Sunday, April 1, 2012

I Claim This Land in the Name of [insert individual bunny name here]

At current count, the Unfarm has 4 rabbits. Two single males, and one bonded pair consisting of a male and a female. They are house rabbits who hang out with me in my office/studio. Can't you just picture it: four cute, cuddly, fluffy rabbits hopping around the room together, munching on veggies and then flopping onto their sides and grooming one another?

I can't. Oh sure, they are fluffy and cute and they do love to hop around, munching on treats and chewing whatever they can get their teeth on (furniture, power cords, books, etc), but let them all out at once and what you have, far from being a group of contented rabbits, is a rolling, kicking, biting, scratching ball of flying fur. Bunnies are vicious, territorial little animals. Bonding them takes a great deal of time and energy, if it happens at all.

And after a vet bill totaling over $1000, I am scared off of trying to bond the rabbits for the time being. I might clarify that it isn't just about the money, it has more to do with the damage (physical and emotional) they inflict upon each other before I can break up the fighting. This means that giving the rabbits time out each day necessitates a rather elaborate set up of ramps and gates in an effort to allow the rabbit(s) access to their own cage while simultaneously blocking their access to cords and furniture they will chew on as well as the other rabbit cages, as they have a tendency to pee around them while trying to claim the entire room as their own personal territory. It doesn't matter how many times I tell them that the room is actually my territory, not theirs - they refuse to believe me. Rabbits are surprisingly stubborn animals.

The ramp is the newest addition to the bunny room - it was required after I put two of the three cages up on tables and left only Clover's cage on the floor. There were two reasons behind this move; first, I figured that putting the cages up on tables would allow me to position them so that they weren't sticking out into the center of the room as much and I could store the litter boxes and large bin of hay underneath one of the tables, instead of on top of Suki and Jojo's cage; and secondly, by raising Suki and Jojo's cage, as well as Basil's, up out of sight of rabbits loose on the floor, I hoped that the bunnies would feel less territorial and would therefore mark less while out gallivanting around the room. Clover's cage was chosen to remain on the floor as he tends to be the neatest, tidiest rabbit with the best litter box manners and he rarely marks while out.

When Suki, Jojo or Basil are allowed out, I open the cage door and put in the ramp (hinged to allow them safe and easy access to the ramp from inside their cages, and carpeted to give them secure footing). After a few minutes spent getting accustomed to it, they now happily hop up and down the ramp and have constant access to their litter boxes while enjoying their time out.

Not that it has helped - the rabbits continue in their efforts to claim the entire room for themselves. any areas not blocked off or protected by plastic hall runner. It seems my only option is to keep a floor cleaner close at hand or squirt the rabbits with water if I happen to catch them in the act.

Not that it has helped - the rabbits are of the opinion that I clearly do not understand whose territory is whose. In an effort to clarify things, Basil tells me that the whole room is his. Suki and Jojo, on the other hand, insist that they own the whole room. Clover doesn't understand what all the fuss is about - he would rather leave the arguing to the other three bunnies while he focuses on the important things in life: chewing through all of the most expensive electrical cords and art supplies that I have been careless enough to leave unguarded. And by unguarded, I mean those objects that are blocked only by very heavy pieces of furniture and numerous gates. As anyone who lives with rabbits knows, if I really wanted to keep something safe, I would surround it with a five foot high gate of metal mesh, attached to the wall on both ends by no less than 5 bolts and topped with barbed wire.