Monday, August 6, 2012

A cage too far.

Simon and River had been getting along so well for the past week that we decided to put them back into their original cage.  I decided to let them run around for a bit while I cleaned out their separate smaller cages and got the big cage set up for them.  They frolicked about and "helped" me put the big cage together.  Here they are snuggling in their litter box.  I can't believe that they were so little when we brought them home that I had to cut down the side of it so they could hop in it.
Well, River is still pretty tiny and has no problem accepting a leg-up from Simon even though she can easily hop in and out of the big cage.
This laying position brings back memories of when they were babies and one would always drape themselves across the other.
Time for a quick nap.  Exploring really takes it out of you!
And then things went to Hell in a hand-basket.  Apparently, someone woke up cranky from their nap.  The next thing I know is that they were rapidly circling one another in the litter box, which caused me to sprint over to them to try to break up their little scuffle.  I got to play the role of bunny cage-match referee and stupidly decided to intervene bare-handed.  This is what I learned:

1.  Bunnies have sharp freakin' teeth, poor eyesight, and even worse depth perception.
2.  Over one week of at least 1 hour per day of okay acting bunnies roaming freely in an apartment doesn't translate to two bunnies being okay in an enclosed space (even if it's a very large cage) for more than two hours.
3.  Bunnies look like they're getting along and are happy until the split second when they really really aren't.  Your brain has just about enough time to process, "Aw, they're snuggl-WTF?!"  Suddenly, both bunnies are rapidly circling one another attempting to mount the other while avoid being mounted when one bunny is knocked over onto its back and then comes the kicking and fur flies as the other is attempting to pounce/scratch/bite the downed bunny (in this case, River because she's so much smaller and easily bowled over) and the downed bunny begins acting like a cornered wolverine...fighting rapidly escalates.
4.  If you ever find yourself in a position where you need to break up a rabbit fight, wear THICK leather bite gloves much like you would when approaching a snarling dog.  A second person is also a must if you want a snowball's chance in Hell of keeping them separated long enough to actually pull one from the cage they're fighting in.
5.  Two angry rabbits are extremely hard to grab ahold of and keep separated.  If you manage to grab only one bunny, the free bunny has no sense of honor and will happily attack the other while it's pinned down.  I assume the free bunny thinks you're helping them make a point.  The free bunny doesn't even realize they're biting you instead of their intended target (see #1).
6.  It's amazingly difficult to do an injury check on a bunny using bandaged hands while still bleeding.  Bunnies are more interested in checking out bandages than they are in letting you ruffle their fur in all directions looking for bites and scratches. 
7.  I really need better resources when it comes to bonding two rabbits because I did everything some well-respected rabbit care websites mentioned (save the stress bonding because they're litter mates and have never left each others sight) and this was the end result.

And the evening started out so well!  The bunnies were getting along and had stopped the head humping by day two or three, no signs of aggression, mutual grooming, and pretty much acting like they did before the hormones kicked in.  I'm like, "Sweet!  They're getting along, no fights, they've figured out their social hierarchy so let's get them in the big cage again."  Queen mother of all bad ideas.

The casualty report:  Ben-unharmed, Simon-lost a bit of fur but otherwise fine, River-on her left shoulder she lost a large chunk of fur leaving a bald patch and received a long scratch where I had to put peroxide and neosporin on it, Me-right hand has two puncture wounds where someone's jaws grabbed around the knuckle of my pointer finger while the left hand ring finger sustained a puncture wound and is now missing a fairly deep strip of flesh on its outer edge towards the pinkie finger but it thankfully missed the nail entirely (I'm actually amazed the bleeding stopped on its own and it didn't need cauterized).  At least they both had the good grace to look ashamed when I showed them what they did to me--they both tried to nuzzle around the numerous band-aids and bonk noses with me.  I assume that's rabbit for, "Well, duh!  You don't try to break up fights dummy!  But, we like you anyway.  How are your paws?"  No one got oats that night.

To sum up, bunnies don't treat a neutral cage as they would the space they've been free to roam around in together.  That little tid-bit of info would've really come in handy sooner.  Everyone makes such a fuss about neutral territory for the introductions that once bunnies are getting along, the prospect of them fighting if you put them together someplace else isn't ever mentioned.

There is a happy ending, though.  I left them in their separate cages for the first day to recover from their fight.  On the second day, I let them out separately and noticed that they would go over to the other bunny's cage and nuzzle and give kisses through the bars.  On day three, I allowed them out together and watched them like a hawk.  Thankfully, they acted as if no fight had occurred...
I think Simon is apologizing for the shoulder scratch by styling River's fur.
Where have we seen this before?  In an attempt to have them treat the big cage as any other part of the living room, I've left the top off of it so they can jump in and out as they please (I've basically just turned it into another toy).  We'll see how this works for the next few weeks and then we'll place the wire top on it and give it another few weeks before we do short bouts of closing the door on them to get them used to it being their main living quarters.  I'll let you know how that works out.


Kristin said...

That's rough. :( It doesn't sound like anything's been done wrong but maybe they just need more time to adjust. Perhaps increase the time they spend together slowly?

I agree that bunny bite suck. My hands do a great job showcasing that experience. It sounds like you got the butt end of all of it though. Don't give up hope! It sounds like they love each other but aren't ready to be roommates yet.

P.S. Have any pictures of the pair as babies that you'd like to share? :)

Courtney said...

I'm glad to hear that I didn't utterly botch this up. Sorry to hear you've had similar experiences. I'm just glad they're both doing okay and our wounds are pretty much healed now.

I'm in the process of increasing the time they're out together, but it's hard to do when they do their divide-and-conquer method of mischief-making. I keep getting tag-teamed by them since they made their couch discovery. One will be on the couch and looking like they're about to jump down and hit the coffee table while the other is trying to jump into the kitchen trash can or go behind the entertainment center. They're keeping me on my toes!

I'll have to look for the baby pics and I know I have video of their homecoming, so I'll have to splice a movie together and post it. :)