No longer herding ferrets, but another critter instead

I’ve mentioned in other threads that back in February, my husband and I had to put our last ferret to sleep. She was very old for a ferret, nearly reaching 8 years, but we were worn out with dealing with ferret hereditary diseases and susceptibilities. She was the longest-lived of the seven ferrets that we had owned over the years, and even that is too short of a time. But we found ourselves feeling like our house was part empty - for the first time in 15 years, we had no pets.

I kind of outed myself in Lute Skywatcher’s thread about finding a domestic rabbit in knowing something about rabbits, so now’s as good of a time as any to mention this. My husband had a rabbit when he was growing up, and convinced me of the coolness of rabbits. So… I’m a “rabbit herder” now. Two little Dutch rabbits, now almost 4 months old, and they’ve been living with us for about a month and a half, so they’re definitely not Easter impulse purchases

Pictures required: Meet our “little boys,” Moo and Arby. Those are from the first couple days when we had them, when they were about 10 weeks old, with toilet paper roll in the shot for scale. They’ve grown a lot since, and are up to about 3 lbs, with an expected max weight of 4.

What astounded the both of us is how social they are with us. They lick our hands a lot, they follow us when we walk past their playpen (huge, designed for small animals), they put their paws up on the side of the playpen and paw like they’re encouraging us to come over. I feed them their daily greens by going into the playpen with them and sitting down cross-legged to hand feed them; Moo leaps into my lap and perches himself on my left thigh, while Arby perches right in front of my crossed legs and stands on them with his front paws, or sits next to my right thigh and reaches up and over for his share. I’ve already taught Moo to go somewhere (go up a ramp, jump on a box) by snapping my fingers and pointing where I want him to go. My husband says his rabbit wasn’t like this when he was a kid, so I don’t know - maybe it’s the breed, maybe rabbits have been bred to this point in the intervening 20ish years, maybe we just got lucky.

One thing I wasn’t prepared for - saving for the neutering operations. :smack: At least they’re both boys, but they’re going to start spraying once they get older.

Aww, they’re cute. :slight_smile: Rabbits can make good pets - like any other critter, it’s all in how they’re raised. Handling them often leads to well-socialized and friendly bunnies. I knew a guy in college who had a rabbit that was almost like a little dog, jumping up into his lap the moment he came home and sat down.

The last of ours was put to sleep about a year ago. He was about the same age and just stopped eating; the vet discovered a stomach tumor. A.C. didn’t want any more ferrets after dealing with the loss of our two but I convinced her to keep the cage in case we ever decided to adopt a rabbit.

The socialization period was something I wasn’t used to. Ferrets tend to be “oh hi, you seem nice, let me nip to play with you, oh, guess you don’t like nipping, hi!” in their personality right from when you first meet them.

Rabbits are definitely of the “we are prey animals and know it” mentality, so I did a lot of careful socialization, including lying on my stomach on the floor next to their playpen so I was on their level, talking quietly, hand-feeding greens to associate “humans = yummy food providers = good!”, etc. They went from freezing when I put my hand into their cage, to now where they’ll run up and lick my hand or get in the way of what I’m doing in an attempt to be affectionate and see what I’m up to/whether I’m bringing good stuff to eat. At first they’d try to nibble my fingers but I did the move like you do with dogs, only present a flat hand, front or back, so there’s nowhere to easily nibble on, moving the hand to avoid them getting around the side of a finger. Now they only do a little nibble (and then back off) if I’ve been hand-feeding them good stuff and my fingers are full of lots of vegetable juices or something.

I had no idea rabbits sprayed.

Sorry to hear about your ferrets. Is your rabbits reaction linked to them seeing you as a food source? Can they distinguish you and your husband from guests? Because I spend the most time with my ferrets, including all the discipline, they know not to nip me, nor do they try to sprint by me when the door is opened, but will do it to everyone else (especially if I am not around). You are right in that they see humans as big playmates - any human. They don’t care at all. They are like a Green Lantern (comic book reference) - they have no fear.

We just had guests for the first time yesterday (one of my husband’s sisters, and her husband) since getting the rabbits, and they definitely knew the difference from just hearing the strange voices in the house. (We have their playpen in the living room where the TV is, so they apparently distinguished TV-voices from in-house-voices, as the TV doesn’t bother them at a moderate volume. Sometimes I swear they’re even watching it!) Arby ran and hid in a little bed-down cubbyhole in their cage, and had to be lured out by my husband waving cilantro under his nose. Moo was crouched down and looked none too thrilled. That’s one reason I got in the playpen with them, petted them, and fed them greens, as kind of an “everything’s OK, see how I’m doing normal stuff with you” sort of reassurance.

We let both of our guests put their hands in the playpen near the end of the visit to touch the rabbits and let themselves be sniffed, but the rabbits were definitely reserved - sniffing, not licking, somewhat crouched in an “I’m not sure about this” pose but not really frightened.

His sister remembered the rabbit they had when they were growing up, and was astonished at how interactive these rabbits were with my husband and I.

Can I recommend this website to assist in understanding your bunnies’ body language? Very entertaining, and lots of good info.

Here at work I have a 10 year old broken Rex and a 4 month old Flemish Giant… guess who’s bigger? :slight_smile:

Thanks, I hadn’t seen that yet; how neat! We’ve got the House Rabbit Society’s website bookmarked, and bought Rabbits for Dummies before getting our rabbits. There’s a fair amount of rabbit info in those including behavior. A lot of those poses look quite familiar by now, but this is great detail.

Arby does a foot stomp when he’s annoyed with us. If he’s been picked up and decides for whatever reason that this was Not Acceptable, he’ll do a petulant stomp upon being put back down. He’s also done it for when I was not fast enough at handing over the greens already - hey, it’s hard to sit down when they’re circling my legs like cats! Once when he noticed that not-gaining-weight-as-fast Moo was given yummy alfalfa pellets in their cage, while he was in the playpen - he could hear the sounds of pellets in the ceramic dish and see Moo was eating, maybe he could smell them too - he actually put out three little stomps and sulked for a short time. (I returned Moo and gave them both some timothy hay pellets, but I don’t think he bought the deception.)

They spray and kick piss back at you when they flee. We had a hutch rabbit when my kids were little. He wasn’t as socialized as a playpen rabbit so when we let him out to romp in the yard he sometimes didn’t want to be put away.

If he didn’t want to be put away just yet he would scamper away when I tried to reach down and grab him.

If he *really truly * didn’t want to be put away he would piss and kick it at me when he took off.

It took a little bit of bunny body langauge study on my part to tell when he was ready to go home so I would no longer get peed on.

Two bunny threads in one day - I am truly blessed

A good day to be a rabbit owner. :slight_smile:

I think my rabbits have become camera-shy, maybe they don’t like the flashes in their eyes, but they seem to wander off whenever we get the camera out instead of looking up cutely. Don’t they understand that I need more pictures of them?! :smack:

They even charmed the staff at the exotics vet I take them to; I think this must truly be weapons-grade cute.

Congratulations Ferret Herder! I miss my bunnies. Juno died last June and I had a hard time without him. He was the last of the 3 and he lived 8 years.

They really are great little animals.

You could try the “camera comes out = treats are produced method” the little beggar knows if there are any treats though.

He totally smoozes the vet here too (licks their hands! - I have to put serious work in to get him to lick my hands:(.)

Here is my offering Chainmaille | HRH Bellamy of the Bunnykins, defeater of cats… | Flickr
I used his runnybunny harness as a pattern for the chainmaille

So while Ferret Herder is now a misnomer for that Doper, she’s still managed to get into a hare-raising situation? :wink:

:smack: Very punny. (Bunny?)

Well, as you are no longer a Ferret Herder, I want the title. :cool: