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Bunny Bulletin

Our regular bulletin board featuring blog articles, updates and advice from our volunteer team.

A Message from RWAF

Think Run!

Sadly, we're close to the last knockings of summer and before we know it, the winter months will be upon us.  For pet rabbits that are kept in a hutch with no attached running enclosure, that's when their exercise time goes down to virtually zero.

The Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund (RWAF) is the UK's largest charity with the sole aim of improving the health and welfare of domestic rabbits, pets that all too often are kept in conditions that fall well short of the needs of the species. They are advising rabbit owners to take advantage of the few remaining weeks of summer to attach a permanent exercise run to their rabbits' hutch in time for the weather to turn.

""In the summer, owners will often lift their rabbits from the hutch to the run, or give them supervised exercise time in a walled garden,"" said Richard Saunders, Expert Veterinary Advisor to the RWAF, ""even this isn't ideal because the time is still limited to well below their natural requirement, but in the winter it is a great deal worse because owners don't want to put their rabbits out into the rain or snow.""

As the charity points out in its literature and on its website, rabbits keep different hours from humans so shouldn’t be reliant on their owners to be lifted from their hutch into the run, and they should be able exercise in all weathers. Having a hutch inside or connected to a large secure enclosure is vital to allow them to display their natural behaviours. The exercise area should be at least partially covered with tarpaulin which is inexpensive from garden centres and DIY stores.

There has been a recent increase in the availability of better quality products that meet rabbits' needs and it is now much easier for people to get hold of 6 foot hutches and large exercise runs. The RWAF recommend a minimum floor space of 10ft x 6ft for a pair of rabbits (rabbits should be kept in neutered pairs or compatible groups). The RWAF urges owners to use their imagination when providing accommodation for their rabbits. As Richard Saunders explained, ""There are several manufacturers that stock good quality runs that fall short of the minimum recommended size but that doesn't mean they can't be combined to double the space!""

Check out http://www.rwaf.org.uk/exercise for more information about the importance of an attached exercise area for your rabbits.

www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk

http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/pdfs/Excerciseleaflet.pdf

Yesterday we told you that Ewen, from Ewen & Cat, had taken very unwell during the week.

At the start of the day yesterday everything seemed to be very much as it had been for the previous two days.  Medically we were doing everything we possibly could and whilst he was very much NOT ok, he was still fighting to get well again.

However later in the day he collapsed but held his head up (most collapsed rabbits are flat out).   This called for an immediate return to the vet but by the time we got there he started fitting and he was helped along the road to rainbow bridge.

We are very upset, as you would expect.  Running a rescue, unfortunately losses are to be expected.  We saved Ewen & Cat from being culled and yet despite all our best efforts we still lost Ewen. Cruel cruel world.

The samples were sent away yesterday, so hopefully we will get some answers as to what has caused this.

Cat appears to be doing very well and doesn't appear to have any issues so far.  We will hold her within the rescue for the time being until we have some news back from Ewen's samples.  Once we are confident that the cause will not affect her she will be available for adoption on her own, although as per our adoption policy we will be looking for a new home where she will have other rabbit company.

Following on from our Busting Bonding Myths, we thought we'd cover some basic bonding per-requisites.

Before you begin it is very important to ensure you are ready to bond.

All Rabbits Must Be Neutered
It is possible, in some cases, to bond rabbits that are not neutered.  However it is usually very difficult and can often be unstable.

For a long-term, safe bond you want to ensure that all rabbits, regardless of age, are neutered (except in special medical situations and/or where bonding a baby rabbit).

You must have a Temporary Environment for each of your new rabbits
It will almost never be the case that you can put your rabbits together and leave them overnight on the first night!

So it is very important that you have the space and equipment necessary to provide a separate environment for each of your new rabbits to live until bonding is complete.  This includes the ability to give new rabbits exercise time separate from the rabbit(s) they are bonding with for the initial period.

Know Your Rabbits
It is important that you have spent some time with your rabbits, and you know their character well.

This will give you an excellent head start when it comes to understanding their reaction to the bonding process and some of the exercises you may choose to carry out during the process too.

Don't be surprised though to discover characteristics within your rabbit that you never knew existed though - bonding can bring out a very different side to your rabbit.


Next Steps

Later in the week we will share the ""Main Exercise"" used for bonding rabbits.

On Wednesday 30th July Ewen (of Ewen and Cat) became very poorly with runny poo and sudden and severe weight loss.

He has been seen by the vets Wednesday and today (Thursday) and is receiving round the clock intensive care.

Ewen is on a cocktail of different medicines including antibiotics, gut stimulants and fibre supplements and is receiving syringe food and water.

He has having his faeces analysed to find out what is causing him to be so poorly.

 We are hoping he finds the strength to pull through and his foster carer and Vet will work with him closely to give him the best chance. We would greatly appreciate lots of thoughts for Ewen and if you can afford to donate a couple of pounds to help towards his treatment we would greatly appreciate it. We rely on the help of the public to help these poorly rabbits.

Donate Here

As part of Rabbit Awareness Week, our Facebook followers asked for some tips & hints on bonding.

We thought we'd start by dispelling some common Bonding Myths, then later in the week we'll offer additional bonding advice.

Same-Sex Rabbits Cannot Be Bonded
Simply not true.  Assuming that all rabbits in the group are neutered, same-sex groups can be bonded quite happily, for life.  It is a little harder than a male-female bond, but not a definite no!

Male-Male Bonds Will Result In Death
I've heard many people say that male-male bonds can't work, because male rabbits will fight each other to the death.

There is a little bit of truth in this, but only a little bit!  Unneutered males are very aggressive to each other, and they will fight for dominance.  There are true stories of rabbits killing each other during this process, and more common is the situation where they do serious physical harm to each other - including castrating their opposition with their teeth to assert their dominance.

However, neutered males will generally not do this.  Neutering removes the excess hormones that cause this territorial behaviour, and allows male-male bonds to exist in perfect happiness.

Speed Dating or ""Love At First Sight"" Meetings are the best way to bond
In my experience, this is not the case.  We find that the love at first sight effect is the least effective, with most rabbits not following this ""perfect"" example.

I have also been asked on numerous occasions to help people with bonding their rabbits after an apparent love at first sight bond has broken with days or a couple of weeks from bringing a new rabbit home.

What we find is often happening in these cases is that the rabbits are initially tolerating each other (appearing to be instantly accepting each other), then after an initial period will follow the typical bonding behaviour exhibited in almost every bond.

You can just throw rabbits into the same hutch and leave them to it
Absolutely not!  It is really important that you supervise the early stages of bonding, and it is beneficial for you to include a number of exercise and tricks to help them get used to each other too.

I put the rabbits together and they were fine, so I can just leave them now
Not necessarily - delayed fighting is possible, so its important to follow the bonding technique even if it looks initially to be going very well.  You want to be confident they will be safe together, not 'hope' they will be ok.

Bonded rabbits need to be the same size and/or breed and/or age
Simply not the case.

My personal pet groups currently each have one giant, one cross-bred and one miniature breed in each bonded group, and are all of differing ages as they were adopted from the rescue service at different stages.

My rabbit is too old to be paired with another rabbit now
In most cases, this isn't true.  The desire for company is so high, regardless of their age, that it is still important to consider getting a new partner even for our elderly bunnies.