|Ricky's ready for the Holidays.|
Holiday Safety for Rabbit Households
by Guin Boostrom
With the holiday fast approaching, many of us will soon begin decorating our homes for winter festivities. As we do, it's good to keep in mind rabbit-safe ideas like these safety tips:
Trees and decorations
One of the hallmarks of the beginning of the holiday season is the decorating of the Christmas tree. Christmas trees are very inviting to rabbits, both for hiding under and for nibbling. If your bunny will have access to the tree, you will want to make sure that it is not ﬂocked and not sprayed with ﬁre-retardant chemicals. Noshing on a few bites of non-chemically treated pine, spruce or ﬁr will not hurt your bunny, but you may wish to consider covering the water in the tree stand with mesh to prevent your rabbit from drinking the dirty tree water.
You will also want to take steps to protect your ornaments, especially if you have wooden or paper ornaments. You may wish to reserve the lower branches of your tree for large ball- type ornaments that a bunny can't get his teeth around. Or you might want to purchase ornaments made of grape vine or wicker for the lower branches, with the idea that these ornaments are okay for bunny to eat, and will be replaced yearly. (Many of the bunny-speciﬁc online purveyors, such as Bunny Bytes and Busy Bunny, sell these types of ornaments.) Do not use tinsel as ingested tinsel can cause an intestinal blockage.
If your bunny
Jackie thinks this rug is a tasteful decoration.
is an inveterate digger, you will also want to carefully consider your choice of tree skirt. A plain sheet or an inexpensive drug store tree skirt may be a better option than the hand-embroidered family heirloom. Christmas tree lights can pose a specific hazard for
bunnies, as we all know that most rabbits seem to be inexorably drawn to electrical cords. While normal household cords can be covered with protective tubing, for strands of Christmas tree lights, this isn't always a practical solution. If lights are something that you just can't bear to skip on your tree, it's an absolute must that you only allow your bunny around the tree when he or she will be well supervised. An exercise pen can be used to provide a barrier between your bunny and your tree during those times when you can't be watching closely
Gift wrap and ribbon
Wrapped gifts under a tree or on the floor will prove too strong of a temptation for most rabbits. Not only will you be frustrated and disappointed to have your careful gift wrapping jobs ruined within minutes by your pint-sized nibbler, metallic wrapping papers and plastic-type ribbons can cause intestinal problems if ingested by a bunny. A better option is to arrange gifts attractively on a table. Or, again, if you feel like it just wouldn't be the holidays without gifts under the tree, consider encircling your tree with an exercise pen for the safety of your bunnies and the presents.
Candles are an important part of Hanukkah celebrations, and many families like to light pine or other scented candles during the holiday season. Be very careful about having lighted candles on a table with a tablecloth that hangs low enough for bunny to grab with his or her teeth. Many bunnies cannot resist tugging on fabric that is dangling within reach, and you certainly don't want that to happen if there are burning candles on the table.
Many people like to decorate their homes with sprigs of holly or mistletoe during the holidays. Both holly and mistletoe berries are listed on the House Rabbit Society's list of plants toxic to rabbits. As the berries can drop off when the plants begin to dry out, it's best not to have these in any room of your home that bunny will have access to.
Poinsettia toxicity is the subject of much heated debate. For many years it was believed that poinsettias were in the same category as holly and mistletoe - deadly toxins. More recently, studies have shown that while poinsettias may cause mild stomach upset, they aren't poisonous per se. Some Rabbit Advocates have reported that their rabbits eat poinsettia leaves with no ill health effects at all, and indeed seem to enjoy them. As poinsettias can cause mild stomach upset, if you don't already know that poinsettias are okay with your rabbit, it's probably best to not encourage your rabbits to eat them by having poinsettias at ground level.
"Did someone mention treats?"
Basil & Dennis Hopper
As those of us who have rabbits know, rabbits have an insatiable sweet tooth. However, the cookies and candies we tend to have in our homes at the holidays aren't good for rabbits. Chocolate can be a toxin to rabbits, and foil or plastic candy wrappers can cause intestinal blockages. Be sure to keep these items up high enough that bunny can't reach them. Even holiday treats that aren't poisonous to rabbits, such as dried cranberries, should be given to rabbits in moderation. Just like people, bunnies can gain weight over the holiday if we let them over-indulge.
Guests are nice, but Shadow loves peace & quiet.
For many of us, the holidays mean visits from friends and family. They can also mean lots of excitement and children who are even more exuberant than usual. Be mindful of your rabbit's temperament in handling the kind of chaos the holiday season can bring to your household. Make sure your bunny has a place to relax away from the holiday hustle and bustle.
For many of us, the holidays might mean traveling out of town and in most instances, bringing bunny with us isn't an option. While you may be tempted to leave your rabbit at home alone for a few days with an adequate supply of food and water, this is usually not the best solution. As prey animals, rabbits can hide their illnesses for quite some time before we humans notice. The net result is that by the time a rabbit becomes noticeably ill to a human, the rabbit is usually quite sick and needs immediate veterinary care to stay alive. A rabbit that looked fine when you left Friday afternoon could be deathly ill by Sunday evening when you return. For this reason, it's much better to arrange for an experienced bunny person to look after your pet. An e-mail to Rabbit Advocate can help put you in touch with people who would be able to take care of your rabbit in your absence.
By following these health and safety tips, we hope that you and your bunnies have a healthy, hoppy holiday season!