Saturday, October 24, 2009

Inside the mind of a rabbit

People who aren't familiar with rabbits as pets are always asking me what they do. Do they do tricks? Are they fun to play with? Do they know their names?

It's a little hard to answer some of these, though they are definitely fun to play with. Rabbits vary widely, just like dogs and cats. I had one foster rabbit who was incredibly responsive to commands. He would come running at top speed when you called, jump up on the couch when you patted it, and even stand up to "kiss" your cheek when you offered it. I don't know if he understood the words so much as the context and gestures, but he definitely understood.

My current foster bunny, Avery, isn't quite that responsive, but I can't tell if it's because he doesn't want to listen or doesn't know. One thing he definitely knows is the word "no." He quickly learned that the sound of the refrigerator opening or a knife hitting a chopping block often leads to food! But he also had to learn that it could lead to disappointment, when I walk out of the kitchen saying, "No, Avery. No. People food." "No" also means "stop chewing!" Avery is a bit of a chewer, so I do have to keep an eye on him when I let him out. (It's very easy to bunny-proof the key things against chewing, though, and they don't chew randomly.) As with most animals, bribery works very well to get them to move around when words fail. Bits of apple or carrot are all the communication you need sometimes!

I sometimes wish I knew what Avery was thinking. For example, he doesn't mind me playing the guitar, but he does mind A LOT when I walk past him holding it. I've gotten into the habit of keeping my body between the guitar and the pen when I have to move it around. My best guess is that he sees some weird object approaching (not human-shaped) and doesn't know what it is, so he gets scared. I've noticed this a couple of times when I'm carrying other large things. I'm just glad he can stand to listen to me play!

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