Gingee, 2015-2018

Gingee

I never thought I’d have to say this. We lost our beautiful Gingee Bunny yesterday.

He battled stasis a couple of weeks ago after choking on some food, but had been doing so well. He was fine and ate during the morning but passed away peacefully during the day.

He was the most beautiful, gentle, curious and clever bunny I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. In the two and a half years we knew him, he changed our lives indescribably.

He loved my husband with all his heart, but there was space for me, the baby and Ned and Barbara as well.

That he’s not going to be here any more doesn’t feel real, but we feel at peace. He lived a life full of love.

Gingee

If he had to go, at least he was warm and comfortable and surrounded by family. And in these last weeks, since he was ill, we’ve told him so much that we love him! He and my husband have been able to have some lovely cuddles, and as goodbyes go, we had a lovely one that lasted several weeks.

We know that our bunnies from when we were younger are probably interrogating him now about what life is like, and he’s probably got some wings to help him binky even higher than he could down here.

Last night, Barbara didn’t really want to be around him. Ned groomed him one last time, and we all said goodbye, then my husband buried him in one of his old shirts, underneath a baby tree that we planted a couple of years ago when Ned was sick.

This morning, Ned was sad and wanted to sniff all of Gingee’s old things – his brush, the spot on the stairs where he used to sit, his little doll. Barbara finally accepted it this morning. She was in Gingee’s favourite cardboard box when I went to give them their breakfast, and when I got her out, she looked frantically for him, before flicking her feet at me. She ate her breakfast, then went back into his box and made a low keening sound. Ned wanted to look in lots of rooms in the house to check he wasn’t there. They were littermates.

Gingee and Ned

Gingee was always the healthy one. We never thought he would go first.

He was the best bunny (well, one of three) and I will miss him forever.

Goodbye, my Gingee. Thank you for being you.

 

Rabbit first aid kit – what’s in there?

rabbit first aid kit

Over the years of being bunny parents, we’ve had quite a few occasions where we’ve needed our rabbit first aid kit. Ned and Barbara both have special needs, and Gingee recently had his own brush with illness.

It makes life so much easier to have a little rabbit first aid kit in the house already if they get sick.

For external injuries and illnesses

Soft flannels – we use these to wash Barbara and Ned’s faces regularly. They both have malformed tear ducts which get very leaky, and if we don’t keep on top of it, the fur on their faces gets all matted. Flannels are also really useful if anyone gets injured during nail cutting and there’s any bleeding.

Cornflour – putting this on anywhere that’s bleeding will help to stem it. We’ve had a few pulled out claws during trimming, and we just put the flour on there and wrap it in a towel.

For feeding and digestion problems

Critical care liquid food – we buy it from Amazon.

Bowls and measuring cups that you can use to mix the critical care. It comes in a powdered form, and you’ll need to have the right amount of water to mix it up.

Clean syringes – no needles, obviously! Sometimes they won’t take the critical care directly from a bowl and you’ll need to syringe it in.

Baby spoons – some of ours are more eager to take from a spoon than a syringe. We’ve designated some baby spoons to be bunny spoons instead!

Infacol – this is a baby gas medication, but it works really well when a bunny is feeling a bit bloated. We tend to use it as a first line of defence, and with both Ned and Barbara it’s pulled them out of stasis before we got to the vet stage.

For vet visits

Your vet’s phone number – easily accessible.

Your emergency vet’s phone number – also easily accessible. Chances are, bun will get sick or injured out of hours!

A carrier – if possible, one that can be clipped into your car using the seatbelt in case you have to travel a longer distance without a second person to hold it. We tend to line the carrier with hay and put a toy in there.

For preventative care

Bunny nail clippers – keep their claws quite short! Longer claws are more likely to cause injuries in other buns, and will also mean that bun walks on their heels, running the risk of sore hocks.

Baby nail scissors – we use these to keep the fur on Ned and Barbara’s faces nicely trimmed. They’re also really useful for the odd occasion when sticky things get caught in fur, or if there are any matts that need trimming.

And that’s mostly it! Our rabbit first aid kit has saved us all a few times before now. I hope you’ll never need it, though!

Choking rabbit remedies – Gingee’s story

Gingee the choking rabbit

This time last week, we were sitting anxiously in the vet’s waiting room with Gingee. I’d never seen a choking rabbit before, and I hope that we never have to go through it again.

Gingee

What happened

It all started on Tuesday night, about 7pm. My husband was feeding the rabbits upstairs and I was feeding the baby downstairs. Suddenly I hear him say, “It’s okay, Gingee, you’ll be okay, let me help you.” Words you never want to hear.

I detached the baby and rushed upstairs to see what was happening. A sight you never want to see. Gingee was standing frantically in a corner, his body a curve, sounding like a cat trying to get up a hairball.

Gingee had choked on a Science Selective pellet. We feed our rabbits in the “prescribed” way. (I wrote about it once before.) Ned and Barbara were both fine. One of those absolute flukes – the kind of thing that experienced vets look at you and say, “Wow, that’s rare.” (Yeah, we have this a lot with our three.)

Our local, five-minutes-away vet had just closed for the night. The emergency vet is in the next town over. That felt too far, given he couldn’t breathe. Gingee hates travelling, and if the worst were to happen, we didn’t want him to pass away alone in his carrier in the car, terrified.

What we did

Gingee and my husband have always had an amazing bond. Gingee trusts him so much, and my husband is really confident around him.

He knew something had to be done, so we found this webpage. He tried the “bunny heimlich” (centrifugal swing), which got a lot of the pellet out – through his nose! The remainder came out, slowly, through thoracic compressions.

He could breathe and was clearly feeling much better by then. He didn’t want to eat, though. It seemed to make sense, really – his throat would have been sore and he was clearly a bit traumatised. We gave him some nice soft greens, which he did take, just very slowly, and made up some liquid food to give him.

As he’d eaten something and was breathing properly, we decided that we could wait until our local vet opened the next morning.

The following morning, he still wasn’t particularly keen on eating. I called the vet at 8am on the dot, and explained the situation. “He choked on some food last night and is a bit off his food now. Can we come in asap?”

I love our vets. They had us in within the hour.

She listened to his lungs and found that he had not aspirated any food, but gave us some antibiotics just in case. He also started on a dose of loxicom to help with any pain, and ranitidine to keep his gut moving.

We took him home and proceeded to spend the day trying to coax him to eat.

Gingee’s recovery

By the following day, he still wasn’t eating much at all, so I took him in again that morning. His glucose levels weren’t too raised and he still had gut sounds, so we went back home to monitor and keep on feeding him a buffet.

The baby and I went to Sainsbury’s and bought pretty much one of everything green! Within an hour or so, he started on the spinach. So relieved!

It’s been just over a week now. As you can see, this little man is still with us!

He doesn’t want to eat pellets, still, but his appetite for vegetables and hay is as ravenous as it ever was! We’ve pretty much been able to wean away from the liquid food now as he’s eating such a lot of veg and hay. What a stressful week it’s been, though.

Have you ever had a choking rabbit? How did you help them?

Rabbit food – our favourites

rabbit food

I see so many people talking online about how to manage rabbit food and the best diet for their bunnies. We’re not experts, but we’ve had three house rabbits for a while now, and (touch wood!) they have pretty healthy bellies.

Here’s what we do:

Our daily staple rabbit food

The pellets (what people think of as “rabbit food”) we feed are Science Selective. It’s generally thought of as being the best food available for bunnies in the UK. It’s not high in sugar or seeds, and there’s no chance that they can selectively feed (i.e., leaving the bits they don’t like!). In the past, we’ve also used Burgess Excel with mint, and the boys had Excel junior when they were babies.

For three rabbits, we give a handful of pellets three times a day. So they each get the equivalent of a handful per day. No bowls. We either hand feed them (as in, giving them the pellets individually) or put them on the floor/in boxes/among paper and they “forage”.

We buy Science Selective in huge bags and decant it all into a big red plastic bin that we keep just outside their room. They know it’s in there and are absolutely fascinated by the bin, but they’re not able to get into it!

Bunnies eating rabbit food

All rabbits are meant to have unlimited hay. It’s meant to make up the majority of their diet. It’s good for digestion and for keeping their teeth nicely worn down. We put out mountains of hay every couple of days, and they love it. They eat it, play with it, use it as a bed… hay is so important for them.

They also get fresh water every day. With three rabbits living inside, they drink a lot – we have six bottles between three bunnies.

I know that bowls are generally thought of as better and more natural for them. When they lived individually, that’s what we used. Now they live together and spend their days chasing each other round, and we found that they knocked the bowls over and got each other wet rather a lot. For now, bottles work well for us. I’d like to transition them back to a more natural way of drinking, but I don’t want the risk of damp rabbits!

Fruit and veg

Rabbits are meant to have a lot of greens. Our three particularly love rocket (arugula) and spinach. We don’t go overboard with the amount, as Ned in particular would eat them until he burst! We used to give him rocket as a treat after he’d had his medication when he was ill.

The greens on top of carrots are also coveted. This means I’m the crazy bunny mum who buys organic carrots for her rabbits, as since our local greengrocer closed, there’s no other way to get carrot tops round here.

Herbs are also popular with our three: mint and coriander are always a big hit.

Fruit is a bit more of a treat, and we don’t give it every day. Some of the favourites are:

  • Apples (Barbara’s favourite thing in the world)
  • Grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries

Bananas are, oddly, not a favourite. Ned once found a banana in my handbag and ate half of it, skin and all, but if offered one, they’ll sniff at it and wander off.

Bunny treats

Of course, we all need a little something extra. So many of the treats sold as rabbit food are really bad for bunnies though. We tend to stick with two in particular: Fibafirst sticks, which are hay-based, and Fenugreek Crunchies, which they love.

When Barbara and Gingee get a Fibafirst or a fenugreek cookie, they do an excited little hop and run away with it so that no one can steal it. Ned’s more trusting, and will even let you feed it to him from your hand. But all three of them absolutely adore those two.

Of course, they’ve all had some treats that they weren’t supposed to – but I think that might be something for Barbara to talk about later!

Happy eating!

Introducing rabbits to a baby

introducing rabbits to a baby

When I was pregnant, I was really worried about introducing rabbits and baby to each other. I needn’t have been, because it’s gone really well. They love each other!

The three rabbits absolutely adore the baby, and we’ve not had any trouble yet. She really enjoys them too and squeals happily when she sees them. She’s learning to stroke them and loves how soft their fur is.

They knew that I was pregnant. Barbara fussed around me a lot. Gingee used to enjoy putting his ear to my stomach. Ned just wanted extra cuddles!

Preparing during pregnancy

Before we even started to think about preparing them to meet the baby, we wanted to give them the chance to have a support network. They used to all live in separate rooms, but over the spring (baby was due in November), we worked hard at bonding them and getting them to share one bedroom. We knew this was going to be important both while I was in hospital, so they weren’t alone for too long, and when baby arrived and we had a bit less time.

Before the baby was born, we got them each a little plastic baby doll. It gave them a chance to sniff at something new, nuzzle it and chin it, and for us to remind them to be gentle.

I spent time with them in early labour, before I went to the hospital. I was on all fours on the floor, and Gingee kept stretching up to nuzzle the bump. They knew something momentous was happening, I think.

I had a long labour (38 hours!), so my husband and I were in hospital for a while. Fortunately, our hospital is walking distance from our house, so he was able to pop home a couple of times to check on them. We left them with lots of extra water and hay.

Actually introducing rabbits to the baby

We introduced them on the day she came home from the hospital.

She was in her bouncer and the rabbits got extra fuss and food. They ignored her for the most part. We had to pick them up to even get them to look at her!

She was so new but wanted to stare at them.

Introducing rabbits to the baby

(She was so tiny! She’s grown a lot even in six weeks!)

But, if you know about bonding rabbits, you’ll know that it’s a good sign when they ignore someone.

Their growing relationship

Since then, we’ve just brought her into our routine.

Three times a day, we say to the baby, “Shall we go and play with our friends the rabbits?” She responds happily to that now!

We bring her with us whenever we feed them so they associate her with good things. She usually gets to lie on the floor with them while they eat and they’ve started leaving pieces of food for her, which is adorable.

Gingee has put his head down to ask for grooming from her a couple of times. She’s not quite got the hang of how to do it, but I’m sure she will!

When she cries, our leader bunny, Gingee, goes to patrol the area while Barbara comes to nuzzle and check she’s okay. (Ned is deaf, so doesn’t really respond to crying!) 

We worried a bit about Gingee at first. He is so attached to my husband, and has been known to be jealous. We’ve been careful to make sure that my husband treats Gingee like the special bunny he is, and I often get to hold the baby a bit more while Gingee gets extra fuss. If anything, he seems happier than before!

They all like to get attention from each other. Baby loves it when they come up and nuzzle at her, and sometimes she cries when they move away. They like it when she touches them – Ned in particular. He’ll sit and look really proud, as if he’s saying, “Look, the baby is playing with me! Me! I’m the chosen one right now!”

The rabbits have their own bedroom, so they have somewhere to escape to where baby doesn’t go. They have their door shut most of the day, but we have three long sessions of food and playtime each day, so they don’t feel neglected.

I was really worried about how it would work out, but while they were a bit wary at first, I’ve never seen them binky as much as they have in the past few weeks!

She’s only seven weeks old and they’re already all so close. I’m so excited to see how their relationship develops as she gets older.