"I've lived with animals all my life (almost 64 years now), budgies, parrots, finches, dogs, gerbils, fish, horses, terrapins, tortoises, cats… but in 1998 I adopted my first rabbit. And what a revelation.
"I was working long hours and so couldn’t give a dog the walks it would need, but wanted to have pets. The chance of adopting a rabbit came up and that was when it all started. He was a two-year-old, not (yet) neutered, nor vaccinated, and very friendly.
"As soon as he'd had his jabs and the 'snip' I started looking for a lady friend for him, and adopted a year old unspayed female from a home where she was unwanted. So they became Mr. H D'Bun and Rosie.
"She was duly vaccinated and spayed and we all settled down to several years of happiness together. I was happy with the life they had. They had each other for company while I was at work, lots of toys, lots of space to play in (kitchen, back lobby and bathroom), a far better diet than they had ever had before, vet care as needed, and when I was at home, my undivided attention, and the chance for some supervised playtime in the garden. It was a real voyage of discovery.
"I had expected them to be low maintenance but they weren’t, and certainly not cheap. And their characters were amazing, so different from each other, so friendly and so entertaining, running around, full of the joys of life. That was when I learned about binkys, the rabbit’s happy dance, rather like a horse bucking or a lamb frolicking, of course most of all I was learning all the time, and all these years on still continue to learn.
"When Rosie passed away, I adopted Cinnamon and she and H took to each other very quickly and easily, just as, in turn, Cinnamon and Nutmeg got along very well together when he was adopted after H’s death. Two more completely different characters, very laid back, both of them (often horizontal!)
"After Cinnamon died Nutmeg and I were both bereft and it wasn’t long until I adopted Betty, a troubled soul who had been badly treated by her previous owner and was so very nervous of everything and everybody. That included Nutmeg, and again a very steep learning curve for me.
"Where every other pair had bonded very easily, with Betty it was very different. Her defence was to attack, and she'd attacked Nutmeg when he came too close. Of course I couldn’t just let that happen, so a proper bonding process had to be gone through, which took several weeks, but was well worth it in the end, as they ended up adoring each other, and Nutmeg’s very calm outlook helped Betty enormously.
"Nutmeg passed away last year at the grand old age of 11. He was ill for a while under veterinary care for an abscess and Betty stayed by his side throughout, the faithful wife to him. Eventually despite our best efforts it was time to let him go peacefully with the help of our wonderful vet. So, at eight Betty was looking for a new ‘husbun’ who arrived a few weeks later in the shape of Alfie, a very boisterous, very lively and frequently binkying one-year-old.
"He's extremely mischievous, a bit of a charmer and has given Betty a new lease of life. No resting on her aging laurels, she is up and about, playing with him, rather less naughty than he is, though she has her moments.
"I can’t say that having rabbits is particularly easy – vet bills alone can be crippling if there is a prolonged illness (insurance is well worth considering!). Their illnesses are different from and more complex than many other species, and really a vet is needed who has the correct knowledge and skill range to deal with rabbits properly – we are very lucky there.
"A proper diet is essential. I haven’t lost a single rabbit younger than six (the average lifespan in the UK is only five years, which given their potential is very sad) and Nutmeg at the oldest (so far!) was 11. Without a good diet that wouldn’t be possible.
"They need unlimited good quality hay (or grass of course), fresh green veg, not carrots which are too sugary, and only a tiny amount of good quality pellets each day.
"They also need lots of space. It takes most rabbits about 2 ft. to do one hop, and of course more for larger breeds. So cramming them into a tiny hutch and leaving them with no exercise, no toys is downright cruel.
"They like to dig (a tub of shredded paper is great fun) and to chew and to run through tunnels and simply run and run and run for the joy of it.
"I would never keep a single rabbit for longer than was necessary, as they truly need another rabbit’s company. Watching them snuggling together, eating, playing and even using their litter tray (did I mention they are easy to litter train?) is a complete joy. And, if you treat them properly, they like people too. At their level of course, on the ground.
"I don’t pick them up unless I absolutely have to, otherwise they would think a predator was about to eat them. But when I get onto the floor with them, as I do every day, even with my poor old knees, they love that, and come running for strokes and scratches and kisses. And they give kisses back too… well, sometimes.
"Huge joy, huge responsibility. Don’t even get me started on bunny-proofing the house! And then there was the time they helped me 'mark' a set of history books..."
- Ros Lamb
(Pictured: Nutmeg and Betty).