nutrition, and is always looking for ways to keep her "education" fresh and at the forefront. And...she loves sharing what she has learned!