Amy's RabbitRant
July/August (bimonthly from now on)

*Dedicated to the memory of Quincy*
For those who've been following our personal story, and to those who have written with messages of support, thank you. We're all doing better, and though we will always miss Quincy, it's getting easier to think of him with a smile than a tear.
The RabbitRant will continue in his memory.

Summer joys and hazards for bunnies

Newton gets really giddy when summer comes. Her favourite perch is the sliding door that faces the back garden. She can stand there, her teensy feet up on the threshold, for a long time...watching for subversive squirrel activity. We know a cat is close when we hear the THUMP followed by scrabblescrabblescrabble as she dashes back into the safety of the living room. But she loves to watch the outdoors.

Now, take her OUT into them, and she's not a happy bunny. I guess she just likes to watch, like Chauncy Gardener. (Sorry...obscure Peter Sellers reference.) Her heart races, her eyes widen and she is not impressed.

It's funny how we're so certain our bunnies want to be outside and we're preventing them from fulfilling their destinies. But Richard Adams wrote about this in Watership Down, and I think he's bunnies just don't know what to do outside any more. They've lost most of the survival skills that their wild ancestors had, and so the outdoors isn't their playground, it's a scary world full of unfamiliar scents and sounds. It's much more appealing to watch it from the safety of the kitchen screen door, says Newton.

There are some bunnies who LOVE being outdoors, like our Murphy (our first bun). Well, maybe she didn't love it, but she wasn't bothered by it, as far as we could see. Like with Newton, we had Murphy on a harness. But Murph loved to dash, so we got 18 feet of clothesline and attached it to the harness and let her go mad. She would sit and sit and then BOOM, off like a shot in whatever direction she pleased. We were smart enough to capture this on videotape. What a hoot.

If you're determined to share the outdoors with your bunny, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. ALWAYS keep your bunny on a harness
    A small cat or dog harness works well. Our favourite is the extra small dog harness that has plastic snappy clips, so once it's adjusted (assuming the bun won't grow any bigger), it will always fit, and goes on quickly. Newton is 4 lbs and this fits her perfectly. Remember -- the harness is an unpleasant feeling for most buns and it's a good idea to get them used to it by putting it on them for a short time at first, then gradually increasing it. Do this inside before ever trying to go out with them...and giving a treat while the harness is on probably will help things go better. Attach the longest leash you feel comfortable with to the harness. Make sure it's secure...don't want a rope to come untied and then off goes bunny!
  2. If you don't want to use a harness, get an escape-proof exercise pen
    KW Cages sells them (1-800-447-cage) as do most good pet stores. Anchor it to the ground and don't leave your bun in the pen unsupervised.
    Didn't I say that already? Well, it can't be overstated. A cat, squirrel, bird, dog or whatever can startle your bun and a startled bun wants to escape and hide. If it's in a pen, *where* is it gonna go? Not a pretty sight. Someone I know had a bun panic outside while on a harness and she dislocated her hip in her frenzy to hide. And this bunny wasn't left alone! So you can see why you ALWAYS need to be with your bunny when it's outside, to make sure it doesn't run off, to scare off other animals and to watch for any other dangers. And a bunny can leap tremendous heights when it wants don't want to come out after getting a cold drink and find him GONE! But it can happen, so don't leave him alone at all.
  4. Make sure bunny has a shady place to sit.
    Pretty obvious, but every summer we hear news reports of people leaving pets (usually dogs) in hot cars with the window open a crack. These poor dogs overheat easily and often suffer brain damage as a result (if they survive at all). Bunnies are even MORE susceptible to heat, so make sure to provide a shady spot to sit, and if it's really hot, just stay inside where it's (hopefully) cooler.
  5. Other hazards: fleas, mosquitos
    A bunny with fleas isn't just unhappy; it could be lead to serious health problems. And in some parts of the world, mosquitos and ticks spread diseases that are fatal (and unbelievably horrific) for rabbits. Check with your vet to see if you are in an area at risk, and if so, outdoor bunny recreation is NOT for you. Period.
  6. Take it easy at first.
    You won't know if your bunny likes it outside or hates it until you try. Be prepared for either eventuality, and if she hates it, don't take her outside. It's just not worth it, for either of you.

Other things to remember in the summer heat:

If you have or have had a female rabbit living with you, please visit
Suzy Shuker's page and fill out her survey on rabbits and uterine cancer. She's compiling the results on an ongoing basis and it will be interesting to see the results.

RabbitRant Archives

Last modified July 15, 1997
Disclaimer: Amy is not a vet. She is a person who loves rabbits.
Please consult a qualified rabbit veterinarian when making any changes that will affect your rabbit.