Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Rabbit update

So after we got Pipkin neutered, we kept the rabbits separated for a month to make sure he wouldn't be able to impregnate Pepper. It takes that long for all the sperm to die out, I guess. Then, finally, I took the rabbits out to some neutral territory (the landing of the stairs, where neither of them had ever been) to introduce them. After a lot of initial humping (Pipkin on Pepper) and chasing (Pepper fleeing Pipkin), they eventually made friends and became quite snuggly and adorable, like so:

Eventually we trusted their bond enough to move Pepper into the large cage with Pipkin, where they would often sleep cuddled together:

And this was the state of affairs when we left them together and went off to Turkey for two weeks.
Upon our return, we found out that the rabbits had been peeing on the floor outside the cage while locked up, every day. This was unusual but I figured it was a product of boredom and frustration. Then we witnessed some minor fights and serious chasing, which I thought were mating behavior. Pepper was coming of age, after all. She was probably ready to mate.

As it turns out, Pepper was indeed coming of age, but not the way we thought. A few days later, Pepper had hopped up onto the large box that holds the rabbit supplies, and I was sitting on the floor beside it. As Pepper hopped away from me, I saw, to my surprise, furry lumps dangling on either side of "her" tail. WHOA, I said. Pepper has BALLS! PEPPER IS A BOY!!!

I was shocked and horrified and disappointed. Minor though it was, this required a definite paradigm shift! All the rabbits' behavior had to be interpreted in a new light now. Clearly the pee-spraying was actually a territory-marking contest, in which they would not cease as long as Pepper retained his male hormones. They were not going to stop fighting and be friends. They were going to fight more and more, and pee more and more, as long as they were together.

So we separated them again and resigned ourselves to another several months of climbing over a gate whenever we need to go between the kitchen and the living room. Now Pipkin is in his original small cage in the kitchen. The big cage and the living room are occupied by the big brown rabbit, whom we have renamed Hazel (also a name from Watership Down, you may notice) to facilitate a change in our perception of him. At present he is scrabbling back and forth under the fluttering curtains, shoving a collapsed cardboard box around with powerful thrusts of his hind feet.

Hazel weighs at least six pounds now, probably seven, since it's been a few weeks since we weighed him, and he doesn't look like a baby any more. He's a big, handsome rabbit:

Thankfully, he is still willing to cuddle even though he's growing up. Pipkin is as small and cute as ever, and still determined to dominate even though Hazel is more than twice his size. Hopefully they will be friends again eventually, like their namesakes in my favorite animal story, but in the mean time we have found an equilibrium, and I can be grateful simply that the peeing and pooping are over.

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