Friday, July 19, 2013

The morning feet-greeting ritual

Like most rabbits, Flicka is primarily focused on food and specifically just how much she can wheedle out of us daily.  But to write off all rabbit behaviour as food orientated is a mistake and can lead to missing out on some important communication.  For example...

Every morning Flicka is either waiting on the hallway rug or racing to meet me as I open the bedroom door.  We meet on the rug and she immediately starts 'snouting' my feet i.e. nudging, running her nose over them and up my leg... it is quite forceful and, in fear of a nip and assuming she is asking me to feed her, I've always continued on my way down the hallway with her following.

The 'snout'
This morning I paused and looked back - she was still waiting on the rug.  I thought to myself 'what are you doing?  You know she's not a biter'.  So I went back, resubmitted my feet and got thoroughly snouted - very enjoyable it was too, albeit a tad ticklish.  Then I gave her a little ear scratch and she happily binkied off down the hallway with me in pursuit (was tempted to binky myself, I admit).

I now realise this is her way of saying 'good morning, did you sleep well, any bad dreams? etc, etc and that it was really quite rude of me to not respond to this.  So from now on I shall be minding my manners and enjoying the morning feet-greeting ritual in all its snouty glory.  Of course, she still wants food after - but then what self-respecting rabbit would turn down the chance of free grub? is a complete rabbit information resource and non-profit site raising the profile of rabbits as pets.  Join us on Facebook

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Monster delivery

Bailey and Flicka received a big surprise in the post the other day, a package from the nice folks at Monster Pet Supplies.  After demanding that it be opened now, now, now, immediately... we read the letter (addressed to them, of course!) and set out the goodies for inspection.

First up, a Burgess Excel food bowl which Flicka declared to be "well posh".  I agree - very posh indeed.

Shouldn't this bowl have something in it??

Then, a bag of Country Value Fruity Nuggets and a quick scan of the ingredients to ensure there was nothing harmful (although to be honest, no dry rabbit food can be said to be 'good' for rabbits).  I gave them a few nuggets to try which were wolfed down with appreciative grunts from Flicka.  The rabbits only get an eggcup of nuggets each per day (Burgess Excel) and the Country Value is also made by Burgess.  The pack has good information on it (feed alongside hay, fresh water etc) and most importantly is a nugget, not muesli, so prevents selective feeding.  All in all, I would say this is a good, cheaper alternative to Burgess Excel but, like all dry rabbit food, should only be fed in small quantities.

Flicka inspects...

Finally, a bag of Smartbedz bedding.  I have been wanting to try this for ages!  Even the sample pack (1kg) contained enough to cover the bottom of a largish litter tray.  Typically, Flicka tried to eat it but no worries - it's made from 100% natural straw so no nasties there.  It smells nice and is the most absorbent litter we've ever used.  Shame we don't currently have a garden as I bet this would compost really well.

Monster Pet Supplies have a great range of rabbit products, including hay, herbs, toys and treats and with free delivery on orders over £59 would be a great online store to buy in bulk from.  We give it the 'paws up'!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rabbits are so human... or is it the other way round?

"The Private Life of the Rabbit" by R.M. Lockley is a fascinating read for anyone wanting to truly understand rabbits.  This is the book which provided Richard Adams with background material for Watership Down.  From 1954 to 1959 Mr Lockley carried out a life-history study of the rabbit on his estate in Pembrokeshire, watching colonies of rabbits and keeping a diary of their activities.  The book is no longer in print but is usually available secondhand on Amazon

It's a bit of a heavy read in places, but what I learned from this book has stuck with me over the years, particularly the last two paragraphs which I'll share with you now; this bit always makes me smile.

"Rabbits have no marriage laws as such, but in their sexual relations buck and doe are tied to each other by a code of behaviour closely resembling that of man.  Young rabbits play together innocently, like children, at first; then comes an adolescent period, with indiscriminate sexual pursuits without fertile mating – closely resembling those of young men and women.  The young couple eventually settle in a burrow, often a poor one, but they will improve it, or move to a better one as their social standing in the community rises.  The young woman is ‘married’ now, the young doe is a ‘queen’.  Under fair conditions, without severe pressures due to predators, over-population, or food shortage, the couple – human or rabbit – may remain united for the rest of their lives by their territorial allegiance to a home.
Bailey paying homage to his 'queen', Flicka

If there is a surplus female or two around, the queen doe will not actively prevent the king having sexual relations with her or them, provided these secondary females do not enter her home, and she will only attack them if they obstruct her path when grazing near by; married man has a similar relationship, albeit more furtive and clandestine, if he takes a ‘mistress’.  But neither man nor buck will usually allow another male to approach his female sexually, if he can prevent it.  He will fight for the sanctity of home, where the female provides main bonds tying the male to a husbandly existence – warm, dry quarters and sexual satisfaction.  In man, family ‘togetherness’ is also important, and it is tolerated by the father rabbit in much the same degree.  Provided the young ones are docile they are welcome to stay at home and be treated affectionately as subordinate beings.

Rabbits are so human.  Or is it the other way round – humans are so rabbit?" 

Excerpt from "The Private Life of the Rabbit" by R.M. Lockley

Don't try this at home!  Domestic rabbits should of course always be neutered or spayed at the earliest opportunity and bonding groups of rabbits is much more difficult than bonding a pair.  But if solitary confinement is considered torture for humans, it is undoubtedly torture for rabbits also.  Rabbits should always have companionship or be brought into the home as part of the family. is a complete rabbit information resource and non-profit site raising the profile of rabbits as pets.  Join us on Facebook

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Taming of 'The Flicknife'

While I was working on Flicka's RAW poster for this year, it made me think how different she is now to a year ago.  Think you know me?  Yeah, I think I'm kind of beginning to, Flicka...

'The Flicknife' nickname initially stemmed from her driving need to know what we were doing at all times of the day.  She literally stalked us, watching, considering, trying to figure out her place in this little family group.  She terrorised us... in a good way.  It is only in the last month or so that we've felt comfortable enough about her to shut the bedroom door at night and restore our sleep patterns to normal; she's finally found her place and is happy in it.

From the start she was a friendly, playful rabbit but with a considerable amount of skittishness.  This is completely understandable, her previous life consisting of 6 months at the SSPCA rehoming centre, preceeded by an unknown amount of time as a stray, preceeded by... who knows?  But most likely the usual - bought as a child's pet, given up on.  I can think of few rabbits less suitable for a child's pet than Flicka; even these days it takes two of us to restrain her at the vet.  When threatened, she reacts with a ferocious strength that is all the more surprising given her sweet, friendly nature.

So how was 'The Flicknife' tamed?  Free access to everywhere (which she took full advantage of, no corner left unexplored) lots of love, lots of attention, lots of toys, lots of talking nonsense to her in a quiet voice.  The usual things, really.  The reward for this?  More and more aspects of her personality being revealed.  For example, she's recently started 'singing' (chirping) to herself, usually while devouring a treat but sometimes just when she's snoozing or cuddling with Bailey.

Her relationship with Bailey is interesting.  Unusually for a girl, she is a very generous lover and one of my greatest joys of the past year has been seeing Bailey tuck himself in to her chest in the sure expectation of a good ear licking.  He adored his previous partner, Daisy, and was a willing slave to her demands but, in true 'diva doe' style, she rarely returned the favour.  I believe the loss of Daisy affected him more than he let on and he was also dealing with the glaucoma which eventually led to removal of his left eye last June.  Since then, he and Flicka have settled into a mutually loving and generous relationship which is really beautiful to see.

So, no more Flicknife... perhaps her new nickname should be 'Mother Hen'..? is a complete rabbit information resource and non-profit site raising the profile of rabbits as pets.  Join us on Facebook

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bunny supplies: what I use and where I get it from

Thought this might be useful to UK rabbit people... this is what I use for bedding, hay etc, how much it costs and where I get it from.


By far the biggest expense!  As it should be, making up 80 - 90% of their diet.  Thanks to some Facebook friends, I've recently started buying Ings hay from the website Hay for Pets.  This hay is thick, long stranded, smells lovely and the bunnies love it.  It's grown organically in traditionally managed water meadows in the Vale of York and at £16 including delivery for 9.5 kilos, is a total bargain to boot.  Payment via Paypal, delivery within 5 days.

The 'Bunny Zone'

I've used Carefresh, newspaper and wood pellets in the past and if money was no object I would probably use Carefresh all the time.  These days, however, I use Megazorb (made by Northern Crop Driers) which is actually a horse bedding but is brilliant for small animals too.  It is very lightweight and absorbent and really good value for money.  I tend to buy two 85 litre bags at a time from GJW Titmuss to save on delivery charges.  Per bag it is £7.45 with delivery of £7 per order.  Payment with debit or credit card, delivery usually 1 to 2 days.

I clean two largish litter trays out every couple of days and a bag of Megazorb lasts me about 6 to 8 weeks.


I also get Readigrass from GJW Titmuss if it's in stock or direct from the producer, Friendship Estates.  I count Readigrass more as food than hay as it's too rich to give ad lib and I only give a couple of handfuls a day per rabbit.  £14 for 4kg (made up of 4 x 1kg bags) inc delivery, payment via Paypal, delivery within a week.  A 1kg bag of Readigrass lasts us about 3 to 4 weeks.

Help yourself, Flicka!

I feed Burgess Excel, one eggcup a day per rabbit and tend to buy it from our local petshop, Capital Pets (run by a very nice man and no animals for sale!).  A 2kg bag is about £4 and lasts a couple of months.


Wherever I can get them... I like using our local greengrocer, Tattieshaws, which has local produce really cheap; depends what is in season though and Bailey's fondness for cavolo nero often sees me trekking across Edinburgh to the only Sainsbury's which seems to stock it...


The bunnies get a banana now and then which lasts them a few days, a few mouthfuls at a time.  Or I get bags of unsweetened raisins or dried pineapple.  My biggest expense in terms of treats is Bailey's favourite herbs, Burgess Country Garden, which costs £1.99 per bag and lasts him a week or so.  I get these at our local petshop too.

So that's it.  No Pets at Home, you might notice, although I do have to make the odd trip there when Flicka has finally destroyed her latest Woodlands hay tunnel... they are one of the few toys which keep her off the furniture! is a complete rabbit information resource and non-profit site raising the profile of rabbits as pets.  Join us on Facebook

Monday, March 18, 2013

Why every home office needs a rabbit or two

Sitting at my desk on a gloomy Monday morning with an overflowing in-tray and absolutely no desire to do anything about it...

How to get started?  Coffee is not doing its usual trick.  The weather is no help, with rain turning to sleet to snow and back to rain.  At times like this, working from home is a motivational challenge which I am ill equipped to face.
The Den... Flicka in prime position, Bailey getting ready to wedge

And then, I look down.  A smile dawns on my face.  Unusually, Bailey has nabbed 'prime position' in the den and is happily reclined with his head resting on the cushion, his white toes stretched out to the max and his ears twitching happily as he dreams about... who knows?  Banana, probably.  Or hot chicks.

Flicka is lurking somewhere behind him.  Soon, she will reclaim her rightful position (in her eyes) and roll on her back at my feet, white tummy flashing, eyelashes fluttering.  Bailey will wedge himself in behind her.  And there they will remain - offering silent, sleepy support while I tap away; emailing, Facebooking, number crunching, phoning...

They keep me calm and make me smile.  Shouldn't every home office have a rabbit or two? is a complete rabbit information resource and non-profit site raising the profile of rabbits as pets.  Join us on Facebook

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Nut carpets, triceratops and butt curtains

Bizarre title, I know, but this blog post is actually about the more mundane realities of life with house rabbits.  It's not all binkies and bunnyflops...

Nut carpets

Bailey likes to have a few nuts around him at all times
Whatever you call them - raisins, cocoa puffs or, in our house, nuts - rabbit droppings have an amazing ability to travel, lurk and resist the suction power of all vacuum cleaners.  I spend a ridiculous amount of time each day sweeping them up, only to have them quickly replaced by our helpful bunnies.  No big deal, except when visitors drop in unannounced and I cringe in embarrassment, hastily kick them under the sofa (the nuts, not the visitors) and hope that nothing surfaces in their cup of tea...

What can you do?  Keep calm and carry on sweeping...


This is what my husband calls caecotrophs - mostly in humour but also partly, I suspect, because he can't pronounce it.  I'm not sure I can either, to be honest.  Whatever you call them, those clusters of soft squidgy poo lying in wait for our bare feet on the carpet may be rare but are pretty unpleasant when trodden on.

What can you do?  Thankfully this one has a solution - reduce the greens, up the hay, wash your feet and try not to retch...

Butt curtains

Bailey's butt curtain

Bailey and Flicka seem to moult almost constantly, to the point that it is a brief and blessed respite when they are NOT moulting.   And where there's a moult, there's tufts or, as we call them, butt curtains.  Teasing the tufts out without further upsetting an already grumpy bun is one of rabbit life's great challenges, and one which I have yet to master judging by Bailey's ever-present grumpiness.

What can you do?  Grin and bear the grumps... is a complete rabbit information resource and non-profit site raising the profile of rabbits as pets.  Join us on Facebook