Rabbits Online > Off Topic for Rabbit Owners > Bunny Blogs > Saoirse, Stewart, Zelda and the Zoo

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Old 09-14-2016, 02:26 AM   #1
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Default Saoirse, Stewart, Zelda and the Zoo

(Saoirse = "sore-sha" or "seer-sha") It's an Irish name which means "freedom".

Cast of Characters:
Saoirse the Flemish Giant doe
Stewart, neutered Netherland Dwarf
His bonded partner, Zelda the spayed Dwarf/Lionhead or Angora mix

"Bit players" (there's a good chance they will be in this tale somewhere)
Mitsou the seal tortiepoint Sphynx - makes friends with every creature including fruit flies. Joins the rabbits to help them eat their fresh hay, occasionally samples their pellets. Zelda sometimes grooms her bald butt.
Victor the sealpoint Siamese - skulks around the Zelda/Stewart pen, stealing wisps of hay. Zelda growls and chases him if he enters, so he tends to leave the bunnies alone.
Yoko the ginger and white Sphynx - also enters the Zelda/Stewart domain but usually sits on the top mezzanine level and doesn't bother them.
The piggies - Piggy and Carrie (guinea pigs). Piggy came as a package deal when I adopted Stewart, I separated them for Piggy's safety and adopted spayed Carrie to keep him company.
The dogs - Fifi the Chihuahua and Polly the Chi/Jack/Pug mix. They don't bother the cats or rabbits, and they get me out of the house every day whether I want to go or not.
Spike the albino hedgehog.
Various reptiles, birds, fish and tarantulas.

Yes, I have a lot of pets. I'm also home all the time (disabled) and have no human friends or family left these days. I would not recommend keeping so many pets to anyone unless they're in a similar situation to mine. They add structure to my day, give me a sense of accomplishment and of course they keep me company. However, it takes a certain amount of self-discipline to make sure they all get the care they need as it's needed. My calendar is covered in colour coded notes to keep track of who got fed or their tank water changed on which date. Most of my pets came from rescues or were not wanted anymore by their previous owners.

So with all of these pets, why add rabbits? As with everything, there's a story behind that. My rabbit tale starts when I was in Kindergarten. I learned to read early and I spent a lot of time reading encyclopedias. I developed the vocabulary to match. The other kids called me "that scientific kid" because I used words they didn't understand. For my part, I didn't understand them, and had no interest in playing their childish games. So, I'd spend my days at school in the corner where the bookcase was, sitting on the floor reading with the class rabbit in my lap. That rabbit was big, possibly a New Zealand. It was dark grey and the other kids were afraid of it. I spent many hours reading with the rabbit in that corner. I still have my class photo with me sitting in the front row with that rabbit across my lap.

I grew up in a family with five kids. We kept all sorts of pets, but for some reason we never had a rabbit. So I had very little contact with rabbits from Kindergarten on. But as a teenager, for several years I babysat for a family who had a house rabbit. And by weird coincidence, she looked just like the Kindergarten rabbit! I was very impressed by how good she was with a litter box, and that she made a great house pet just like any cat or dog. She would even go out in the back yard with them. I decided then that someday I'd have a giant house rabbit.

Then, two years ago I had to run an errand in the north end of Toronto in the winter. It was very cold out, -20 C. There was no snow yet, but we were due for a blizzard to start overnight. I was waiting at a bus stop to go home. I had about 3 hours transit ride ahead. Then I saw something move in the bushes behind me. I turned, there was a little black short haired rabbit with a small streak of white on its nose. I thought "there's no way he's going to survive in -20 with a blizzard coming". So I approached it and it sat still. But when I got too close, it hopped away a few steps. I spent some time trying to get it to stay still so I could toss my coat over it. It just went deep under a juniper bush and I had to give up. I tried calling local Animal Control on my cell to get them to pick up the rabbit, but it was after 5 pm and they refused.

As soon as I got home I went online and found a local rabbit rescue. I emailed them asking if they'd go and capture the rabbit. They wouldn't do it either. We got the snow the next day. I wanted to go and see if I could find the rabbit, but it was a bad storm and the buses were all canceled or delayed. I couldn't stop worrying about that poor rabbit outside in the cold. I decided that if I couldn't help that rabbit, maybe I could help another. So I looked through the local pound website and another humane society in Toronto. They both had plenty of rabbits, which made me feel sad. I also did a lot of research on rabbit care. I built a 4 story cc cage with ramps, shelves, and a big attached pen. Then I set off for the Toronto Humane Society (they had the most rabbits to choose from).

When I got there, I saw New Zealand rabbits for the first time and fell in love, since they reminded me of that big class rabbit in Kindergarten. Unfortunately they refused to let me adopt a giant rabbit. I had brought pics of the enclosure I had built; they said it wasn't big enough. I told them I could easily take out the levels and use the cubes to build a bigger pen, but they were having none of it. They finally admitted that the only reason they wouldn't let me adopt an NZ was that I live in an apartment.

So I started looking at the smaller bunnies, and there was Zelda. She reminded me a lot of that bunny I found outside. The shelter staff also thought she'd be the best fit for me based on her personality. I was allowed to sit in her pen for a while and interact with her. Unlike many of the other bunnies there, Zelda was pretty calm and not very shy. So I took her home that day and settled her in the Zelda Domain (soon to be the Zelda/Stewart Domain)

So that's how I got back to rabbits. Next will be Stewart's Tale.


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Old 09-15-2016, 02:50 AM   #2
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Default Stewart's Tale

From the beginning, I knew I'd have to find a bonding partner for Zelda. I kept an eye open on the website of the shelter where I adopted her, but nobody really caught my eye. I was told when I adopted her that it would be better to find a neutered male.

Then one August day I was browsing the local online pet ads. I know that late summer is a busy season for unwanted pets. It's frustrating to see how many kids go off to college and dump their formerly beloved childhood pets like trash at the last minute. My parents wouldn't allow me or my siblings to adopt a new pets within a couple of years of finishing high school - or they agreed in advance to keep pets we couldn't take with us to school. Certainly none of us were allowed to take any pets with us when we moved out - not even a small fish tank. College kids have no money and no time for pets. Back then I couldn't even afford a house plant, much less the time to water it.

So I found an ad with a photo of the tiniest rabbit I'd ever seen. I'd never seen a Netherland Dwarf and at that time I didn't know this rabbit was a breed. I was fascinated by his tiny black ears and markings, especially the little line across his forehead. His owner was a young girl who had taken him to college with her, and immediately she found out that she couldn't look after him. She told me his name was Bunny. The price was right as well - free. I made arrangements to go and pick him up, with his cage. It was another long trek on three buses to the north end of Toronto. Off I went, with my dolly to carry the cage and a pet carrier bag.

When I arrived, it was a nice, big house. I guessed (from my own experience at college) that the girl was renting a room there. When she opened the door, I got a surprise. She had Bunny tucked under one arm, and a little grey and white guinea pig under the other - whose name, predictably, was Piggy. She told me that she was afraid to advertise both of them because nobody would want them, but they'd been together all of their lives and she couldn't bear to separate them. I felt sorry for her, because clearly she loved these little guys and I know I would have been devastated if I were in her place. I agreed to take them. I just hoped that Zelda would accept both of them, but decided I'd cross that bridge when I came to it. So I loaded cage and bag with two critters in it on my dolly and off I went for my three bus trek home.

I decided to leave the two in their (way too small) cage for now, but place it near Zelda's pen so she could see and smell them. I was concerned because the girl had been feeding both of them on rabbit pellets. We had a guinea pig when I was growing up, but that was a long time ago. I remembered having to give her vitamin C drops in her water. So I went online and started researching guinea pig care.

I found that many people mistakenly house guinea pigs with rabbits, assuming that because both eat pellets and hay, and don't try to kill each other, they must make good housemates. Trouble is, their nutritional needs are different and guinea pigs require their own pellets with vitamin C and the nutrients they need. Another problem is that rabbits have powerful hind legs. They can accidentally injure or kill a guinea pig just by binkying around. They seem to get along but in reality each one is lonely for their own kind, and they're just "settling" for each other as company. I even called my rabbit vet to confirm this information as I was reluctant to separate the two.

After a few days it was apparent that Zelda didn't have a problem with her new neighbours, in fact she was pressing her nose through the bars of her pen to sniff the others. So I tried a brief intro with just Stewart at first. Zelda chased him a bit, there was some sniffing, then she chased him some more but not as pushy about it. We did a couple more intros but very quickly Zelda was grooming Stewart and he was trying to hump her. I'd never seen rabbits hump, and I found it hilarious for some reason! So Stew moved into the Big House.

I felt sorry for Piggy, all alone now. Now he had his own pellets. I put him in the rabbit pen for closely supervised visits. Zelda just ignored him, and Stewart was more interested in her than in his old friend. So I started looking for guinea pig rescues, and found one that had a spayed sow. Until then I didn't realize anyone neutered guinea pigs. They even do rats now! So Carrie came to live with us.

It's been quite interesting and entertaining, watching the two pairs interact with each other. I decided I'd always keep rabbits or guinea pigs in pairs from now on. They are clearly much happier with their own kind. And the body language they display is fascinating. The piggies do a "noses up" routine which is like fencing. Whoever ends up with the nose on top, seems to win. They also make a deep-throated rumbling noise at each other. Don't ask me what it means, they sound like slow-motion tribbles. Speaking of sounds, I always know when it's time to give everyone fresh hay and/or greens, because Carrie says "SQUEEE! SQUEEE!" and you can set your watch by her squee's. Somehow she knows when I open the crisper drawer in my fridge.

So Stewart settled in nicely with Zelda. He's pretty shy towards me, though, depsite my best efforts to win him over. His former owner used to carry him tucked under her arm like a football, but he won't let me even brush him or pick him up. That's ok, I like watching him, and I adopted him to keep Zelda company, anyway.


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Old 09-15-2016, 12:30 PM   #3
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Please, tell me Saoirse's name comes from Willow ^^.
I admire you for taking care of all those animals. Honestly, I don't think I could manage - I work from home and am as isolated as can be (I live in a town where I don't know a single person, my friends / family are all 300km away and I don't even own a car) but the dog and 2 bunnies keep me occupied. I added a tortoise 9 days ago and just preventing the dog from bothering her is a full-time job ^^.
I really want another dog, but finding someone to care about the animals when you go away (I sometimes have 2-3 days business trips) is horribly complicated as it is. I'm not even speaking about taking them with me when I go see my parents for Christmas...
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Old 09-15-2016, 01:39 PM   #4
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College kids have no money and no time for pets.
Never underestimate the power of veterinary students. They have this superpower where they can go long periods of time without food in order to care for all of their (usually disabled, geriatric, or otherwise 'broken') animals.

But in all seriousness, I love that you've rescued all these guys and am so glad they have such a happy home!
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Old 09-15-2016, 02:04 PM   #5
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Please, tell me Saoirse's name comes from Willow ^^.
I admire you for taking care of all those animals. Honestly, I don't think I could manage - I work from home and am as isolated as can be (I live in a town where I don't know a single person, my friends / family are all 300km away and I don't even own a car) but the dog and 2 bunnies keep me occupied. I added a tortoise 9 days ago and just preventing the dog from bothering her is a full-time job ^^.
I really want another dog, but finding someone to care about the animals when you go away (I sometimes have 2-3 days business trips) is horribly complicated as it is. I'm not even speaking about taking them with me when I go see my parents for Christmas...
I come from Scottish parents so I was familiar with the name Saoirse, but had never heard it pronounced. I first heard it in Willow and decided someday I'd give this name to a child or a pet.

Actually, taking care of the animals is not as arduous as it may seem. The tarantulas and reptiles only need care and feeding once every few days to a week. I have a 15 year old ball python who only eats every two or three months. The most labour intensive are the birds and mammals. But caring for them requires following a strict routine. This helps with time management and also helps me to remember who's been looked after, as I have short term memory issues.

Re travel, I forgot to mention that. I've never been much of a traveler and never had a job that required travel. In my fifty one years I've taken exactly three trips by plane. So I'm not too concerned about finding someone to house sit for me. I'm more concerned about illness or something happening to me. I recently created a booklet which is hanging on the wall inside my front door. It lists all of the creatures I have, their locations, where to find their food and supplies, and the care they require.
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Old 09-16-2016, 10:27 PM   #6
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It is true that animals help with time management. Considering that I work from home (with maybe a dozen of business trips each year) I would probably be glued to my desk all day and forget about the time if it wasn't for them (one of the reason I took Jeeves, my dog, was to make sure I would go outside and walk everyday or I knew I wouldn't have). Actually, I don't think my life was ever as strictly regulated as it is now - I get up earlier than when I was a student even if I don't have to.
On the other hand, between the hay from the rabbits, the mud / leaves (I have a lagerstromia covered in flowers which are currently wilting and Jeeves rolls in them and goes back into the house, leaving a trail of dried red flowers behind him - and I swear I brush him daily! ^^'), hair from everyone (me included, these days XD) I shudder to think about what my house would look like if I had more animals (reptiles probably make very little mess compared to the others, though). I have to admit I'm really not a cleaning enthusiast, which doesn't help any. I wash the rabbits' things religiously every 3 days, but for the rest... During autumn, when Jeeves is going in and out of the house 50 times a day, tracking muddy paw prints everywhere even though I wipe his paws when I catch him in time...I just give up and I'm like "whatever I'll clean the floor when it stops raining".
When I think about it, it's lucky I live alone XD

The booklet is a good idea. I wouldn't have thought of it, but it's true it's an efficient way of giving your pets the best chance of being cared for correctly if you can't do it. Maybe I should do something like that... I always leave very detailed caresheets to my petsitters (and I interview them beforehand, and I repeat myself a lot like "you have to leave LOTS of hay for the rabbits, put some more even if there is still tons of left over from before, LOTS of hay, OK?"... they probably think I'm crazy, but better be safe than sorry).
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Old 09-17-2016, 12:13 AM   #7
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I shudder to think about what my house would look like if I had more animals (reptiles probably make very little mess compared to the others, though). I have to admit I'm really not a cleaning enthusiast, which doesn't help any. I wash the rabbits' things religiously every 3 days, but for the rest... During autumn, when Jeeves is going in and out of the house 50 times a day, tracking muddy paw prints everywhere even though I wipe his paws when I catch him in time...I just give up and I'm like "whatever I'll clean the floor when it stops raining".
When I think about it, it's lucky I live alone XD
It's lucky I live alone, too! I find the messiest animals are the ones who eat hay, rabbits and guinea pigs. The rats are a close second because they like to push the bedding out of their cage through the bars. I've developed a bit of a tolerance for hay on the floor, until there's a certain amount and then the broom comes out. But, when it comes to poop/pee smells, if I can smell it, it gets cleaned. You're mostly right about the reptiles, but they do cover the glass of their terrariums with sticky footprints from walking through their food. So every week or so I clean the terrarium glass. Fish tanks can also be messy if you're a klutz like me. I sometimes overfill them by accident or spray water on the floor from the hose. I have a water changer hose now, it hooks up directly to the sink so no more bucket sloshes on the floor. But I always have a mop handy when I change the water in the tanks. That way, tank change day is also floor mopping day.
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Old 09-18-2016, 08:31 AM   #8
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It was so interesting reading about your bunnies stories. It's always fun to hear the history behind each rabbit. Thanks for sharing it with us.
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Old 09-20-2016, 01:21 AM   #9
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Default Saoirse the cheeky wee monkey

Saoirse is settling in to her pen in the bedroom pretty nicely. Before I adopted her, I had read that Flemish Giants have sweet personalities, but I didn't know how sweet until she came to live in the zoo. She even groomed/licked my arm last night while I was filling up her pellet bowl. If I give her a small treat like a raisin, she is so gentle! I was afraid at first, but she has never even come close to biting my fingers.

Big rabbits with huge ears and short hair are great teachers of rabbit etiquette and body language! Zelda is black, so it's sometimes hard to catch facial expressions and ears. Also, she's friendly but on her own terms. Saoirse is a sandy FG, which means her colouring is exactly like a deer, with red ticked fur, white tummy and soles of feet, and black liner on the edges of her ears. When she's lying on her side resting, she reminds me of fawns I've seen in the woods. It's very easy to tell when she wants to be groomed, she nudges my hand and bows down looking for nose rubs. At first she shrunk away a bit when I tried to touch her body and especially her ears. But since I LOVE her huge, gracefully curved ears, I eventually taught her that I'd be gentle with them and she accepts having them and her sides and back stroked now (after nose rubs of course).

When I enter the room, Saoirse rushes to the side of the pen, stands up on her hind legs and puts her paws over the top of the pen. I was starting to wonder how long it will be before she figures out how to get out. I had to move her litter box away from the side of the pen, because she learned to climb up on it and started to climb out of the pen. I caught her just in time the other day, she had actually inserted her paws in the bars of the pen and climbed halfway out of the pen.

When she first arrived I gave Saoirse a big plastic tub turned upside down with a door in the side, so she'd have a hiding place. She liked it at first, stretching out inside it to sleep. Now she's already too big for it. I left it there after noticing that she likes to push it around with her nose. Recently she learned how to climb up on top of the tub. I realized it would only be a matter of time before she figured out how to use the tub to climb out of the pen. Guess what happened today? Luckily I was in the room doing the morning zookeeper routine, looking after the rats, parrotlet and button quail. All are feline refugees, cats wouldn't leave them alone. I had already given Saoirse her romaine leaves and pellets and changed her water. I heard munching behind me and guessed she was working on her lettuce.

Then I turned around. I wish I'd had my camera with me! There was Saoirse, munching happily on a leaf from one of my big house plants (another feline refugee). She had pushed her tub close to the side of her pen, climbed up on it, climbed out of the pen and up a stack of three large cardboard boxes where the plant was sitting, and got hold of one of its big leaves. She was standing on her hind legs on one box and stretching up to reach the plant. Luckily she had only eaten a couple of bites. Afterwards I looked the plant up to see if it was poisonous, and it's not toxic, but the sap contains fibers that can be irritating to the mouth and throat. So I kept an eye on her for a couple of hours but she seemed fine.

But, I had to lift her down from the box to put her back in her pen. I was petrified. Neither Stewart nor Zelda tolerate being picked up, and I've ended up with some pretty deep scratches from their hind feet. I've learned to "towel" them (grab with a towel and make a bunny taco) to clip their nails. To my surprise, Saoirse didn't mind being picked up at all. No kicking or struggling. I'm guessing she was picked up a lot by her former owners. Anyway, it was a nice surprise. But needless to say, the next lift I did was lifting that tub out of her pen!

But I've given Saoirse other toys to play with and she likes each one. She has a couple of empty paper towel rolls which she nibbles and tosses around. I gave her a rubber dog ball and she noses that around as well. She has a small old towel which she pushes around with her nose, I've even seen her carry it. I gave her a shoebox sized box made of heavy cardboard which she likes to throw and push as well. And whenever I put fresh hay in her litter box, she immediately climbs in and tries to bury herself in it (and succeeds sometimes). Once I looked over and didn't see her, and started to panic. Then I saw the black "earliner" poking out of the pile of hay.

Another cute habit Saoirse has is to binky around and around her pen when I'm getting ready for bed at night. I know they're active at night, but she gets really excited when I'm about to go to bed, I guess because I'll be spending a long time with her. I feel sad that she has to be by herself in the bedroom right now, but it's probably not a good idea to move her to the hallway (which will be her permanent pen with steel gates, and she'll become a house rabbit most of the time). I still have to get her spayed so she can meet the other rabbits in their pen. She'll be spayed early next month, as soon as I can afford it.

So Saoirse taught me another lesson about rabbits today. I didn't realize that they are arboreal like monkeys!

I'm going to have to either remember to bring my phone whenever I go into the bedroom, or keep a spare camera there. In the meantime here are a couple of pics. She's already grown out of that litterbox and is using a bigger tub.
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Old 09-24-2016, 04:30 PM   #10
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Default The Monkey Perfects Her Climbing Skills

When I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is look into Saoirse's pen, which is right beside my bed. Often she pushes the side of the pen up next to the bed and lies along the side, so I have to make sure there will be a place to put my feet!

This morning - pen not pushed beside my bed, and no Saoirse to be found anywhere!

Thankfully my bedroom is small and the door is always closed. A big bunny shouldn't be too hard to find. After all, I found my big escaped tarantula yesterday. I started to bend down to check under the bed first, when I felt a little nudge at my ankle, then a few licks - there she was! I put my hand down but she backed under the bed again. I had to coax her out with some raisins, then I was able to catch her and put her back in her pen. She wasn't too bad to lift, but boy can she kick hard with those huge feet! I had her on her back luckily.

So now her pen has been temporarily converted to a circus tent. I draped a bedsheet over it and clipped the sheet to the sides of the pen. But I think it may be time to move her to the hallway ahead of schedule. She's not getting much light under that sheet, and it's only a matter of time before she discovers she can pull the sheet off, clips notwithstanding. I'm already checking on her ever 15 mins, but so far she's still under the Big Top.

So far the objects in my room seem unscathed, but there was a fair amount of poop and some pee deposited liberally around "her" room!

I'm also seriously considering a bonding partner for Saoirse, because she's clearly an affectionate girl who needs more company than I alone could provide. I was pleasantly surprised at the effect a bonding partner has had on Zelda. I've been researching multi rabbit households and how they do and do not work. I was interested to learn that some people keep more than one group of bonded rabbits in the same household. Rabbits within each group are bonded with each other, the groups live side by side and become accustomed to each others' presence. Of course it only works if all of the rabbits are altered. If I do decide to adopt a partner for Saoirse, it would be a male, and he would be neutered, just as Saoirse will be spayed in a couple of weeks. And I think it makes more sense for her to have a partner of similar size. I'd be concerned she might accidentally hurt a smaller rabbit with a kick. Stewart is smaller than Zelda, but he's still more than half her size.


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