How the fifty-seven-year gap between my first and second pet rabbit changed rabbit keeping. Improving life for my new rabbit.
My first pet rabbit
My first pet rabbit, a gift from my parents, arrived at our home in a cardboard box. Not being well off, my father made a rabbit house from a 3-foot (0.915m)long wooden banana crate.
He obtained free of charge from a family friend. The design was a copy of one for sale in pet shops at the time.
Once placed at the bottom of the garden, this tiny house would be the home. For Smokey, a Standard Dutch rabbit for the next eight years.
Bedded on straw and fed bran and oats mixed with wet tea leaves once daily. Smokey was only free to run in the garden once a week while her house was being cleaned.
Thus quickly became impossible for me to manage. Therefore, I needed to hand her care over to mum and dad.
So, why am I telling you this concise but accurate tale of the past? Because in the 1960s, forcing a pet rabbit to live this way was common practice.
Now, until a year ago, I had not even given Smokey a second thought.
My Pet Rabbit 57 Years Later
I now live alone and share my home with my second and third pet rabbits, Babe and Bob. Free to roam with un-restricted daytime access to the back and supervised access to the front gardens.
Now, my rabbit Babe arrived first and spent her first few weeks managed by me in the garden during the day. But confined to the rabbit house at night.
Why did I need to manage her?
Because I had recently finished transforming it from a weed patch. To somewhere, I could sit in the sun and relax. So, it needed rabbit proofing, to stop her escaping. Plus my plants had to be protected from being eaten by her.
However, keeping an eye on my new pet rabbit was not a problem; She followed me around while making the garden safe and escape proof for her. She was even right behind me if I went into the house.
Now, that could prove fatal for her with all the electric cables around. More work making the house rabbit safe! But I did not mind, I enjoyed her company, and her antics had me laughing again.
From Garden to House Pet
Things were going well, except she did not appreciate being confined to her house at night, and was resisting more as time went on.
Only now did I spare a thought for Smokey, my first pet rabbit, and the life she had compared to Babe. Rabbits are not solitary animals, and they need company, with room to skip, jump and run.
They keep themselves clean and do not lie in their urine. Babe showed me that Smokey had not lived but suffered for eight years! She could not lie stretched out without laying on urine soaked straw.
I vowed that pet rabbit Babe would not suffer the same fate! Maybe she would be happier in the house at night. We would be together, and she would only need to be confined while I was in bed.
So I put a 1.5 x 0.5m cage in the lounge and moved her into the house at night. She loved spending her evenings lying under the T.V. or on a lounge chair next to me.
When, on the rare occasions she tried to chew the house contents, she was easily distracted with a chew stick. But every night at bedtime, I had a problem confining her in the cage!
To Free Rein pet Rabbit
Babe just hated to be in her cage, and I hated confining her. There was only one thing more I could try, leave her to sleep in the lounge for one night.
If she severely damages the furnishings, it would be back to the cage whether or not we like it. Problem solved! I just said good night with a treat turned off the light. Then went up to my bed, followed a few minutes later by Babe.
Now I had a pet rabbit on my bed and no household damage every night. However, that all changed when Bob moved in, but that is another story.
Babe hit me like a bolt from the blue from the word go. Having a rabbit as a pet was never on my agender, especially after my experience as a boy. Plus, I knew extraordinarily little about their needs.
But, I now know they are more than food, water and a house with a run. Because I let my pet rabbit teach me how she needed to live, and that pushed me to find out the rest. I started here.
A pet rabbit’s life span is eight to ten years, so, given the way my first pet rabbit had to live, why did she live so long?
Pet rabbits need the company of another rabbit, space to do what comes naturally, and to be part of the family. Give them all four, and they will pay you back with fun, laughter, and affection.
No, that’s not a mistake; the three things I have listed above are what my first rabbit did not have. The fourth is the answer to the question above, and essential to any rabbit’s welfare, a high in raw fibre diet.