Living With a Rascally Rabbit
In the fall of 2002, I was caring for three foster rabbits for the Indiana chapter of the House Rabbit Society. We had Emily, a black Netherland Dwarf who was eventually adopted into a lovely home, and Hans Solo, a chocolate-and-vanilla Dutch, and Fritz, a New Zealand White, in addition to our own bunnies, Velvet & Miss Bea..
Hans decided that he had found his forever home almost immediately, but our adoption of Fritz took a bit longer.
Fritz was very different from other rabbits I had known. He was a “vertical” rabbit, very possessive and protective of his cage, and a biter.
At first, Fritz lived in a large, solid-bottom cage on our kitchen table. He used stairs made from milk crates with woven mats for stair treads when I let him out for a romp. Fritz soon became “King of the Kitchen” because he didn’t like other rabbits to come near him. The aggression toward other rabbits and the cage possessiveness problems were new to me. I quickly learned to respect his space! When I forgot and reached into his cage, I was reminded with a nip - not a “friendly reminder” but a “serious reminder” nip, which sometimes brought blood. At first, cleaning his cage could only be done if Fritz was not in residence. When he was in his cage, I used my “handy-dandy, Fritz-proof” glove, made out of a sturdy garden glove. The glove frustrated Fritz greatly because the glove stayed in the cage, even when he gave it the “serious reminder” nip. But, Fritz has learned to live with intrusion into his space, although sometimes grudgingly, and the glove is no longer needed.
Fritz is a quick learner. He soon learned that when he wanted out of his cage, he just had to flip his water bowl - a large soup bowl with a handle - and soak everything. I soo replaced that with a heavy crock without a handle that he couldn't flip.
Fritz had only been with us a month when he had an accident. We believe he hopped onto the top of Han’s cage and somehow got his foot caught, and injured himself getting free. Fritz went back to his cage as usual that night, so I had no idea anything was wrong until the next evening when it was time to let him out. When he didn’t rush out as soon as the gate was open, I picked him up to see what was wrong. I saw immediately that his foot was injured. All night and all day long he had waited for me to discover his injury. Fritz licked me over and over-many, many Bunny Kisses- his thank you message. But, since that day, he hasn’t kissed me again!
We rushed him to the vet but it was too late for a cast to be effective. The vet attached Fritz’s foot to his ankle bone with long pins. He had three of them and they had sharp, protruding ends. Fritz came home with only tape covering the pins. The vet instructed me to replace the tape when it became soiled.
The tape wasn’t ever on long enough to get soiled. Fritz hated that tape and worked at removing it almost every moment. I spent the first night sitting in a kitchen chair with my head in his cage, singing silly songs about the wonders of tape. After a while, I began to watch him closely as Fritz removed yet another wrap of tape. I was afraid he would scratch his eye or some body part with the sharp pins but he was very careful where he put his paw. So, I left the tape off. He had the pins for almost a month
With his injury, I wanted to use newspaper in an attempt to keep his foot clean. But Fritz is a dedicated paper shredder, so I couldn’t use newspaper as a litter material while he was recovering. So I asked him, “Won’t you leave this newspaper alone so your foot can stay clean and get well?”
After that, he didn’t shred newspaper and didn’t grumble or bite me while I moved things around and cleaned in his cage. But on the day the pins were removed he came home to his cage, promptly shredded all the paper and sat in the middle of the mess looking quite pleased with himself. Fritz’s life had returned to normal - his grumble was back and it was hands off his cage and everything in it. The surgery was a success and his foot soon healed. It was a bit crooked but he iwas able to run, do his acrobatic “binkies” and leap tall boxes in a single bound.
Fritz settled into our lives and our hearts, but he was still a foster rabbit available for adoption. One day the House Rabbit Society staff called and said someone was interested in a big white rabbit. They wanted to know if Fritz would get along with a cat. The plan was for Fritz to live behind a baby gate “for a while” until he and the cat bonded, which seemed a most unlikely turn of events. While I didn’t know whether Fritz and the cat would tolerate each other, I was sure that no baby gate would contain him. Without another thought, I told the staff worked that we had decided to adopt Fritz ourselves. That evening when I let Fritz out for his romp, he came over and flopped beside my chair. He let me pet him for what seemed like hours. He had never done this before. Somehow he knew he was home and would never have to leave again.
Rascal rabbits are very entertaining!
Fritz wasa rascal in every sense of the word. He redefined the phrase “needs supervision.” He was in everything and on top of everything. His “projects” could be seen throughout our home. Every blocked entrance is considered an insult and he viewed denied access as a personal challenge. There is an untidy square of carpet dug out all the way through to the concrete in front of every door!
Fritz knew I enjoy surprises and he would often hide his handiwork for me to discover later. I discovered one just recently. Our sofa is not new, and the base has been enclosed with plywood for many years, so that no rabbit can get underneath, chew a hole and crawl through the underside to play inside the sofa. There is a skirt on the bottom of the sofa and I have a quilt covering the sofa. The skirt and quilt make a lovely rabbit run. My husband and I watched with delight as Fritz ran back and forth between the quilt and the skirt. We even delighted in the fact that he seemed to spend quite a bit of time in his new hiding place. Eventually I discovered his secret. He had a sizable hole started in the front of the sofa and sofa stuffing was all over.
Another of his projects left me breathless and shocked! Our home is “bunny-proofed” - all electric cords are blocked by boxes, furniture, or put up out of the way. I had one particular lamp cord hidden behind cardboard boxes in a corner. But, since Fritz soon got through most cardboard barriers, I decided to use cable wrap to protect Fritz and the cord.
I thought that, even when Fritz got through the cardboard, he’d leave the cable wrap alone. One day I noticed Fritz wasn’t interested in that corner anymore. I thought he had probably grown tired and moved on to more interesting things. But when I moved the boxes aside, I found the lamp plug still in the outlet and cord, wrap and all, neatly chewed in half. Fritz hadn’t become bored; he had just finished his project.
All the rascally things Fritz does are simply just part of living and loving a rabbit. The “rascal” part, we find, is the most endearing.
Copyright © 2006 By Deborah J. Lindsey
All Rights Reserved.