By: Jodi Aker
I am a huge animal lover and have wanted a lop-eared bunny forever. As I had no bunny knowledge and have two very spoiled cats, I never thought it a good thing to actually get a bunny. That all changed last spring.
I am involved in TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) of feral cats. One Sunday last spring I was returning a feral cat that had been spayed to her colony. As I carried the trap up to the door of the caretaker, I noticed a large hutch outside. As I approached the hutch, I saw a bunny sitting on wire that was so filled with feces and urine, the poor thing was sitting in it. She had an old, rusty feeder filled with pellets and a dirty dog dish for water. She appeared to be terrified of me so I couldn’t get a good look at her.
I questioned the cat caretaker about her, and he said his granddaughter “dumped” her at his house a “few years ago” and she had been outside in that hutch ever since. We live close to Chicago and the winters here can be quite brutal. The thought of her sitting out there helpless in wind chills below zero just sicken me. He jokingly asked me if I wanted her. I let their cat out and returned to my vehicle. As I got in the van, I told my volunteer that I just didn’t feel right leaving that bunny there and she said, “we have an empty carrier” (from a cat we had returned earlier). Before I knew it we had that bunny in a cat carrier and were on our way home.
My original intention upon rescuing the bunny was to contact our local small animal rescue – Heartland, however, looking into the big brown eyes and floppy ears, I instantly fell in love with this precious bunny. My friend loaned me a dog crate which we filled with straw and a bed. The wonderful volunteers of Heartland helped me with food and a litter box and a lot of much needed advice as well as a veterinarian recommendation for the local bunny specialist.
MiMi, as she is now known, had her very first doctor visit the next week. She is a French Lop and at 7 ½ pounds was under weight and malnourished. He legs and butt were permanently stained yellow from sitting in her own urine for so long. Both ears were infected and she was terrified of humans. Dr. Jennifer was shocked that MiMi had been living outside; she said she didn’t know how my bunny had survived. I learned that lops are inside bunnies and should never be left solely outside.
Dr. Jennifer counseled me on feeding and general bunny care. She recommended spaying, however, her health was not good enough at that time to do so. She gave MiMi a much needed bath and we made an appointment for the next month.
I took MiMi home and made my attached 2-car garage MiMi’s new home. She stayed in her kennel the next few days as I bunny proofed the garage. Once I let her out of her kennel, she happily bounced all over the garage. I was amazed at the number of round poops that landed everywhere! MiMi had what we called a “stinky butt”; there was definitely a strong odor coming from her behind and we accounted that to the flying poop! I took the litter box Heartland had given me and placed it in the center of the garage, doubting this bunny that had been on wire for years would use it. Boy, was I wrong! She trained herself within a week and has used it faithfully since then. My bunny is a genius!
Knowing nothing about bunnies at the time, I didn’t find it odd that MiMi paid no attention to us humans. We fed her the highest quality pellets and hay and fresh veggies every day. She loved everything we brought her, especially the hay and Kale. Even though she didn’t appear to like it, she would allow me to pet her head for a short time if I sat on the floor and approached her closely. We were fascinated with her every step. I put a large crinkly cat tunnel connected to the cardboard box she liked to sit in. The day she did her first binky was so incredibly exciting. She came through her tunnel and bounced in the air; it was thrilling!
MiMi went back to Dr. Jennifer after four weeks with me. She was healthy enough to be spayed so I left her for the night. The doctor called me a few hours later to let me know she had “very vascular” uterine cancer but that she was able to get all of it. She said MiMi wouldn’t have lived much longer without that surgery. MiMi came home the next day and hid for several days. When she finally came out, we noticed she no longer had a “stinky butt.” We now know that odor was from the cancer.
Little by little she has started trusting us more and more. Nine months later, I am able to pet her all over and she now enjoys it so much she flattens against the ground! Our petting sessions can last for nearly an hour.
MiMi is becoming more and more social. She is actively aware of us now and even gets excited when we go out to see her. She doesn’t appear to be afraid of us anymore. She’ll eat raisins from my hand. Yogurt covered raisins are her absolute favorite; she loves them so much that she will actually jump onto my lap for one. Of course, she jumps down immediately after she gets her treat!
Bunnies are amazing animals; quirky, smart, funny, loving and full of curiosity. I cannot imagine a life without them!
Jodi Aker, first time bunny mom. I have my own not-for-profit cat group, themeowmission.org. We provide spay/neuter surgeries for feral cats. Mishawaka, IN.