Tuesday, 8 March 2011

LEARNING WHILE LIVING WITH RABBITS

How much do you really know about bunnies? Most folks assume they understand everything about them but they actually know very little about these popular-but-misunderstood pets. Whenever I've spoken to groups or individuals about house rabbits, they continually express surprise when I tell them what I've learned while living with them.

In When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies), I related many astonishing facts about my long-eared friends. Here's an excerpt about rabbit droppings. This is important to understand as a bunny's health depends on proper digestion.

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I learned many things about rabbits, especially from living with Gideon. One of the most astounding facts was that bunnies have two kinds of droppings. There are the little round balls, which my bare feet were well acquainted with, and then the other kind called caecotropes, which are moister and look a bit like a cluster of grapes. Caecotropes or caecals come from an organ called the caecum, which is attached to the bunny's intestine, and they smell much worse than faecal pellets.

Rabbits often use their faeces as territorial markers, but they refrain from soiling their warrens. That's why Mr. Chocolate and Floppy never left any deposits on the side of the cage where they slept.

When I first saw a rabbit eating his droppings, I misunderstood and thought the animal was mentally deficient. But then I learned that caecotropes contain a lot of nutrition because they ferment inside the bunny. That way, the animal can reprocess the nutritionally poor grasses of his or her diet.

Rabbits normally live in grasslands and need to eat plenty of vegetation. As I found out with Gideon's illness in March, sugar is potentially deadly for rabbits. It causes bad bacteria in the bunny's intestine to grow explosively, releasing toxins which could eventually kill the animal. I didn't know that carrots were high in sugar until I was told that by my friends on the lists. Because rabbits have a sweet tooth and eat things they shouldn't, I needed to be careful not to let Gideon find anything containing loads of sugar or carbohydrates.

Many human foods can become deadly to them too. Even Iceberg lettuce is bad for rabbits because of its lack of nourishment. Green leafy vegetables, such as Romaine and Endive, are more suitable greens.

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When a Man Loves a Rabbit contains many more fascinating stories of life with house bunnies. These range from the tragic to the hilarious. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You may also e-mail me directly if the comment form doesn't work.