“Ahem,” said Finnegan.
OK, Finnegan didn’t actually clear his throat. But he did the rabbit equivalent: hopped over to my chair and looked up at me. A bunny never does this unless he has something to say.
“What’s up, Finnegan?”
“Couldn’t help noticing, you’re eating an apple.” he said, licking both sides of his harelip.
“Yes, Fuji, my favorite.”
“In rabbit circles, it’s considered polite to share.”
“Don’t you mean, grab it out of each other’s mouth?”
Finnegan’s gaze was unwavering. “That’s what I said. Share. Obviously in this case I’m at a bit of a disadvantage because I can’t reach your mouth, so you’re gonna have to give me a little help here.”
I paused, mentally reviewing what Finnegan had eaten so far that day. No sweets yet.
“I suppose I could give you a little bit,” I replied. I broke off a morsel about the size of a pea and handed it to him. He chewed vigorously.
“Wow! That was delicious! How about another?”
“OK.” I broke off another little bit, which Finnegan’s eager lips swiftly plucked from between my fingers. I glanced around the room. Lucky for Finnegan, Moraea was busy over in the litter bin, uncharacteristically oblivious to the goings on at my desk.
“That was excellent! Another!”
“All right, one more.”
I handed over a last little chunk and turned back towards my desk to work. Suddenly I felt something vigorously strike the side of my thigh. I looked down to see two white paws, an insistent face hovering over them, crowned by an intimidatingly long pair of ice pick ears.
Now, if you’ve never met Finnegan, you wouldn’t know what a chronic worrier he is. He’s always the first to run for cover at the slightest hint of a bird call outside the window, or a sizzle sound from the stove. So it was a bit startling to see him assert himself so forcefully.
“C’mon! You’ve got plenty of apple left! Hand it over!”, he demanded.
“I can’t just keep giving you sweet treats! What about your hay?”
I knew before the words even left my mouth I was wasting my breath. It was like asking a kid what about his vegetables when he’s eyeing the dessert — bound to get me nowhere.
“Hay, shmay! I’m talkin’ about that apple. Besides,” he added in a softer tone, “treats are an important part of our relationship.”
I turned to face him. My angelic boy had a pouty expression, with possibly a twinge of genuine hurt in his ruby eye.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, remember when you first brought me here?” he explained. “I never told you this, but I was kind of avoiding you at first.”
“It hardly went unnoticed.” I said.
Did his ears turn slightly pinker? They quickly pivoted away from me and tucked themselves on the back of his neck as he eased himself back down to the floor.
“But please, go on. Why were you avoiding us?”
“It’s just because, before I came here, most of the encounters I had with humans were… unpleasant. All that grabbing, groping, poking, hugging — what the heck?! We’d scarcely been introduced and their hands would be all over me! Plus, getting locked in cages. Even stuck with needles! So I figured you guys were going to do that, too.”
“I see. So how does my apple enter into this?”
“You gave us treats. I wasn’t too sure about it at first,” he said, pausing nervously to scratch his chin with a back foot. “But Moraea was eating them and they looked pretty tasty, so I thought, ‘Well, maybe they’re OK,’ and they were. You didn’t grab us or hold us or poke us. Turns out you always do nice things, like let us go where we want when we want, and give us lots of toys and fun things to do. It’s all been great… well, with the notable exception of those, ah… ,” he lowered his voice and winced, “nail trims.”
“I realize those are a little traumatic. I’m working on that…”
“So, that’s when I started letting you pet me and stuff.”
“I see. So the treats helped establish a strong track record of me being associated with good things, instead of bad ones. Is that it?”
“Exactly! So, how about another bite?”
“OK, but this is absolutely the last one.”
Finnegan practically inhaled the little morsel of apple. Before I knew it, his paws and expectant stare were once again at hip level.
“C’mon! For old times sake?!”
“Look, Finny, I’d love to. But the fact is, eating too much sweet food has been linked with gastrointestinal stasis in rabbits. In fact, the MSD Vet Manual says that eating too many sweets can cause enterotoxaemia.”
Finnegan’s eyes grew wide. “That sounds bad!” he said, returning his front paws to the floor and backing up a little.
“Very bad. So bad I don’t even want to talk about how bad. Let’s just say, at the very least, it would involve lots of grabbing, poking, and being stuck with needles.”
“Ugh!” Finnegan shook his ears in distaste.
“But you do like being petted, right?”
“I do now,” he replied looking up shyly.
“Well you can have as much of that as you want.”
So I set my apple down, and as I joined him on the floor for pets, Finnegan melted into a large, furry, white puddle of happy rabbit.
The Fluffy Tail of This Blog Post
Most rabbits, like most people, have a sweet tooth! Just as we give gifts of candy and other confections to bond with our human loved ones, being a source of yummy delights helps your furry friend learn how awesome you are. But be careful! Just like with humans, too many sweets will cause health problems for bunnies. So use treats in moderation — the sweeter the food, the less you should give. For the sake of his health, make sure the vast majority your long-eared loved one’s daily diet is hay!