Every Day Is A Winding Road

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Boxer in one of his simpler mazes, winding his way around our bedroom.

When I first acquired my pet rabbit, a year and a half ago, I had him set up in a hutch in my yard, which was the way I thought rabbits were kept. As soon as the little girl who is my next-door neighbor saw him, she came over to get acquainted and find out his name. I told her she could name him, since she was quite good at it (she had named the wild rabbit, who liked to hop around on my raised flower bed and eat my plants, Nibbles) — and accordingly, she said she’d have to know what activities he did before she could name him. “He mostly just likes to hide in his box,” I said to her, pointing to a nesting box I put in the cage, so she suggested we call him The Boxing Bunny. “Hmm, how about Boxer?” I asked, and with a broad smile from her, the name was settled on.

Not long after I decided to bring him inside and make him a house rabbit (because I’d grown smitten and keeping him in a hutch seemed wrong), I realized that the original handle she’d suggested for him was quite fitting. He has remained Boxer in name, but in title he is surely The Boxing Bunny, because every day (twice, if he can cajole us into it) we set up what we call a maze of cardboard boxes in our bedroom, and that is how we play with him. There are a few boxes that have a permanent spot in our room now, so that he can come hide out in them whenever he pleases, but the maze or path of boxes that we set down for him during play time is really how he likes to interact with us. Rabbits are prey animals, so naturally having hide-y boxes is essential to his sense of security, but it’s apparent by the excited way he interacts with us that he views this activity with us as playful. When he hops into our bedroom in the mornings, the first thing he wants to do is be petted, preferably until the petter’s arm feels like it’s going to fall off. And then he will begin hopping into the boxes that stay permanently in our room, from which he sticks out his head as if he wants us to pet him, and after a quick rub on the head he is off to the next box, poking out his head again just long enough to lure us to him, and then ducking out to run underneath the bed. With that cue, we gather his cloth play tube, his rattan tent and more boxes to set up a path or maze, configuring them in new ways each time and adding other items to challenge him a bit. When he’s figured a path through them all and retraced it a couple times, then he’s done and will either flop down for more petting or scamper off to his pen to eat hay.

Having a rabbit in one’s house is a very big commitment. They are highly social animals that, in the wild, live in extremely large groups in underground warrens, and they require time and attention from their owners to thrive indoors. In the words of many experts who have written and done videos about caring for house rabbits, they’re “high maintenance” animals. Electrical cords have to be covered or put up where they can’t be chewed, good furniture might have to be stored somewhere else, and unless they have the companionship of another rabbit (mine doesn’t), you can’t just abandon them with a bowl of food and water when you want to go on vacation or away for the weekend (yes, a pet sitter must be called in, one willing to spend time and give attention, not just treats). Neutering or spaying is also essential — even if you only have one rabbit — for their comfort and yours, as it curbs certain behaviors (I found out rather quickly that neutering is crucial if you have a male rabbit as a house pet, and I’ve read that female rabbits become more calm and enjoy a longer life if they are spayed, too.)

All of which is to say, I wouldn’t casually suggest to anyone that they consider getting a rabbit and making it an indoor pet. For the person who is able to dedicate their time to a rabbit, however, they can be truly wonderful pets — the kind of pets who love petting (rabbits, when they live together, are constantly grooming one another, and human petting is thus looked at by the rabbit as grooming).  For my husband and I, every day is a winding road of cardboard boxes that we get out and put away, and playing means sitting on the floor with him the way one would a child. But for us, it’s worth it. We adore him and are so glad we brought him inside.

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