Saturday, August 20, 2016

Potty Over Here, Potty Over There

Today's topic will be litterbox training. Yes, bunnies can and WILL use a litterbox! Training will go so much easier if your bun has been spayed or neutered. It generally takes anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks for hormones to level off after a spay/neuter, though. Until then, there will be accidents so don't get discouraged.

When Gizmo was a little guy he would spray me almost every time he sat in my lap. He was doing pretty well with his litterbox training but there still was the occasional accident - or spraying. This, however, is actually flattering when a bun sprays you or pees on you. It may not sound that way to us but they are just marking us as their territory when they do such things. They're saying "You are mine!" But once Gizmo was neutered he became - as I called it - "potty perfect". That is until we adopted Ebony. Oh, goodness, did Gizmo go on a territorial marking spree! He was letting the new bun know who this home belonged to! Ebony had been spayed about a week or so when I adopted her so she still had some of those raging hormones. At first it seemed as though she would not understand what the litterbox was for but she quickly got the hang of it. Now Ebony is "potty perfect".

I know you're most likely wondering how to get them trained to use a litterbox. It's actually quite easy, to be honest. Your bunny will let you know where they prefer to use the bathroom. They will always find one spot they like to use. Once they've shown you their favorite elimination spot, you can put a litterbox there. Always keep hay around the litterbox because bunnies absolutely love to eat while they do their business. So when they see hay around their litterbox, they'll automatically want to use the bathroom as they eat.

I do want to stress that you should never ever rub a bunny's nose in a spot where they have urinated. Being aggressive like that will not work with a bun bun. They are prey animals and will only fear you when you do something like that. Plus, it's just mean! If your bunny does pee outside of the litterbox, the best course of action is to just pick them up (if yor bun will allow that) and place them gently in the litterbox. Also a good way to do it is to soak up the spot where they have used the bathroom on the floor and place the paper towel in their litterbox. This will also help them to know where they should eliminate themselves. Just keep an eye on your bunny and make sure they don't chew on that paper towel. And make sure you cover the towel with litter so they don't get urine on their paws or bottoms. That can lead to urine scald. If your bun is leaving stray poo pellets then that's a territorial thing. Just pick those fecal droppings up and place them in the litterbox. If your bun bun leaves you a lovely pile of poos then that means they need more litterbox training. Even if a bunny is litterbox trained they will still leave a few stray poos around the house for you. Bunnies can produce 200 to 300 fecal pellet droppings per day so there's bound to be a few that don't make it in the litterbox!

When you are choosing a litterbox, you do have choices. You can go with a regular cat litterbox, a high-back litterbox made just for bunnies and other small animals or you can get creative and use the bottom plastic pan of an old cage. Just don't ever use clay or any other type of litter like you would use for a cat. There are several reasons for this, such as too much dust for a bunny's delicate respiratory system and the clay litter getting on bunny's fur and then they can possibly ingest that during cleaning which can quickly lead to gastrointestinal trouble for the complex bunny digestive system. The best bet for litter is to use paper bedding. Wood shavings of any kind can cause respiratory issues and certain kinds can be toxic. A lot of people like to use horse pellets in bunny litterboxes. It's cheap, absorbant and you can always place a thin layer of paper bedding on top because most buns like their feet on something soft. If you do choose paper bedding, please stay away from the scented varities and make sure they contain absolutely no baking soda.

When you're in the early stages of litterbox training a bunny, you can clean their litterbox, but don't clean it too well. Bunnies need to be able to smell their scent on that litterbox when they're still learning. But it does need to be clean so the scent doesn't overwhelm your bunny's respiratory system. If you can smell it then the scent is much more powerful to them, so that's never good. But once your bun has been using the litterbox for a while, I recommend cleaning the litterbox with a little white vinegar and hot water. The vinegar really does a great job cleaning. Just be sure you rinse all that vinegar scent out so your bunny isn't overwhelmed by the odor. We all know strong the smell of vinegar can be!

Hopefully you have found these litterbox training tips useful and can quickly get your bun to be "potty perfect". Good luck!

Friday, August 5, 2016

To Chew or Not to Chew

Having items to chew is great for a bun's teeth as well as for their enjoyment. If a bunny has the proper items to chew then he/she will be able to keep their teeth trim (along with good quality hay) and it will keep them from getting bored. A bored bun is a destructive bun! Always keep wires out of reach because they WILL be chewed! Your bunny thinks wires are "vines" that are covering their home so they chew them to clear the way. Of course, a bunny has no idea how dangerous those particular "vines" can be so it's up to you to make sure they're safe. It will take some trial and error. You will think you have certain areas blocked off from bunny but they will most certainly let you know if there is a weakness in your barricade. Once a bunny is allowed to enter a certain area and are suddenly unable to enter, they will do everything in their bunny power to get back in there! They're persistent that way! So when you first create a barricade to prevent your bun from getting to wires, or say, behind the sofa, your bunny will try, try, try to get through. Just watch your furry friend carefully and see if there is a weakness anywhere. This way you can quickly stop your bun from entering once a weakness is found and you can quickly address the issue by fixing the weakness. You can always buy tubing to cover wires to keep your buns safe. Here, we just block off specific areas because they contain way too many wires to cover.

Now, for the stuff your bun can chew! It's always a great idea to look around at different bunny stores online to find a wide variety of things your bun can chew. I have found that Gizmo & Ebony love apple sticks. It's a bit difficult sometimes to find something they both like to chew. Buying hay balls is another good option, too. I just received one today that I ordered online. It's a ball of Meadow hay and both seem to enjoy it quite a bit! If you have trees in your yard and would like to use some parts of that, just make sure that type of tree is safe for bunnies, while also making sure the tree has not been treated with chemicals of any kind.

Cardboard is another great option! Buns love to "bunstruct" and cardboard will give them the option to do so. Most bunnies won't eat the cardboard, they just like to tear it and throw the pieces down. But it's always a good idea to keep an eye on your bun for a while just to make sure they aren't eating any of it.

Toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls free of glue also make great chew toys for buns. So when you use all the paper, don't throw out the roll! Check it for any glue residue and if it's safe, then let bunny have it as a toy. They can toss them around and chew them! Stuffing some hay inside a toilet paper roll is a great way to get your bun interested in playing with this new toy.

Especially make sure your bunny has something safe to chew at night, while you're sleeping or during the day while you're at work. If you keep your bunny in any enclosed area, whether it's a pen or a cage, they are more susceptible to getting bored. How would you like it if someone locked you in a room and said "You stay here for six hours but you can't do anything but sleep and eat"? You would be bored out of your mind! And if your bunny is a free roaming bunny who has access to most areas of your home, then a bored bunny without anything to chew on will start "bunstruction" work on your furniture and all aspects of your home. They can dig into your sofa, removing the stuffing inside, which would pose a danger to them if ingested. They will also strip away any wallpaper or chew on the drywall. This behavior is related to their wild cousins. Buns in the great outdoors will use their teeth to remove bark from trees so your wall will become a tree to them if they aren't occupied properly. Now sometimes, buns will just be buns and be mischievous. They may decide one day they want to tear into your sofa just because it's fun. Or they can be like Gizmo and tear a chunk of drywall out! Sometimes they just like to do what they're not supposed to do. But, hey! Have you ALWAYS followed the rules?  ;)

Just keep all this in mind and if at any point you think your bun may have chewed a wire and gotten shocked or burned, please check him/her over thoroughly. I know it's almost impossible to check the inside of a bunny's mouth, but in this case you will have to watch for clues. Any decrease in eating when your bunny clearly wants to eat, could be a sign they have a burn on the inside of their mouth. If this is the case or you can clearly see something doesn't look normal during an overall inspection, then please get your bun to a bunny savvy vet immediately. Bunnies that don't eat or who are in pain can quickly go into Stasis, which can be deadly. The same goes for the sofa, wallpaper, drywall or anything that's not safe for your bunny. If you think your bunny may have ingested anything harmful, please get them to a bunny savvy vet as quickly as possible. With such delicate digestive systems, buns can take a turn for the worse when the normal balance of their gut is disrupted.

To keep your bun happy and entertained while keeping them healthy and safe at the same time is a big responsibility for a bunny parent. You have to think like a bunny and determine what dangers they would see as fun, while deciding what a bun would find fun that is safe for them.

**DISCLAIMER** This is for informational purposes only. We do not claim to be experts nor are we responsible for any actions that may harm your bun(s). We always recommend a trip to a bunny savvy vet if anything is wrong with your bunny. This blog is to provide you with some helpful tips as a new bunny owner and is not a complete guide to being a new bunny parent. Always research and speak to a bunny savvy vet.