The rabbits: then and now

In December, we became ‘foster carers’ to two baby rabbits before Father Christmas delivered them to their rightful owners on Christmas Eve. I had rabbits as pets right from the age of 9 well into adulthood, so looking after them would be a doddle.

Except that now rabbits come with a long list of instructions. In our day, I have to admit that the rabbits thrived largely on neglect. I’m not proud of that fact and I always swore I would care for my guinea pigs much better (and I do).

We only ever had one rabbit at a time, which I know is frowned on now (and rightly so, but we didn’t know any different then). The only time we had two was when our longest surviving childhood bunny was still living at my parents’ house and was joined by my own rabbit from my rented flat that I couldn’t take to London with me. But they always lived in separate hutches.

Our rabbits used to get cleaned at most once a week. Depending on where we were living at the time, they might have got out for a regular run, or they might not. We never had an actual run for them, so they were always free to run in the garden, or on the balcony or around the flat. If they were running round the garden, they were VERY hard to catch, which made getting them out far less of an attractive option. (We did actually have one escape from the garden, when my younger son was a newborn baby. Luckily, someone caught him and took him to an animal shelter, so we got him back.)

Our rabbits didn’t have injections, they didn’t get groomed and they didn’t have hay in their hutches. Their bedding was straw and newspaper. They were fed twice a day – nuggets in the morning and vegetables in the afternoon – and always had fresh water.

With the baby rabbits, we learned that newspaper could be poisonous to them. They needed sawdust as their main bedding, with straw to hide in and hay to eat. They were only supposed to be fed once a day – only a handful of food each – and they weren’t allowed vegetables until they were 16 weeks (which meant we never gave them vegetables). At night, we microwaved a special pad to keep them warm.

It was a fair amount of work to look after them – two rabbits can produce a lot of poo in a very short space of time and the hutch needed a partial clean every couple of days.

In reality, the rabbits wolfed their food down in seconds. I couldn’t cope with the guilt of them only having a handful of food a day, so I fed them again in the evening. I had a desperate urge to give them vegetables, it seemed very strange not to, but of course I resisted!

For three weeks, I lived in absolute fear of the rabbits dying. Can you imagine being given responsibility for animals – a child’s Christmas presents – and them not surviving? I’m pleased to say that they survived.

Now the bunnies are with their real owners, they will need regular injections to prevent myxomatosis and rabbit (viral) haemorrhagic disease, both of which are fatal. I don’t know if these diseases were as common when we had rabbits, or whether we were just lucky to avoid them. The rabbits have reached 16 weeks and have been neutered. The owners were warned that they would fight if they weren’t neutered, and they have been fighting so much they have had to be separated. Hopefully they will now calm down and be able to live together again.

Knowing all I know now about rabbits, it’s surprising that our old rabbits survived, but they did! I’m glad that we care for our guinea pigs better than we cared for our childhood rabbits – and that the kids are learning how much work they need to put in to care for pets properly (even if it is me doing the majority of the work!).

Rabbit, Bunny, The rabbits; then and now


Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. Rabbits are apparently the most neglected pets because they tend to be left in a hutch on their own. It’s terribly sad, although hopeful that people are becoming better educated about them these days. I wouldn’t have a clue how to start looking after them either. A friend of ours had a house rabbit that was adorable, much more interactive than a pet cat! I would quite like to have a house rabbit one day but I couldn’t bring myself to have one in a hutch.

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    • I can well believe that about neglected rabbits. I’m sad to admit that our childhood rabbits were largely neglected, simply because we didn’t know any different. We loved them, but we didn’t do enough for them. A house rabbit would be amazing, as they can be trained to use a litter tray. X

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  2. What a massive responsibility to look after rabbits that were going to be a Christmas present. I would have been terrified of something going wrong with them. Eek! I’m so glad it all went well. x

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    • It was a huge responsibility! I didn’t quite realise what we had taken on when we first agreed to do it. I was very relieved when they made it to their rightful owners in one piece! X

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  3. I do feel that we somewhat spoil our bunnies! They only use one part of their hutch as their toilet, so we clean that part out twice a week and the rest once a fortnight. We give them rather expensive nuggets every day, sun dried corn on the cob (one a week) their body size in Timothy hay (only the best! Lol) every day, Kale (they don’t seem to be found of other veggies) and dandelion leaves every day. Then we put them out in the run for most of the day, where they have a little cabin, for when it rains (except they just sit on the roof and get soaked instead). At “bunny bedtime” we bring them in for cuddles and to warm them up (and dry them off if they’re wet). In winter their hutch is in the shed and we give them extra straw on cold nights. The vet did compliment me on how tame and cuddly they are though, which made me feel like a good Bunny- Grandma!

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    • I love how well you look after your rabbits! Our guinea pigs have Timothy hay too. The ‘foster rabbits’ spend a lot of time out of the hutch too, mainly in the house, which is lovely for them and their owners.

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