Written by Lauren Espach, bunny mom and founder of Carrot & Clover, bunny blog, sharing personal experiences of being a bunny mom and dedicated to being a resource for new and existing bunny parents.
I haven’t always had bunnies in my life, if fact, it was only in late 2017 when I adopted Clover, a female Palomino Dwarf bunny, that my way of thinking about “traditional” pets changed. I put traditional in inverted commas because bunnies get much less airtime than cats and dogs. I’m not sure why this is, I think it’s because they’re on the fringes, on the peripheral of animal charity and rescue in South Africa. Maybe because they’re much smaller and quieter, that they tend to be overlooked, forgotten about. People are always so surprised when I tell them that I have bunnies, and that I’m an advocate for bunny rescue/adoption. There seems to be this misconception around bunnies, that they aren’t “real” pets.
I’d like to put some of those misconceptions to bed with my story, and share some of the learnings I’ve had along the way.
I knew practically nothing about rabbits when I took Clover in and it was a huge learning curve, one where I had to do a lot of research (thank you Google!) and was constantly picking the brains of my bunny-savvy friends and vet.
In August 2017 I started working at a new company, and one of my new colleagues and friends had adopted Clover. Clover had a pretty rough start to life. She was born in a pet shop, and when she was only a few days old, a rat got into her cage and started eating her back leg. Horrific, I know! But don’t worry, she’s fine now, minus a few toes on her back foot, which doesn’t affect her in any way, if fact, it just adds to her big personality.
She was taken to the local vet who managed to save her life and that’s when my friend adopted her. Unfortunately her other female bunny started displaying dominant and aggressive behaviour towards Clover, which wasn’t a great situation for anyone involved. That’s where I came in. I had met Clover on a number of occasions and absolutely fell in love with her, and I couldn’t bear the thought of this tiny, helpless creature going to a place where she might not get the best love and care that she deserves so I offered to adopt her right there on the spot. I knew that even though I didn’t know anything about bunnies, I could offer her a great life.
So with basically zero knowledge of bunnies, I became a bunny mom overnight and I haven’t looked back since. It took a lot of research and trial and error, but Clover’s got a great life and loving home, so I think it worked out pretty well.
We were helping the organisation to catch bunnies from the colony in order to sterilise and rehome them, and one of the little bunnies that my partner caught, was Carrot, a gentle male Dutch bunny, around 4 months old at the time.
The reason he’s named Carrot, is because a carrot was used to lure him into some bushes, where my partner was able to get him. P.s. if you’ve ever tried to catch bunnies, it’s hard work!
We were just going to foster Carrot for a while until he could be adopted, but when we brought Carrot home, it was love at first sight. Carrot and Clover bonded so quickly that we decided to adopt Carrot for good. This was a classic foster fail.
So, Carrot got a forever home, Clover got a best friend, and we adopted two bunnies in the space of a year.
My top learnings
Learning 1: Bunnies have loads of character
One of my biggest learnings is that bunnies have BIG personalities and are master manipulators. They can charm the treats right out of your hands (and fridge) with their cute, fluffy faces, twitching nose and “treat dance”. It’s difficult to categorise how they act, as sometimes they’re a bit like cats, and sometimes they’re a bit like dogs, but either way, they’ll tell you *exactly* what they think of you, whether it’s the way you’ve insulted them by cleaning their enclosure, which can earn you a hearty thump and have their back turned to you for hours, or how much they love you by giving you plenty of licks and demanding head scratches.
Learning 2: The importance of a proper diet
Bunny teeth never stop growing, so you need to provide them the proper diet that will assist with naturally grinding their teeth down. If they don’t get enough hay and fibre, this can lead to dental issues and painful “burrs” which are sharp spikes of teeth that haven’t been ground down properly that will cut their tongues and inside of their mouths causing them to stop eating which leads to them being sick and the possibility of their gastrointestines shutting down which is fatal. Plus they need a specific diet in order to remain healthy and happy.
Learning 3: Bunnies are super intelligent
The amazing thing is that bunnies are able to understand logic and form meaningful relationships with people. From knowing the daily routine of when to expect food and treats, to giving you the runaround at bedtime, to from watching the cats, learning how to escape out of the window (true story) to demanding attention, rabbits are considerably smarter than a lot of people give them credit for.
Learning 4: Do your research
If you are thinking of adopting a bunny, do your research. There are some really important things to consider, like space, other pets, other family members and children, correct diet and feeding. Do you have a vet that specialises in bunnies close to you? Do you have the time and energy needed to devote to a bunny? Do you know how to safely handle your bunny or what signs to look out for if they’re sick? Luckily there is a wealth of information online and lots of great organisations and even bunny-specific Facebook groups which you can learn from.
Learning 5: Bunnies are good for your heart
Bunnies are soul-soothing. They can sense when you’re sad or upset and they will give you plenty of bunny kisses and cuddles, or they’ll just come and sit by you and let you give them pettings. There’s something magical about watching them play, groom themselves, or just zoom around and binky that calms even the most frazzled nerves. It might have something to do with endorphins being released in your brain when you see something cute or adorable, but they’re definitely good for your heart and soul. This much I know.
How you can help
I’ve always thought of myself as a cat person, having been a cat mom all my life. Now, I’m a cat AND a bunny person. It’s incredible, the things that both Carrot and Clover have taught me, and I think made me a better person for it.
I wholeheartedly encourage you to open your heart and home and to give these amazing creatures a chance for a loving, safe and happy life. They make equally great pets as cats and dogs and will change your outlook fur-ever. I promise.
There are a couple of wonderful organisations doing amazing work, which you can get involved with. You can support by fostering, sponsoring, donating, volunteering, adopting or simply sharing the message.
By Carrot Clover