The End (Condo Saga Part VII)

We thought it over a long time, and I was sad to see it go after having put so much work into it, but finally it was the right thing to do.

Problems: The floor, an indoor/outdoor rug, was gross. We’d already replaced it once, and we couldn’t keep it clean. Mainly the problem is the opening to his litter box is a bit too wide, and he sometimes pees over the edge — so the rug would get stained, and I just couldn’t clean it.

Also, it didn’t make the best use of space. Maybe in another room…

And the structure just wasn’t strong enough. When I’d open the big door, one side would buckle entirely. I thought about reinforcing it with dowels, but given the other problems…

Image of a two-level cube condo with accessories and a little black and white rabbit

To clarify a few things about the above image: The side facing us with the little door in it, let’s call it the South side, opens up entirely. There’s also another little door within it, right in front of where the rabbit is sitting. The East side is the one that would crumple when the big door was open. The image above shows four spring clamps holding the South side together, but really there were eight. The top floor and jumping shelf were held up with dowels (not pictured). They were made of plywood covered in linoleum, with grass mats affixed in strategic places to give the bun traction whilst jumping up or down. You can read more construction details by reading other posts tagged cube condo.

Lessons: Take this video more seriously.

So, what now? We’ve moved in a dog crate, a huge one. We’ve put in a shelf, some fun accessories. I think the bun likes it. But that’s another story

New Game, Old Game

I got some video of the game described last post. Tom liked this game a lot, but no more! We took down his cube condo this weekend and replaced it with a dog crate, and there’s no more corridor between the bars and wall. I’ve stuffed the paper under the cupboard beside his cage for now, but that’s going too (we’re fixing up the living room). My mind is churning about a suitable replacement…

Improvements (Condo Saga Part VI)

Last weekend we walked down to the Home Hardware in Parkdale where I got the carpet for the condo, and where I saw a wide variety of bins. I wanted a couple to store the litter and hay in because I’m tired of all the bags above the condo (so untidy looking and messy; and I think it might reduce allergens in the air, keeping all the hay locked up in one place). (The basket shown in the image below was already there; it holds some toys, towels, and the Furminator. There’s also some cleaning supplies hidden behind it.)

While I was there, I picked up some shears to cut zip ties with, because even our heavy-duty kitchen scissors don’t do the trick very well, and I felt it was time to work on the condo’s weak spot (as described in part five of the ongoing condo saga) — especially since I’d be adding a bit more weight to the top with the bins. After sitting with the problem for more than a month, I decided to start with the zip ties because it’s a relatively small and easy step — bigger improvements (like more crossbeams, or vertical supports, or a floor to attach the walls to) can come later, if necessary.

After examining the condo carefully, I tightened a few ties, added six to one side, and removed two from the inner doors. I removed them because I found that the horizontal tie connecting the door to its kitty-corner panel was causing all four panels to warp a little bit whenever I opened it.

drawing of rabbit condo, with signs indicating weak areas, including detail of door joint that illustrates zip tie placement, and text reads There were gaps along along here so I added six more zip ties, evenly spaced; and Then I fixed the doors by removing one tie from each

So far, my improvements have been successful. When you rattle the bars, there’s much less movement than before; and hardly any bowing when I open the big door. I guess we’ll see where we are in a few months, after the condo has seen more use!

Renovations (The Condo Saga Continues! Part V)

This is our current condo set up.

Graphic rendering of rabbit condo with trouble spot circled

I added the scratch mat because Chance was getting a little interested in scratching the carpet there. It’s an old Busy Bunny mat I had kicking around, and it does the trick: he’s chewed it, scratched at it, and mostly ignored the carpet below.

Similarly, I moved the blanket up top because he’d started scratching the linoleum there. He’s stopped now.

After much consideration, I finally decided the glass water bottle was defective. We’re using the new plastic one for now. Chance likes it, and he likes it on the top floor, too — drinks more than he used to. (I also think he’s eating more hay, which would naturally lead to more water, but I do think the placement is favourable to him, being near his upstairs hay pile and far from his other water source.)

So, the big pink circle? Yes, indeed: it’s trouble. The joint is weak. When I open the big door, it tends to bow outward. It’s a consequence, I think, of the big door itself — the spring clamps just don’t hold like zip-ties, and the weakness there spreads into the rest of the structure. (The door opens on the near side to the trouble spot, so no zip-ties anywhere along that corner.)

I think the zip-ties could use improvement, though, in terms of tightening and, in a few cases, placement, so I’m going to fix that up and hopefully that’ll improve the integrity of the structure. But I’m also wondering about using more dowels and/or grid squares to pump things up a bit, somehow. Thinking, thinking.

The Foster & the Condo (Condo Saga Part IV)

Chance arrived on Sunday. He came in a small cage (not too small or anything, it even had a perch above his litter box — but, you know, smaller than our condo). I thought we’d transition him to the condo gradually, but as we set down his cage he was already checking it out, and he went there directly upon his door being opened.

(We had to scout out a piece of spare plywood to let him out, because the cage door opened downwards ramp-style and we didn’t want to pick the guy up and risk upsetting him, or let him scramble over wire flooring and risk injury. Hooray for spare plywood! It’s now seconding as a temporary proof for our bookshelf — in the long-term, we want the more decorative option of a fireplace grate.)

Chance spent some time hopping from one domicile to the next, but his sprint-binks let us know that he loved the condo. He spent so much free time there that we threw caution to the wind and closed him in on his very first night. And we haven’t looked back since (and neither has Chance)!

Hooray for validation! Hard work pays off =:) Chance learned to navigate the two floors pretty quickly (the step-shelf he took to immediately; the top floor posed some cognitive difficulty at first but not for long). So far, he hasn’t effed with my design, like by nibbling at the rubber on the spring clamps, or pulling up the linoleum tiles, or eating the carpeting, or eating the dowels, or shaking the bars so vehemently as to compromise structural integrity or pry open the doors. Good bun! And good me! for providing suitable distractions (like toys, a scratch box, fresh hay, and grass mats). And good Rabbit Rescue! or perhaps his old foster home! for giving him a nice soft blanket that he likes to scrunch and seems to find comforting.

Condo Completed! (Condo Saga Part III)

I’ve trimmed the dowels, tightened and trimmed the zip-ties, vacuumed the rug, and placed the litter box and toys (a chew-safe wooden key for tossing, a woven willow football for rolling, and a banker’s box for hiding, with two doorways in it and a grass mat for scratching)… this baby’s done!

Okay, so it’s really a work in continual process — I’m prepared to make adjustments once it’s filled with rabbit (who knows what he, she, or they do with the thing!?). But, for now… it’s done!

Diagram of rabbit condo

I secured the grass mats with zip-ties. I was a little concerned about him catching his nails — after all, these mats are for digging, to distract him from the linoleum and carpet (that, and for the sake of secure footing in jumping areas) — so I kind of wove them into the middle to hide them, and used as few as possible, just enough to keep the mats in place. Mostly I tied them to the cage bars, but in two spots I had to drill into the flooring and tie them that way.

To cut the bounciness of the top floor, I secured the jumping ledge (the most bouncy part) to the dowel and cage with a zip-tie — that’s through both linoleum and plywood (I drilled a hole), but underneath the grass mat. Otherwise, I didn’t attach the floor to anything; barring a giant breed, I don’t foresee problems — and for many reasons I can’t accommodate a giant breed anyway.

All zip ties are pulled so taught and flat that I don’t think they’re a threat to well-trimmed nails.

I secured the top dowels to the roof on each end and in the middle, wrapped around the dowel but not drilled through; they still may shift a little with vehement shaking, but there’s no way they could fall now.

Condo Saga: Part II

The stakes are up from last time. We’d been planning on bunnies in the spring, but now 75 buns have been rescued from a hoarder and they need foster homes. Can I provide one? Can I, can I?

Regarding doors: Past experience has taught me that if there’s someplace a rabbit can go that’s difficult for me to get him or her out of, he or she will surely go there at the worst possible time. I know this: I am no good in a battle of wills!

So, after trying a few different configurations for doors, and squeezing myself through the openings to test the breadth of my reach, I opted for the whole shebang: one entire side of the condo is one big door. Within that door are two smaller doors, size of one grid panel each: one opens to the top floor, and one opens to the ground floor. The small doors are for daily use, but the big door is there when I need it.

While I’ve decided this set-up is next to imperative, it poses a problem because by removing the zip ties that would prevent me from opening the door, I lose quite a bit of structural stability. My solution is to put spring clamps in all the places where there would be a zip tie. My fingers are crossed that future buns don’t try to mess with me by nibbling the rubber on the clamps. (The rubber tips are removable, but they do provide good grip.)

Regarding flooring there are many options, none of them perfect:

  • Linoleum can be slippery and uncomfortable for rabbits.
  • Carpeting, towels, and other textiles are risky because if the rabbit likes to bite or rip them apart, gut impaction can result from ingested fibres, and strangulation or broken bones can result from body parts caught in any holes that have formed.
  • Foam (children’s foam puzzle mats, yoga mats, etc.) and cork are easy and tempting for most rabbits to tear up (leading to possible injury, as with textiles).
  • Wood is slippery and hard on the heels.
  • Edible grass mats sound perfect, but where can I find ones that are 1) surely safe (untreated, edible) and 2) big enough?
  • Cardboard! The question here is again one of source. O big boxes made of plain cardboard, uncontaminated and edible, and inexpensive enough to be regularly replaced, where have you been all my life?

This is what I’m thinking: carpet runner on the ground floor, linoleum on the top floor, and small, thick grass mats on all jumping surfaces.

I had a hard time finding good carpet runner. I wanted something very low pile, and big enough so the edges run outside the cage (so the cage sits on top). Such a product is listed on the Home Hardware website, but finding a store that sells it wasn’t simple. I finally found one, but I’m not keen on the pile. I’m concerned the rabbits still might dig and bite at it.

Finding linoleum wasn’t such a simple task, either. All the linoleum sheeting I could find was far too thin and slippery, not at all durable. I settled on linoleum tiles — they have good tack to them, and the store sold them by singles — but I’m concerned because their edges will be accessible (as opposed to sheeting, which I could wrap around the bottom of the floor). Will a rabbit bite at the edges and pull up the tiles?

The grass mats were easiest to find because they’re widely available online (they come from Busy Bunny, but I ordered mine from the Rabbit Rescue Store). But how will I affix them?

A few other concerns that have popped up:

Is the cage steady enough without a bottom to hold the walls together? What if a rabbit shakes the walls vehemently? Should I fasten the walls to the floor somehow, or connect them to a wire grid floor with plywood on top?

How do I secure the top floor to its dowels? Perhaps, had I used a heavier weight of plywood, I wouldn’t be in this mess, but as it is the floor curves slightly and doesn’t rest neatly on the dowels, leading to a bouncy and insecure floor. Should I screw them to the dowels? Or drill holes and use zipties? Above or below the linoleum? Could a rabbit’s nails be caught and torn on such things?

Because I found the roof bowed in somewhat, I decided to support it with 1.25” dowels; sadly, I had them cut a tad short, so they only overhang by 0.5” on each side. I envision them crashing down if the cage is rattled, so how can I secure them? Can I drill a hole safely into a round dowel?

So… guess what I’m doing tonight! My head is so full of rabbits, I could eat grass for dinner??

Time to Think About Cages (Condo Saga Part I)

My last rabbit was mostly free range. Frank was already an old dude, and he’d had a crouched life before me, and he was happy to be free, so that kind of set-up was right for him — but it wasn’t without its drawbacks (we suffered a fair amount of minor damage to our property, and there were some close calls for his health and safety). For future rabbits, I want something more contained.

We live in a small apartment and our options are limited. I decided the best use of space would be a cube condo.

Now, I am not a great engineer or builder. I’m crafty and I like to work with my hands, but my mind doesn’t snap onto how things work the way some people’s do. Building a cube condo will not be a simple task for me. I’ll want to improve on other people’s designs, but I won’t know how to do it. I’ll go to the store and they won’t have what I want, or they will but I’ll realise once I’m home that what I wanted won’t work. I’ll waste time and money figuring things out that other people know intuitively. So be it! This is something I want to do.

So, I reviewed the tutorials and pictures I could find online (links), drew up a plan, made a shopping list, and headed out to Rona (with a little help from my friends). Since then, there’s been a lot of experimentation, and a few more hardware runs. This has NOT turned out to be the inexpensive and easy housing option that everyone talks about, but at least it’s customised!

I had a vision of using a concrete pour form tube (sonotube) as a ramp between two complete floors, but after a lot of trial and error I had to accept that it wasn’t going to happen for me. (In most arrangements it just took up too much space, and/or there were big gaps in the floor around where the tube mouth poked through — I think, if I had a jigsaw, I could have made it work somehow.) So, I turned my mind toward a more traditional approach.

Rough design for a cube condo; image hosted on Photobucket

My problem with some of the traditional designs I’ve seen are that the upper floors are small — more shelves than floors, really. I want as big a second floor as possible.

My other problem with some designs is they look awkward for a nervous rabbit to jump down from. (My suspicions about this were confirmed one day when, volunteering at the rabbit booth of a pet show, I saw an insecure adoptable prevaricate repeatedly at the edge of the top floor.) Because I plan on fostering for awhile before adopting, I expect to get some nervous rabbits, and I want their condo to be a haven, not another source of anxiety. I want to consider every detail! I think it would be best if the rabbit could jump facing forward, instead of having to twist mid-air. So I drew up this design (pictured at left), and ran the plywood down to my neighbourhood hardware store for cutting.

And still so many things to consider! What to cover the plywood with? What to use for flooring on the ground level? Where to put the doors?