How a turtle and two rabbits came to join our family

I had a really intense week last week and this week I’m giving myself some space to go a little slower.  Despite my mind being full of lots of deep stuff I’m going to make a similar shift here and share something light.  :)

Before we moved into our home here, the people moving out told us they were leaving behind their turtle in the yard.  I didn’t mind and the reason is that a couple of years ago ds7 found a turtle.  He was delighted with this pet, until a sibling took it to the park and forgot about it long enough for it to disappear into the bushes.  He was extremely upset and after searching for a long time, I told him if we found another turtle we could keep it.  But we didn’t find another turtle.

When we came to our new home for the first time, after the younger boys finished exploring I told them there was a special surprise in our yard – a turtle was hidden there and they needed to find him!  They were so excited and happy when they found our new pet.

Speedy the turtle

Speedy hustles across the yard when he sees the veggies arrive

Speedy is surprisingly interesting to observe and it’s nice to have a pet that requires no care, can fend for itself outside, makes no mess or noise and costs no money to maintain.

Then a month after moving in we were given a pet cage.  My kids kept suggesting we get a  rabbit now that we  had a cage for one!  I’ve refused this for a long time because I didn’t want the mess or smell of a rabbit cage inside our home.  But since we now have a yard I agreed we could look into it.

I thought it would be ideal to get a baby rabbit to raise so it would be gentle and used to children.  Before we had a chance to go to the pet store and look at baby bunnies, I got a message that someone locally was giving away a rabbit and when we saw how friendly and cute she was we decided to adopt her.

She turned out to be a great pet.  It was nice to see how much she enjoyed our children and being in our home, and we enjoyed her as well.

Ds9 with Nessy

Ds9 with Nessy

As we learned about rabbits, we read that they’re social animals that are happiest with a rabbit friend.   I was satisfied with just one rabbit but thought it wasn’t fair to the rabbit to keep her alone.  Two weeks later when someone else was giving away a rabbit, we adopted her as well.   We had visions of the two rabbits happily hopping around together but if I had researched more before taking this step, I would have learned that was a fantasy.

It’s quite a job introducing a new rabbit to an existing rabbit.  Love at first sight?  Far from it.  These two gentle rabbits quickly had to be separated because they ferociously attacked each other within a couple of minutes.  It reminded me of a common reaction of an older child when a new baby is born – to defend his territory and position in the family.

Enter dd14 who has many gifts, one of them being her compassion to people and animals.  We learned about how to bond rabbits and with her intuitive sense of how to do this, she did an amazing job.  After a bad introduction like theirs it usually takes much longer than usual and we read that we should it expect it to take weeks for them to be able to get along, but somehow dd14 bonded them within three or four days and they quickly became the best of friends.

Relaxing together on a hot day

Relaxing together on a hot day

I had mixed feelings about the second rabbit, Fluffball.    In the beginning she was so passive that she hardly moved around.  She hopped in a heavy way that was more like taking a step.  If held, she’d sit on your lap forever but wouldn’t move a bit.  Then her behavior changed dramatically after she was introduced to the second rabbit.

The rabbits bonded and were happy together, but she wasn’t affectionate with us.  She bit my kids several times, dug holes like crazy and didn’t seem happy here.  I seriously contemplated finding a new home for her and this didn’t happen only because ds9 had such a very upset reaction when I told him someone was on the way to our house to take her.

My kids laugh at my psychological interpretations of rabbit behavior but here’s my explanation for this rabbit’s behavior.  What I’m now sure of is that she was depressed because of the death of the two other rabbits she grew up with before she came to our home and this was why she was so extremely passive.  She was then further traumatized by her move to a new home with an aggressive rabbit and a new environment.  I now see that her high speed digging wasn’t typical rabbit behavior but was her way of dealing with anxiety.

After a few weeks she settled down and is calm and gentle, friendly and loves being around us.  She digs a bit but nothing like what she did before.

It’s been very educational having rabbits and we’ve learned about their feeding and care, their social structure and habits.  I’ve learned that commercial rabbit food is as poorly designed to keep them healthy as commercial human food is for people.  The expensive premium rabbit blend that is sold actually consists of things that will make a rabbit sick and should never be given to them.  Go figure.

I had no idea what nice pets rabbits make!  They’re very social and friendly.  They run to the garden door when they hear us coming, sit next to our feet waiting to be petted and love when we’re around.  They are  quite comical when they try to sneak in the house and guiltily jump out when they hear someone call their names.  Since we keep them in the yard, it’s very easy to care for them.

Recently someone was telling me about the animal therapy in the school her child attended.  I asked what that meant, and it seems that petting an animal and feeding it is considered therapeutic.  Our kids get to do that every day so I can now add animal therapy to the list of things that we offer our homeschooled children.  :)


6 thoughts on “How a turtle and two rabbits came to join our family

  1. So sweet, Avivah! In preparation for Aliyah 8/17 we have just given up our two rabbits and next week out turtle goes to a new home….One bit of advice: have a bottle of infant gas drops (simethicone) on hand for the bunnies. Bunny tummies can get upset and it can kill a bun. We successfully saved one of our buns using simethicone (after our first bun died [likely from over eating] before we knew re simethicone…..

  2. Very important to know: rabbits are extremely sensitive to heat and can doe from hot weather. Please freeze a couple of large soda bottles filled with water and keep them outside on the ground in the shade so the rabbits can lie against them to keep cool and replace as needed when they melt.

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