Monday, March 26, 2012

That Bunny Bond

23 animals adopted in the last two weeks! How's that for sheltering success?

One kitten, a vivacious Tuxedo named Gromet, was first to find a home. He was followed by 16 adult cats! Congrats to Babear, Minnie, Abigail, Tyson, Sabrina, Faye, Astro, Pebbles, Loki, Greta, Cissy, Bea, Miss Kitty, Chocolate Chip and Elmo together, and … finally … SALTINE

This senior long-haired all-white beauty has been waiting months for a new home. As so often happens with long-term residents here, when it rains, it pours: Saltine suddenly had three interested parties all at once last week! One of the families drove here all the way from Massachusetts just to adopt her. Fortunately, their trip was not for nought: Saltine joined them for the long trip home.

Four dogs are new family members this week, too! Congrats to Terrier mix Oliver, Black Lab Shadow, Cocker Spaniel Squishy, and Lab-mix May.

Our featured adoptees this week? Good friends Penelope and Leonidas! Penny and Leo are one-year-old bunnies who were relinquished to us in late February because of a changing family situation. Penny, a black Rex-mix rabbit, and Leo, a gray American-mix rabbit, lived in the same home and got along well, but, we were told, were not necessarily bonded.

Penelope (L) and Leo (R)

Penny and Leo's owner called us at a time when we had no room for two more bunnies at the shelter--but was dealing with an emergency situation. So we turned to a woman who's fostered rabbits for us before: HSCC volunteer Nikki DeSarno, who also runs a chinchilla rescue named "Frodo's Friends Rescue"  from her home.

Nikki previously fostered speckled rabbits Oreo and Samoa for us, and did a wonderful job caring for them. She did just as well with Leo and Penny, who were shy and skittish when she took them in. She noticed that they loved to play, however: "They would entertain me by tossing toys and paper towel rolls all around the pen!" So she decided to use their playtime to help the pair develop confidence and trust in people. She sat with them in their playpen and pretended to ignore them at first. "After a while, curiosity kicked in and I would feel a little nuzzle on my foot or leg as they took turns sniffing me and running back to their tunnel," she said. By the time the two came back to the shelter, they were totally different rabbits. Leo was even outgoing, and ended up starring in one of our calendar shoots!

Leo in "Party Animals"

Penny and Leo are unlike our usual featured adoptees in that they didn't have an epic stay at the shelter; in fact, they were spoken for even before making their debut on the adoption floor. About a month into their foster care, Cara (our small animal coordinator), received a phone call from a woman who wanted to grant her daughter's birthday wish for a pet rabbit. They had been researching rabbit care for two years, she told Cara, and knew exactly what they wanted. Cara told her about Penelope and Leo, and the women wanted to meet them right away. Fortunately, space had opened up at the shelter, so in the bunnies came, and the woman decided on Penelope for her daughter that very afternoon.

The next day, however, Cara began to rethink splitting them up. It seemed each time we walked by their enclosure, the bunnies were grooming each other, lying smushed together side-by-side, or playing togther. Bonded bunnies will fail to thrive if separated, and Cara worried that these two had grown so close in foster care that they really ought to stay together. Nikki had noticed the same thing: most evenings when she came home from work, she'd find them snuggling together.

The mother returned with her daughter the next day, and Cara hoped to convince them to take both bunnies. But she didn't even have to try! In the first place, the daughter decided she was more intrigued by Leo than Penelope. In the second place, she noticed the rabbits' affection for each other immediately. At one point during the visit, Penelope began grooming Leo's ears. "Oh, they love each other, Mom!" the girl cried. It was an easy decision: the daughter would get double the bunny companionship she'd wished for! Leo and Penny went home with a very excited young lady on Saturday.

This is a wonderful story to feature because this family knew exactly what they were getting into. Unfortunately, many people who take on rabbits don't realize that they're actually quite high maintenance pets--or that a rabbit's lifespan is a good ten years!

Cara keeps an eye on, and has already begun to notice the multitude of ads that typically crop up this time of year for baby bunnies. Easter is prime time for bunny breeding, and shelters across the country are routinely slammed with rabbits from May through the summer. In fact, rabbits are the most frequently relinquished companion animals after cats and dogs.

Rabbits are highly intelligent animals that need lots of exercise and enrichment to thrive--we say at least one hour out of the cage a day, but more is ideal. Rabbits can also be clicker trained (we hope to capture video of that soon!) and litterbox trained. 

Freshly-cut Timothy hay is best for rabbits.
And let's face it: they're expensive pets. Rabbits need an unlimited supply of Timothy hay (not cheap) in their diets to prevent gastrointestinal stasis, or blockage in their digestive tracts. They also do best with a changing array of fresh veggies every single day. And don't forget the chew toys! Rabbits need to chew to keep their teeth a manageable length … and bored rabbits will chew destructively. Regular brushing and nail trims are also required.

A lot of this is relatively "new" information. I cringe to think of the life of the rabbit I had as a child, before I knew about daily exercise and training and toys and unlimited hay … The more we get to know our fellow creatures--the more intelligence and complexity we discover in them--the more we realize how few animals actually are "low maintenance pets." And isn't that intelligence and creativity the very reason we find these animals' companionship so fulfilling? More really is more when it comes to animal care.

Fortunately, it seems that Leo and Penelope will get all of the love and attention and enrichment they could possibly desire. And … they have each other :)

That's the good news this week!


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