The Bunny Conundrum

Doof 4 2013

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single rabbit in possession of  a large back yard must be in want of a rabbit lady friend.”

Meet Sunny’s rabbit, Doof. I hope the photo gives you a hint of what a very eligible rabbit he is: beautiful, elegantly marked with silver, velvety to the touch, curious, athletic, a great lover of apple leaves and wilted vegetables. Not long ago he moved into our back yard from Sunny’s college dorm room. He lived in rather cramped quarters in his cage for a few months until we installed what we hope is a predator-proof fence, and now he has a huge outdoor yard at his disposal. He likes roaming around and eating whatever he can find and looking for escape routes.

This being spring, and Doof being newly neutered, our thoughts naturally turned to finding him a rabbit companion. No problem! we thought, and took him down to the local shelter to meet some lady rabbits.

A “rabbit date,” as they call it at the shelter, consists of putting two rabbits in a small enclosure together for a few minutes. If they don’t try to kill each other, they are pronounced compatible. If they actually pay a bit of attention to each other, such as nibbling on each other’s backs, so much the better. Doof found a  lady rabbit named Pom Pom, a calm rabbit with white fur and red eyes, who seemed unconcerned by having Doof try to mate with her fifteen or twenty times during their date.

That’s when the trouble started. Keep in mind that all the rabbits we met at the shelter were sitting OUTSIDE  in bare little outdoor enclosures. (Enclosures, I might add, that are dwarfed by the magnificence of Doof’s back yard, which is, if I may allow myself a little bragging room, a veritable Pemberley of a yard for a rabbit, complete with old plastic pots and cardboard boxes to chew on, an ancient apple tree for shade, an assortment of delicious weeds, and lots of space for digging and tearing around.) Nevertheless, the shelter told us that they only allow their rabbits to go to homes where they will live INDOORS. Indoor rabbits live longer than outdoor rabbits, they said.

This puzzled us. Don’t rabbits live outdoors in nature? If you were a rabbit, wouldn’t you rather live outdoors (with a warm rabbit house to go in when it’s cold or wet, of course) than in someone’s bedroom, where the only things to chew are shoes, power cords for electronic devices, and drywall?

I don’t get it, I said. Isn’t there a large group of rabbits at your shelter right now, waiting to be adopted? Aren’t these rabbits actually KILLED if they don’t get adopted? Isn’t it preferable for Pom Pom to live in our rabbit yard with Doof than to sit alone in a hot little concrete yard at the shelter, waiting to be KILLED?

The shelter people were firm. No outdoor rabbits. Indoor rabbits only. Unfortunately, we can’t have an indoor rabbit because my husband is allergic to pretty much the whole animal kingdom.

Therein lies the conundrum. Is it nobler in the mind to tell one or two judicious lies on the extremely long and detailed rabbit-adopter-supplicant form, knowing that by doing so you will be saving a rabbit from the shelter and the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short life there? Or is it better to be honest and destroy, perhaps forever, the best chance of happiness for a most beloved rabbit?*

Full disclosure: I don’t like telling lies. I always pay all my taxes. If someone in front of me drops a twenty dollar bill on the street, I pick it up and give it back to them. With that in mind, I’d like to know your opinions.

*Two points for anyone who can name which scene from Pride and Prejudice I’m quoting.

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7 thoughts on “The Bunny Conundrum

  1. Nancy

    Good luck with this! Distasteful as lying is, if it would save the life of a shelter bunny and procure some amiable companionship for a beloved pet, I might just go ahead. If you can’t bring yourself to perjure yourself can you have Sunny or Husband do it for you?
    No idea what scene you are quoting from in P & P….!

    1. Christine Post author

      Nancy, I thought for sure you’d be the one who would know: it’s from the proposal scene, where Elizabeth says that even if she didn’t dislike Mr. Darcy because he was rude and proud, she would still refuse him because he separated Mr. Bingley from her sister Jane. That’s my favorite scene in the book.

  2. Mary

    Well you could look in the penny saver. I get the dilemma. you could request a home visit from the shelter. You could inquire of a breeder for an amour past her bunny breeding time. doof is quite handsome, he may have high standards……..

    1. Christine Post author

      Apparently rabbits are very particular. They don’t go for just anyone. Hence the need for a bunny date.

  3. Jennifer Y

    This is a great question, one that’s close to my heart for sure, as the former owner of a rescue bunny.

    Short answer: I agree with the shelter people.

    Long answer: For domestic rabbits, it seems all down to what they are accustomed to from an early age. Our dear, departed rabbit, whom we found in our yard having evidently been turned loose by its former owner, was obviously an indoor rabbit and HATED to be outside. It scared her to death the few times we tried to take her out back in a little harness — we too thought it might be stimulating or entertaining for her. But it was the exact opposite. Another time our neighbor’s cat came into our house through an open window in the middle of the night and I thought she was going to die of a heart attack. So just in my experience, if a rabbit has not become accustomed at a young age to being outside and/or being around other animals (such as the ones who might wander through your backyard on occasion), or is simply just not the adventurous type at all, you cannot make them comfortable with these circumstances later in life.

    Being a prey animal is a stressful existence, and moreso if you don’t feel you have completely safe places to which to retreat when you wish. Even with an outdoor enclosure that the human owners know or believe is “safe,” to the rabbit, the specter of predators being able to walk up to your cage or enclosure and stake you out is probably extremely stressful, because rabbits aren’t smart enough to understand if a man-made enclosure is “safe” or “predator-proof” — and in fact, with many of our smarter, urbanized animals we have around here (who are used to outsmarting garbage cans or garage doors or what have you to get to easy food), it’s a justifiable fear.

    As for the ethical dilemma of saving one life vs. living-outside, the fact is the world is full of rabbits, and being prey animlas, they’re in the business of making more and more and more no matter what — the best defense is a good offense and all that. So my belief is we should focus on the quality of life for those rabbits we live with, rather than just the quantity of lives saved.

    1. Christine Post author

      We are sensitive to the fearful nature of rabbits as prey animals. Doof is actually a very bold rabbit. He is not at all afraid of humans and even walks right up to our dog to check out what he’s doing in Doof’s territory. (We don’t leave them alone together.) We actually have an enclosure-within-the-enclosure that is at least ten feet from the outer fence. Doof spends the night in the inner enclosure so he doesn’t get frightened by a predator prowling around the outside of the yard. We know he likes living in his yard because of the happy-rabbit jumps he does when he is let out in the morning. But you bring up a good point — we don’t know how frightened a new rabbit might be in our outdoor area. I’ll have to think about how to handle that.

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