March 11, 2020
Ten Life Lessons You Can Learn From Your Rabbit
Ask any bunny mom or dad, and they will tell you that there’s no comparison for the affection and companionship of their beloved bunny. It seems that our rabbits teach something new about ourselves every day. So, what are some of the most important lessons we can learn from our bunnies? Let’s take a look at ten of our favorite!
1. Time Spent with Friends is Never Wasted
Think about your favorite memories over the years. Maybe it was the time you camped out to see your favorite band…or that epic cross-country adventure you took in your twenties. Whatever those memories may be for you, we’re guessing most of them were special, in no small part, because of the companionship of friends.
When it comes to a basic desire for companionship and socialization, we know that our rabbits are no different. As social creatures, most rabbits benefit from the companionship of a cage mate. Most rabbits bond well with other rabbits, but there are a variety of factors to consider (e.g. sex, age, and number of rabbits involved) and important steps to take in order to safely introduce your rabbit to a new companion.
If you’re considering bonding your bunny with a new friend, the House Rabbit Society has a great article to help you through the process.
2. Fortune Favors the Well Groomed
Don’t get us wrong…we all appreciate a lazy weekend spent on the couch in our sweats. But, we can also agree that it generally pays to look and feel your best. Whether it’s owning the room when interviewing for the job of your dreams or feeling especially posh before a night on the town with your besties, grooming is important to our health and happiness.
Our rabbit friends set a wonderful example when it comes to keeping well groomed. Some first-time pet parents may not realize that rabbits are extremely clean animals by nature and groom themselves regularly to keep their fur clean.
If you notice changes in your rabbit’s grooming behavior, this could be a sign of an underlying health issue and should be evaluated by a trusted small animal veterinarian as soon as possible.
3. Never Underestimate the Power of a Healthy, Winning Smile
We all understand the importance of regular dental maintenance when it comes to keeping our smile at its brightest and whitest. Taking care of those pearly whites is especially important for your bunny. Rabbits and other small herbivores have open-rooted teeth which grow continuously throughout the lives. For this reason, your bunny needs constant access to hard, fibrous materials for chewing; this helps keep your rabbit’s teeth worn down to a healthy level.
Dental disease is one of the most common health problems in small herbivores, and it’s one of the most preventable as well. So, how do you help your bunny keep that winning smile winning?
Provide an endless supply of high-quality grass hay
When it comes to your bun’s dental health, it all starts with hay. Continuously chewing on hay throughout the day doesn’t just benefit your bunny’s digestive health; this activity is also essential in providing the essential dental wear your rabbit needs to stay healthy.
Offer a variety of safe, natural chew toys
Chewing on hay is key to your rabbit’s dental health, but they will also appreciate a variety of safe, natural chew items for some fun and variety. Choose natural options such as safe, untreated woods, untreated cardboard, and a variety of natural fibers. In addition to promoting dental health, this activity keeps your bunny mentally and physically stimulated and active throughout the day.
Schedule regular vet checkups for your bunny
An experienced small animal veterinarian will be the best person to professionally evaluate your bunny’s dental health. This individual will have the knowledge and tools necessary to get an “inside look” at the teeth you might not regularly see and can diagnose any potential issues before they become a serious health concern.
4. Life’s Too Short to Skip that “Midnight Snack”
In some cases, having that late-night bowl of ice cream might come with more guilt than it’s worth. However, for rabbits, that “midnight snack” is something different completely and downright essential for regular health.
Many first-time pet parents are mortified to learn their precious bunny eats their own poop (this practice is called coprophagy) straight from the source. Frequently referred to as the “midnight snack” or “night stool,” cecotropes are a second type of stool produced and re-ingested by rabbits and other small herbivore species. Contrary to the name, cecotropes can be passed at any time of the day, depending on the bunny.
Cecotropes are produced in the region of your rabbit’s digestive tract called the cecum. The cecum is a large pouch-shaped structure that connects your rabbit’s small and large intestines. Unlike fecal pellets (the small, mostly dry, round droppings you’re used to finding in your bunny’s litterbox), cecotropes are designed for consumption and are packed with beneficial nutrients and bacteria your rabbit requires to stay healthy.
Fecal pellets and cecotropes are noticeably different not only in appearance but also nutritional composition. Normal cecotropes are dark brown in color and made up of a collection of shiny pellets that resemble a small bunch of grapes. The shiny, mucous coat of the cecotropes is designed to help the bacteria survive the trip through the harsh, acidic environment of the stomach so they can continue to ferment plant materials and support a healthy microbial ecosystem.
It’s important to note that you should not typically see cecotropes in your rabbit’s habitat. In some cases, there are underlying conditions that prevent normal cecotrope development or consumption. For example, matted stools in the fur around your rabbit’s backside may indicate underlying cecal dysbiosis (a disruption to the healthy balance of bacteria in your rabbit’s GI system) or may be the result of other issues such as obesity, arthritis, an inappropriate and unbalanced diet, environmental stress or other issues. In any case, the presence of matted stools or diarrhea and/or irregularities in the frequency or physical characteristics of stool or cecotrophs are all clinical changes that should be evaluated by your trusted veterinarian right away to rule out or address potentially serious health concerns.
5. Take Time to Explore Your Surroundings
When was the last time you took an opportunity to explore your local state park, or even your own neighborhood just down the street? Chances are there’s excitement right around the corner for most of us, just waiting to be discovered. Whether due to work, school, or other obligations, it’s easy for all of us to fall into the same old rut.
When it comes to falling into the same old routine, our rabbits and other small pets are no different. The good news is that it’s easier than you might think to spice up your rabbit’s daily routine or surroundings. Rabbits and all small pets benefit from simple changes of scenery, and this can be as simple as introducing new chews or activity centers, or rearranging existing items in their living space.
Better still, strive to let your bunny outside of the habitat as much as possible each day. This might include a dedicated, bunny-proofed room with plenty of places play and explore, or even the entire house. Your bunny will thank you for the additional room to run and play, and you might find that playing some fun and enriching games makes your bond with your bunny even more meaningful.
6. Make Time Each Day for a Little R&R
Just like exercise, science tells us that rest and relaxation are essential to our health and wellbeing as human beings. And, while we’re constantly rushing to any number of commitments and might not get the suggested hours of sleep every night, it’s important to find time each day to recharge and reset. Whether this comes in the form of a power nap, or even just finding time to Netflix & Chill, it’s essential to make time for rest and relaxation in order to be at our happiest and healthiest.
For our rabbits, dedicated time and space for rest and relaxation is just as essential. As prey species, rabbits have an instinctual need to hide away from environmental stressors throughout the day. Stress instincts aside, your rabbit has basic needs for rest and relaxation. Providing one or more dedicated hideouts in and around your rabbit’s habitat is a great way to support these needs.
7. Shake What Your Momma Gave Ya
Raise your hand if you feel better after busting a move, even if it happens behind the curtains with no one to see. Dancing is just one of countless expressions of joy we practice as humans, and rabbits are likewise practiced in the art of showing their joy. As any bunny mom or dad will tell you, there’s nothing more beautiful and heartwarming than seeing your rabbit “binky” as an expression of happiness. If you’re the type of person who feels self-conscious cutting loose on the dance floor, it would help to take a lesson from your rabbit. Dance (or binky) like no one is watching.
8. Tell Your Friends and Family You Love Them Every Day
Life’s too short not to express your love and affection for those who matter the most. If it’s been too long since you last called someone special to let them know how much you love and appreciate them, now might be a perfect time to do so. It doesn’t take long and you will brighten their day (and yours) in the process. Go ahead…we’ll wait.
Every rabbit expresses their affection and happiness in their own way, and some bunnies are naturally more outgoing and affectionate than others, but all rabbits will undoubtedly find their own unique ways of connecting with their caretakers on an emotional level. Fostering the human/animal bond is one of the greatest joys of the experience of being a pet parent, so be sure to dedicate time each day for this important purpose. Whether through playing enriching games, offering healthy treats, or just spending time snuggling on the couch, there are endless ways for you to express your affection for your bunny.
9. Embrace What Makes Your Unique
Life’s more fun when we embrace what makes us us. Whether it’s your hobbies, talents, sense of humor, or style, we all have our own unique qualities that make life more interesting for those around us. Similarly, we all know that every bunny is beautiful and unique in their own way. From lionheads to lops and everybunny in between, each rabbit has its own beautiful look and unique personality to match.
As every pet parent will tell you, no two bunnies are the same when it comes to behaviors and preferences either. This is especially important when it comes to elements of your pet’s daily routine such as nutrition. For example, if you have multiple pets in your household and find that their preferences for nutritional staples such as hay don’t match, don’t despair. Some rabbits prefer a softer, sweeter hay like Orchard Grass, while others gravitate toward crunchier, more savory hays like Oat. Rather than offering single varieties to your bunny, we also suggest offering a variety for health and happiness.
10. Eat Your Greens & Stay Hydrated
Who knew how right mom was when she pleaded with us to eat healthy foods and remember to drink enough water? Just as the right nutrition is essential to our health, our rabbits rely on us to provide the right nutrition to be at the healthiest each day. The good news is that providing a balanced and enriching diet for your bunny is easy with the right guidance. Our Total Pet Health wheel is a great quick reference for providing a balanced diet and enriching environment for your pets.
In addition to unlimited grass hay and daily recommended amount of a high quality, uniform diet, it’s essential to offer fresh greens and fresh, clean water each day. Greens provide important vitamins and minerals, as well as contribute to overall hydration. As an added bonus, most rabbits go gaga over greens, making “greens time” a highlight and ideal time for building that ever-important human/animal bond.