NEVER give a pet to a child without getting permission from the kid’s parents first. Both of ’em, if applicable.
Reading Abby Normal’s blog entry of 7/14/05, Pet Peeves, http://funnygirl2.blogdrive.com/archive/360.html I left a comment about the style of cage I like for small animals, which elicited the question about how we came to have a bunny. Pictures of him are here http://herbthiel.blogdrive.com/galleries?g=15 in the gallery. He is 5 years old and weighs about 10 – 12 pounds.
My daughter Abby, (not to be confused, of course, with AbbyNormal) had always dreamed of having a big white bunny with floppy ears. He would be so cute and cuddly and she would always love him and take care of him and the big mean dad guy (that’s me) would always say, “No.” The cute little blonde thing (she was 9 at the time) would be disappointed, but she managed, as children are wont to do, to get over it. Oh, every once in a while we would hear about it, but it kind of came to be an accepted fact of life that a bunny wasn’t in anyone’s near future.
“Besides,” said the big mean dad guy, “we don’t have a place for a bunny. Let daddy read you a book about bunnies.” And she was still at the age where I could sometimes distract her by reading “Guess How Much I Love You” to her.
*I think this is where the piano player plays a minor chord to indicate the villain has just entered the scene.*
We had a friend who thought that Abigail was the cutest, most darling, lovable little critter that ever lived. One day, the likely story goes, this “friend” just happened to be walking through the trailer park where she lived and just happened to see a group of feral cats attacking something. Well, it just happened that the feral cats were attacking a domestic rabbit and its babies that someone must have released because they could not care for it anymore. *I realize there should be a WHOLE lot more quotation marks or “Quote-Unquote” but I am trying to save time.* Well, being the brave heroine that she was, she jumped into the fray and chased the cats away, but, lo and behold, left all alone, shivering and frightened, just happened to be a lone white baby bunny.
What cold, heartless monster could leave a little baby bunny unprotected that way? What if the cats come back? There is only one thing to do. Rescue it. So, as the story goes, she picked it up and took it in, but what to do with it? If I take it to the pound, they will euthanize it if it isn’t adopted and it’s so sweet and cute and cuddly and loveable. Maybe I should show it to my friends, first, so they can see what heroic deeds I have done this day, then, *sniff” take it to the…the…pound. *sniff*
Big mean dad guy wasn’t around.
I get home and here is little Abby, the happiest little girl you’ve ever seen, “Oh daddy! You have to see what Auntie So and So brought me!” Following the excited little girl downstairs I find a cat carrier with one of the water bottles that you use on rodent cages attached and a food dish. We had three dogs at the time, so who in their right mind would give us a cat?
The cage was opened and it was not a cat. It was a palm-sized white bunny. Whiskers twitching, alert, beady red eyes looking intently all around and fixing on me, snuggled close to the heart of a pretty little blonde girl with big, wet, blue eyes.
“What is THAT?” Asked the big mean dad guy, knowing full well what it was.
“It’s a bunny, daddy, and see, he’s all white and has red eyes and Auntie So and So brought him over for me to look at and she’ll let me keep him.”
“SHE’LL let you keep him?”
“Well, mom said I had to ask you, but daddy,” At which point the little critter is placed in MY palm, “If we don’t keep him, Auntie So and So will have to take him to the pound and put him to sleep and that means they’ll kill him and look at how cute he is,” at this point he climbs into my pocket, “and see how much he likes you already. You’re not going to let them kill him, are you?” Tears drip.
“Darlin’, what are we gonna do with a bunny? People eat bunnies, they don’t keep them as pets. Do you know anything about bunnies?”
“People do keep them as pets and you can’t eat this one, he’s too small anyway, besides,” the creature pokes his head out of my pocket like a baby Bugs or something, “He likes you daddy.”
“He probably pooped in my pocket. Here, take him.”
Tears. It ain’t fair, I’m tellin’ ya.
“Where will you put him?”
“He can stay in the cat carrier for a while. I already have a name for him it’s Roo Boom-Boom Thiel.”
Boom-Boom is her big pink, stuffed, bunny and Roo, she explains, is the cute little baby kangaroo from Winnie The Pooh.
It did not take long to realize that a cat carrier was no place for a growing bunny. I am not a fan of so-called “outdoor pets.” I think it is wrong to leave your dog or cat outside all night. According to Encarta World English dictionary a pet is:
1.animal kept at home: an animal kept for companionship, interest, or amusement
2.favorite person: somebody who is indulged, especially a favorite
3.loved person: somebody who is particularly loved by another, often used as a term of endearment in direct address
And if you leave your pets roaming the neighborhood or neglect them, even by not giving them attention, then you are not ready to have a pet.
I said all that to say I didn’t want an outdoor hutch for the rabbit. Only a couple of weeks had gone by and already we had discovered how intelligent and loyal they are. You can even litter box train them! Having three dogs at the time we couldn’t really take advantage of that, but after we had cats we learned that it comes natural to rabbits. When Roo is out hopping he will stop at the cat box, if it’s clean, and use it.
So, off Abby and I go to the pet store to see what sort of accommodations are available. Fortunately for us the young gal that waited on us was the proud and happy owner of a rabbit. She advised us that we would want a galvanized steel ferret cage that was at least two stories high(two ferret cage stories, the rabbit isn’t quite that big, yet.) so he would have room to exercise by running up and down the ramp. She also told us to put old cardboard boxes, like old Coke 12-packs, in so he would have a place to rest his feet if the mesh of the cage started bothering them. He was young enough that this was not a problem, but he likes the boxes because they give him a way to make a den for himself.
Abby had $200 from babysitting and between buying the cage and all the other accoutrements I sprung another $200. We are keeping the bunny.
The one big mistake I made in the whole deal was that I didn’t think about the process that would be involved in cleaning the cage. This is why I suggest getting a cage with a slide-out drawer. That way all you have to do is have the child slide the drawer out each day, empty it, hose it down and slide it back in, deep-cleaning the cage itself once in a while whenever it really needs it.
The cage we have weighs about fifty pounds and the cage part rests in the pan part. In other words, every Saturday while Roo is out with Abby on his harness and leash or hopping around the house while the dog is outside, I wind up carrying the cage outside, picking it up and pounding its contents into the trash can, and setting it down in the driveway.
The pan is then emptied and both parts are hosed down. After drying in the sun, the pan is lined with plastic trash bags and newspapers and the whole thing reassembled. The steel tray and the corner of the cage that is Roo’s bathroom are beginning to rust, which means that it’s only a matter of time until we replace it. We have been looking at ferret cages that are three to four stories high, but this time, we are getting a slide-out tray so Abby can take part in the fun.
I do have to say that she has taken good care of the bunny as much as she can. She does feed him and pay attention to him and has read all about rabbits. One thing that we were told was that since he is a male he would become aggressive and also spray, but since he is not kept outdoors, is handled frequently and never been exposed to other rabbits we have not had this trouble.
He is a very intelligent, likable as well as loveable pet.
All that happened 5 years ago and still, every time I clean the bunny cage or see rabbit poop, I think of our friend, Auntie So and So.
Remember, the Good Book says, Magilla Gorilla asked the chinchilla for a sip of his sarsparilla.