Your Questions Answered 

Dogs & Rabbits?

I am about to move in with my partner, who has a dog, and I'm worried about how bunny will cope. He is used to a lot of freedom – definitely an out of cage house bunny, except at night when he's in his hutch. The dog is gentle and not big, she's a King Charles with a good temperament. I don't think she would try and eat bunny, but you never know what instincts they have. She lives outside in the day and inside at night. So there are times when they will be in the house together in the evenings . . .

How would you recommend trying to 'introduce' them? The last thing I want is for bunny to get frightened and drop dead, and I have read that this can happen with dogs. Is it the smell? Or is it just seeing a dog? I'd appreciate your advice!


It is certainly a bit of a fallacy that rabbits drop dead at the drop of a hat! I'm sure he is typical to the majority of Lops (like my bucks) and is an outgoing, friendly fellow and no doubt upon seeing the dog will have no hesitation on curiously hopping up to her to check her out. It is the dog that we must worry about – and generally a lot depends on whether she 'thinks' the bunny is a toy for her to play with. At first I'd have her on a lead and just observe her reactions, if she doesn't get overly excited (or definitely aggressive) you may let her off the lead and make sure she maintains a kind and considerate attitude towards your rabbit.

Apart from the obvious (biting etc.) it is important to make sure the dog does not hound the bunny with extensive chasing, as rabbits can only do this for a short time and if overly exerted they can die from the stress, exhaustion and possibly their heart gives way. Spaniels, terriers and a number of other dog breeds are notorious for this but you've also got to keep in mind that they are still individuals and who knows your partner’s dog may end up deciding to be protective motherly and protective.

Feedback: Your answer was really useful, thank you. We have now been there for one week and, so far, so good. Bunny has been very brave as you predicted and they have touched noses with much mutual fascination and sniffing. There have been a couple of scary moments, though, when Saphy the dog had a flash of instinct and went for bunny. She is generally a sweet gentle dog but I suppose she is still a dog – and when bunny runs by her fast she thinks "oh yum, there goes lunch" . . . she may just be trying to play but I intend to never leave them alone together!





Chickens & Rabbits?

We are currently building a very sturdy (hopefully fox proof) enclosure, as we'd like to get chooks in our backyard. I've always wanted to keep bunnies, so I was wondering if it is possible to house chickens and rabbits together. If it is, what kind of modifications should we make to the enclosure to make sure it is bunny friendly? The enclosure we are building will be about 7 x 4m and it will include a little house and plenty of outdoor shaded space. We were hoping to get 3-4 chickens and 2 bunnies, if they can share with the chooks?


In my opinion there'd be more negatives than positives when housing buns and chickens together. Some potential risks could be:

X transference of mites.

X possible contamination of coccidiosis (it's questionable however if chook/rabbit cocci is species specific or not)

X chook runs are notorious for attracting rodents - I'd hate to imagine bunnies sharing their food bowl/accommodation with rats and or mice.

X even though they may decide to consume them, feed generally given to chickens is not always appropriate for rabbits.

X chooks are grots when it comes to toileting – they poop here there and everywhere, which is not ideal or hygienic condition for bunnies.

X poultry runs also attract flies and various other disease carrying insects, which brings me to the high risk of bunnies being exposed to potential viruses such as myxomatosis and calicivirus or end up fly blown.

X hutches are best protected by fly screen/mesh, which is not typically practiced or practical for chook enclosures.

X chickens and rabbits squabble amongst each other and although much would depend on individual personalities chances are not all will get along. Rabbits can enjoy the companionship of other animal species but if not they aggressively attack those in their territory (to get rid of them) or alternatively sexually chase and harass whatever takes their fancy albeit cat, dog, cavy, human or fowl . . .

X domestic rabbits still maintain a fear of predatory birds hovering above them, so I'd imagine roosting chooks, which when flying down off their perch would be a bit startling/scary.

I think this list covers most of my main concerns; perhaps a separate bunny hutch would be the way to go. If bunny is tame (easy to catch) you can leave the front door open, so when you're at home it can safely frolic around the backyard.
Here's some YouTube links of amorous bunnies amongst some chickens:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYWgy93NV-g&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qkn7_bVyNyw&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzsnWbXhzwI&feature=related

Or a couple of rabbits fighting and then being picked on by chickens:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybVb3t560oY&feature=related






Buck or Doe? + 1 or 2 buns?

Is it ok to have one bunny, or should they have a companion, and which is the better sex to have solely as a pet?


Bucks are my first preference as they are generally upfront, love attention and usually friendlier than does. Unlike female counterparts they don't go though hormonal stages (during times when they think they are pregnant and so on) and are less likely to be territorial and protective of their domain (hutch/home). Given that bunnies are individuals however there are many does, which have the sweetest natures. I think it basically boils down to whether you unknowingly happened to have chosen a dominant or submissive. Guess which one would be easier to live with . . ?

I also recommend the single pet as they are more likely to look towards humans for companionship and there is also quite a list of complications between companions. Take for example that some characters annoy or bully their so called friend, they need a larger sized hutch and most people aren't aware that they shouldn't be separated for a day or two, otherwise they tend to forget their companion and all hell breaks loose. See some more examples and info in page Myths & Misinformation.





Bathing, Buzzing & Chubby?

Shampooing, Oinking and Chubby?

I read somewhere that you should never shampoo your bunny, as they hate water, is that true? I saw bunny shampoo in a pet shop the other day and it made me wonder. I think sometimes he needs a good wash; he can't reach his bum to groom himself any more (which makes me think maybe he is on the fat side. How fat is too fat for a de-sexed male Mini Lop?

I noticed after his snip operation that he did put on weight, but thankfully, it stopped him spraying all over me and the house! I am also curious as to what the "oinking" noises he makes are as sometimes he runs around my feet making these funny little oinking or grunting sounds . . .


Bunnies do not enjoy baths though there are some that will tolerate the experience. If it is just his bottom that needs an occasional clean this is the area you would only need to hold under a tap of warm running water.

Rabbit fanciers call the noise ‘buzzing’ and males tend to vocalise this when they are motivated and excited by sexual attraction – obviously, he fancies you! (Owner brought her bunny to me to assess whether he was overweight and decided to purchase my book, The Wonderful World of Pet Rabbits)

Feedback: I have since read the part of your book on bunny diet/nutrition and I've now changed everything based on the information in it. Your book is a wonderful resource and I wish I'd had info like that years ago!
He doesn't seem too perturbed by the changes (no pellets, no nuts, more weeds etc.) and is happily running around our new house, including zooming up and down the stairs. Hopefully the additional exercise will help him lose the weight. He has started leaping and tossing his head when he's out in the garden, so I figure he must be reasonably happy with the new surrounds. Over the next while, I will keep thinking about introducing him to an adult doe, depending on how he settles in and is behaving.

I realise that I am one of those "clucky" bunny owners you mention in your book. At least now, I know how to feed him properly so he will be healthy, so thanks to you for that.





Teeth Problems?

Fussy eater after dental work?
Wondering if you have any ideas to help me out. Had a rabbit have work on her teeth with spurs on back teeth and had front trimmed, now she will only eat soaked pellets - nothing else. She gets the other food to her mouth but won't bite down, she has had pain relief the whole time. This is the second time she has had her teeth done. First time she ate the next day. The vets are a bit stumped by it, any ideas? Thanks Donna


Chances are your doe might not be aware that her teeth are back to working order and so therefore is not making a concerted effort. If you had sore gums/teeth for a while you'd be pretty wary about using your back teeth or biting down hard properly. She may or may not 'get over it', depends I suppose if one day she forgets about being wary and finally realises that there's no painful consequence to eating harder foodstuff. Imagine it's like every time you do something that is supposed to be pleasant or rewarding but then you receive a painful shock. Repeat this over and over again and it's not surprising if you decide you're better off not doing it. To help encourage bun to eat other foods, I'd still offer a smorgasbord of goodies, especially if before she loved certain treats like bread or grazing on the lawn. If she's not underweight, I'd even cut back or remove the mushy pellets for a day or two. Another idea is to adjust the sogginess of the pellets by gradually making them just a tad drier.
My concern is her teeth problems originated from not being one to chew fibrous foods anyway . . . and if she carries on eating like a baby, well it will be back to the vet on a regular basis. There's no doubt about it though, there are a percentage of buns who will not eat what's highly recommended in their diet. Take for example their essential need for grass, which has a special substance that benefits their teeth – but some buns won't eat it. Or stuff a hutch full of delectable hay and what do some buns do with it – use it as bedding or poop or pee on!

Feedback: Thanks Christine, she has started back on the hard food, but you are right it is hard to get her to eat fibrous food, she just likes it as bedding, where my others eat it all fine She is fussy girl, all I can do is keep trying. Thanks Donna





Losing Fur?

Hi, our rabbit has fur on his head that is discolouring to a light brown colour. Hair has fallen out on top of his head. I rubbed in some shampoo that helps fight fungus and hair seems to be growing back. Just wondering if I should take him to the vet.
Regards Dinah


From your description the discolouring indicates the process of moulting, where the old coat literally falls off. If it’s a sudden moult it can leave bald area/s until the new coat gradually appears. This is a natural process and doesn't need veterinary consultation. If however you see bits of dandruff, this usually indicates mites or fungus and can be treated with olive oil or various commercial sprays, powders available on the market. (See more about mites in 'Grooming Services' page)





Companion Problem?

Hi Christine, I brought your book some time ago on eBay and I still read it. It has been so helpful, especially being Australian. Anyway, I am hoping you can give me some advice on my gorgeous little dwarf bun, Stuart Little. He is 2 years old, desexed and has a partner, Pebbles, who is a bit younger and she is spayed. They have been bonded over 1 year now but the last few months, nearly every night he has been mounting her, following her around the room, demanding grooming etc. He makes a really loud whimpering sound when he does it and he does it all night. He won't let her eat hay or use the tray or drink. He seems to just want all the attention and god forbid if she doesn’t give it to him. Of course this happens all night and by morning she is extremely tired and grumpy.

I now lock him in his hutch each night and Pebbles sleeps outside of it. He doesn’t seem to mind the hutch and Pebbles seems to enjoy her freedom, but I am really curious as to why he does it? When you seem him do it, it is actually quite sad because its almost like if he is afraid to let her out of his sight. When I rescued Stuart he use to fight for food, he was the last of the litter and no one wanted him so he was left alone in a tiny hutch with damp, grotty hay. He had an infection in his paw due to a claw being ripped off. Do you think his past could have something to do with this behaviour? My bunnies, all 9, are indoor bunnies so some sleep would be nice . . . know how Pebbles feels! Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated.


My vet, who is an excellent rabbit vet, thinks eventually they should be separated but that’s not an option, which is why he goes in a hutch at night. He doesn’t do it during the day maybe because they are mainly sleeping . . . Thanks Christine. Regards Lisa


I mentioned in the book (page 49, third para) that sometimes bucks don't know they've been desexed, hence in your example are seeing the result of incessant sexual behaviour. Don't think it has anything to do with his upbringing – he’s just has got it into his head that he has a very important job to chase and try to procreate with his 'doe'.

I don't know if it will work with him, but you could try applying a deterrent odour on her – it would be a matter of trail and error to see what he finds offensive/off putting. Otherwise, you're doing the right thing by keeping them separate during the times he's most active. If the scenting technique doesn't work there's not much else you can do, the doe obviously needs a break from his constant harassment. Since bunnies are inclined to feel more hormonal during usual breeding seasons (such as springtime) hopefully when it gets hotter it might lessen his inclination for such compulsive behaviour.

Feedback: You are right and I was wondering if he was still a bit randy, but I didn’t think so because he was desexed, but I am still learning about bunny behaviour because there is always something different to surprise me. We call him Sexual Stu, for obvious reasons. I have noticed he is worse in the spring months and usually in the summer he’s not too bad. Thank you for the advice. Regards, Lisa





Over Grooming?

The problem we have at the moment is that our buck keeps on over grooming his sister to the point that she hasn't any fur left around her eyes. Is there anything that we can put on her to stop him from doing this or do we have to separate them?


Licking around the eye area is typical behaviour of bunnies showing affection to each other, though not normally done to such excessiveness. I'm pretty sure that the giver (your buck) is trying to encourage his sister (the receiver) to respond to him in the hope that she will reciprocate. So maybe if the doe returned the favour he wouldn't be so persistent about it. You could try and satisfy his desperate need for affection by spending some time licking him! LOL . . . using your fingertips or a damp sponge of course!

If this doesn't help, I would suggest trying a tiny smear of tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil or vicks vaporup, above her eyes – not below otherwise the fumes could make her eyes water. Apply it with a cotton bud as if marking an eyebrow. Don't overdo it, as these are powerful pongy stuff, which is why I'm hoping the unappealing odour might put him off. Then again if that doesn't work it would be best to allow the doe some respite by separating them during the day. He might also be bored and need to be distracted from this repetitious habit. If your backyard/courtyard is bunny proof let him have fun exploring it or alternatively construct an exercise run or buy a puppy playpen.

Other forms of rabbits chewing their own or companion's fur is generally believed to be caused by insufficient nutrients in the diet, such as a lack of protein. Given that all rabbits are individuals, I can't guarantee these methods will work. By the way I would assume you know that closely related bunnies are liable to breed? It's tricky getting the timing right (de sexing the buck or separating them before sexual maturity), because in some cases they get up to mischief way before you expect them to!





Toilet Training Problem?

My wife and I own a Dwarf Lop (Nibbler) he is about 8 months old. We have been trying to toilet train him since a very early age and have been mainly successful, we have got a tray for him inside his cage with kitty litter in it, which he uses as his toilet. Nibbler now only ever goes to the toilet when he is in his cage and never when he is out running around the house. However, we have noticed that he will poo within his tray but then turn around and hang his bottom over the edge of the tray wee outside it. He then proceeds to kick the kitty litter from inside the tray, on top of his wee to absorb it.

There has a period about 4 months ago when Nibbler was weeing inside his tray but then this new habit started. Currently whenever we see him weeing outside his tray we quickly pick him up and turn him around into his tray, however this doesn’t seem to be having much effect on him. We were just wondering if you had an advice for us? Should we just persist with what we are doing and eventually he’ll figure it out or is there something more we can do? Thank you very much for you help, we look forward to hearing from you. Regards Adrian and Kirsty


The digging action indicates that Nibbler is starting spray. I'm also thinking you don't have a high enough toilet tray. I'd suggest buying a plastic container that measures around 35cms long 27cms wide and 12cms deep. Measurements don't have to be exact as may need one a bit bigger for a larger sized rabbit. The height is important to ensure that he has to jump in the tray and whilst lifting his tail to urinate it's not above the edge. The containers are easily sourced in hardware or discount stores. When you change over toilet trays it can help avoid confusion if you add some of the soiled kitty litter to the new one.

Feedback: Thank you so much for you help, we replaced Nibbler’s old tray with a new larger tray with higher sides and now he is perfectly toilet trained. He is a very happy bunny and we are very happy parents. Thank you again so much for helping us with our problem. Regards Adrian





Soiling Furniture?

How to stop bunny peeing on the lounge? We have a lovely white floppy eared rabbit, who is otherwise toiled trained but insists on peeing on our lounge when inside. She is extremely affectionate and loved in return; she will sit in your lap for hours. She has a nice large/deep kitty litter tray she uses in the laundry any other time. I have placed a blanket over our lounge and need to wash it daily; she jumps up and pees on it. Nowhere else but her litter tray and the lounge. I'm thinking she's adding her scent to it each time I wash it, but it's a catch 22. We don't let her sit on lounge and say NO and then take her off. We would like to get a new lounge but have put it off for the moment. I have sprayed vinegar on the lounge, I heard they don't like it, but it didn't make any difference, she still peed on it. Why does she continually pee on the lounge in particular do you think? How can we stop her? Kind regards, Tanya


Well looks like she's pretty stubborn with her habits and yes, it is VERY important to her to leave her scent on the lounge – of all places! Why she's chosen the lounge suite is perhaps because the 'other bunnies' (you guys ) are constantly leaving their scent and therefore are allowed to claim their territory - so why not her So likewise, it must be hard for her to understand why she isn't allowed to do the same! Chances are, anytime you try to cover up her scent with any products, this provokes her to repeatedly have to replace her scent again.

All I could think of is to:
* Put up a barrier to prevent her from hopping on the lounge at all . . . but then imagined this could be inconvenient to you.
* Probably best to close doors to the lounge, so she can't get in for a few months and then have a go at trying again. When you do, watch her closely to see if she remembers and whether reverts back to her old ways.
* If that's not doable or you'll miss her company too much, you could invest in a puppy playpen. That way she'll be with you (just pat her in there or pick her up for cuddles), but would more under your control and certainly not able to pee on the lounge anymore.
* Or if you don't like any of the above you could cover the lounge seating with a picnic rug or two if one is not big enough. These have plastic sheeting on one side, which will provide a protective barrier while the other is like a blanket.
* Another idea (if you don't mind the thought of it) is put another toilet tray (with a small amount of soiled litter) in the exact spot where she has been peeing, and so she gets to do what she wants while also keeping the lounge dry. Good luck and all the best,
Christine





Doe Fouling Nest Box?

We have a four year old mini lop which lives outside and she has had two litters. After her second litter had been weaned she started to foul her nesting box. Is there a reason for this and is there anything that can be done to make her go to the toilet outside the nesting box where she used to go (in the corner of the cage). We have tried cleaning the nesting box several times but this does not seem to work, any ideas would be helpful. Thank you Kathy


Given that the nest box is empty your doe decided if makes a pretty good toilet - thank you very much! The simplest way to persuade her otherwise would be to remove it from her hutch. If this is not possible (i.e. it's an enclosed 'sleeping' compartment) you'll need to block the access. It’s difficult to predict an exact timeframe (since what may be effective for one doesn't necessarily work for another) though can suggest for at least a couple of weeks. Even after establishing another routine there’s no guarantee that she doesn't revert back to her old ways.





Breed Older Doe?

I have a 3 year old female Rex and a 6 month old male Dwarf Lop and was wondering would I be able to breed them? Have you ever bread them together? Would this be okay? Would it work? Thank you, I really need some advice. Siobhan


Well, I suppose the mating would be physically doable, though one factor to take into account is the age of the doe, which could cause birthing difficulties. To give an example in human terms, it would be like a woman getting pregnant in her forties instead of at a younger, much more suitable age. Another factor is to ask yourself why breed her now and what is the purpose of the mating?

I've never had a reason to put those two breeds together though others are working on Plush Lops (Dwarf Lops with Rex coats). Also, consider the issue of finding the kits good homes. Some Rex does are renowned to have large litters but then again at her age she may not be as productive. Best weigh up various pros and cons before making such an important decision.





Why Doe Won't Breed?

I am not having any luck breeding my rabbits. One doe immediately attacks the buck as soon as she sees him and another doe makes loud grunting noises while doing her utmost in avoiding him getting near her.


The vocal sound of grunting is her way of trying to tell him that he is annoying her. If she makes a whingeing noise as well, this relays to him that she thinks she is pregnant and consequently will not have a bar of him.

Phantom pregnancies are tricky, as they can be brought upon by unsuccessful mating attempts. It would be best to wait until she is completely over it and preferably try again when she is definitely in the mood. My does let me know when they are interested by their behaviour – for example, being extra friendly and smoochy when I approach them. It's as if they think I am a buck and treat me according to whatever state of mind they are in at the time.
Anyways if he carries on ignoring her body language and verbal communications he is liable to receive a beating. Then there are does (like yours) that will attack for seemingly no particular reason. There are other explanations however and some of these could be that they just can't stand him being in the same room with her. They find his macho smell and the possibility of what he might do as highly offensive and by attacking him they are relaying this, loud and clear. His very presence makes her see red and unless the buck is able to escape he’ll be physically and mentally victimised. With some bucks it can put them off their natural willingness to mate while other bucks just keep on trying regardless . . .





Heat & Buck Fertility?

Heat affecting buck's fertility? How long could a buck remain sterile after the summer heat


Unfortunately I don't know of any scientific studies to help us predict when bucks become fertile again. It is generally accepted however that heat affected infertility can last from several weeks to several months. You would assume much would depend on whether temperatures fall to acceptable levels over a period of time, as this is surely a factor, which influences the duration of infertility. It's a tricky situation – not knowing if it's the buck or doe's fault (or both of them at the same time!) and according to most breeders such unpredictable fertility problems can occur all year round.
It would be great if we knew more, as these kinds of bits of info could help us with more reliable breeding outcomes. Unless you are able to extract a semen sample and look under the microscope to see if he at fault or if he is back into production, a lot of our breeding attempts/pairings can be a hit and miss affair. And in some cases it appears as if there are more misses that hits!

Basically it's up to you to decide how important it is to try again with the suspect buck (and risk another wasted month) or try another buck that could likely be a better prospect. Or then again maybe he's in the same boat as the temporarily sterile one! You can't always categorically blame bucks either. Some does are mated at the wrong time and don't release eggs, are too fat, unwilling to be mothers or reabsorb embryos, and the list goes on. At any rate we can only but try!





I intended to name this page FAQ’s but decided the title wouldn't be entirely appropriate as frequently asked questions are relatively easy to find the answers, but uncommon questions can be quite a different story . . . 

(Simply click on a specific heading to open it)

Christine Carter. All rights reserved.

Contact form 

Christine Carter

Cooke Drive
Little Burra rural estate
Googong, NSW, Australia

c-carter@grapevine.com.au

Phone: (02) 6297 7750

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