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Health

Watching the “friendship” of my pet rabbits makes me feel better

It starts after breakfast. He lies down, his girth extending beyond their shared mat. She snuggles up, then reaches for that hard-to-see space under her ear, the one that always itches. He kisses her back, then they linger a little, until she’s finished.

And there you have it, this platonic romance between our three-year-old Holland Lop mix, Kiki, and her new best friend, Eeyore, a honey-colored velvet rabbit who arrived to us five months ago.

We adopted Kiki at the start of the pandemic, when everyone in my family was home watching the rabbit learn to use the litter box and chew on new toys. But these days, I’m the only one here all day watching the budding relationship between Kiki and Eeyore, and it’s become a sort of balm for me — my own live-action romantic comedy.

Better than that, their bond fascinates me, moves me, and temporarily makes me forget that rabbits are messy fountains of need that will eat away all your strings if you let them.

The months leading up to Eeyore’s arrival were an anxious and depressing time for me.

I attended three funerals of friends who died suddenly, way too young. One of our daughters was hospitalized for a week with stomach upset, and I was still dealing with the effects of an emergency hysterectomy that triggered sudden menopause as well as occasional pain. Ukraine and Israel, two countries where my family has ancestral ties, were both at war. And I’m an environmental journalist covering a world that’s on fire, melting and sinking.

So maybe I was ready for a helping hand when I received a text from my neighbor Karen: “I don’t know if you heard, but I rescued a rabbit and I’m looking for a home for him. »

As a former House Rabbit Society volunteer, Karen knew that many shelters are not designed to accommodate rabbits and that rabbits raised as pets lack outdoor survival skills.

When she couldn’t find the rabbit’s owner, Karen asked me if I wanted to adopt him and offered to take him in and take care of the castration of the rescued rabbit until we are ready to welcome him.

Except for fish that died quickly, we didn’t have pets until three years ago, when our kids begged for something furry after their cousins ​​got a pandemic puppy . Our kids researched the options and presented a PowerPoint explaining why we needed a rabbit, and we brought Kiki home a few weeks later.

Kiki was easy. Sweet and kind, she moved into what had been our children’s playroom. I moved my office there because I read that rabbits don’t like to be alone. Our kids quickly started asking for a second one. Rabbits need friends, they pointed out, and Kiki was probably alone.

We said no. We had harmony in the house, or as much harmony as one can have with a preteen and teen during a pandemic. Rabbits may love company, but they don’t automatically get along either. And people looking for a rabbit partner are supposed to take their pet to meet other rabbits and see if they bond, experts say. We didn’t have time for that.

Additionally, despite Kiki’s easy temperament, rabbits are not the simplest pets: “Rabbits can make excellent pets, but they require a gentle touch, a good knowledge of proper care, and a lot attention,” according to the Humane Society of the United States. That’s one reason so many people abandon pet rabbits bought as fancy Easter gifts, rescue societies say.

But it was one thing to look for a second rabbit, another to have one fall into our laps. I thought we should at least meet the little guy. I told my husband that if we adopted the rabbit, he could choose the name. He said I might as well investigate.

The “little guy” turned out to be huge, six pounds to Kiki’s three. He had a cotton tail and big floppy ears – and I wanted to keep him. My husband asked why. Children no longer begged for a rabbit. Well, things were sort of…easy.

I thought before answering. That would be a good deed, I said. We couldn’t save the world, but we could save this rabbit. I’m not sure I made sense, but my husband said okay and named our new pet Eeyore for the puppy dog ​​face and floppy rabbit ears.

Navigating the First Days

During Kiki and Eeyore’s first meeting, a cage separated them. She was interested; he wasn’t. For the second date, where touching is allowed, rabbit experts advise a new neutral space. We chose our bathtub. She initiated; he accepted, although reluctantly. For the third meeting, we brought them together for a few hours.

They then enjoyed a bunny moon in Karen’s basement. They ate from the same bowl, drank the same water, slept in the same litter box. They came home to us a week later, a bonded couple.

Eeyore is not easy. His appetite sometimes requires late-night shopping for collard greens. He’s afraid of loud noises – he lost it when Santa came by in the fire truck, only calming down after Kiki soothed him. He pushes Kiki away when the treat bag opens and occasionally takes a cookie from her mouth.

He also wriggles out of my arms when I try to brush him, sometimes scratching me with his giant paws. When we traveled out of town and our neighbors fed him, he was so distressed that he ran away and peed all over our oldest daughter’s room.

But looking at my two rabbits, I’m starting to wonder if, when it comes to love, easy isn’t overrated. This seems to be the case for Kiki and Eeyore. Maybe we could all learn something from them.

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