Hares to Rabbits!

Two bunnies in harnesses

Buster and Mozart gearing up for their maiden voyage in the backyard. Photograph courtesy the author

Believe it or not, some days at National Geographic are normal.

And then there is the occasional day, or three, when your co-worker takes over the office with dozens of baby rabbits to place in new loving homes and no one questions it.

When this happened last summer, I was beside myself. Could bring one home? (I bike to work.) Could I hold one during my afternoon meetings? Would they be happy living indoors in the city? 

I bring to you my chapter of the story of the National Geographic bunnies.

Meet Buster and Mozart.

Intrepid explorers, lettuce aficionados, hares extraordinaire (wait for it. . . ):

Double Lutz — and, go. #Olympics or bust, says Buster. #bunniesofinstagram #highjump #weeklyfluff #cutepetclub #waitforit

A post shared by Buster + Mozart (@buster.mozart) on

 

They are cousins, best pals, and spend their days waiting for their human to come home from work so they can romp around and re-investigate every corner of the house.

They are litterbox-trained and will act cute for food.

They are lionhead rabbits; one of 49 breeds recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association, but to me they are simply the “bun buns.”

It was tough to pick just two—really tough—but I believe the choice was destined all along:

 

Initially, through a feat fit for the record books, I convinced myself that I wasn’t ready to provide everything that these fluffy little lives deserved. I managed to withhold during adoption rounds one, two, and three.

But last November, I convinced some friends to join me to visit the bunnies’ beautiful Virginia farm, hoping that I could become a doting aunt.

Who was I kidding?

When we arrived and looked upon the happy bunny bunch, I heard myself say, “okay now which two are coming home with me?”

A few hours and some borrowed supplies later, these two were on their way home to Capitol Hill. Almost a year later, I am not quite sure how I ever lived without them.

 

Rabbit Wrangling!

One of our talented designers for Nat Geo Kids started it all.

It was her idea to rescue a rabbit … who looked an awful lot like Mozart. He was to be a companion for her family’s bunny … who looked an awful lot like Buster.

And, it would turn out, determining the gender of bunnies throws even the occasional vet for a loop. Nearly 50 baby bunnies later—yes, 50—the farm and family had a hare of a problem on their hands, but it does make for a great little book.

 

Provided the genders are correctly determined—and it should be accurate around 4-5 months (but it’s a quick window!)—bunnies really do best with companions. They keep each other less-stressed in times of loud noises and uncertainty, sleep close together, and take turns being the lookout when devising new escape routes. Rabbits are naturally group animals, and they depend on one another for safety. As much as we giant humans love to hold them, we are just not the same.

Back in high school, I rescued an adult rabbit who was also wonderful. Having spent an unknown amount of time cooped up in a small cage, he was visibly grateful to be given room to roam, romp, and relax. These stories aren’t hard to find, sadly. Rabbits should never be considered small pets that can live in small cages, but oftentimes they are treated that way. 

Buster and Mozart have continued to teach me the ways of wascally wabbits. If you’re considering one (or two!) for your family, here are some things to know:

  1. Rabbits need a constant supply of fibrous food: hay, safe lettuce, proper pellets, and water. Beware of food that claims to be “colorful and entertaining for your rabbit!” Rabbits do not care about colors, and their bodies definitely don’t need the dye. They DO care about delightful hay and lettuce (and the occasional pot of herbs). This website has a helpful guide for what’s safe and what’s not

 

2. They like (and need) to dig, chew, explore, hide, and hop. Unlike us, their teeth keep growing. If rabbits don’t have surfaces to chew, it can become a health hazard. Wood such as apple branches are safe to provide, and boxes of hay to “dig” through work well for rabbits living strictly indoors, but know that you’ll need to clip their nails.

 

3. Rabbits should be primarily indoor or outdoor pets. Once they acclimate it’s dangerous to change their environment quickly. They can be brought outside for adventures (when it’s not too hot out), but they need to stay in a gradual temperature range for most of the day. In the wild, they spend the hot parts of the day underground. If you keep a rabbit outside consider how they can be made more comfortable in summer and winter months.

 

4. Neuter or spay your rabbits! Spaying is a more invasive procedure for females of course, but worth it. Seek out a vet who is certified for small animals and will do so with care. Spaying females reduces their risk of developing certain cancers later in life, and neutering males is equally important. It can calm destructive or aggressive behavior. It’s highly unlikely since the dawn of mammals that our planet has ever been short on rabbits, so let’s not add to it when we can help it. They are right behind cats and dogs as far as needing adoption, because “cute” fades when real animal needs arise (see #2).

5. Prepare to be entertained. Rabbits—given the opportunity be rascally rabbits—will delight you and brighten your day with their antics, explorations, and ‘binkies”, which I refer to as happy hops.

Like many pets, rabbits are a good reminder that finding the moments to happy hop, is what life should be all about.

Bunny on her back legs

Follow the antics of Buster & Mozart for more inspiration about the ways you can go completely overboard on spoiling your rabbits, or simply to enjoy the shenanigans.  

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