Friday, December 2, 2011

Have a safe and happy holiday!

by Amy Young-Leith with editorial assistance provided by Bonzi the Bitchin' Rex and Lizzie the Stone Cold Boxer

Through the media we see holidays as bright, happy, and filled with joy. Let's be honest, though; it can also contain some hassle, stress and crazy times. Luckily, we only have to sit down with our rabbits (and other companion animals), take a deep breath, and focus on what's really important to get a little reprieve from the craziness.
Amidst the hustle, however, there are some important things to watch out for! 
  • Increased household hazzards
    • Powered decorations mean more powder cords
    • Plastic, chemically or cosmetically treated Christmas trees 
    • Plastic tinsel and other decorations
Bunnies are like children; a great deal of their experience with the world comes through their mouth! It's up to us to make sure we keep dangers out of their reach. Nudging, biting and chewing are how inquisitive buns get the 411 on what's going on.  Be sure to carefully consider if a bun's home range needs to be restricted or altered if you have new, temporary dangers present in the home. A baby gate or x-pen blocking off the room with a Christmas tree, a strategic decorating approach, and vigilant attention to what gets left on the floor can save a bun from an emergency trip to the vet, or worse!

The good news is that NATURAL Christmas trees are safe -- as Dinkum made perfectly clear as he'd hop up onto the couch, race up my chest and nudge my nose and I'd smell the unmistakable scent of a bun who'd been chowing on the pine for a while. But be sure to ask before you buy a tree; a "natural" looking tree may still have been treated with pesticides, fire retardent, even paint! (Yes, some lots will spray their trees with a paint! So much for natural... )

Natural pinecones are safe as well; again, many sources of pinecones, however, will not be natural, if if they look it! (You can be totally safe with Billy's Bag of Pinecones, one of our favorite products (and clearly, it was Billy the Wonder Rex's favorite, too). Pinecones purchased at craft stores will usually be coated with a scent, some type of sealant, or other chemical process which makes them unsafe for bunny consumption.

In general, keep holiday and house plants (such as poinsettia) out of reach of pets. Most aren't toxic, but some can lead to stomach upset, and some ARE toxic... so just play it safe. Setting out a little pot of herbs (basil, parsley, cilantro) that you find in your holiday shopping rounds would always be appreciated by your buns, of course. (I was forced at bun-point to include that.)

If your bun has access to your natural tree, keep in mind the placement of lights and other decorations that may also fall within reach. For years our Christmas tree was somewhat "naked" at the bottom. We stopped about a foot from the bottom, leaving plenty of "periscope room" so buns could enjoy the tree, too, without risk.
  •  Increased social or emotional stress
    • New people
    • People who are unfamiliar with rabbits and their "signs" and who are overly eager to interact with your bun as if s/he were a stuffed animal
    • Those who don't have much respect for people's personal space, much less an animals
    • Changes in routine
Every bun is different; some are the belle of a rowdy ball, while others are wallflowers or outright shrinking violets. Take your bun's social and emotional needs into consideration during the holiday time, too.

I'm a strong believer that our buns are products of their environment over time; I've socialized frightened, wild, and abused buns into confident, outgoing social butterflies... but some aren't and never will be. If your bun likes a party, then be sure to include them in festivities. Set up an x-pen in your living room so they can be a part of the holiday festivities. Place a bowl of bunny safe treats nearby so guests can treat your bun and make a great first impression on them (veggie sticks in their favorite selections are great for this, or any of our fun and healthy treats).

But if your bun is clearly distracted, worried, and stressed by new people or boisterous activity, be sure to create a space just for them. Relocating their usual home to a quiet space is preferable; so much will remain familiar it will be a comfort to them. If they are free range, create an x-pen area for them somewhere calm, putting their familiar items in it (like a used litter box, toys, any blankies or what not). Be sure to return to that space often to soothe them, and bring plenty of treats.


Ok, where was I?

In your home, your guests are looking to you for direction. Lay clear groundrules. If your bun doesn't like to be picked up, state people are NOT to attempt to pick up your rabbit, and if someone starts to, directly and gently say, "Please, as I said, do not pick Buster up." This is your home, and your bun's safety and sanity depend upon you! Children should always be supervised with animals, and you will know well what adults should be supervised with them too! :) And if their area is off limits, make that clear, perhaps even with a sign, or even a locked door.

If other family members bring over pets such as dogs, secure your rabbit in an area that dog will not ever, no-how no-way get access to. There are many wonderful companion dogs who are not familiar with companion rabbits, and if they are of a breed with a strong hunting instinct... things can go VERY wrong, VERY quickly. Stop that from even being a remote possibility.

In the midst of busy routines, keep your bunny's day to day the same, if possible. Feeding times, what you feed, etc. being routine can help avoid stomach upset that may be compounded by stress, or vice versa.

^&aNd moore (*&^treets. feed mour treits. nom nom nom.


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