Treasured Tuesday – Rabbit Transit – Bunnies On the Move

Bunny Bungalow

Photo ©

More of Shadow hiding in plain sight

Arrow points to Shadow hiding inside


I’m waiting …

This is a blast from the past today since it looks like the Bunny Bungalow has been discontinued. The first image is from one of Busy Bunny’s old catalog pages. We found the Bungalow early on with Tigger and Shadow.

They loved this as a hideout and play area. But they also re purposed the use of this. They liked to have this be a bunny bus.  Shadow in particular loved to hop inside and have us carry him somewhere else in the bunny bus. Sometimes they would both hop in together and just wait there looking at us until we would go and pick the box up making sure that we carried it slowly and close to the ground just in case somebunny decided to make an unexpected departure.

Tigger and Shadow hated to be picked up and held and carried around.  But they were very calm and easy-going when we would give them their bus rides, waiting until the box came to a stop on the ground before disembarking. It seems that having their feet on a floor made a difference to how they felt about being picked up and moved. With the Bunny Bungalow as bus, their chosen rabbit transit, they actively sought to be moving around  in it at times.

Sometimes at night, Shadow would get a bunny bus ride to his cage.  There were evenings he was really avoiding going back in his cage for the night. He would hop all around evading us and then he would hop in to the Bunny Bungalow. We would pick it up, take it to his cage and place one of the openings at his door. If Shadow was in good behavior mode, he would hop in for the night. If he was in bad behavior mode, he would escape out one of the other doors in the bus and we would have to begin again. Sometimes he got a number of bus rides before he decided to call it a night.


Treasured Tuesday – Tigger & Shadow

Plant tray as bunny furniture

This is Tigger & Shadow on their plant tray lounger. They are covering so much of it you can barely see it the dark green edges of it. When we brought them home as babies, we looked around first at things we had that we could use for them. Then if we didn’t have something we could repurpose, we would look for things to buy. We had some green plastic plant trays about 6 inches wide by 30-36 inches long that we weren’t using. The pictures below show how we thought those plant trays would be used, to hold their pellet and water bowls in their play areas. We naïvely thought that trays would be used as trays to catch spilled food or water.

Plant trays being used as feeding traysLittle did we know, but the bunnies showed us that the plant trays were actually the perfect size for bunny furniture. Over the years, they would lounge on them and especially when older, I think they liked the ease of getting on and off them, but also still having a bit of support with the low sides. Perhaps part of their liking might also have been that the trays were plastic and maybe a bit cooler than the carpet on some of the hotter Georgia days.

I included a link in the first paragraph to clearly see a picture of the type of tray we used. These are available lots of places, but I am using Amazon for some sample pictures of things we have used with the rabbits, since I can pin things on Amazon to our new Pinterest board: House Rabbits at Home. I plan to use that board to show some of the things that we have used or are planning to try now with Leo so that others can get ideas or give comments on items on the board if they have used similar things.

Tomorrow some of the things that are up in the studio here …

Shadow’s Allergies and Respiratory Issues

Elder Shadow with Allergy & Breathing ProblemsThe last year and a half of Shadow’s life, he had trouble with allergies. During the spring and fall seasons when humans would be sniffling, sneezing and having a post nasal drip, Shadow would be sneezing too. We could tell he was also experiencing a post nasal drip, because like many humans, he would put his nose up higher in the air, stretching out his neck and then we would see him swallowing.

Shadow started to lose weight during the allergy seasons.  Blaine and I both have allergies so we could sympathize with a rabbit who either was dealing with things not tasting right or having trouble chewing, swallowing and breathing at the same time.  He went in to the vet at least every six months and we learned  the dose of antihistamine to give him as needed.  We monitored his weight and watched his eating more closely.  On the vet’s recommendation, we added some alfalfa hay back in to his diet to help him keep from losing more weight and put some weight back on.  We also started to feed him some old-fashioned oats as a treat from time to time and he appreciated the taste change of that too. Tigger in old age was packing on the weight, so we would sneak tasty treats to Shadow when Tigger wasn’t around to help perk up his appetite while keeping her access to treats down.

The difficulty with allergies in humans and animals is that the excess fluids that sit around can lead to infection.  So we kept on the watch for any signs of a sinus or inner ear infection: teary eyes or mucous in the eyes, blocked tear ducts, swelling of the eyes or around the eyes, wet nose or mucous around the nose or on the paws from rubbing / blowing his nose on them, holding the ears close to the head, pawing at the ears or shaking his head a lot. We also kept on the watch for any signs of respiratory distress or infections: again wet nose or mucous around the nose or on the paws, trouble breathing, wheezing, not moving around as much or lack of appetite.

The last six months of Shadow’s life, we dealt with a round of on again off again respiratory infections and he was on and off antibiotics on a regular basis.  The vet was very honest with us that his care at that point was hospice care. Shadow was too old  for some tests or treatments to be done safely anymore. His care was focused on keeping him comfortable and happy. He would have some times when his breathing was more labored due to congestion.   Most of those times did tend to hit on evenings and weekends when the vet was not available.

At those times, we did for him what we do for ourselves to ease our own congestion. We would turn on the shower with water warm enough to create a warm mist in the air without it being a hot sauna like steam. Once we had the bathroom air nice and misty, we would turn off the shower and take Shadow in for 5 to 15 minutes depending on how well he tolerated it. The first time it scared him, but after a few minutes we could see him swallowing and knew it was helping to clear some of his congestion.

After that first time, he was more at ease being there and each time helped him breathe more easily again. We double checked this treatment with the vet and she suggested continuing with it as needed and also adding a humidifier or mister to his main living area. She said that if these treatments along with the antibiotics didn’t continue to help ease the congestion that we might need to add some inhalation treatments. Inhalation treatments weren’t needed for Shadow. The misty bathroom along with the added moisture of the humidifier helped to keep his congestion under control.

It might seem like this time period in hospice was a really sad time. It was in the sense we knew our time with Shadow was nearing an end. It was also a very happy time, because Shadow was a sweet and very happy rabbit who was still quite active, bouncy and playful when he was feeling like himself.  He was his happy self most of the time until just that final week when things finally started to really shut down for him. We had so many fun times with him in those final months, enjoying his play and caring for him when he needed our help.

Tomorrow a gallery of images of Shadow and next week begins the stories of Portia and the challenge of bonding Tigger and Shadow.

Shadow Negotiating the Stairways – Mom’s Fascination

Shadow on the stairs

Shall I go up or down?

Shadow on the stairs

Well I hopped up one, but I'm not sure, do I really want to go up?

Shadow on the stairs

Nope! Coming down!

Shadow on the stairs

Coming through!

Although our vet wasn’t happy that we allowed the rabbits to run up and down the stairs, we taught them to do it safely very early on.  We understood the vet was concerned because she had seen many injuries to animals from stairways.  However, we knew that Tigger and Shadow were way too focused on going wherever they wanted to go.  We felt the safest way to prevent them from having any accidents on the stairs, was to teach them how to navigate them safely.  Since the house is a tri-level with two sets of stairs running openly through the middle, we weren’t at all sure our bunny proofing would completely prevent them from getting to the stairs anyway.

We started when they were just a year old and were very swift and agile.  We would block off one stairway so that the training only involved one set of steps at a time.  Blaine or I would sit on a step near the top while the other would sit on a step near the bottom. In that way, we used our bodies to block a good portion of the stairway and were within arms reach of the rabbits should they have a misstep.

However, this was the one thing in life that Tigger and Shadow took with caution.  Until they really had the lay of the stairs and the feel of going up and down them, they took them quite cautiously and slowly.  With practice and time, they would fly up and down the stairs and seem to not touch some of the steps at all.

Shadow was always able to negotiate the stairs throughout his life.  Tigger late in life began to go blind and we had to block her access at that time which wasn’t hard since she herself was no longer feeling safely able to use them.  If Shadow went downstairs, we would see Tigger at the top wanting to go down too and would carry her down to be with him. Then we would block the stairs until we could make sure they both safely made it back up, Shadow on his own and one of us carrying Tigger back up.

When my Mom first visited, she was fascinated to see the rabbits running up and down the stairs and determined to get pictures of them on film.  Tigger was way too swift for her to catch, but I think Shadow with his sweetness recognized what Mom wanted.  There was a time shortly before she was due to leave on that visit that Shadow slowed down and paused on a step or two to allow Mom the ability to take these pictures showing him navigating the stairs.

There were only two occasions when I was scared that the rabbits would be hurt on the stairs.  At first we blocked access to the stairs with a baby gate that was about 30 inches tall.  That actually proved to be too short for Shadow’s athletic jumping ability and he leaped the gate and very fortunately landed squarely on a stair.  After that if we blocked the stairs at all for the rabbits, we did it with a fence 48 inches high.

The second time I was terrified, it was due to one of Tigger’s stupid stunts. Tigger had been hopping on Shadow’s head to hump him. We began to recognize that certain look on her face and had begun telling her no quite strongly. So then she became a bit craftier and would just take a flying leap onto his head. That would usually land her more onto his body rather than his head and she would be giving him a full body hump. However, Tigger being smaller than Shadow, her paws would be dangling above floor level and Shadow would just hop out from under her.

So one evening, Tigger, Shadow and I were all standing at the top of the stairs. I saw that look on Tigger’s face, yelled ‘NO!’ and she took the flying leap anyway. Tigger’s backside landed on Shadow’s head with her body sprawled across his back with her front paws and head by Shadow’s tail. That is when Shadow decided to take off, … right … down … the stairs. I watched in horror as they went down them piggyback. I was expecting at any time to see rolling balls of rabbits. I do not know how Tigger managed to hold on and stay on Shadow’s back and I have no idea how Shadow saw where he was going with Tigger sitting on his head, but they made it all the way down, safely. When we told the vet about it at our next visit, she told us we had better hope that Tigger didn’t enjoy the ride or she would try it again.

That was a rub my eyes did I just see that moment and a time I wished the whole house had been wired for video to have captured it. I think the adventure must have scared Tigger, she never leapt on Shadow by the stairway again.

Bunny Boy Blue Artwork

Altered Photo Artwork Piece with Shadow as Bunny Boy Blue

The photo for this altered art piece was captured in such low lighting that viewed as the original photo it is quite grainy in texture. I took the image even though the camera warned me it wouldn’t result in a high quality photograph.  I could see that the camera even in such low lighting was capturing the very sweet expression that so clearly showed Shadow’s big-hearted personality. You just never know when or if you will get another chance to catch expressions with animals. So I took the shot and as I had hoped, it was just lovely as the basis for an altered art piece.

Attack of the Killer Parsley aka Parslay – Cartoon

This is the story of Shadow and parsley. Rabbits are sometimes really weird for no explainable reason that we humans can figure out.  Shadow had a bizarre reaction his whole life to parsley.

When we would wash parsley and first put it down for him and Tigger, Tigger would dig in and eat it with no problem.  Shadow would sniff it and run away and I do mean run away.  If we picked up a piece of the parsley and took it to where he was and put it down in front of him, he would run away again.  He acted as if it was something out to get him.  After awhile, I began to picture it as Attack of the Killer Parslay.

Eventually after the parsley had been down on the floor for a while, Shadow would eventually come and eat it.  It was so weird though that he reacted with the terrified run away reaction every time it was first put down.

Tigger and Portia did not have any parsley problems and Leo doesn’t now.  We have no idea why Shadow was so upset by parsley at first each and every time.

How We Learned to Medicate Shadow

Shadow responded best for treatments to a firm but open hold

Just relaxing in a football hold here

When Shadow became so ill with the ear infection and needed months of antibiotic treatment, it was a learning experience not only in the diagnosis, but also in how to handle giving him the needed medicine. At first when he was really ill the first couple days and needing shots, we used the means of holding a rabbit down that I had first learned with my family’s first rabbit, Thumper. The vet had taught us to hold him flat to a table with pressure along the spine and shoulders to keep him from flipping and injuring his spine. It is a good idea to make sure to have your vet show you how to immobilize your rabbit for treatments at home if it is ever needed.

However, as I had written before after a couple of days of shots Shadow was well enough that he could flex his muscles and bend the needle even though he couldn’t move to get away. We switched over to a by mouth antibiotic that was given by syringe into the side of his mouth. Since I had more previous experience holding squirmy little bodies, nursing both rabbit and human babies, we started out at first with me holding Shadow immobile on a table so that Blaine could syringe the meds into him. Unlike Thumper and human babies, Shadow was extremely athletic and his hind legs were incredibly strong. As he started to regain a bit of his strength on the meds, he was able to kick back with his back legs. Let me tell you even with a small sick rabbit, those back legs are incredibly strong and when he kicked me in the stomach, I thought I was going to lose breakfast.

So, we tried the other method suggested for rabbits of using a towel to mummy / burrito wrap the rabbit so that only the head is free. That is when we discovered that Shadow was like many humans and clearly had a serious claustrophobic streak. He went completely berserk, thrashing, biting, and scratching. It was nearly impossible to safely get him back to the floor while we regrouped. It was clear if we tried to stick with the mummy / burrito idea, someone was going to get hurt, possibly all of us. It occurred to me that maybe just as many humans tolerate getting MRI’s with a more open style of machine, that maybe Shadow could be treated with a firm but more open style of holding.

So, I put on and buttoned up a denim jean jacket with the collar turned up for some protection if Shadow tried to scratch or bite and picked him up and held him up on my shoulder baby style with his head facing back over my shoulder. I had one hand firmly on the back of his head and shoulders with my forearm along his spine and the other hand firmly holding his bottom. If I felt him start to move, I pressed my forearm and hand more firmly along his spine and shoulders to hold him steady. Now this position isn’t something that would work at all well for lots of rabbits, some might try to go over the shoulder, but for Shadow it worked. The more open hold clearly made him feel less threatened. He would gnaw on the jacket in protest between getting his meds syringed in a bit at a time, but he didn’t go nuts like he did with the towel wrapping. Over the months he needed to be medicated, we were able to control the situation and safely get him the meds he needed without hurting him or creating the terror reaction the towel wrapping tries had brought on.

Next week the story of Shadow and parsley …



Shadow Becomes Very Ill – The Diagnosis and Recovery

Watch out for one ear up one ear down

Watch for ear positions that regularly stay like this!

This is part two of the story of Shadow’s early illness that I wrote about on Thursday. After nursing Shadow through a rough Sunday, we loaded him up first thing Monday morning to head off to meet the new vet who had so kindly returned our call Sunday afternoon to provide assistance by phone even though we weren’t current patients.

One of the first questions the vet had asked us on the phone the day before about Shadow was whether he was an outdoor or indoor pet rabbit. She told us later on in our first visit that was a key question for her in deciding what / how much help to offer us. Her experience was that owners who kept their rabbits outdoors usually did not want to pay for or follow through with treatment if the rabbits became ill, while owners who kept their rabbits indoors were more likely to accept and follow her treatment suggestions.

When the vet started to look Shadow over, she noticed something right away that we had missed. He was holding his ears funny, one was partially up with the other flat down against his head. I was used to the “rabbit ears” of a rabbit sometimes having one ear up and one down as they rested, but at the same time sometimes tuned in to things around them. I hadn’t really paid any attention to watching Shadow’s ear positions on a regular basis as a guide signalling that something more sinister might be going on. Even before taking a look inside his ears, the vet believed we were dealing with an ear infection.

Looking inside Shadow’s ears, the vet saw that both eardrums were extremely red and one was bulging. It was clear he had an inner ear infection. She didn’t stop there though and gave him a thorough head to toe exam making sure that seemed to be the only problem point on a physical exam. Not finding anything else that seemed wrong, she wanted to put him under anesthesia to poke a hole in the bulging eardrum allowing it to drain and to get an x-ray of Shadow’s head to try to determine if the infection was confined to his ears or perhaps had spread beyond the ears into the brain which would be much more serious. Knowing that anesthesia can be tricky for rabbits and that Shadow was very weak, we agreed knowing that he might not wake up. We recognized he needed a good diagnosis for the best treatment and hopefully a recovery.

Fortunately all was good news with the anesthesia and x-ray. There didn’t appear to be any spread of infection beyond the ears and the vet was also able to relieve the pressure on the bulging eardrum. When the vet learned I had trained and worked as a pediatric nurse in the past, she suggested that we start out his treatment with daily antibiotic injections at home to give him the strongest early treatment possible. I was terrified. It had been years since I had worked as a nurse and given any shots. The smallest patients I had given shots to were twice Shadow’s size and baby human anatomy isn’t disguised in layers of thick fur. I did want to give him the best chance, so the vet showed us how Blaine needed to hold Shadow and where I needed to give the shot. We went home with a plan for daily shots for a week with a follow-up visit.

Initially, Shadow was still very weak, so the first two days of giving the shots weren’t too hard. Then he started to feel a little better and even with Blaine holding him flat on the table, Shadow was able to flex his muscles hard enough to bend the needle when I gave him the shot. I called the vet and said I thought we were risking having a needle break in him if we continued on with the shots. So she had us switch to oral doses for the remainder of the week. Shadow continued to gain strength and by the end of the week seemed normal again and his checkup went well. So far so good, but not for long. Within a week, his bad balance was back and he was staggering around and weaving looking like a drunk bunny.

We headed back to the vet for Plan B. It was clear that the first antibiotic had not fully knocked out the infection. So the vet switched to another and said the plan this time would be to keep Shadow on antibiotics for two weeks past the time symptoms disappeared. That turned out to be a very long time. It took two months of watching Shadow staggering around looking drunk. We wondered all the time whether we were doing the right thing, whether this was as good as he would ever be again, or whether he would develop resistance to the antibiotic or a stronger infection from being on the antibiotics so long.

It was hard to watch Shadow struggle to stay balanced. He had been such an active athletic rabbit. Watching his difficulty and not knowing if that struggle would now perhaps be permanent for the remainder of his life was tough. Then at the two months into the second set of antibiotics, the symptoms cleared up and Shadow was able to stand and move without any loss of balance or staggering in his movements. We began the plan to keep him on the antibiotics for another two weeks to try to be more certain that the infection had been fully cleared this time.

It was looking really good for Shadow to come off the antibiotics and be fully returned to normal and then we noticed that Tigger was holding her ears funny like Shadow had been when he was first diagnosed. It was off to the vet with both rabbits. Sure enough, just as Shadow was ready to come off antibiotics, Tigger had developed an inner ear infection. We had kept Shadow and Tigger in separate side by side cages to allow them to see each other, but had kept separate run times. Shadow’s illness had rendered him really irritable and the one and only time we had tried to allow them to play together, he had growled at Tigger and chased her away.

So now the vet proposed Plan C. This was the really hard one. The vet wanted Tigger and Shadow to be housed in completely separate areas of the house with no contact until Tigger was clear of infection. She wanted Shadow to stay in the area he was used to since he was the weakest and that area had the most run area to allow him the best exercise ability to try to fully regain his strength. Shadow would come off the antibiotics as planned and Tigger would be on them until her infection cleared. The vet told us if we didn’t do this, it was likely we would be facing an endless round of the rabbits passing the infection back and forth. Even doing this, repeat ear infections were still a possibility since rabbits like some humans can have a genetic tendency to that type of infection.

We have a tri-level home. Shadow got the second level living room, while Tigger got the office and hallway on the third floor. Over the next month, Shadow regained his strength and once again became the strong athletic rabbit he had been in the past. Tigger was miserable and it was clear it wasn’t just the infection. She was in a completely unfamiliar place and all alone. When her infection cleared after a month, we moved both rabbits back to side by side cages in the living room with separate run times. Working on bonding them again would be for a future time once we were more sure of their health.

We were very fortunate and Shadow never had an ear infection again. Tigger did have some repeat ear infections, but only about once a year for a few years which cleared up easily with antibiotics. Fortunately for us, none of the worst case scenarios ever came to be. The one thing we learned was to really pay attention to a rabbit’s ear positions. They do move their ears around a lot, but the key to spotting a problem early is if they are keeping their ears partially or fully back much longer than their normal or pawing or scratching at their ears much more than normal. The illness of Shadow and then Tigger taught us just how subtle the clues can be between normal behavior and the beginning of a serious illness. So, the best thing to maintaining good rabbit health is human caregivers who really know what their normal behavior is to recognize early when things seem off. We missed it early on because we weren’t aware to look for this problem and we had just moved into our house and were still busy getting things settled and not as observant as at other times.

I’ll write more in September about all the bonding woes we had with Tigger and Shadow, partly due to this illness.  Next week more Shadow and probably Leo stories …

Shadow Becomes Very Ill

Watch out for one ear up one ear down

The ears here hold a clue, more about that tomorrow ...

When Shadow was just a few months over a year old, we woke up one Saturday morning and realized right away that something was very wrong. He didn’t want his morning treat or to come out of his cage. We made arrangements to get him to the vet right away and felt fortunate that the vet had Saturday morning hours.  Unfortunately,  most likely since the vet was only open half a day on Saturday and we were describing what seemed like  stomach problems, the vet examined him for that and prescribed treatment for stasis.

We took Shadow home and began the recommended diet and treatments.  On Sunday morning, Shadow came out of his cage right away and at first we thought that was a good sign.  Then he bent down to eat out of a bowl and fell over on the floor and was rolling around.  It was clear that something was very wrong with his balance.  We realized then the vet had not done a full head to toe check of him the day before and the proper diagnosis needed had been missed.

We got on the phone calling every vet we could find and contacting rabbit people we knew via phone and email trying to find some assistance since we weren’t sure what was wrong or how to help Shadow.  The emergency animal clinics that were open had no exotic vets on staff or call.  The exotic vets had no Sunday hours, except for one that was more than an hour away.  The air conditioning on the car had just gone on the fritz and we hadn’t had a chance to even schedule an appointment for that yet.  We knew we could not take Shadow such a long distance in the Georgia heat with no air conditioning in the car.  We would trade one emergency for another if we tried.  We only got the answering machine for one exotic vet nearby who indicated she had emergency call back, but only for current patients.  We had nothing to lose and Blaine left her a message anyway.

The exotic vet we left a message for did call back and we were so appreciative.  She said normally she would not call non patients back, but there was something about what Blaine had said that made her decide to make an exception.  We described the problem with Shadow’s appetite and activity being off the previous day and now his falling over and rolling around when he bent his head to eat.  We were asked a lot of questions and told that it sounded like either a problem with an ear infection or a neurological problem with seizure like activity.  The vet thought it was more likely an ear problem from what we described and that the falling over was due to dizziness.  She suggested we put him back in his cage and make that as safe a space as possible since he was experiencing balance problems.  She wanted us to keep trying to get him to eat and drink and then bring him in first thing the next morning on Monday to be seen as a new patient.

Tigger and Shadow were bonded at that time and sharing a cage that was two cages linked together.  The vet suggested we separate them so that we could better monitor Shadow and so that Shadow would not be tripped by Tigger or accidentally hurt her by falling on her.  We separated the cages into two.  Then we removed things from the floor of what would be Shadow’s cage, toys and such that were loose and that could trip him or that he could fall on.  Then we put him in his new cage for one.  When he tried to eat out of his bowl, he fell over in the cage again and was rolling around trying to get back on his feet.  Shadow was wild-eyed terrified.  When he was able to get back up, he hopped to the back of the cage into the litter pan and laid down propped up against the side.  Thinking about the problem likely being dizziness, we got some freshly washed greens which would give him both food and some water and held them out to him right where he was laying so he did not have to move his head.  He was so eager to eat those, it was clear he was hungry and thirsty.

We thought some more about the problem and realized it was probably a good idea to keep him in his litter box as much as possible.  It was a safe space if he fell and the sides allowed him to prop himself up and rest his head to keep it steady.  The litter box fit the cage side to side in the back.  We realized we had three cage walls to work with surrounding him.  We moved his hay rack, water bottle and food bowl so each was on one of the walls around his pan.  We positioned each so that they were right on a level even with his head so that he did not have to move his head up or down to eat or drink.  That was a success and Shadow began eating and drinking again.  We continued throughout the rest of day and evening to also hand feed him some greens.

By evening he was still a very sick rabbit.  It seemed he was just a tiny bit stronger since he was able to eat and drink again now that we had things so that he didn’t have to move his head and risk losing his balance.  He continued resting comfortably in his litter box keeping himself propped up.  We got his carrier ready to take him in to the new vet first thing the next morning.

Tomorrow, the diagnosis and the long road to recovery …

Shadow Had a Rabbittude Trainer


This gallery contains 1 photo.

Tigger provided baby Shadow with a huge learning advantage.  Until both bunnies could be fixed, we kept them in separate side by side cages with separate run times for them.  Tigger was two months ahead of Shadow in learning what she could … Continue reading