“Moraea! That’s *my* drink!,” I exclaimed, snatching the champagne glass away from her inquisitive little tongue.
“It tickles my whiskers. Can I have some more?” she asked, lunging into my lap.
“Nope,” I said, swiftly changing the subject. “It’s almost midnight. We need to make our New Year’s Rabbit Resolutions.”
Here’s what we cooked up.
Melinda: Achieve Puzzle Toy Perfection
When the pandemic left me working entirely from home, I wanted to make the most of my morning bunny time. Although my online meetings start at 8:30, I could still encourage Finnegan and Moraea to keep me company at my desk until they got tired and went to sleep.
I needed something that would be super fun, and keep them engaged for long periods of time without making them sick or overweight from too many rich treats. I also didn’t want to go broke buying them fancy online rabbit toys! (Although they still get some of those.) So I figured out how to make my own puzzle toys using cardboard gift boxes.
I’ve now made a habit of assembling them every weekend – two for each work day in the coming week (because, truthfully, my pint-size officemates are not always good at sharing). They are mostly stuffed with orchard grass — a hay they only get in the puzzle toys — but I put in lots of forage mixes such as dried clover, rose petals or chamomile, and also rabbit food cereal pellets. I don’t add dried fruit or cookies or any other processed foods.
Why no higher value treats? Partially because of health concerns, given that these will be a daily event. Partly because I want to reserve those items for training. And lastly, because when there’s a high value treat inside, I start seeing some resource guarding on the part of a certain large white boy bunny who can be pretty bossy when he has a mind to.
Each day, I observe the buns’ reactions to the boxes. I love how their personalities express themselves. Finnegan is fussier. If he’s been up late the night before, or isn’t very hungry, or the box isn’t just right, he barely shows up. But on the days when everything is in place he will attack them with gusto and pretty much destroy them.
Moraea, on the other hand, is always game for whatever is in the toys, but she doesn’t like to rip them open. She relies on Finny to do that for her. If he lets her down, it’s up to me to dig in and lift the remaining contents up to the top so she can pull them out easily.
Each week I’ve been making little tweaks to the mixture I put in. My goal is to be able to produce boxes that Finnegan goes for every time, without using rich treats.
Simply put, resource guarding is the use of aggressive body language or actions to control access to a rare or high value item, usually food. It’s something that any animal can display, even human beings. If you’re familiar with Filene’s Basement, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Resource guarding is not uncommon in dogs. It can be dangerous but can be addressed through training when it involves dog-human interactions. It’s best to consult an experienced positive-reinforcement trainer for help. Dog-dog resource guarding can’t be fixed, but it can be managed by keeping dogs separated when high-value items are in play. This article by Victoria Stilwell is a great overview.
With rabbits, it’s also pretty common to see a bit of resource guarding. I recommend this article by Donna Northwood of Millhouse Veterinary Surgery and Hospital on how to manage this behavior in buns.
Finnegan: Vanquish The Sizzle
Hi readers. Finnegan here. As you can see, I’m a big, strong, brave bunny boy. A Bun of the World, you might say. However, there are some things that any reasonable rabbit will take exception to. One of them is The Sizzle.
What?! You don’t know what The Sizzle is? It’s that terrifying noise that the humans make when they cook their food on top of that big black metal thingie in the kitchen. Naturally, I race around for a quick hideout or dive under the dining table whenever I hear it. Sometimes I hear it even before they do. (After all, I have an extraordinary set of ears.)
The human says she can help me conquer this fearsome foe, so I’ll never have to worry about it again. She says this plan involves lots of treats, too. Well, sign me up. I’ll give it a try. It would be nice to be able to relax when the humans get out their frying pan.
Moraea: Learn How to Freshen Up My Manicures
This is Moraea. I’m one of those girls whose nails just grow like weeds. And I hate the hassle of going to the salon for a mani-pedi! This year I’d like to learn to do my own manicures so I can keep my nails neat and trim all the time.
The human says she knows of a way I can do this but it’s going to require some training. We’ll also need some equipment, which she doesn’t have just yet. It’s not expensive, it’s just that these days she’s not going out shopping much. I guess there’s some kind of bad disease like RHD2 out there that humans can catch at stores. And she hasn’t been vaccinated yet! So we’ll wait. Hopefully later this year we can work on this.
P.S. I’m so glad Finny and I got vaccinated for RHD2 last year. I hear we’ll need to repeat that this year as well.
The Fuzzy Tail of This Blog Post
There’ll be more to come on these projects later this year. Like all human endeavors some may succeed, others fail, and still others may be abandoned. What are your rabbit resolutions for 2021? Please share them. I wish you and your whisker-nosed friends many happy times together in the coming year!