On Pets: An Account of Rabbit Keeping at Home
Chikki and Mikki – The Rabbits we lived with
Some people believe that rabbit is a 'bad decision as pet', especially because they do not reciprocate your love and affection. I thought of keeping a pair of rabbits immediately after I noticed a joyful hare in my backyard. It was so funny and was so amazing! But then, I have a small kid and was apprehensive as to whether rabbit as a pet is suitable for me or not. I did undertake extensive research on Internet to gather information on pet rabbits. I also asked many who had a rabbit at home to reveal their experiences to me. Finally I decided not to go for it. I also convinced my son, who was accompanying me in my research over Internet and was eager to have a rabbit at home, that rabbits are not good for him as they do not obey their masters and they bite. However, when we went to the pat shop to purchase a pair of replacement goldfishes for our aquarium, he saw some rabbit kittens and forced me to buy two rabbits. We named them Chikki (the one with thick shiny white fur) and Mikki (the one with black thin fur with small ears that looked like a mouse when we bought them. I was initially afraid of what I had read earlier. But, our experience with these two rabbits for more than one and half years proved my research over rabbits wrong. Now we have more than 15 rabbits with us with Chikki and Mikki as grand parents. We have neutered them all in order to avoid pregnancy and our excellent with them had been excellent. Let me share my experience as a pet rabbit owner in the following paragraphs.
When we brought Chikki and Mikki, we did not know whether they were male and female. Later, we realised that Chikki is male and Mikki is female. We had to build a cage for them and in order to save some money we did not buy a rabbit cage and decided to build one. We purchased a square feet of wire mesh and two wooden apple boxes. We joined both the wooden boxes and fitted the wire mesh in the front and made a door for the cage. It was beautiful house for them. Unfortunately, they grew very fast and we realised that the wooden cage was not suitable for my rabbits. We had one spare room and we decided to keep our rabbits their in the open in that room. I think, it was a good decision. My rabbits had now more space to play and live. But then, another problem occurred. They spoiled the entire room. It was a big problem for me as their urine and feces made my entire house untidy and it was difficult for me to clean the rabbit room every now and then. I searched over Internet again and tried to train them. It was easier than my imagination. They became more disciplined and more happy. I was more relaxed.
How I trained my rabbits?
Going by the instructions and suggestions in many articles on the subject, I got a plastic tray and kept that tray along with some green grass on it . In fact, whatever I gave them to eat, I gave it on that tray only. I also collected feces laying here and there in the room and kept some of the feces on the same tray along with grasses and hey. During my morning walk, I used to collect grasses and other leaves like things, dry hay and so on and give them to eat on the same tray. Additionally, I also kept their cage inside that room only, but did not close the door of the cage; so that, they can freely go in and come out at their free will. This made the trick. In just 4-5 days, I noticed, that they were not dirtying the whole room and since then, there was no problem as to their feces is concerned.
My Rabbits loved my Son.
Both Chikki and Mikki were afraid of us initially. Whenever we entered into their room, they used to run away and hide inside their cage. But they probably realised soon that I am the only person who gives them food. They after a week or so, they were not afraid of me. Rather, they would come near me and move around me if I had grasses with me. After a few days, we kept their room open to allow them move around in the entire house freely and fearlessly. Initially, they would run away to their own room with slightest of noise, ringing of the calling bell and so on. But later, they got accustomed to the noise of TV and other usual household disturbances. They moved around the house freely. Mikki (the female) would follow me to the kitchen and ask for food by standing on her thighs and shaking her front legs in an interesting manner. I also found that Chikki (the male one) is fond of me and while I watched TV sitting on the chair, he would come near me and ask me to take him on my lap. He would sleep on my lap for a long time closing his eyes and it was so pleasing for me to notice their behaviour. Chikki had a personality, although at times Mikki behaved in unpredictable ways. But I think, our perception about them was primarily because of our ignorance about rabbit life cycle. From the very beginning they were not at all afraid of my son. They loved him a lot and would respond to his voice in most predictable manner. My son was also mad about their welfare. He would steal carrots, beet-roots etc from the refrigerator and give them. In the morning, some days, I would notice Chikki sleeping on the bed of my son along with him. At times, my son would come from school and would sleep on the floor of the drawing room in the afternoon. After some time, I would see both Chikki and Mikki sleeping near him. It was a pleasure watching my son talking to these creatures and they would pretend as if they were following everything.
Mikki became pregnant
My rabbits grew very fast. In around 2-3 months they were full grown. In 5-6 moths time Mikki removed most of her furs from her neck and arm and gather all the wool in one corner of the room. We could not understand the reason. She also became vary violent and would sit alone in the corner of their room and would at times enter into her cage and remain there for long time. On the other hand there was no change in the behaviour of Chikki. One day, Mikki also attacked my husband while he entered into the room in which they were staying. We thought this poor bunny had gone mad and we were tensed for some time. Then my husband told that the symptoms of removing fur form her body and gathering it at one place may indicate that Mikki was pregnant; and it was so. Her food intake changed and there was some activity in her tummy that I could feel while holding her. Unfortunately, while cleaning the room, I removed most of her furs earlier.
One day Mikki gave birth to five kits. All without furs and with their eyes closed. It was her first experience of mothehood and she was probably very afraid of what was going on. I was working in the kitchen as it was time for my husband to come back home from work. I was ignorant that Mikki was undergoing the delivery process and had already given birth to one kit. Chikki was restless and his behaviour indicated something abnormal going on in their room. He was actually trying to call me to their room. I followed him and saw the next four kits being born. Mikki was vary afraid and ran away from the kits leaving them unattended here and there. I gathered them and counted it was four. Then Chikki showed me one lying behind the heap of the grasses. Once I collected all the kits and kept them on a piece of cloth, Mikki came near the kits and smelled them.
We searched again on the Internet on how to care for the newborns and gathered some information. My husband and son made a small house for Chikki and her kids but cutting a hole on a cardboard box and kept all the kids inside the box. Mikki went inside the box for a couple of minutes and then ran out as the kids started sucking milk.
We noticed that Mikki was not attending her kids properly as only three of her kids were looking healthy and the other two were very weak. We decided to force Mikki attend every kit properly. My husband caught Mikki carefully and I left her kits on her tummy. All the kits were fed and probably Mikki also enjoyed the process. After that, whenever I sat down on the floor of the house of Chikki-Mikki, she would climb on my lap and take the position of lying on her back and I would hold her kits and direct their mouth on the moles on her tummy. Her kits were yet to open their eyes, but they had now tiny furs on their body indicating their colour. Three of them were white as their father. One was blakish like Mikki and the last one was golden. They grew to become three females and two males, but initially we could not make out that.
Kits grew soon and our house was like rabbits everywhere. It was a beautiful sight seeing one rabbit sleeping at one corner and the other on the other corner, and a couple of them jumping around the house. The good thing was we didn't have to train them again to use litter box. They followed their parents. They too became very friendly with my son. One of them became addicted to tea. He would go and stand near the chair of my husband with folded hands while my husband was taking his morning tea and my husband would give him a little tea in a cup. He would drink it and run away. My son tried a lot to teach alphabets to some of the newborn. But the efforts failed. They did not learn English.
In around a month after, Mikki became pregnant again and gave birth to three kits; one of them was stillborn. In another months time, Mikki gave birth to another six kits. Their rate of growth was horrible. We were not prepared for such a growth in the number of our family members. We neutered Chikki and the process stopped. We had now 15 rabbits at our home. Next summer vacation, we took all of them to our parental village in Orissa, around 2000 Kms away from where we presently stay. Back in village they have better care by my parents who is very fond of animals. Its now almost six months we have left them. They are still 15 in number as my father adhered to neutering all male rabbits.
My son was very sad for our decision to leave the rabbits in village. It took him some time to manage without rabbits. Even I was remembering them a lot. We loved them and they also reciprocated. It was against the perception we gathered from many readings we had gone through. Our house that was once full with a lot actions was looking empty again. In order to give company to my son, we adopted two dogs. Snowy and Goldy. I may discuss about them in some other hub.