Friday, March 24, 2023

Otto's Bladder

 Hi Everybunny! Cookie here! This blog post was supposed to be about my dainty feet, but instead it's about Otto's bladder.

My secretary spent last weekend fussing about Otto, and she insists that I tell you the story because she says its very important that all bunny people know about Otto's bladder. She says it's more important than my dainty feet right now. Seriously, his BLADDER is more important than my FEET?! How dare she! 

Anyway, I'm going to cooperate because our secretary is under a lot of pressure lately and I don't want to risk her losing her mind and forgetting to order my Flower Power Berry Boost treats. I hope you all like bladder stories. I'll try to make it short.

This is Otto. I have to admit that Otto, though dour, is very cute and very sweet. He's also blind and as old as Methuselah. He's had problems with bladder sludge in the past, but we thought it was under control.

What is bladder sludge? According to the Royal Veterinary College (Click here for a link)"Sludgy bladder syndrome occurs when the normal calcium crystals in rabbit urine are retained in the bladder. This can lead to a build up of a gritty sediment which can irritate the lining of the bladder and lead to inflammation." Thank you RVC!! 

If you go to that link there is a nice, short article about bladder sludge, what causes it and how to prevent it. There's also another one Here from Small Pet Select. And here's one from the Rabbit Welfare Association!

Poor Otto wasn't eating last friday night, and our secretary assumed that he had some GI stasis brewing. So she gave him fluids, put him on a hot water bottle, gave him Meloxicam and Enulose and all those other good GI stasis things and he spent the night next to her bed. When she saw him eating parsley at 3 am she assumed he was back to normal...

...and then the next morning she realized he hadn't peed all night! The light finally dawned - Otto's sludge was back, his urethra was probably blocked and all those fluids she gave him could be putting a lot of stress on his already stressed out bladder. 

Luckily our wonderful rabbit-savvy vet was able to see him on a Saturday morning for which we are so grateful. Because this is what she found when she looked at his x rays!

Ouch!! See those big white areas near his rear end? That's all bladder sludge! 

Otto spent the weekend there and had a catheter inserted to drain his bladder and then had sub-cutaneous fluids to help flush the rest of the sludge out. He came home on Monday, as dour but cute as ever, and is now on cranberry supplements, twice weekly sub-q fluids, a diet of low calcium veggies, and a brief course of antibiotics in case of infection. 

So what is the moral of this story? If your bunny is acting poorly, don't assume it's GI stasis! So often rabbit people focus on their bunny's poo, but honestly monitoring their pee is just as important. If you notice your bunny is having lots of crystals in her urine (those articles I linked to have some good photos!), seems to be straining to urinate, isn't producing a good amount of urine, has blood in her urine, or generally seems hunchy and unwell please get her to your rabbit-savvy vet ASAP.

And now, I'm going to go back to my pen and work on the article about my dainty feet. As Mrs. Brighton would say: "BYEEEEEEEE!!!"



Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Make Sure Your Vet Is "Rabbit Savvy"!

Señor Spaghetti, Minister of Health here, writing another post for Mrs. Brighton about health issues. It's come to my attention that some of you are confused about one of the most important people in your life - your veterinarian! A great rabbit-savvy vet is worth their weight in craisins!

When we refer to a rabbit savvy veterinarian, we mean a vet who has the specialized knowledge it takes to care for rabbits. Most vets have little training with bunnies, and quite honestly ignorance is not bliss for us. I don't want to be melodramatic here, but a vet who doesn't know what they are doing can kill us - literally! 

Rabbits are so different from dogs and cats in so many ways. In fact, several bunny vets have told me we are closer to horses! We're herbivores, prey animals, and...we're just built different! We have problems such as GI stasis that you hardly ever see in cats and dogs.

We also can't have many of the medications cats and dogs have. In fact some of their medications are deadly to us! Anesthesia, antibiotics and flea medications are especially problematic. And when it comes to spay and neuter - you really don't want to take a chance with a veterinarian who isn't well-versed in doing surgery on a bunny!

So how do you find a veterinarian who's rabbit-savvy? May I emphasize that you need to find one now, before you have an emergency!! The time to find a veterinarian is not when your bunny has stopped eating, or has eaten something she shouldn't have. You need to find a vet now and have a get-acquainted visit and general check up, so they have a record of your bunny if she gets sick. 

Here's some tips for checking out vets:

1. Rabbit groups like The House Rabbit Society have lists of rabbit savvy vets recommended by members. You can find the HRS main list here.

2. Contact your local rabbit rescue group (you can find them by googling rabbit rescue and your location.) Ask who they take their foster bunnies to.

3. You could call the veterinarian that you take your dog or cat to and ask who they would recommend, but be extremely wary if they say something like "Oh, I can see your rabbit! They aren't that different!" Yes, yes - we are! Very different! You are looking for a referral to a specialist, and if you have a good cat/dog vet they'll know their limits and refer rabbits out.

4. Check Google for "exotics vets" in your area (yes, bunnies are classified as "exotic pets"), and read the reviews.

Think you've found a good rabbit vet? You still need to interview your candidate(s) to make sure they really do know bunnies. Don't take some one else's word for it - some one else may not care about their bunny as much as you care about yours! Don't just take the closest vet to you, or the cheapest one either. You really want to make sure you have someone who knows what they are doing with bunnies!

Also, please remember, a veterinarian's time is precious - these are really busy people! When you call their office to ask these things make sure it's not a busy time. If it is, ask when you can call back. And don't underestimate the vet techs and front desk people - often they can answer these questions, too. 

So here are some things to ask:

    1. Does this vet see bunnies as pets, or are they more of a livestock veterinarian? This is an important thing to know, because a vet who sees rabbits in the context of farms, 4H groups, or certain breeders may see them differently. The emphasis may not be on quality of care because many rabbits in these situations are just euthanized if a problem arises. In fact we recently spoke to a breeder who said her "farm vet" recommended euthanizing a bunny for ringworm, and sadly, not knowing any better she took his advice. Ringworm is a pain - but not something to euthanize a bunny for! So please find out your potential vet's perspective on their bunny patients.

    2. Find out their track record on surgeries, especially spay and neuter. Do they often lose bunnies during surgery? What do they use for anesthesia - injectables (a big no no!) or gas (isoflorane or sevoflorane)?  Do they give pain medication after surgery? Do they keep bunnies overnight to make sure they are recovering well?

    3. Here is the biggest question - do they recommend withholding food the night before a surgery? If the answer is yes, you really need to say "thank you so much for your time" and keep looking! Rabbits cannot vomit, and need to keep their intestinal tracts moving, so withholding food before surgery is not necessary and can cause GI issues. Fasting overnight before surgery is truly the hallmark of a vet who doesn't know rabbits!

    4. Other good questions:
        *What antibiotics would they consider as safe for                     rabbits (penicillin, unless injected, is a no go. Amoxycillin, clindomycin and lincomycin are also deal breakers!)? 
        *What flea medications would they consider safe (Frontline is NOT safe!)? 
        *Do they routinely check for parasites like mites and coccidia? 
        *What would they consider a good diet for bunnies, and do they have a preferred pellet that they would recommend? 
        *What would they consider a good treatment for GI stasis? Heck, do they even know what GI stasis is?!
        *How many bunnies do they see a week? Are bunnies a routine part of the practice? 
        *Do they routinely see bunnies with issues like pasteurella, abcesses and e. cuniculli?

    5. And finally, do they stay up to date? Do they go to conferences and take classes about rabbit health issues? And do they belong to groups like the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians and the American Veterinary Medical Association?

We love that our veterinarian has this bunny dental poster in her exam room! It makes it easy for her to explain our dental issues to her patient's people!

Something to think about: Many times we hear people who don't have much money say they don't want to go to the vet because of the expense. We know vets can be expensive, but there is a reason for that, and that reason is that the training they have, and must continue to update, plus the cost of actually running a vet clinic are not cheap. 

If your bunny is sick - please, go to a rabbit savvy vet! Don't ask the lady down the street who has bunnies what she would do, don't call a rescue and ask what they would recommend, don't try and cut costs by putting off treatment until it's too late! We can't emphasize this enough - if your bunny is sick, go to your vet!

If you think money may be an issue, start saving up now. We recommend to our adopters that they have $500 in a savings account for emergencies. If you put even a few dollars away each month it will add up, and you'll have peace of mind knowing you can take care of your friend if problems arise.

There is health insurance for bunnies but we've heard mixed reviews on how good it is and how much it covers. The general consensus seems to be that it is just as effective to have a savings account, but if you think it might be helpful it's worth investigating.

Ok, I'm going to end here - there's some tasty parsley next to my water dish and my litter box is calling! I hope this information helps - do you have any questions about finding a vet? You can leave a comment and I'll do my best to answer!

Señor Spaghetti
Minister of Health, Huntsville Friends of Rabbits

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Is It Time You Got Speutered?

Hi there! I'm Señor Spaghetti! I'm one of the sanctuary bunnies here at HFR. Mrs. Brighton's off polishing her tiaras, so I decided to take over her blog for this month and talk to you about your bunny's health. We're going to start with speutering - that's short for spaying and neutering!

You see, I know some of you got yourself a cute little baby bunny at Easter and now that little cutie is starting to act more like a Tasmanian Devil. In fact, this is the time of year that rabbit rescues dread - when the cute little babies become hormonal nut jobs and their people decide to dump them. Please don't dump your bunny - I have the solution: speutering!

Let's talk about this, shall we? Here are a few reasons that spaying or neutering is a good thing to do:

1. Not fond of your Tasmanian Devil? Most of the behaviors that are driving you crazy (lunging, spraying, not using the litter box, mounting your feet, biting, etc, etc, etc) are the result of bunny hormones. What's the answer? Get rid of the hormones! It can take a few weeks, but after speutering the hormones will dissipate and your little fluff ball will be much better behaved.

2. The C-word. Sadly, unspeutered bunnies are very prone to reproductive cancers. Not spaying or neutering is almost like inviting cancer into your bunny's life. Seriously.

3. We're less stinky! That litter box smell? So much better after speutering!

4. No, we won't get fat and lazy! Plus we'll be a whole lot calmer, and can focus on playing with you instead of looking for a mate.

5. Bunnies are very social, and speutering makes it easier for you to have two (or more!) Unspeutered rabbits tend to want to guard their territory and will fight - even if they are siblings. If your bunnies are male and female, they'll reproduce. You may not see this as a problem, but please think about this: rabbits are the third most often euthanized animals at shelters across the country! By letting your bunnies have bunnies, you are contributing to this serious problem.

Please don't think you can just get one of your pair done. Nope. It doesn't work that way. The intact bunny will still act out their hormonal behaviors, and fighting is still a strong possibility. Plus if you get your male neutered and leave your female unspayed, he is still able to father baby bunnies for several months after surgery. You could still wind up with a litter of bouncing baby bunnies!

6. You may think getting your rabbit speutered isn't "natural". Well, no, it isn't - but neither is keeping a rabbit as a pet either. Remember that we've only been domesticated a few hundred years, and we have many of our wild behaviors still. Getting us spayed/neutered is definitely a good way of helping us adjust to this "unnatural" situation.

7. If you do let your rabbits reproduce, things tend to get out of control fast. This is where I need to tell you my story!

This is me and my siblings when we were just three days old:

I know, we're adorable! Don't you want to kiss us?

Our original person got our parents from someone who raised rabbits for meat, and occasionally sold them as pets. He swore to my parents' person that even though my parents were only 6 weeks old he could tell their sex, and they were both girls. Absolutely, positively two girls. 

A couple of months later, one of the two "girls" gave birth to three adorable babies! 

Lesson #1: It's very hard to sex young rabbits. Very, very hard!

Lesson #2: Rabbits can get pregnant as early as three months old!

Our person was wonderful, but didn't know much about bunnies and didn't realize she needed to separate my parents immediately. She didn't figure that out until a couple of days later, but by then it was too late. About a month after the first litter, my mom had eleven more babies!

Lesson #3: Rabbits can get pregnant the day they give birth, and their gestation period is only about 30 days. And bunny litters can be large - lots and lots of babies!

My secretary has seen situations where two bunnies turned into 60 or 70 in less than four months. It's crazy, right?! In my case, my parents were lucky, because our person knew she was in over her head. She got help from my secretary's rescue and we all got speutered before any more babies happened!

The costs of taking care of 14 babies and two parents were over $4000 - money that the rescue had to raise because our person couldn't afford it. Plus, since we were New Zealands, very few people wanted to adopt us, and five years later three of us are still here in sanctuary. My secretary says we were worth it, but still - if you have the chance to get your bunny taken care of, why bring extra bunnies into the world? Especially when there are some real benefits to spay and neuter!

I feel like I'm the poster child for why you should get your bunny speutered! Have I convinced you? I hope so!  I know bunny people have lots of concerns about their rabbit having surgery, so that's why my next posts are going to be on how to find a great rabbit-savvy vet, and aftercare for spay/neuter surgery. 

Want more information on spay and neuter? Here's some great links:

*The wonderful Dana Krempels wrote this piece on spay and neuter.
*The Rabbit Welfare Association has a good article here.
*We love Best Friends Animal Sanctuary! Here's their article.

Until next time!

Señor Spaghetti, 
Huntsville Friends of Rabbits Minister of Health

Friday, June 4, 2021

What's Bugging Your Bunny?


Summer's here and the time is right for....parasites!! Brace yourselves, because today your friendly neighborhood Education Bunny is going to show you some disgusting characters who want to make a meal of your sweet little fur baby!

Seriously, brace yourself. This is disgusting!

First - some dandruff you won't need Head And Shoulders for! What prompted this post is that one of my friends, Alanis, got "Walking Dandruff". Our vet noticed it on her last check up. Here's a picture of what "Walking Dandruff" looks like:

No, it isn't really dandruff. It's a mite called Cheyletiellosis. It looks like dandruff at first glance, so you might think your bunny just has dry skin. But under the microscope it looks like this:

Our vet gave Alanis medication and she's fine. But how did she get them? And what do you look for when checking your own bunny? 

Mites live in the environment, so they can get tracked in on your shoes, on hay, with other animals in your home. They tend to dig in and multiply on very young or older bunnies who aren't able to groom as well. Alanis is quite arthritic, so she just couldn't get to the area between her shoulder blades where these guys like to hang out. So when you check your bunny, make sure you look between her shoulder blades - it's prime real estate for parasites!

Want to know what's even more disgusting than "Walking Dandruff"? Ear mites!! Also known as "bloody cornflakes" - EWWWWWWW!!!

Warning: This next picture is of a sweet foster bunny named Buttons, who was rescued after someone dumped him in the woods. He was very infested when he came to us, but don't worry - he got better, got adopted and had a fabulous happy ever after!

We'll make this picture small so it isn't totally in your face. This is why I told you to brace yourself:

You can find the best article about ear mites here. Please ignore the treatment section of this article, and instead go to your veterinarian. She can give you the latest treatments and the proper doses. Also, in our experience the crustiness doesn't take 10-14 days to come off. It usually starts to fall off the next day, and just a couple of days later it's miraculously gone!

Here's Buttons all fixed up and ear mite free! 

Finally, we're going to talk about my friend here, Fanny Flea. Fanny was a promotion for a flea medication, but her living counterparts can make your rabbit miserable.

Rabbits get fleas just like other animals. Again, look between your bunny's shoulder blades, and also around her tail and lower back. You may not see the actual fleas, but there could be "flea dirt" (aka: flea poop!) which looks like small specks of dirt that disintegrate into bloody red when they get wet. I know - it's GROSS! You might also notice tiny clear specks, which are flea eggs.

Fleas are very treatable. They can be combed off using a flea comb, but probably the best thing to do is ask your veterinarian for medication. Please do NOT give your bunny any medication that is meant for a cat or dog, without checking with your rabbit-savvy vet! Especially not Frontline, which can be fatal to rabbits. Check with your vet! 

No matter what kind of parasites your bunny has - DO NOT GIVE HER A BATH!! This is so important - do not ever give bath your bunny! Rabbits are prone to hypothermia, and we personally know someone who lost their bunny this way. DON'T DO IT! Go to your vet and get the proper treatment which will break the parasite's life cycle, and then give your house a good cleaning. You can defeat these tiny things!!

And if you find any bugs, don't feel like you are dirty or that you did something wrong. Parasites are in the environment, they're everywhere. It's one of the reasons we recommend rabbits be kept indoors - they are much more likely to get bugs if they live outside. So keep your bunny indoors and check her frequently.

I hope you enjoyed this post! Maybe enjoy isn't the right word. Now go check your bunny for bugs! Look between her shoulder blades and in her ears! You got this!!

Byeeeee! Love,
Mrs. Kitty Brighton, Education Bunny

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Part Two: Bunny Language - Unhappy Behaviors

Hello Everybunny! Here I am again with my little book on Bunny Behavior!** This week I'm going to talk about Unhappy Bunny Behaviors - things your bunny might do to tell you she is unhappy, fearful or just plain hopping mad! Ready? Let's jump right in!

Thumping: This is the number one sign of an unhappy bunny! Remember that rabbits haven't been domesticated for very long, and in the wild thumping with their hind feet is meant to signal other rabbits that danger is near. Because their back feet are so powerful these thumps can be heard over quite a distance. 

Domestic bunnies still use thumping as a means of signaling danger, but they also use it to communicate anger or sometimes just to get attention. My companion, Spooky, used to thump at 3 am to try and get my secretary to play with him - he learned she would fuss over him if he thumped! If your bunny is thumping you need to investigate, no matter what the reason is. 

There are also rabbits we call "weather bunnies". They are very sensitive to changes in air pressure, particularly ones associated with tornadic air systems which we have a few times a year here in the Southeast. We've had several bunnies here at the Sanctuary House who would start thumping even before the tornado sirens went off. If you have a "weather bunny" please be sensitive to how stressful these events can be for them!

Boxing: Has your bunny ever jumped up on her hind feet and boxed at you?! Your bunny has either just had it with your behavior, touched her blind spot! Rabbit's eyes are on the sides of their head so that they get a great panoramic view and can see predators coming from all angles. This is great, except that it gives them a blind spot right at the end of their nose. 

If you ever see two rabbits in a territory tussle, you'll notice they try to bite each other's noses to take advantage of this blind spot. So if you accidentally touch the end of your bunny's nose you better brace yourself - you'll probably get boxed!

Nipping: Bunnies don't nip or bite because they're mean, but instead because there is something they're trying to communicate and they can't do it any other way. Nipping can mean "Put me down", "Stop brushing me", "Please move", or "Don't touch me like that".  

Something that often helps with nipping behaviors is to make a very short, high pitched squealing noise. This mimics the rabbit's distress call and lets her know you've been hurt. In the future though, try to avoid doing those things that prompt your bunny to nip. Remember, she's trying to tell you something and you really ought to listen!

Hmmm....this bunny looks like my friend, Slinky!

Lunging: Rabbits tend to use lunging as a way to protect their territory or really emphasize that they don't like what you're up to. It's often seen when you're cleaning your rabbit's pen. Some bunnies have their stuff arranged just so, and how dare you come and clean it up?! Back off, Jack! 

Lunging can also be associated with cage possessiveness, which tends to happen when a bunny is in too small an enclosure. I'm going to talk about housing in a few weeks but if your bunny does a lot of lunging, please make sure she's in a roomy pen and not a small cage!

And finally...lunging behaviors can be hormonal! Has your bunny been spayed/neutered? We'll be talking about that next week!

Ears Back: You can tell so much about a bunny from her ears! Ears back and an overall tense affect means your rabbit is unhappy about something, and you need to figure out what it is. Is she feeling afraid? Threatened? Angry? Is there another animal around that she feels threatened by?

The Foot Flick: (I've also heard this called "The Bunny Finger", but we're trying to be family-friendly here!) Have you ever been interacting with your bunny and she turns around and scampers off, but as she's leaving she kind of flicks her back feet at you? She finds you a tiny bit annoying, or maybe she's just being a little sassy! It's not that big a deal, but do try to be a better Bun Servant in the future, ok?!

Looks like it's time to close the book on this little intro to Unhappy Bunny Language! 

Of course, this is just skimming the surface of this fascinating subject! In the next few weeks we'll dip into hormonal behaviors when we talk about spay and neuter issues, and sick bunny behaviors when we talk about why you need to find a rabbit-savvy veterinarian. In the mean time, if you want to delve further into communicating with your rabbit, I recommend these very good articles from Rabbitwise and From Rabbitspeak !! Some great information - go read them right now!!

Byeeeeee for now!
Love, Mrs. Kitty Brighton, Education Bunny

**And again, if you like my fun little Bunny Behavior book by artist Lyndsey Green, you can find it at her store - check it out here!

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Do You Speak Rabbit?


Check out this adorable little book by Lyndsey Green! Here's a link to her store - go look at her awesome rabbit art!

My secretary has been studying French for about a year now. I'm quite confused about this. She's already fluent in Rabbit, so why on earth would she want to learn another human language? 

What's that  you say? You aren't fluent in Rabbit? In fact, you don't have a clue what your rabbit is trying to tell you? Well, my goodness, we need to give you a crash course in Beginner Bunny!

Bear in mind this is just the Beginner level. I'm going to do this in two parts - Happy Behaviors and Unhappy Behaviors - and I'll post some great links to more advanced courses at the end of Part Two. There is so much to learn!

So the first thing we're going to do is give you a history lesson. What many people don't realize is that, while dogs and cats have been domesticated for a hundred zillion years**, rabbits have only been domestic animals for 500-600 years. That isn't very long! We are descended from European wild rabbits, and some of the first domesticated rabbits were bred as lap pets for Dutch royalty. (So you can call me "Countess Kitty"!)

European rabbits are very different from American wild rabbits, who are solitary and nest in shallow holes. European bunnies live in large family groups called "warrens" and dig incredible networks of tunnels under the ground, where they live with their extended family groups. They have complex friendships and bond for life.

So what does this mean for you, as you are trying to learn our language? It means that we still have many of our wild instincts and behaviors, and many of those behaviors stem from being a prey animal in the outdoors. It's amazing that we've adapted to living with people so well, when our instincts are to run away from anyone bigger than we are!

The second thing you need to understand is that rabbits don't vocalize hardly at all. As prey animals, we know that if we get noisy we could attract predators. So we communicate through body language. Think of it as sign language, but instead of just hands, we use our whole bodies.

Of course, there's always an exception - that bunny who just can't shut up! Check out my friend Bee, or as we call him "Grunty Gus"! I think this grunting can safely be interpreted as "Don't mess with me while I'm eating!"

What was my secretary thinking? Can't a big guy eat in peace?

So what are the top behaviors you need to know when learning Beginner Bunny? Let's get into the nitty gritty:

1. The Binky! This is hands down the most fun thing your bunny does, and it's a sure sign she's happy. What is a binky? It's crazy leaping in the air, twisting about, shaking our booty, flinging our heads from side to side, and generally acting quite nutty. The first time my secretary saw her first bunny do one, she thought he was having a seizure! We do this when we're incredibly happy. Seriously, what other non-human animal dances with joy?!

Binkies can be combined with The Bunny 500 (running madly around the room) and often end with The DNR Flop (see below). If you live in New England, binkies are referred to as "bees in the head" (as in "That rabbit's got bees in his head!"

2. The DNR Flop: DNR = Do Not Resuscitate! It's called this because so many bunny people have thought their rabbit was dead when they first saw this behavior. Basically, when rabbits feel safe and relaxed, they flop out on the floor and can be somewhat hard to wake some tense "is he ok?" type moments can ensue. Let's let Bee show you:

3. Nose Bonks: You're petting your bunny, and stop for a minute. She bonks you with her nose. She was enjoying her pets, and you stopped, and she'd like you to continue. Nose bonks are a request for more attention, please, or sometimes they're more like "Great job! Good work! Keep going!"

4. Tooth Purring: Not to be confused with loud tooth grinding! Tooth purring is a very light grinding of the teeth, barely audible, and it means your bunny is relaxed.....It often happens during long petting sessions.

5. Circling: Essentially a mating behavior, in spayed and neutered bunnies it means "Gosh, I just really like you!" Bunnies often circle their people's feet to show affection, leading to humans developing "the Bunny Shuffle" so as not to trip over their furry friends!

6. Presenting: This one is a little hard to explain, but basically your bunny comes to you, and puts her head down on the floor, kind of stretched out towards you. She's basically asking you to groom her. Some bunnies are demanding about this, and if you don't start petting pronto, you can expect some rather pointed nose bonks!

7. Chinning: Rabbits have scent glands under their chins, and they rub things to claim them. Your bunny might even claim you! Think of it as the rabbit equivalent of "Mine!! Mine!! IT'S ALL MINE!"

Yes, that's exactly what I look like when I chin things!

This is just such a brief introduction! In Part Two I'm going to give you some behaviors that aren't so happy but that you really need to know. And I'm going to put links to some great articles that go into much more detail than I have here. You'll love them - they'll really help you understand your bunny!

And one more thing - if you love my little Bunny Behavior book, you really must check out the artist, Lyndsey Green. She has some incredible bunny art in her shop, which you can find here: Nose bonks to Lyndsey for letting me use her work in this post - I really appreciate it! 

Byeeeee! Love,
Mrs. Kitty Brighton, Education Bunny!

** Give or take a few hundred years!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Tula Appreciation Week - Part Two!!


As you can see, Tula and I have been having a lot of fun!! Now it's time for part two of our interview! As we told you in Part One,Tula works with her people at Small Animal Resources and Empowered Animals Behavior and Training, LLC to help rabbits with all kinds of behavior issues. In this segment, we're going to get into the real nitty gritty of clicker training!

You know a lot about clicker training, and I've noticed that your people work with you using clicker training techniques. Can you tell us a little about why clicker training is so good for bunnies? How does it help form a bond with your people?

I DO know a lot about clicker training! I have so much fun doing this with my people! Like most bunnies (although I would consider myself a little exceptional), I am really smart, and I enjoy learning new things. Clicker training helps my human communicate to me EXACTLY when I've earned a treat. When I hear the click, I know I did the right thing and am going to get a treat! My human teaches my behaviors by breaking them down into small steps. 

For example, to learn to spin a circle, she first taught me to bend my head, then to spin 1/4 of the way, then 1/2 way, then 3/4, then the full circle. When she breaks it down, it makes it easier for me to go from one step to the next. Clicker training is amazing for building a relationship with your human because it really is all about communication. You have to work really hard to figure out what your human is trying to teach you, and your human has to work hard to figure out what you're thinking and how to help you understand. Your human learns how to keep the training session going by keeping it fun and interesting for you! 

At the end of the day, treats only get your human so far. Treats are a great way to get us to invest initially in interacting with our human, but team work is a great social activity, and we bunnies are quite social! The teamwork, mental stimulation, and treats all build your bond with your human!
Think clicker training is silly? Check out this video about crate training! 
You'll never struggle to get your bunny into a carrier again!! 

Clicker training also can help bunnies feel brave! The great thing about positive reinforcement is that your human REINFORCES (increases the frequency of) behaviors that of you try. As you know, we bunnies can be reserved when it comes to trying things out. After all, when our wild ancestors got too bold, they got into trouble! So, we've inherited some of that "bunny street smarts," but, once you start trying new things with your human and getting reinforced for making choices, you realize that we really don't have to worry about anything in our homes. 

It encourages us to explore new things, be bolder, feel more comfortable in our homes, and be more adaptable to changes in our environment. Clicker training also helps our humans be creative! If we get into something we aren't supposed to, for example, our humans can use clicker training to get us to come back to a safe spot!

What is your favorite clicker training trick?

My favorite trick is the "shell game!" This is one where my human switches around a bunch of overturned cups and wants me to find the one with the leaves on the bottom. She swaps them all around, and I have to put my paws on the right one! I really love this trick because I LOVE using my nose to find things, and that's the secret to winning the shell game!

This is me playing the shell game! Notice how I go back to my "station" in between each round!

What is your most useful clicker trick (from your human's point of view!)

My human probably would argue that my most useful clicker trick is my hand target. This is where I touch my nose to her palm. We use this behavior for lots of different things: she uses it to get me into a position when we are going to work on nail trims or brushing, when she needs me to face a certain way to set me up to succeed when I'm learning a new trick, to move me away when she spills something (she always does this!), or to help me start to feel comfortable again when I'm unsure. We do this one all of the time!

Here I am doing bar jumps! You can my person's hand cues and that I go back to my "station" in between these jumps as well. I love working with my people!

People seem to think clicker training takes gigantic amounts of time - does it take a lot of time or can it be done in short sessions?

My human has started to set time limits for our sessions because we both get too excited and try to go for too long, then get a little lost! Usually, our best sessions are just about 1-2 minutes long! We usually train later in the evening, because that's when I like to be awake! This works great for her work schedule because she works all day, I sleep all day, and then we play at night! 

It really doesn't take very long, so sometimes, when she's really tired, I cut her some slack and we just do 30 second sessions and work on the essentials. I've scheduled my weekly weigh-in for her Fridays so that we can do that short and easy session for 30 seconds and then we snuggle! 

In the time it takes for you to watch my barrel roll, you and your bunny could have a training session of your own!

Wow! One or two minute sessions would be easy for anyone to fit into their schedule! What kinds of bunny problems can you and your people help with?

We help with just about everything! My people are really good with bunny "aggression," which we put in quotes because aggression is just a manifestation of fear. My human spent a lot of time watching bunnies in shelters and learned how to work around some really tough cases. 

We really work hard to teach people how to figure out what their bunny is afraid of, and then they work with the human to be able to take care of their bunny in a way that the bunny is comfortable with. 

We usually start out with identifying the "Relationship Account" which is an exercise to help people see things from their bunny's perspective and figure out how to make deposits! My people also work with litter box issues, unusual behaviors, and cases where people just want to improve their relationship! They also do private coaching for bunnies who want to do more clicker training, and offer group classes by Zoom and Facebook! 

They also work with many different species, including cats, guinea pigs and other small mammals, pigs, fish, and even, recently, with my cousin Bernard, a Bearded Dragon!

My people make sure I have lots of fun toys for enrichment, like this awesome ball...

...and this Trixie Mad Scientist Treat Dispenser!!!

Well, you did a great job helping with my friend Bee, and he was a really tough case! (I'll talk more about Bee in another post!)

Tula, if someone would like a consult with your people, how do they get in touch?

Our email address is We are also on Facebook as Empowered Animals Behavior and Training and on Instagram at @empoweredanimals. We also run Small Animal Resources (on FB and Instagram!), which is a free educational resource for people who love bunnies and other small mammals! 

As you know, there is so much misinformation out there regarding small mammal care, and we are so glad to be able to send people to your wonderful blog for quality bunny care info!! Thanks for interviewing me, Mrs. Brighton! I'm so honored! Tell my friend Bee that I say hi!!

We sure will, Tula!! This has been a great interview, and I hope we meet up again soon!

Tula was the first bunny to have earned this title!!! These trick titles are awarded by Do More with Your Dog! and are designed for dogs. Tula had to perform 5 tricks that are determined to be of the highest-difficulty level in the program to earn her title. Congratulations, Tula!!

If you and your bunny are having "issues", please don't hesitate to give Tula and her people a call! You'll be so happy you did!

Love, Mrs. Kitty Brighton,
Education Bunny