And now, a final word (Condo Saga Denouement)

I wrote about the end of Tommy’s cube-condo this summer, so now I’ll say a bit about what he moved into.

A dog crate! A big one: 2′ 7″ high, 4′ wide, and 2′ 5″ deep.

We put in a top shelf (only 1′ 9″ wide). We might one day put in a more complete second floor, although it would have to have walls where the doors are (because that would be a pretty long jump to the hardwood.

For his comfort, we lined the floor tray with layers of corrugated cardboard. (We’ve been looking for this stuff for years! We finally found some at Rotblotts.)

I made a ramp to the top shelf, which I think is pretty fun. It’s almost more like a bridge. It’s made from a set of fiddlesticks with one end on the shelf, and the other end on a low cardboard box. I put a grass mat on top of the box for traction. The grass mat and the fiddlesticks are attached to the side of the cage with zip-ties, so they won’t slip out from under Thomas’ feet. (I drilled some holes into the sticks to run the ties through.)

five shots of the rabbit's habitat

Thomas likes using the ramp, but we found he was also jumping down from the shelf to the ground floor directly. Even with the corrugated cardboard, I felt it was too hard a surface to be jumping down on, so I bought a cheap yoga mat and put that below all the cardboard. I also added a few extra layers of cardboard. Since he likes to rip up the cardboard, I check every day to make sure he’s not getting close to the yoga mat. (I don’t know if he’d eat it or not; our last bun definitely would’ve.)

The corrugated flooring is not the easiest to sweep. There are patches where lower layers show through, and loose squares here and there, which make it even harder to sweep without getting hay and litter caught between the layers. We do our best. I assume every so often I’ll have to take everything out and re-do it. I expected as much. I wrote in my last habitat post about how Tom sometimes pees over the edge of his litter; now when that happens I just cut out the soiled parts and insert new patches below the lowest layer. (And I do the same when an area is made wet by spilled water from his dishes.) Maybe not the best system, but an improvement over having to replace the entire floor each time it happens!

You may have noticed the second litter box in the pictures above. We have his normal litter box in the far right corner (it’s a modified plastic storage tote). When he started peeing outside the box (as mentioned in my last post, he started peeing beside his litter box last month — and not by leaning over the edge, but actually standing outside the box), I put the small store-bought corner box to try and block him. For the most part, it’s worked (just two accidents). He pees in both boxes every day. I stuff the hay deeper in his main box, and don’t use any in the smaller one, so that he can’t stand outside the box and eat hay.

For outside the cage, we have a selection of boxes and tunnels. We switch it up, you know, try to keep him guessing!

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The Future is Now!

I’m done school! Done! I’m back! etc.

I’m busy looking for work, planning for the future, organizing my time and all that. I’ve been working on an update to the TRC website, torontorabbits.org. I’m reading the latest Sookie Stackhouse book! I’ve got tickets to Angels in America! And it’s spring! Apple blossoms! Major home renos!

Last week, we went away to visit my Grampa (80 years old!). We were gone less than 48 hours, we had a sitter come in twice, but still the rabbit didn’t do so well (through no fault of the sitter, I should note. Dude, in case you’re reading this, you’re the awesomest! Our bun’s just an effing suck). I came back to sludge, teeny tiny poops, and a reluctance to finish his greens. Not even 36 hours! He’s gotta man up. Since then, he’s mostly bounced back, but he’s incredibly lickey (like, he’s licking everything, desperately). I’m so excited at the thought of bonding him with another bun. I really feel he needs an intimate. Before that can happen I have to fix up the cage, and save some emergency dough — but I can see it, I can smell it, I can taste it!

Health Update

I was finding sludge in Tom’s litter with increasing frequency. (Still just a drop or two at a time, still accompanied by plenty of normal urine, and still the rabbit is practically perfectly in every other way.) So I lowered his daily pellets down to 1Tbsp, and raised his greens to 70g. Since then, no sludge. The waiting game continues.

Health Update

To pick up where I left off (re. sludge):

I ended up taking nine days to reintroduce pellets into Tom’s diet. Now he’s at a steady 2 Tbsp pellets and 60g salad daily. We delay on his pellets until he’s made a good dent in his veg, to maximize water intake (we serve them sopping). I keep an eye on his urine and when there’s not much or when I see sludge, I spike his water with juice.

Yep, you read right: there’s been more sludge.

Never as much as the day I first noticed it. Only a couple of drops at a time, usually (as in figure 1 below, where the sludge is dried); at most (as in figure 2, where the sludge is wet), it’s still not a heck of a lot. And it’s not every day, not even close. And he’s continued to pee normally (when I said “when there’s not much [urine]” above, I meant comparatively speaking; there’s never been so little as to suggest a problem). And he’s otherwise perfectly normal and healthy.

Two photos of urine sludge; figure 1, two pieces of Carefresh litter with dried white dots on them; figure 2, five wet pieces of litter and two fecal pellets smeared with creamy off-white substance

I haven’t made any progress on the calcium/oxalate/veg issue. As I understand it, I should be less concerned about calcium-high veg than oxalate-high veg. But data about oxalate content in veggies is not easy to hammer down…

To summarize: life continues.

How to Eat Hay

Yesterday my first order of Bourne Free hay arrived. Here’s some of pictures of Chance digging in:

two pictures of a black and white rabbit eating hay in a big litter box

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!