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

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!

Safer Moulting

I tried all sorts of brushes with my last rabbit — pin slicker, soft bristle, rubber glove, shedding blade, even sticky roller — and none of them worked. (Actually, the sticky roller was pretty good, but the bun wasn’t keen on it and only tolerated a few swipes at a time). S found some success with the shedding blade, but I could not get the technique down. My method of fur removal was plucking, which works great on moult patches, but not so great on more generalised shedding.

Chance has been moulting since he arrived last month. At first it was very light, but then it hit full fledge. Three weeks ago, we were sitting together on the floor when he scratched his head and cleanly dislodged a tuft of fur — a clear sign of a moult patch if I ever knew one. Indeed, over the next two days I got down and dirty and plucked the whole thing, revealing the short newborn fur below. (Don’t worry, it grew back within the week.)

picture includes three images: pet rabbit laying down, taken from above; detail of the rabbit's forehead, showing two patches where old fur has been plucked to reveal new, shorter fur; picture of the plucked fur tufts

So, that’s fur plucking; but what about the all-over moult? Well, I’ve been excited to try the Furminator ever since I heard of it. I was hoping to get the Small Animal model, but the Petsmart we visited didn’t stock it, so we picked up the Toy Dog Short Hair model instead. I was a little worried about it being too rough for rabbit skin (which is thin and sensitive), but later we found the Small Animal model at one of our local pet supply shops, and a close comparison between the two revealed them to be the same.

The first time I tried the Furminator on Chance was soon after he arrived. He twitched and didn’t seem to like it; also, it didn’t grab any fur: total failure!

That’s okay, he wasn’t really moulting then — but now he is, and luckily it only took a few strokes for him to get used to the sensation. Now he digs it, just like they say in the ads! So long as I keep a finger or two petting his nose and forehead, he sits there purring while I brush his back. And it really does remove tons of fur: more than the shedding loop did; and it’s easier to manipulate.

The only downfall is that Chance only accepts it on his back. When I try moving down along his shoulders or hips, he gets twitchy again; and he’s not too keen on it down low on his rump, either (above the tail area). So, for all those areas, it’s still down to finger plucking.

Whatever: the amount of fur I’m able to remove from his back makes it worth every penny!

Gloss Note: Short-haired rabbits don’t need weekly brushing, but it’s pretty important when they’re moulting. Since they can’t vomit their fur balls like cats, their fur has to work its way through the entire digestive system — no easy task, and one rife with risk of impaction and GI stasis!

The Variable Cost of Rabbit Supplies

Sometimes I feel like a chump when people are shocked by how much money I spend on the rabbit. When it’s a non-rabbit person, I brush it off: they just don’t understand. But when it’s a rabbit person, I start to squirm.

There was a poster making the Facebook rounds a few weeks ago, quoting the ASPCA as saying rabbits are the most expensive pet to keep at $730 a year. Although many people shared a similar reaction (shock), half believed $730 to be shockingly low, while the other half believed the opposite.

I’m in the latter camp. Awhile ago, I made a calculator for people to figure their rabbit costs (the default prices are just examples, and can be replaced with your own figures). Based on the actual prices I pay, my annual costs (including a physical exam from the vet and urine testing), are $1,400 — almost twice as much as the ASPCA’s $730. That assumes a healthy, young, indoors rabbit (because older rabbits may need blood testing and more frequent vet visits; and an outdoors rabbit needs feces testing for parasites).

So, where are people cutting their costs?

I think it’s largely a rural/urban issue. If you can buy your hay and pellets at the local feed store in bulk, grow your own greens, and your vet isn’t passing along the cost of a city-priced rent/mortgage to you, surely you can save-save-save! (But, here’s a question: do the folks who live in these situations count the cost of gas and car insurance in with their bunny costs? Eh?)

Well, there’s not much I can do about those things. I don’t have a car to pick up hay direct from the farm; and even if I did (or if I wanted to use an AutoShare car), I have no place to store the stuff. My junior one bedroom flat is stuffed to the brim as it is. I have no land to grow anything, and I don’t think a window box would save me much in the long run (if anything).

But there’s also the question of litter. This is something I could do something about. I use Carefresh, but I could use something less expensive, like wood stove pellets, newspaper, or aspen shavings.

Call me finicky, but I don’t want to sacrifice absorption. I’ve seen what a litter box of wood stove pellets looks like: wet. And I can imagine a box of newspaper or aspen shavings is no different. If this doesn’t bother you, more power to you: but it just doesn’t work for me.

So, my plan is to try mixing. Carefresh with aspen shavings is the first experiment. Annoyingly (or amusingly), the bag of aspen shavings I got at one of my local pet supply stores works out to very minimal savings in comparison to Carefresh. But, whatever: maybe I can find a cheaper bag elsewhere — I decide to try it out anyway.

The results? A wet litter box. Always the bottom of the box is wet now, so in addition to scooping I have to get out the paper towel and spot clean. (Leaving urine in the box is neither healthy for humans nor for buns, because of the ammonia.) I’m not impressed.

Next I’ll try mixing with Boxo and, after that, mixing with wood stove pellets. To be honest, my expectations aren’t high.

So, are bunnies expensive? When you get down to the nitty-gritty, you can see it varies widely.

The question is, when we’re talking advocacy and promotion, who do we cater to? Is it best to assume low costs for the sake of maximising appeal, yet risking a nasty surprise for city folk and possible returned/abandoned bunnies as a result? Or is it better to assume high costs so that any surprise down the road will be a happy one, yet risking the possibility that some people will be turned off by the high sticker price (even though it may not apply to them), with the result of fewer adoptions.

Personally, I’d rather opt for fewer adoptions and fewer returns, but I may feel differently if I worked in a shelter or ran a rescue operation. As with all things rabbit, it would be nice to see some numbers…

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.

Vacuum Action

I thought I had it figured out.

We bought a new water bottle and I read on the packaging the line about “always fill up to the top” and “bottles work by vacuum action.” I didn’t realise that before! So I took our old water bottle (which I like better than the new one, because it’s glass instead of plastic), and filled it to the top and followed the instructions (“press the control ball and let water trickle out until vacuum develops” — although, no water trickled out to begin with), and fitted it once more to his cage. He didn’t touch it overnight, but this morning I saw him using it and Hooray, no spilling!

But then, what do I find? An almost empty bottle and a soaked carpet runner.

Is it really defective? Am I doing something wrong? Why didn’t this happen with the last bottle?

Here we go again, drying out the carpet. This time I’m putting a blanket underneath the cage so Chancellor isn’t stuck with hardwood. And I guess I’ll try the new water bottle this time. /sigh

Pre-Planning Continues Even After “Pre” No Longer Applies

Because we jumped the gun in taking on Chancellor, I never actually finished all my preparations. I still need:

  • Cuisinart KS-55C kitchen scale — for weighing food and buns
  • Faux sheepskin swaths — best material for sick buns who can’t make it to the litter box
  • Electrolyte formula — I’d like a veterinary instead of paediatric brand because for paediatric I can only find huge bottles; I’d like a powdered formula or else small bottles so that I don’t pour half of it down the drain on account of the short lifespan once opened
  • Plastic jugs for easy spot-bathing
  • First aid instructions — I have most of the info I want in my notes but not in an easy-to-find-when-I-need-them format, so I’m working on writing them on index cards, one per ailment, all affixed with a binder ring
  • Water bottle (see last post)
  • Bunny-proofing — mostly this is taken care of, but there are a few improvements I want to make, like an ornamental fire grate for in front of the bookshelf, and something to keep Chance from biting a certain table, etc. — more to come on this topic, I’m sure
  • Critical Care — we have some but it expires soon

Water, Water, Everywhere

Yesterday morning we awoke to find the water bottle empty.

Woah, what!? I know rabbits drink a lot of water (between 50 and 150mL of water daily per 2lbs of body weight), but still. Chance is about 3lbs (my guess), and I serve his greens sopping wet and he has a water bowl that he uses, too, and it’s not hot in his room, so I’d expect him to drink about 75 from his water bottle per day — definitely no more than 200mL. And his water bottle has a 340mL capacity. Goodness! Diabetes? Kidney disease? I feel around on the carpet runner flooring and there isn’t any wetness. I look in his litter box and sure, he’s used it, but not enough to warrant all that water consumption. What is up!?

Later that day, we come home from Happy Hour and the bottle is empty again. He’d pushed his blanket under the bottle earlier that day, so I pick it up — it’s utterly drenched. So, this time I feel under the carpet instead of on top and, yes indeed, it’s drenched too. I guess it’s designed to wick wetness away from the surface or something (it’s that indoor/outdoor stuff).

I’m happy Chance isn’t sick but not so happy about the water bottle. Darn ancient technologies, when will we get it right? (The ball bearing, I mean.) This was a Super Pets glass bottle but, in all fairness, it’s the second one we’ve had and we had no problems with the first.

So, Chance had to live on hardwood for the night while the carpet dried out. I think he stayed up on the top floor all night, poor guy — there was some poop up there, for the first time ever, and in the morning he still had some food left over from dinner. (Disclaimer: Chancellor can walk on hardwood and does so every day, so it’s not like I did this in spite of some phobia. But, you know, it’s not that comfy for a bun.)

So, he’s back to just using the bowl for now until I get a new bottle (or, ideally, a replacement bottom). Bah! I like giving both options.

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.