*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.
Pet rabbits...nothing new!
A few weeks ago, I picked up a few books at a flea market in town. The covers attracted me...one of those anthologies of children's stories called Best in Children's Books. I used to read them when I was little, so since they were cheap, I had to buy them. After paying for my purchase, I noticed a rabbit on the spine of one of the books. And inside: "Rabbits as Pets" by Margery Williams Bianco, written in 1929! Funny...the book was published in 1959, but they found the story relevant enough 30 years later to include it. Here are interesting excerpts:
"It is true that a rabbit which is kept all the time cooped up in a small hutch, and which you visit perhaps a couple of times a day to poke cabbage leaves between the bars, can seem just as dull and uninteresting as any other animal would if kept under the same conditions; but if youtake the trouble to treat your rabbit as you would a cat or a dog, allow it certain liberty, and make a real companion of it, you will find no end to its amusing tricks and peculiarities. You will never find two rabbits just alike, though there are some characteristics which all rabbits seem to have in common. All the rabbits which have shared our home at various times have been treated as members of the household. They have shown quite definite personalities, and have repaid our confidence over and over again in friendliness and entertainment."
In an age where people still say "You have a rabbit? You keep it in the house?", I find this refreshing. Clearly Margery was ahead of her time...it's just a shame that the message wasn't widespread after she wrote the article.
"There is no creature quite so comical as a rabbit, unless it is a baby goat. They seem to know that they are funny and do not in the least mind being laughed at; in fact, they rather enjoy it, and act as if their antics were really for your amusement, and they themselves quite ready to share in the joke."
Well, we're not quite ready for goats in our house.
"Rabbits are full of perversity and a rabbit that is running loose, and determined to stay so, is certainly the hardest thing to catch; but if you give up the attempt, he is almost sure to come up of his own accord sooner or later and flop down with a tired little sigh by your side or snuggle up into your lap to rest."
Of course, there's always the food bribe!
There is a long section on how to keep your rabbit, and despite Margery's forward-thinking attitude, she advocated keeping rabbits in a hutch outside. To her credit, though, she describes well the dangers of stray dogs and weather to a bunny. She also alludes to litter training and the necessity of keeping the living quarters clean.
"Rabbits need some green food every day, but should not be fed on it entirely"
Way to go, Margery!
"Almost any root vegetables are good for them, such as beets, carrots or turnips, either whole or the tops and parings from the kitchen, pea pods, lettuce, cut clover or grass."
Oops! Well, some of the above is true. Carrots are fine, but most of the other root vegetables have too much sugar for your average bunny's digestion to handle well. Pea pods are fine, but not the peas. And only firm, non-watery lettuce (such as romaine) will do. Margery goes on to describe additions to the diet based on oats and bran...perhaps this was acceptable before the creation of pelleted rabbit food. Nowadays, these additions are not a good idea.
"There are very few things, in fact, that a rabbit will not eat; very little comes amiss to him."
How I wish that were true! Perhaps in Margery's time, a rabbit that lived 3 years was considered an old-timer. But not any more!
"Have you ever seen a rabbit dance?I don't mean the funny sideways skips that they give when at play, but a real dance. Take your rabbit alone in a room with you some time, and begin by walking quietly up and down. After a little while you'll find that he will begin walking up and down with you, keeping pace and turning as you turn. Presently he may vary this by little skips and twirls of his own, going faster and faster, and now if you stand still, and if he is like all the rabbits I have ever known, he will begin to run round and round you in a circle, first in one direction and then in the other."
My guess is that Margery's rabbits were not spayed or neutered, and what she is describing is their courting dance! However, my spayed bunny, Newton, always runs between my feet every night as walk to her cage to dish up her nightly pellets.
"Rabbits, as a rule, do not care to be held or nursed but they will often jump on your lap or snuggle down beside you of their own free will."
"Though I hate to say it, after having told you of all their amusing tricks, it must also be admitted that they are quite mischievous and have no idea at all of property. They think it great fun, for instance, to steal carrots and potatoes out of the vegetable basket, and poke their noses into cupboards and carry away anything they take a fancy to."
And they don't eat the basket, too?
"They will try their teeth on wicker or woodwork..."
There ya go!
"...eat holes in woolen sweaters and - most fascinating of them all - tear wall paper off in long strips and throw it on the floor."
Newton does this! She's got the front entry hall half stripped already!
"Fluffy Ruffles, a particulary naughty rabbit, would curl down on one's skirt and apparently sleep there quite innocently, but when she woke up and hopped away there would be, more often than not, a large hole nibbled out."
No! Shocking! (Ask my couch about being nibbled!)
Well, it seems rabbits have always been rabbits and I'm glad Margery was around in the '20s to spread the bunny gospel. And I'm glad the story was published 30 years later to educate another generation...and I'm most glad that after another 30 years, finally this is the kind of information that, thanks to organizations like the HRS, may one day become common knowledge. Rabbits are cool.
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 data on an ongoing basis and it will be interesting to see the results.
- July/Aug 1997: Your rabbit and the outdoors
- May/June 1997: Rabbits as pets...the pros and the cons
- February 1997: Getting your bunny a companion he or she will actually LIKE...
- January 1997: Your Bunny's New Year's Resolutions (AKA diet and exercise hints)
- December 1996: Holiday hazards facing your bunny
- November 1996: Pet stores and your rabbit
- Sept/Oct 1996: How to bring your outdoor rabbit inside for good!
Last modified September 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.