5 things I’ve learnt from my house bunny

Bringing your bunnies inside can be a source of joy – and plenty of weirdness. Lauren McMenemy, mum to Saunders the lop, explains the unexpected pleasures of sharing your home with a house rabbit.

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Saunders McMenemy-Hawton

We didn’t mean to bring a rabbit into our home. It just sort of... happened.

I’d always grown up with animals in the house but renting as an adult had put an end to that. A few years ago, my husband Chris and I bought our first house and I thought, ‘Well, now’s the time!’

I was driving past a pet store one day when I felt the urge. We went back together the next day, spent three hours talking to the man about rabbits and ended up adopting a bonded pair. We brought them home, all of us wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. We named them French and Saunders, and they settled into our home and our hearts.

Sadly, we lost Frenchie about 18 months later. She had one of those nasty parasites that seem so common in rabbits and which can be treated, but, unfortunately, she didn’t survive. While all advice recommends rabbits should live in pairs at least, we couldn’t get Saunders to bond with anyone else. So, she powers on solo, with me as her housebound friend (I work from home). She’s a huge, feisty black lop with a love of getting her own way, and I’ve learnt a lot from her over the six years she’s been in our house. Here are just a few of the lessons I’ve picked up along the way.

1. Cardboard is a good source of entertainment

It’s true. It doesn’t matter how much we spend on fancy toys or tunnel mazes, Saunders only wants cardboard boxes. It’s been great for our recycling, honestly.

‘I recently had a stomach bug and was sleeping downstairs – well, I say sleeping. I was constantly woken up by the tearing of boxes,’ says Chris. ‘It happens at all hours. I always congratulate her on the good work she’s doing on the renovations. And when the box collapses and we need to replace it, there’s a period of adjustment after the removal of her trusted friend.’

Saunders and her cardboard friend

2. Get excited about the little things

Want to know who buys all the dill in the supermarket? That’d be us. Mint, too, as well as raspberries, kale and spinach. If it tastes strong, our Saunders wants it for breakfast. She knows exactly when a plate of leafy greens is due to be popped down for her, and she will promptly head to her ‘business corner’ to make space for the fresh stuff.

I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited about anything as Saunders gets about her breakfast. She’s well into middle age, but she’ll run around the room in circles, in and out of her various tunnels, up on the sofa and back to the floor, all while I walk slowly towards her breakfast spot. And just as I’m about to put it down, she’ll dart between my legs. A total trip hazard.

Saunders protects her breakfast by sitting on top of it

3. Cables = twigs

The bloggers warn about the perils of rabbits and electrical cables, so we thought we were prepared. Nope. We promptly lost our WiFi connection thanks to an inquisitive rabbit under the table.

Then there was the time when we couldn’t figure out why Chris’s ancient digital radio wasn’t working any more, assuming it had just given up the ghost. But no: little bunny teeth marks were found on the severed cord.

‘I’ve gone through three Hoovers and countless phone chargers!’ says Hannah, mum to three sassy bunnies – English Spots Ethel and Pipkin, and a Lionhead Netherland Dwarf called Violet – who have been known to jump onto the table and steal garlic bread. ‘They even chewed the skirting boards and table legs.’

Chewed cables aren’t just inconvenient, they can put your bunny at risk. These steps will help you to bunny-proof your home:

  1. Position lamps, televisions and other electricals directly in front of a plug socket where possible. You can use cable tidies to secure extra lengths of cable to keep them out of bunny’s reach.
  2. Keep furniture up close against walls. This will reduce the amount of ‘crawl space’ your bunny has and the potential for them to get to electrical sockets.
  3. Where you have a lot of loose cables, use plastic conduit pipe to tidy them together and protect them from bunny’s teeth!

4. The importance of timekeeping

‘I never knew rabbits knew how to tell the time, but mine did,’ says Victoria, recalling her late house bunny Mr Darcy. ‘I was painting a bedroom once and came downstairs, and Mr Darcy was hopping around outside. I looked out and told him “20 minutes, young man, and you have to come in”. Sure enough, I came downstairs 20 minutes later and he was waiting for me at the door.

‘I’d be leaving the house and would say, “I’ll be an hour, tops”. He’d look at me like, “Yeah, I’ve heard that before. I know it’ll be four hours”.’

This year we are proud to support Blue Cross Paws for Tea campaign and invite you to take part. Paws for Tea is a great way to help raise funds for Blue Cross who care for sick, injured and homeless pets. Taking part is fun and easy, simply host a tea party virtually with friends and family, or with neighbours in the garden while social distancing, then send the proceeds to Blue Cross. You can request a free host pack today.

Paws for Tea

The late Mr Darcy

5. Know what you’re worth

Our Saunders is a demanding diva. I mean, she was always that way, but she became even more so once her sister passed on. There’s a very specific way that things must be done, and that’s her way. She’s a tiny dictator who certainly rules our roost.

I’ve been working from home for four years, running my own business as I sit alongside this creature we affectionately call the Little Monster, and I think the biggest lesson she’s taught me is to know what I’m worth. There’s no point in trying to bend to the will of others if it’s ultimately going to hurt you and those around you. Just be yourself, and those who matter will love you just the way you are.

Chris having a cuddle with Saunders

Does your house bunny have a quirk of their own? Share your own tall tales along with a picture on Instagram, simply using the hashtag #PethoodStories

It’s always best to keep rabbits in pairs; however, we know there can be cases, like Saunders’, where they may unfortunately lose their bunny-friend and struggle to bond with other rabbits. In some cases like this, it might be better for the rabbits well-being to be left as they are, as long as they are happy. In this circumstance, Saunders is lucky enough to have his owner working from home with him. Petplan veterinary expert Brian Faulkner, also suggests another option is a guinea pig as they make great companions.

We work in partnership with the UK's animal charities and have seen first-hand the devastating impact Covid-19 is having on their income and the vital funds needed to support the animals in their care. For over 30 years we have been providing 4 weeks free insurance for rehomed pets and giving 10% of rescue pet premiums back to animal charities. In June, to help support animal charities through the Covid-19 crisis we paid over £700,000 in funds that our partners would have received from us in the next 6 months now, in one lump sum, to help them get through the pandemic.

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