Hello, new with an unusual situation

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I'm inheriting a rabbit unfortunately under tragic circumstances. My friend died unexpectedly in her home and without giving details, it wasn't natural causes. The animal control officer who had to capture her two cats and rabbit used the words traumatic and traumatised so many times, I felt like she was the one who needed a hug the most.

The bunny I think is about 8 years old. She rescued him from a neglectful situation about 7 years ago and was a very doting animal mummy. He lived in her apartment with her two cats. He'll be at the shelter another few days until my friend's surviving relative can get here to release him to me and we can retrieve all of the bunny supplies he already had in his home. I think it will help him to adjust to the new home if he has the things and scents that are familiar to him. He hasn't had a thorough medical examination yet as the staff said they didn't want to further traumatise him (that word again) after what he had been through by poking and prodding the poor fella. His vitals are good and they haven't seen a need for medical intervention. The staff have all been very kind and compassionate and I believe they are taking special care of these animals.

I had bunnies on a farm growing up with one that stayed in the house with me. That was eh, a few decades ago so it's been a while. I'm moving to a house in a few months but at the moment live in an apartment with a 10 year old female cat, a 1.5 year old male cat and a 12 year old female miniature dachshund. The cats can play a bit rough, the young boy kitty likes to tackle but he has learned to be gentle with the little dog so I think he'll do the same with the bunny. They're all very chill and affectionate animals that love to cuddle together and with me. The bunny lived happily with her two cats so I have hope he'll adjust to mine. My mini-dachshund is a very caring and gentle creature as well. She doesn't nip or bark at anyone at all (I joke that she's a lousy guard dog).

Again, it's a very unexpected situation. Dealing with the loss and taking in the bunny - this was not the week I was expecting to have when I awoke on Monday. I do work from home thankfully, so I'll be here to supervise but if anyone has any advice on taking in and acclimating a poor little fella that's been through so much - I welcome it.
 

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Sorry to hear what you are going through.

For now, probably the best thing for the rabbit, once he gets to your home, is to keep him confined to a large cage. I don't know if he had a cage of any sort at his prior home. But even if he did not, it is less stressful for the rabbit to have a limited "safe" space while he acclimates to all the new sights, sounds, and smells of his new home. Ideally this cage/space would be cat and dog proof. I'd keep him confined for about 2 weeks before worrying about getting him face to face with the other pets. In the meantime, they will be able to see each other through the cage bars.

I'd also suggest having some sort of hidey available within the cage as well. (I assume there is a rabbit litterbox, etc with which you are familiar.) With the hidey, he'll have the opportunity to retreat away from prying eyes if he feels the need.

During the 2 weeks of confinement, talk to him and go about your daily routine. Avoid reaching in to pet him. Doing so would violate his "safe" zone. There will be time for pettings later, once he's had time to adjust. Having to be housed elsewhere right now will be difficult for him and just as he may start to get adjusted, he's going to be switched again (to your home). So this is why he needs time in a confined, protected space. After the couple weeks, if you have questions about making introductions to the pets, hop back on here and ask.

Hopefully this 2 week time period will also be good for you -- simple care of the rabbit without directly interacting with him or worrying about him interacting with the other pets. Less to worry about (at least for a short while) while you deal with your loss.
 
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Thank you so much. Just before you replied I had gotten a really good promotional offer on Instacart for pet supplies so I ordered a cage, hay, pellets, rabbit bedding, apple wood sticks and whatnot. I was thinking perhaps for a while he should be in the cage to get to know his new family before we move to a more free range style. You just confirmed what I was thinking! It should be easy to install a flap door for him to have a privacy area in it, that's a very good idea. At the shelter he's currently in a carrier with the staff letting him out for exercise so this should be a good for his transition. It doesn't look like I'll be able to pick him up until Monday. There's some paperwork processing that needs to be approved by a supervisor and they were off this week. I think I may have to move his cage to the bathroom at night as my cats act like rock stars in a hotel room in the middle of the night.

It's a lot to process but getting the animals sorted was the first priority as that would have been my friend's first concern. I'm sure I'll be back for more and browsing through the forum once the dust settles a little. Thank you again!
 

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Just as a heads up - try to change as little as possible in the rabbits diet, if possible stick to whatever he was used to for now. As little new stuff as necessary. Good idea to keep his initial space rather small, so he can settle in more easily.

Good luck
 
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Just as a heads up - try to change as little as possible in the rabbits diet, if possible stick to whatever he was used to for now. As little new stuff as necessary. Good idea to keep his initial space rather small, so he can settle in more easily.

Good luck
Thank you - I have been a bit concerned about that as well. I don't know what the shelter is feeding him and we won't have access to her home until Wednesday to see what she was feeding him. Should I only feed him the Timothy Hay at the start? The bunnies I had before were farm animals which as you know are treated differently than house pets. They got veggie scraps and the big bag of food that was sold at the feed supply. Also, it was the 70s so there wasn't much science involved. I'm vegetarian so for once I'll have an animal that is thrilled with my salad scraps! I'm trying to recall what it was she bought for him at the farmer's markets she said he loved so much. I think it was the heads of beet root and I think I recall the bunnies I had before really loving turnips. I'm reading as many articles I can about bunny nutrition but I like to learn from other owners as well with practical knowledge. A proper, nutritional diet for the animals is important to me, my dog and cats are fed raw. I read that salt licks aren't necessary for bunnies anymore but I got him one just in case. I'll let him decide if he needs it.
 
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That's very sad. I'm so sorry for your loss. It's wonderful that you can make room in your family for his bunny.
Thank you. Fortunately, another friend stepped forward last night to take the cats so the animals are now sorted. That would have been her first priority and it was for us as well.
 

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I read that salt licks aren't necessary for bunnies anymore but I got him one just in case. I'll let him decide if he needs it.
Correct. Salt licks should not even be offered except in specific circumstances (like a rabbit that cannot tolerate eating pellets).

Pellet food already contains the salt and minerals needed for a rabbit's health. The process of eating those pellets provides one of the necessary chewing motions needed to keep a rabbit's teeth worn down properly. By providing a mineral or salt lick, bunny may rather get those minerals in a way that does not promote correct dental wear. Licking a wheel does nothing to promote dental wear.

As mentioned, best not to alter or change the diet -- at least not for the first few weeks. Best to not introduce any greens that you aren't sure he's already been used to eating. Offering just hay until you get the chance to see what else he's been eating is a fine idea. Just be sure he's good about eating plenty of the hay.
 
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Correct. Salt licks should not even be offered except in specific circumstances (like a rabbit that cannot tolerate eating pellets).

Pellet food already contains the salt and minerals needed for a rabbit's health. The process of eating those pellets provides one of the necessary chewing motions needed to keep a rabbit's teeth worn down properly. By providing a mineral or salt lick, bunny may rather get those minerals in a way that does not promote correct dental wear. Licking a wheel does nothing to promote dental wear.

As mentioned, best not to alter or change the diet -- at least not for the first few weeks. Best to not introduce any greens that you aren't sure he's already been used to eating. Offering just hay until you get the chance to see what else he's been eating is a fine idea. Just be sure he's good about eating plenty of the hay.
Thank you, again! I did find out today that he was treated earlier this year for too much calcium and I've bookmarked a page with vegetables and their calcium levels to avoid that happening again.

He's still with animal control due to a paperwork issue. He's been there since last Monday and I'm hoping to get him this Monday. I'm very concerned about all of the dietary changes he's been through this week along with the stress. They have been hesitant to do a medical examine due to the stressful situation and not wanting to upset him more. That has me wondering if I should take him straight to my vet or give him time to settle first?
 

JBun

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I think that would depend on how well he's adjusted. Best way to tell if something is wrong with a rabbit is by how well they're eating and by their poop. If a rabbit isn't eating well or at all, something is wrong. It could be stress related, or it could be a health issue causing discomfort and pain. Also a rabbit not eating well will have changes in their poop usually.



If he's eating well and pooping/peeing normally, then I would probably go for letting him get settled in first, instead of subjecting him to a stressful vet visit. But if he's not eating well, especially with his preexisting calcium issue, then he definitely should be checked out. If your vet isn't an experienced rabbit vet, I would strongly urge finding one for him, as a normal cat/dog vet doesn't have the necessary knowledge to deal with rabbits.


If you aren't able to find out the exact type and brand of pellets he's been getting, yes, like Blue Eyes mentioned, you can always start out with feeding a good quality grass hay, as you gradually transition a new pellet type into the diet. Though when feeding hay only, you do have to make sure your rabbit is eating the hay really well, which would be a pile slightly larger than the size of the rabbits body per day being consumed.

If you end up having to change pellet types from what he's been getting at the shelter, to transition new pellets into a rabbits diet, start with a small amount of pellets and gradually increase the amount each day, over a 2-4 week period, depending on the digestive sensitivity of your rabbit. During this time, keep an eye out for mushy cecotropes or odd shaped/consistency fecal balls, which could indicate a sensitivity to the pellets and a need to decrease the amount being introduced each day. Also keeping an eye out for lack of appetite, as this can also indicate a problem.


Rabbits should always have grass hay available for them to eat(unlimited, never runs out), and it's good to refresh it at least twice a day, adding enough on top of what's leftover, to replace the amount already consumed. I've found a medium coarse cut to be the best, that's a mix of more soft and some hard stems(soft stems provide nutrients and protein, hard stems provides fiber for good gut motility). Too coarse a cut doesn't have enough nutrients. A leafy cut is usually ok too, though it can be too rich of a cut for some rabbits.


Because he has a preexisting problem with bladder sludge(calcium build up in the bladder), this is a lifelong issue that will need to be managed, with diet and vet checks. Though some places online might say low calcium doesn't affect it, with my bladder sludge prone buns I found it was very important to manage the calcium amount in their diet. I had to feed very minimal low calcium pellets and low calcium veggies. Some calcium in the diet is important, but if there's too much white sediment coming out in the urine, then it means they're getting more calcium in their diet than is needed. That's how I was able to tell with my rabbits anyways.

Good hydration is important for bladder sludge prone buns, so water dish only. Rabbits tend to not drink as well from a sipper bottle. And if your tap water contains high calcium levels, an option is to use bottled water that's low calcium. Encouraging movement will also help, especially hopping up and down from things, to keep the bladder contents churned up making it easier to expell the calcium sediment when a rabbit urinates.

Another thing you could try is sherwood urinary tabs. I can't say if they actually help or not as I didn't get a chance to try them with my rabbits, but they seem promising, so may be worth a try if you feel diet alone isn't managing the issue.


Low calcium diet for rabbits


I'm very sorry about your friend. This rabbit is really lucky to have you. Someone willing to step in and provide him with stability and a good life, especially with him being an elder bun with some health issues, as not many people are willing to take that challenge on.
 
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I think that would depend on how well he's adjusted. Best way to tell if something is wrong with a rabbit is by how well they're eating and by their poop. If a rabbit isn't eating well or at all, something is wrong. It could be stress related, or it could be a health issue causing discomfort and pain. Also a rabbit not eating well will have changes in their poop usually.



If he's eating well and pooping/peeing normally, then I would probably go for letting him get settled in first, instead of subjecting him to a stressful vet visit. But if he's not eating well, especially with his preexisting calcium issue, then he definitely should be checked out. If your vet isn't an experienced rabbit vet, I would strongly urge finding one for him, as a normal cat/dog vet doesn't have the necessary knowledge to deal with rabbits.


If you aren't able to find out the exact type and brand of pellets he's been getting, yes, like Blue Eyes mentioned, you can always start out with feeding a good quality grass hay, as you gradually transition a new pellet type into the diet. Though when feeding hay only, you do have to make sure your rabbit is eating the hay really well, which would be a pile slightly larger than the size of the rabbits body per day being consumed.

If you end up having to change pellet types from what he's been getting at the shelter, to transition new pellets into a rabbits diet, start with a small amount of pellets and gradually increase the amount each day, over a 2-4 week period, depending on the digestive sensitivity of your rabbit. During this time, keep an eye out for mushy cecotropes or odd shaped/consistency fecal balls, which could indicate a sensitivity to the pellets and a need to decrease the amount being introduced each day. Also keeping an eye out for lack of appetite, as this can also indicate a problem.


Rabbits should always have grass hay available for them to eat(unlimited, never runs out), and it's good to refresh it at least twice a day, adding enough on top of what's leftover, to replace the amount already consumed. I've found a medium coarse cut to be the best, that's a mix of more soft and some hard stems(soft stems provide nutrients and protein, hard stems provides fiber for good gut motility). Too coarse a cut doesn't have enough nutrients. A leafy cut is usually ok too, though it can be too rich of a cut for some rabbits.


Because he has a preexisting problem with bladder sludge(calcium build up in the bladder), this is a lifelong issue that will need to be managed, with diet and vet checks. Though some places online might say low calcium doesn't affect it, with my bladder sludge prone buns I found it was very important to manage the calcium amount in their diet. I had to feed very minimal low calcium pellets and low calcium veggies. Some calcium in the diet is important, but if there's too much white sediment coming out in the urine, then it means they're getting more calcium in their diet than is needed. That's how I was able to tell with my rabbits anyways.

Good hydration is important for bladder sludge prone buns, so water dish only. Rabbits tend to not drink as well from a sipper bottle. And if your tap water contains high calcium levels, an option is to use bottled water that's low calcium. Encouraging movement will also help, especially hopping up and down from things, to keep the bladder contents churned up making it easier to expell the calcium sediment when a rabbit urinates.

Another thing you could try is sherwood urinary tabs. I can't say if they actually help or not as I didn't get a chance to try them with my rabbits, but they seem promising, so may be worth a try if you feel diet alone isn't managing the issue.


Low calcium diet for rabbits


I'm very sorry about your friend. This rabbit is really lucky to have you. Someone willing to step in and provide him with stability and a good life, especially with him being an elder bun with some health issues, as not many people are willing to take that challenge on.
Thank you so much, this is an absolute wealth of information! On the hay, do you have an online source to recommend or specific brands? I've realised I did not buy nearly enough. I think I have perhaps a few days worth and the brand is Kaytee for small animals. For the cats and dog I have several water sources around the apartment for them, bowls and fountains and I use Brita water filtration. I live in LA and tap water is terrible here so everyone gets filtered water. A water bottle and bowl did come with the cage I purchased so I was planning on using both for him to have plenty of access.

I am concerned about the amount of exercise he's been able to get for the past week with knowing his bladder condition now. I know the animal control staff are doing their best and they have a personal interest in his condition but they do have other jobs. Fortunately, with working from home I think it will be easy to let him hop around while I'm working. The cats take their 6 hour 'nap' when I start working and won't be bothered if I keep them shut in my bedroom during that time. I do know they like to eat cords and I've got all of mine tied together with nylon zip covers. The one indoor bunny I had as a child ate all of the hands and feet of my baby dolls (I never forgot my amputee babies!) so I know to be mindful of rubbery things. I have wee pads that I can cover the floors with whilst he gets accustomed to his new home. My little sausage dog gets walked several times a day but still has oopsies. I also have several baby gates to close off certain areas (the sausage dog is a notorious food thief and litter box connoisseur) so I can start with a small, bunny safe area for him to explore.

I have a cupboard dedicated to animal first aid and supplements. What would you recommend adding to it for the bunny?

Thank you for the information and the kind words. It's a lot to process. I want to do right for the bunny and give him the best possible years in his later life as she would have. I'm the sort to jump into action and take care of business but sometimes I have to make my logical mind stop and let my heart grieve. I've got a very heavy week ahead not just getting the bunny but also helping her sister when she gets here to navigate a terrifying city she's not accustomed to as we come to terms with the loss.
 
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Another thing you could try is sherwood urinary tabs. I can't say if they actually help or not as I didn't get a chance to try them with my rabbits, but they seem promising, so may be worth a try if you feel diet alone isn't managing the issue.
I've just ordered the tabs and their pellets - thank you again for this information, I really had no idea about bunny bladder issues!
 

JBun

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Not all rabbits will be affected with calcium build up problems, but for rabbits that are prone to it, it's important to keep on top of it to try and prevent the build up as best you can. For some rabbits it's just minor and can be managed fairly well, and for other rabbits it will take more intervention by you and your vet to keep it managed.

If you want good pet brands of hay that you can just order and usually not have to worry about the quality being good, I've seen members on here recommend small pet select and rabbit hole. Oxbow also usually has decent quality hay. Buying bulk amounts will save you more over buying small bags.

But the cheapest way to buy hay is from a farm store, farmer, or possibly a horse barn. I've always bought mine from a farm store or farmer. Buying a bale, you do have to make sure you're getting good horse quality grass hay(no mold, no noxious weeds), that's never been wet, wasn't baled wet, has a decent green color to it and isn't sun bleached inside the bale(some sun bleaching on the outside is usually ok), isn't full of weeds, isn't too dusty, and the hay isn't crumbly.

If you don't feel comfortable knowing what to look out for and making sure the hay is good, you might be better off going with one of the reliable pet brands for now. Second cut timothy is usually a good cut for rabbits. Orchard grass is also a good grass hay for rabbits and one rabbits usually like, and may be a good hay for preventing tooth overgrowth. Rabbits usually really like oat hay too, but if you get this hay, you do have to make sure there aren't many mature seed heads in it as that would add too many carbs to the diet.

If you want to make sure your bun is going to like the hay before buying in bulk, maybe order a small amount to start and if it's a good batch that your bun likes, order a larger amount of the same batch. All hay crops are different, and apparently it can really matter to some pickier buns. I've had my rabbits turn their noses up at a new bale that I thought looked really nice :p

I thought I'd also add a few cautions about interactions with cats and rabbits, even though he's used to living with cats. You just have to make sure that if he does have any interaction with your cats, that no biting or scratching happens. Even just a minor scratch from a cat, can end up being deadly to a rabbbit. Also you don't want your rabbit having any access to the cats litter box, as toxoplasmosis can be passed to rabbits from the feces. And clay and clumping cat litters can cause serious health issues for rabbits if ingested.


I would have baby gas drops(simethicone) on hand, as an upset stomach from gas pain is one of the more common issues to occur with rabbits. I also like to have a recovery food mix(oxbow or sherwood) on hand in case a rabbit needs syringe feeding(upon instruction from your vet). Meloxicam suspension(NSAID) is also good to have on hand, but that would require your vet prescribing it.



Free roaming a bunny, you do need to make sure to bunny proof pretty well. A more destructive rabbit will need more bunny proofing. But wires always need to be protected. You've got a jump on that, so that's good. Make sure to keep your charging cords out of reach, as a bun can snip through those before you even have a chance to react.


 
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Not all rabbits will be affected with calcium build up problems, but for rabbits that are prone to it, it's important to keep on top of it to try and prevent the build up as best you can. For some rabbits it's just minor and can be managed fairly well, and for other rabbits it will take more intervention by you and your vet to keep it managed.

If you want good pet brands of hay that you can just order and usually not have to worry about the quality being good, I've seen members on here recommend small pet select and rabbit hole. Oxbow also usually has decent quality hay. Buying bulk amounts will save you more over buying small bags.

But the cheapest way to buy hay is from a farm store, farmer, or possibly a horse barn. I've always bought mine from a farm store or farmer. Buying a bale, you do have to make sure you're getting good horse quality grass hay(no mold, no noxious weeds), that's never been wet, wasn't baled wet, has a decent green color to it and isn't sun bleached inside the bale(some sun bleaching on the outside is usually ok), isn't full of weeds, isn't too dusty, and the hay isn't crumbly.

If you don't feel comfortable knowing what to look out for and making sure the hay is good, you might be better off going with one of the reliable pet brands for now. Second cut timothy is usually a good cut for rabbits. Orchard grass is also a good grass hay for rabbits and one rabbits usually like, and may be a good hay for preventing tooth overgrowth. Rabbits usually really like oat hay too, but if you get this hay, you do have to make sure there aren't many mature seed heads in it as that would add too many carbs to the diet.

If you want to make sure your bun is going to like the hay before buying in bulk, maybe order a small amount to start and if it's a good batch that your bun likes, order a larger amount of the same batch. All hay crops are different, and apparently it can really matter to some pickier buns. I've had my rabbits turn their noses up at a new bale that I thought looked really nice :p

I thought I'd also add a few cautions about interactions with cats and rabbits, even though he's used to living with cats. You just have to make sure that if he does have any interaction with your cats, that no biting or scratching happens. Even just a minor scratch from a cat, can end up being deadly to a rabbbit. Also you don't want your rabbit having any access to the cats litter box, as toxoplasmosis can be passed to rabbits from the feces. And clay and clumping cat litters can cause serious health issues for rabbits if ingested.


I would have baby gas drops(simethicone) on hand, as an upset stomach from gas pain is one of the more common issues to occur with rabbits. I also like to have a recovery food mix(oxbow or sherwood) on hand in case a rabbit needs syringe feeding(upon instruction from your vet). Meloxicam suspension(NSAID) is also good to have on hand, but that would require your vet prescribing it.



Free roaming a bunny, you do need to make sure to bunny proof pretty well. A more destructive rabbit will need more bunny proofing. But wires always need to be protected. You've got a jump on that, so that's good. Make sure to keep your charging cords out of reach, as a bun can snip through those before you even have a chance to react.


Brilliant, thank you again! I've ordered the gas drops and recovery food for the cupboard! I've got a baby gate for the bathroom where the litter box is to keep the dog out. I know bunnies can jump whereas the sausage dog can't so I'll keep a close eye to make sure bunny doesn't. I think while we are still in this apartment, his free roaming time will be limited to the day when the cats are sleeping in my bedroom. Space is more limited here so it will be easier for all of us to do it that way. My male cat is clicker trained so I'll work on training him how to be with the bunny while the bunny is in a cage (not sticking his arms in, swatting and being gentle). Oxbow has mini-bales I can order online which would be more practical space-wise in the apartment. The house we're moving to has a horse ranch for autistic children close by so I'll ask them where they get their hay once we get settled. I'm in the middle of the city right now so anything more than a small bag of hay you can find at Petco needs to be ordered.

I wasn't able to get him yesterday, there is still a paperwork holdup that is getting frustrating. They don't feel the same urgency we do to get him home and settled. Trying again today, fingers crossed that today is the day.
 
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Great news, we got him home today! He initially went to the back of his cage where I have a blanket covering it - as I had expected but when one of the cats came out he instantly perked up! Started hopping around, eating and grooming himself. He doesn't know what to think of the dog, I don't think he's ever seen one until now but he doesn't seem to mind her. The cats though, he clearly loves kitties and is happy to see them. They're doing bunny kisses through the cage as I type this and he's being very playful.
 

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Well, he clearly LOVES cats. After the male woke up last night the bunny started thrashing his cage to be let out. He was out for a few hours playing with them, having the time of his little bunny life. I don't think until this incident he'd ever been in a cage so he was one very angry bunny when I lured him back in with broccoli leaves for the night. I got out the cat tube and tents this morning - again he's having the time of his life. The sausage dog thinks it's her job to protect him and she takes that very seriously. There was one hiss from the male cat and she put him right in his place - don't you be mean to my bunny!

His poops so far all look good and normal. He's eating his hay and drinking his water. He really, really does not like being put in a cage for the night but he'll learn to deal with that. I got a laugh at how angry he got - he slapped those leaves out of my hand and thrashed the cage! He's not at all a frightened bun anymore - he slams head first into my female cat's belly, thankfully she's amused by that. Me, he's not so sure about but that will take time. He does let me rub his head between his ears now and then.

The shelter gave me a bag of his pellets and hay so I can mix it in with his new food. All in all this has gone so well, I'm shocked and thrilled. My friend isn't here anymore but she would be smiling knowing he's so happy and has kitties to play with.
 

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That is so cute ♥️ ♥️ ♥️
That's great that he's adjusted without too much trouble. Please continue to keep us updated. I'm really glad to hear it's all working out so well 🥰
 
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That is so cute ♥️ ♥️ ♥️
That's great that he's adjusted without too much trouble. Please continue to keep us updated. I'm really glad to hear it's all working out so well 🥰
Thank you again for all of your wonderful information and advice! I did get his vet records today, you were spot on about the bland hay diet and recommendations - right with what the vet said. It also listed the brand of pellets which are the same that I have so this should be an easy transition. It seems in his follow up that reducing the amount of greens he was eating fixed the problem. He was deemed an 'anxious rabbit' and they gave him drops to calm him during vet visits and transport. I think he just doesn't like humans much. He's not afraid of me, but he's not interested in me either. He's all about the cats and playing and that works for me. The cats are in the middle of their 8 hour nap right now and he's just sitting across the room keeping an eye on me. I'm just letting him do his thing and adjust to his new home.
 

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Though he may not feel comfortable with people now, there are things that you can do to help build a trusting relationship with your rabbit.

 
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