Bunny Bonding – Peter & Lottie

This weekend we attempted to bond Dwarf Lop Peter (7 Months) with Rex Lottie (9 Months). Peter was a recent rescue from a centre, neutered & very friendly & lively. Lottie not spayed, adorable & a little more timid. We would usually expect both Rabbits to be spayed/neutered prior to bonding. A vet had given owners advice that it should make no difference to the process, nor their bond afterwards (I do disagree with this advice). Owners have had rabbits at home next to each other in separate cages & introduced in the bath (obviously no water), this advice is given in places, however I would say it slows the process down and confuses the rabbits, for instance if they fight and get separated it becomes like a child getting their own way & so continue to do so, this slowly damages the bonding process. Ideally I would prefer to bond two bunnies of the opposite sex that have never met, both put in a different & strange environment (not that we are strange, crazy, maybe) put in a small area, observing 24/7 with as little intervention as possible, this is usually successful but not always comfortable viewing & staying up all night or doing shift rotation is very tiring.

However, set up our bonding cage which is 6ft x 2-3ft, litter trays, hay water, a little box to chew on & fling around but not too many places to hide as interaction needs to be encouraged. Some nice forage to calm nerves including chamomile, some Pet Remedy aka Cheesey Feet Spray, fly mesh over the cage, big fan & snuggle safes from the freezer (30+ degrees this weekend). The first 12 hours was a lot of humping and nipping from Peter, fur being pulled but no blood so this is safe to continue but does not allow for short naps with set alarms, only matchsticks for eyes.

Saturday daytime Peter had relaxed & was now doing the typical man thing going in for love after being a grotbag. Lottie is a bit like ‘skitzo alert’ and is a little on edge thinking it is a trap so he can nip again. Time for a cruise in the carrier and some nana smooshed on heads, bunnies generally cannot resist the banana and tends to lead to grooming. So heads were down and throughout the day some mutual grooming & some cuddles. This was positive and all happening in very much the same pattern as previous bonds. The heat needs to be taken into account here as well at 30+ degrees its not cuddly weather for fur babies.

Both were cuddled up nicely in the same litter tray, this is all so positive, a good 24 hours and they could be married and off home for their forever honeymoon…

Unfortunately, during this cuddle Lottie decided to get up & hump Peter’s head, all very normal but Peter in some kind of reaction to get her off bit her next to her vagina splitting the skin, very little bleeding but a worry in such a delicate area. So what does Lottie do after? Goes and grooms Peter of course, Lottie in no distress whatsoever.

Obviously the wound needed to be checked, gave it a clean and syringed manuka honey into the wound, this helps to keep it from getting infected. I put Rearguard on her as she was now an open target for Flies laying eggs in her (Flystrike), which could occur in seconds. I was also notified she had previously been Rearguarded a couple of weeks earlier, so this was good news. Hygiene is so important when cleaning a wound, wearing gloves, clean syringes, warm boiled water to hand. The wound was very clean, so I just gently flushed the area with water and syringed some manuka honey into the wound and gently massaging on the opening. The honey has really good healing properties as well as preventing infection and encouraging Lottie to take good care of it. The bond was still strong and had reached the stage of consummation, however, the wound would not let this happen. We believe Peter’s bite was accidental but we have to raise the question of whether this would have occurred if Lottie was spayed? A vet I saw the next day thinks she humped Peter because she was feeling frisky (I am not too sure it is as simple as that), but am sure that she would be giving off a scent that would encourage Peter to be attracted to this area & maybe even bite it if in his face. The cuddling was fine & other than Peter trying his luck a few more times no problems occurred in the night under my caffeine fuelled alertness.

The wound obviously puts us in a dilemma as a business. The first thing we should do is seek a vet to look at Lottie’s wound, we are not trained vets despite much research and owning a copy of the Textbook of Rabbit Medicine. The reason we do so much research is because we have had some bad experiences and unfortunately feel that whilst many vets are good with cats and dogs. Rabbits are much different, filed under exotic pets – the third most kept domesticated animal after cat and dog. The point is many vets are not rabbit-savvy and struggle to diagnose problems. The vet said she is probably in season so was feeling ‘frisky’. Oh, I thought Rabbits were always in season? Oh yes they are aren’t they. With vets that are not rabbit-savvy you can pay a lot of money on a gamble.

I of course will not name any vets or surgery’s but I do not include our own vets in ones who I do not trust, we have a very strong relationship with them & this is incredibly important if you care for your rabbit. You need to know they are Rabbit savvy and are caring, during tough times you need strong supportive staff and empathy, not a money greedy cold shrugger who just says these things happen.

Our vets are not open Sunday, this leaves out of hours (who I refuse to use & pay their horrifying rates) and another vet who I also did not trust because of a previous misdiagnosis with Topsy which lead us to force-feeding Topsy medicines they did not need the weekend before she died, which was heart-breaking. Topsy was complex and I felt if I give them benefit of the doubt as this is a wound should be treated like any other animal. I first got the cold-shrug about Topsy & was then told the rabbits must be separated and she needed stitches with the consultation fee would cost £350! I kindly refused, now for some unbeknown reason she gave her Metacam & Marbocyl without any  permission with a combination charge of £35, no bottle just a shot of each. Both that I have in date at home that they had given to me for Topsy 😦

Peter & Lottie were still doing really well. Lottie looked unaffected by the wound & was eating and drinking, happy to be groomed and loved and have a hop around the room. I watched them all day and all night. Peter spent most of the time showcasing his binky skills and amazing effortless flops like some sort of mating ritual for Lottie.

On Monday I took Lottie to our vets, who said the wound was clean & that a staple should be enough to hold the skin together to speed up the healing process (perhaps 5 days), this felt a more suitable option & was much cheaper. Lottie had been a madam and taken her staples out almost instantly. They were done again and she had to wear a cone, lets say she was not impressed and kept chewing it, whilst Peter teamed up with her and kept trying to fling it off her, whilst she pulled the other way. I had to intervene several times. Whilst drinking a well-needed cup of coffee, I could see over my cup Lottie was cleaning but the cone was still on nodding up and down. With her pointy Rexxy nose had finally slipped her head through the lace-tied hole and had of course pulled the staple out. I pulled the cage open but was too late to make a difference. She looked at me mightily impressed with her magic trick. She knew the cone no longer served any purpose and agreed it may as well come off. She licked her wound cleaning it obsessively, I was impressed with her determination, she must of been back here for what…an hour.

Obviously the worst thing is that I then have to tell the owners that I have spent nearly £150 over two vet visits and have nothing to show for it except for a good bond that is fractured by this wound, therefore, leaving them unsupervised or Peter starting to chase again would be a worry. At least £350 was not paid as I am sure she would have taken that out as well.

Sadly Peter did get territorial at home and the owners did need to separate them. I am so disappointed that the bond broke down, when you bond rabbits they become your life, the women have love island, the men have the world cup, we have rabbits who are watched much more than TV in our home. You relate to their feelings and actions, bonds are delicate but are special because they need to be worked at and learned from. My fingers are crossed for Lottie’s quick recovery, she is absolutely beautiful I have never seen such a small Rex, so loving and delicate and the best of luck to Peter who is such a soppy loving bunny.

My post advice in this situation is to keep the two in separate rooms if possible and let Lottie’s wound fully heal, whilst keeping it very clean. When ready to get Lottie spayed and look at a new fresh introduction between the two in a neutral area, however, there are never any guarantees that this will work.

Losing Topsy

Recently we lost our beloved Blue French Lop after her second kidney went into failure, IMG_1113 (Edited)her other was removed 4 months earlier in the hope she would manage with one. The nephrectomy was successful and gave Topsy the happiest period of time in her life, the binkies she threw after recovery when she got home will stick long in the memory, she loved life, treasuring every moment with Husbun Muse, foraging in the garden and being stroked and fussed over. We had only rescued Topsy 12 months prior to being euthanised.

We had no confidence in their assessments and decided to pursue further with our own reliable vet and own finances. Topsy’s ear was micro-stitched & both were spayed. Unfortunately, the bond between Fudge & Topsy was now broken and the two were better off in the 32187209_606710489691552_1997831418150912000_nlong run to be bonded with males. Fudge was rehomed as a house-rabbit and bonded, we were heartbroken to let her go.

It did not take long for Topsy to settle in & we totally fell in love with her, such a gentle giant who just craved affection. Often we would find her flopped onto her side, clicking her teeth, twitching33580833_614178722278062_3715260355874652160_n her nose dreaming sweet dreams. Our Bunny garden was in full bloom & Topsy loved foraging for Grapevine, Sage, Rocket, Rose, Lavender, Raspberry, Strawberry and Nasturtiums.

 

After searching for weeks for a partner for Topsy we were so lucky to find Thumper who needed rehoming after he had a lost two wife-buns and was not settling with other IMG_0593bunnies in the home. He was kindly delivered to us, driven 180 miles! We renamed Thumper, Muse, he & Topsy bonded in a matter of hours. We were so happy for Topsy, she was besotted, gazing at him as if all her Birthdays had come at once. To be fair Muse is the Brad Pitt of the Bunny World.

Despite things seemingly going well for Topsy, I was 18670995_440363466326256_8688068958747268253_nconcerned about her movement & phases of hunching. It was always in my mind that there actually were spurs troubling her & kept getting her teeth checked but dentals were coming back fine. Then the dreaded day came when we noticed blood in her urine. Emergency rushed to the vets, her kidney functions were critically low and a large mass was visible on an ultrasound, but was not particularly clear, therefore, they referred her to one of the best exotic vets in the UK, where she stayed with Muse, her big moral support, who spends the whole time shaking (he’s a bit of a wimp), whilst Topsy is calm as you like giving blood & being checked.

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The result of a detailed ultrasound revealed that one of her kidneys had calcified and had slowly extended to the size of a cricket-ball rather than its normal golf-ball size, causing hydronephrosis. The awful result of her previous poor diet & husbandry, the news was heart-breaking. All I IMG_2222could think was they are going to suggest that she had to be euthanised. However, the vet suggested they could remove the kidney and that she could still live in good health and with no pain. We just wanted so much to make her better.

The operation was a success, such relief for us, I even called the kids at school to pass on the 18118679_424198904609379_63688585991354183_nmessage, we had all been so worried waiting for the call. We expected a long recovery time. Within 48 hours she was like a new bunny, she hopped like never before, she binkied round the garden. It was such a joy to watch. The operation gave Topsy an opportunity to live pain free, the happiest I have ever seen a bunny, she did not waste a second, she didn’t let Muse lick his foot without her head being pancaked in the way for a 18275092_430061037356499_3521256366722016993_nwash, you could not pass until you had petted her, she mowed the grass daily & pruned all the flowers. It was beautiful to watch. She loved life so much, her personality was totally infectious, everybody loved her.

Then one day she was not herself, it was evening so we went to a late night vet, told her IMG_2693Topsy’s history. She gave us medicine for her tummy suggesting it was a poorly tummy. This we had to force feed her, which she hated, we also fed her recovery a few times daily so she did not go into Gut Stasis. Two days in and it appeared she had somewhat recovered, we felt immense relief. However, the following day she was clearly distressed & we decided to take her back to the specialist vet along with Muse. We just knew it was her kidney.

A scan showed her remaining kidney had also enlarged and was not coping on its own and tests confirmed her kidney was failing. This time there was no other option, nothing all the money in the world could do to help her. It was the hardest decision to make, keep IMG_2065her alive in pain or put her out of her misery. Something I find so difficult is that I do not believe in an afterlife and therefore, believe that when you are gone, you are gone, 18446964_433761833653086_8326393248166572503_nthere is no way back and therefore, would always do all I can to prolong life in animal or human if there is just a glimpse of hope and that they can experience some form of happiness again. We could not let her go before because it was so clear her life & happiness outweighed the pain she was suffering. But this was different. Everything felt like it happened so quickly, despite the vet giving us all the time in19113866_449764645386138_2484623248786796735_n the world. We had to accept there was no more we could do. I felt as if my heart had stopped as we hugged her for the last time, I was trying to hold it together for her but IMG_2753could not. Her teeth clicked away at my chest, she was not a bunny that had ever liked being picked up, but she cuddled up to me and just gave us the loveliest cuddles, it felt as if she was telling us that she knew we had tried our best and that she was so grateful for everything, yet I could not help feeling like we were letting her down. She snuggled with Muse whilst she was given a sedative & then the final injection.

The vet was trying to tell us about cremation but I could hear nothing. We left her wrapped in a blanket and brought Muse home. It was a late night. The next day we felt awful about leaving her there and my partner went to collect her.

She looked so peaceful and so beautiful even in death. We let Muse spend some time with her so he could understand. He gave her a wash and said goodbye, it was incredibly sad. She was then buried in one of her favourite parts of the garden. We planted a Rose above her suitably named ‘Blue for You’.

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A few weeks later we were contacted by the lady who had adopted her sister to tell us Fudge (Flo) was at the vets in a critical condition due to her kidney failing. She passed away that evening. It seems from the day they were born, to growing up in a hutch unable to move, to the rescue centre wanting to euthanise, Topsy having her ear ripped & the nephrectomy that these beautiful innocent creatures that gave nothing but love just were not given a fair chance.

017e09eeb00d3888847cad9562ae2ea2b6e3ac4b80At the time sadness is so overwhelming that it is difficult to see anything positive, however, we gave Topsy a chance to live happily and be free, that she would not of had. Even for that short time she had such an impact on our lives, as we hope we had on hers. We know Fudge (Flo) received just as much care as we provided for Topsy.

It cannot be said a month later I feel any less pain looking back, she became such a huge part of our family and I know Muse misses her so much, he often sits by her rose, knowing this is where she was laid to rest. Of course, we have had to re-bond him now as she would not wish f33131006_613097622386172_5813026016506937344_nor him to be lonely. If I am honest I cannot believe how sad I am about her loss, I guess it is much harder because of how young she was taken, when it seemed she had her whole life was  33143361_612752159087385_8269654358136717312_nahead of her and with us it had only just begun.

I can only hope I am wrong about an afterlife (of course we say for bunnies crossing the rainbow bridge) and that these gentle giants are reunited and binkying as freely as they wish.