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.

Power Issues and Rabbits

Blue FlashlightIt has been a real challenge to keep things going online this week and last.  Although we are located in a large metropolitan area, we are a bit off the grid.  We are far enough from the nearest electric substation that we have power issues.  Bad weather or someone in the area hitting a pole can send the electricity surging on and off which can kill sensitive electronic equipment.  So I have been powered down a lot as storms have rolled through daily here.

We discovered early on as house rabbit owners that lights out and roaming rabbits are also a tricky sensitive mix.  Trying to navigate a dark room safely without knowing where the rabbits are is not good, not good at all.  

We stocked up on both flashlights and batteries.  We have a flashlight and sometimes two in every room of the house, so that we can reach one quickly.  Usually they are close enough to grab without standing up.  We don’t want to be moving around much in the dark and possibly stepping on or tripping on a bunny.  Shadow would be particularly vulnerable since his deep coloring makes him disappear at times even in good lighting conditions.

As soon as we lay hands on a flashlight, we use treats to quickly get Tigger and Shadow into their cages.  We have found it to be a good thing to get them safely locked in, because sometimes when the lights come back on they go on and off again a few times before they stay on.  This can be really disturbing for the rabbits and we don’t want them to go running off in a panic that could cause them to injure themselves.  Also, we are in the warm south where it is customary to have air conditioning running much of the year.  The rabbits are not used to the outdoor noises they hear when the windows are open and are more easily startled by the unfamiliar sounds.

Perhaps you don’t experience power issues to the extent we do.  However, if you do from time to time, flashlights are relatively inexpensive.  You can buy small ones in packs and keep them handy.  One thing we have seen time and again with our rabbits is that they don’t understand that we can’t see them in the dark.  When we grab a flashlight and turn it on, we will usually find they have come from wherever they were and are now beside us.  They seek us for reassurance, not realizing that we don’t know they are there.

Although rabbits like to be mysterious creatures and behave unexpectedly, they crave for their living environment to stay pretty stable and predictable.  So if you are new to rabbits, you may want to think about what conditions tend to hit your area in regard to storms and such that disrupt things and have some plans in mind for keeping rabbits safe and sound.  This is one reason it is good to have a cage or enclosure that can close them safely in, even if you intend for yours to be free roam.  Sometimes for their own safety, it is good for a time to be able to get them quickly to a safe and secure location until a dangerous or scary situation has passed.

I’ll share a Follow Friday suggestion later today.

To Cage or Not to Cage?

Portia in Front of Baby GateEven if you intend for your rabbit to be mostly or completely free ranging, a cage or enclosure will give your bunny a place they recognize as theirs.  This can add to feelings of security. They do like to have a place to use as their home base where food, water and some toys are located and where they can retreat for privacy.  I know many have a cage that a bunny can call its own even if  the door is never locked on the rabbit.

Things to consider in making the free range vs. cage decision:  Discussions in bunny circles and groups can get heated about caging or penning rabbits as opposed to allowing them to be free roaming house rabbits.  Our rabbits don’t seem to understand the principles of gravity and don’t realize the danger of a tummy full of carpet.  Their free area and time are restricted by their inability to be trusted when we aren’t around to watch and prevent their stupid rabbit stunts. 

So, don’t feel guilty if you have to set limits to keep your bunny safe and healthy.  We would not have 10-year-old rabbits if we had allowed them to roam freely 24/7 and chew indiscriminately.  Some rabbits need the safety of one well bunnyproofed room, a large cage or exercise pen when someone isn’t available to watch them. 

Just be sure to allow the adventurous bunny to have plenty of free roam time when you are available.  A minimum of 30 hours a week of free exercise time with a number of hours each day out is best for bunny rabbit well-being.  Also be sure that any cage or enclosure is large enough to allow them room to move and run a bit and be able to stand up to their full height comfortably.  There should be room for a litter box, and containers for their food, hay and water.  Give them some toys to play with or chew too. 

You can buy a cage or animal exercise pen or bunnyproof a small room or use a baby gate to isolate an area.  It all depends on your rabbit.  Tigger and Shadow have always had cages with four walls, because those are the only things that would contain them.  Portia who did not leap, had a 3 foot tall open-topped exercise pen.  When the three would run free, we would have a baby gate blocking the bottom of the stairs in Portia’s area and a 4 foot tall exercise pen blocking the top of the stairs in Tigger and Shadow’s area.  We needed to make the stairs a no bunny zone with double gates at each end to keep the three apart. 

Here are links to some great articles by the House Rabbit Society on housing for rabbits whether you are buying or creating them yourself:

Next week on Wednesday, I will share how to make bunnyproofing fun!

Bunnyproofing Cords and Cables

Shadow relaxing, protected from cords and outlets

Outlet with nightlight plugged into the top, bottom hidden by litter box ... cords behind the TV stand, all bunny safe now!

There are two goals in bunny proofing:  protecting your rabbit in the space and protecting your space from the rabbit.   Last week I wrote about basic bunnyproofing.  This post deals with a very specific area of bunnyproofing, protecting your cords and cables.  I don’t know why rabbits love cords so much.  They don’t look tasty to me, but rabbits just love to chew cords.

Look at any area your rabbit will roam in freely and locate all the cords:  electric, TV cable, telephone, and electronic or computer.  If a rabbit chews through a live electric cord, there is a danger to the rabbit of burns or electrocution and a danger to your home if a short sparks a fire.  Even if no one is harmed, you will be aggravated, inconvenienced, and out some money for repairs or replacements.  You also might be embarrassed having to explain to a repairman or utility company just why your cord or cable needs replacing.

One of the best protections for cords is to place them behind large pieces of furniture where the rabbit cannot fit to get access.  However, if the outlets are under windows or on a wall above furnace or air conditioning vents, you may not want to place large furniture pieces there.  In that case, you will have to protect the cords and outlets. 

You need to decide whether you want something flexible and movable, or something that will permanently attach to the wall.  Also, will you be covering cords individually, or trying to cover several cords together?  Note that electric power cables and data or telephone cables should not be enclosed together.  Data or telephone cables are sensitive to interference from electric power.

Cord Covers:  Split loom is a continuous flexible tube that is split along the entire length. We currently double protect exposed cords by using two different sizes of split loom to form two layers.  We use a smaller diameter of split loom for the inner layer and then make sure the split on the larger outer layer  is on the opposite side, making getting to the cord a real challenge for our rabbits (they haven’t).  Click to see split loom examples on

Cable Race: For the décor conscious bunny owner, this is a permanent and professional installation.  It is available in either adhesive-back or screw mount.  There are color choices.  Some can be painted to match the wall color.  There is a plastic trough that snaps shut, completely covering one or more cables.  For bunny proofing, it may be used in combination with one of the flexible materials.  It is generally available only from electrical or electronic suppliers, but you can see what one example looks like here on

Outlet Plugs:  Outlet plugs are the simple plastic plugs that fit into unused outlets and are widely available for child proofing. Example on

Outlet Covers:  These are typically meant to keep babies away from plugs and outlets.  They cover the whole outlet protecting the plugs from being knocked or pulled out and you can run a cord protected with plastic split loom right into the outlet cover.    Some rabbits have cleverly realized that the point where a cord cover and plug meet is vulnerable.  Covering the whole outlet removes access to that vulnerable spot.  Here are three examples on Safety 1st, Safety 1st, Kidco.   

Send your rabbit a clear message that cords and cables are not on their menu of available chew toys.

Bunnyproofing – Start by Knowing Your Rabbit

We have a Tigger in our kitchen!

Never underestimate a highly motivated rabbit’s ability to get into places and things that they shouldn’t. We found the biggest key to successful bunnyproofing was getting to know each of our rabbits really well.  Then we knew whether to bunnyproof for a chewer, digger, thrower, jumper, burrower or combination rabbit.  Knowing what your bunny is most likely to do can help you to make areas of your home safer for them or protect cherished things in the home from rabbit damage. 

We read the  recommendations to have open roam times be in smaller controllable spaces at first, like kitchens or bathrooms. That made a lot of sense to us because unless a new rabbit has already been litter box trained, these spaces usually have floors that are easier to clean up accidents.  Small throw rugs can allow the rabbit to run some and usually the rugs used for kitchen and bathroom spaces can be easily washed too.

These smaller home spaces usually have doors or entries that are easier to block and cabinets down to the floor which don’t allow bunny to get into too many places they shouldn’t.  We stuck cardboard boxes or plastic bins in any open spaces so that they were a tightly wedged fit that Tigger couldn’t easily dislodge.  We thought we had done well in the kitchen with a planting bin stuck into the space beside the refrigerator that blocked it for 3 feet up.  However, with Tigger we learned quite rapidly that things needed to be at least 4 to 6 feet tall if we didn’t want her to try to hop on or over them.

We spent a lot of time in the kitchen with Tigger.  While we litter box trained her, we also learned she loved to run, was an awesome jumper, a so so chewer, but loved to throw her toys.   Tigger from the start was suicidal in her stunts to go everywhere a bunny could possibly go and do everything a bunny could do.  She really tested all the limits of our ability to stay one step ahead of her with bunnyproofing, even in the confined and controlled kitchen.  Her energy level was absolutely exhausting. 

The most important thing we learned about Tigger is that where she looked, she would next run or leap.  Once we left the kitchen with her and started expanding her space that was an important key in bunnyproofing.  If she spent any amount of time looking at something, it was going to be next on her bunny to do list.

We knew from Tigger’s sit up looks that she planned on hopping on her cage top. She had hopped up on her carrier in the kitchen which was at the outer limits of safety for the spacing of the bars to the size of her paws.  We didn’t want her hopping on her big cage top or she could have easily broken a leg, since the bars there were too far apart to land safely.  Fortunately we heeded her looking at it and when she did leap, we already had a piece of flat cardboard held in place by clips.   She did skid a bit on the cardboard, so we found a small throw carpet that was the same size as the cardboard and then clipped that on top of the cardboard giving her a safe and comfy landing-place.  Over the years it has become a place she loves to use as her high ground to survey her bunnydom.

We learned with Tigger, then Shadow many ways to keep them safe by being observant and staying one step ahead of what they might try next and either blocked access or made the area or item safer for them.   On coming Wednesdays, I will share some of what we learned that really helped us bunnyproof over the past ten years so that they survived safely to be elder buns.  I will also share some of what we are learning now to adjust both ourselves and them to the limitations that are coming with their older age.

Weathering the Storm

Tigger & Shadow are content now to once again be napping in spring sunshine.

This past week was a hard one to get through.  The strong storms that came through the south brought so much destruction and sadness with the huge number of lives lost.  Multiple tornadoes hit here in Georgia,  more than a dozen died.  We were in the path of at least one tornado, but it did not touchdown in our neighborhood.  A road due north of us was not so lucky and many homes were destroyed, but again it was fortunate that no lives were lost there. 

Last Wednesday evening was unreal and too real.   We knew well ahead that the coming line of storms had already brought a great deal of devastation and loss of life. It was a full evening of blaring tornado sirens as multiple storms with tornadoes on the ground or in the clouds came racing through.  At one point there were two tornado warnings at once with one storm coming north and the other coming east.   When the final siren silenced near midnight, we finally came out of our half bath hiding place.  We were hot, stiff and sore from the cramped space, but feeling so relieved to be safe and sound.  We weren’t complaining, but feeling blessed to be untouched.   We decided to leave Tigger and Shadow in their cages in the pantry until the final watch ended since it had been such a strong line of storms.  Finally at 3 am after the final tornado watch for our area was declared over, we safely brought the bunnies out. 

We knew the next day that the reports were going to be bad and were so saddened.  We were humbled by the fragility of safety in learning how near it had come to us.

If the sirens hadn’t been going off and the weather alert radio going crazy with warnings, we wouldn’t have realized just how severe the storm system was.  There was an eery silence, almost no rain or noticeable wind and very little sound of hail.  Survivors in the neighborhood just north of us described the same thing.  They had a few seconds of hail and then silence until trees started falling and glass started breaking.  They didn’t hear the sound of a freight train that they had always been told to expect. 

These storms were the worst we have seen for devastation and loss of life and yet they didn’t come upon us with any of the obvious signs we were expecting.  It would have been easy to ignore the weather warnings as a cry of wolf.  Those in the neighborhood that was hit took shelter in interior rooms and survived as their houses collapsed or were torn apart around them, because they trusted the warnings rather than the deceptively quiet storms. 

Since tornado season will continue for several months, we will continue to keep on the watch.  We sure wish though that our home had been built with a basement!