It’s been so long since I’ve written, I’ve really gotten out of the habit! I’ll have to break my update up into different posts. This one will be about Thomas’ health.
He’s still having bladder problems. We were in and out of the vet’s all last month because of sludge. Like before, the problem never got too bad — always plenty of normal urine, never any signs of pain. He started peeing outside the box at one point, I think because of stress. A urine test indicated no infection but lots of calcium. He’s on a pellets-free diet now, and still yesterday there was a tiny bit of sludge.
Eventually, we might have to learn how to do subQs at home, and how to express a sludgey bladder. For now, we’re trying to encourage him to drink lots of water and get lots of exercise. Also we track what he eats, and we’re going to start looking for correlations between sludge and any particular veg.
For encouraging water, he’s got his bowl and bottle, he eats plenty of hay (because rabbits that eat lots of hay typically drink more water than those that don’t), and sometimes we spike his water with a tiny bit of apple juice. We’re also looking for a cat fountain, because we’ve heard some rabbits like those.
For exercise, someone on Etherbun suggested agility training. I like it! I’ve started looking into clicker training.
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…
An improvement I forgot to mention yesterday: I put the lid on the condo’s scratch box (it’s a plain bankers box). Chance loves it. He gets not only more privacy whilst inside, but also another level to jump up on!
Yesterday my first order of Bourne Free hay arrived. Here’s some of pictures of Chance digging in:
I’m so excited about this hay! Not only is it local, but it’s a grass mix — in addition to the usual suspects (timothy and orchard grass), it includes some pretty wild stuff, like fescue, ryegrass, bluegrass, brome, and reed canary. Hooray for diversity! Fun for me and, as you can see, fun for buns.
The problem with Bourne Free is it’s not widely available. Some Bulk Barns sell it, but none near me. (And, sadly, I heard that some Bulk Barns store theirs in the window, which lowers quality and invites mould growth.) I got mine from the Rabbit Rescue store. This batch is a touch on the yellow side, but very low dust and the smell is sweet and fresh. And it’s so soft! My guess is it’s a second cutting. I also have a very woody batch of timothy from Oxbow, and some orchard grass from American Pet Diner (also featured in the picture above — it’s the greener stuff on the left), so I’m providing a wide variety right now.
Chance wasn’t a huge hay eater when he arrived with us, and I used to find a cecotrope or two almost every day (not a great sign of digestive health). So I made a few small changes, and now he eats more hay, drinks more water, and no more cecotropes! Hay is a great way to encourage health and well-being in your bunny, and to avoid many common health problems. If your bunny doesn’t eat much hay, try the following:
I offer more than one pile of hay: his condo always has at least two, one on each floor; and, when he’s out, there’s another pile out in the room somewhere. His old cage had only enough room for one pile.
I offer more than one variety of hay: after all, who wants to eat the same thing day in, day out? Even the same type of grass can taste different when it comes from different brands/farms, and this can be enough to entice your bunny to graze.
I stuff hay inside some cardboard rolls and make a toy out of it. My latest creation is a hanging feeder: I strung a few rolls together using timothy twists (a product I found at the pet store; you could also use willow twigs) and hung them from the condo ceiling. Now Chance can graze and play at the same time!
Over a month’s time, I changed Chance’s pellets from a seed-grain-veg mix, to a plain (extruded) variety (Oxbow BBT). I also reduced his portion size by a teaspoon or so (now he eats slightly less than a quarter cup), and I reduced his treat portion (including carrots) to no more than a bite or two per day. Because his belly is less full of carbs (sugars, starches), he’s more hungry for hay!
And, of course, put some hay in the litter box (or in a feeder right above). As gross as it sounds, rabbits love to graze and defecate. Luckily, Chance came with hay in his litter box, so he was already benefitting from this tactic!