How a new friend helped my heart-broken rabbit go from rock bottom to sky high
A guest blog by Ren Shilcock, rabbit rehomer and fundraising email officer.
Last year, I welcomed Rocket into my home to be a companion for my existing rabbit Luna, following the loss of her hus-bun. It took six tough weeks of bonding to get them together, but now they're stuck together like glue.
Read Rocket and Luna's story: Adopting a companion for my lonely rabbit (and helping them bond!).
Unfortunately, in February this year, Luna passed away unexpectedly following a short battle with dental issues - sadly common in lop-eared rabbits.
"My once happy-go-lucky binky boy was depressed"
The death of Luna affected us all and it wasn't long before I noticed a dramatic change in Rocket's behaviour. My once happy-go-lucky binky boy was depressed. He would lunge at me, he'd have little melt-downs, he wouldn't settle and he became destructive.
He'd run from room to room searching for Luna and he'd thump his feet in frustration when he couldn't find her. A check over from the vet confirmed that there was nothing physically wrong with him - he was grieving the loss of his partner.
"I realised pretty quickly that he needed another companion"
Seeing how upset Rocket was at now being alone, I realised pretty quickly that he needed another companion to live with. I wrote up a profile for Rocket and began emailing it to my local RSPCA branches in the hope someone somewhere might have a friend for him.
It wasn't long before the RSPCA Norfolk West branch got in touch to say they were due a female rabbit who might be a suitable match for Rocket. I put our names down and waited. Two weeks following the death of Luna, and a week after hearing about this new possible match, I emailed again to ask how she was doing and whether I could get more information.
Read more: Should rabbits be kept around other animals?
"Without even seeing a photo, I said that I'd like to give her a shot"
I was told her name was Pumpkin, that she was four years old, and that she had just lost her partner. Without even seeing a photo of her, I said that I'd like to give her a shot at having a home with me and a partnership with Rocket.
On 20 February, I made the journey to the branch to meet Pumpkin with the aim of adopting her. I was greeted by the friendly staff and then began filling out the required paperwork while an Animal Care Assistant went to collect Pumpkin. It was then that I was told something very important about Pumpkin's health - she was morbidly obese.
"I wasn't a stranger to dealing with overweight rabbits"
I didn't let this put me off from adopting her, but my jaw almost hit the floor when I got a first look at her. I had never seen a rabbit quite so round.
A year of too many treats and not enough time outside had led her to quite literally balloon in size. Although her chubby appearance did make her look cute, it drastically affected her overall health and capabilities.
She couldn't hop very far without getting tired and she couldn't jump. She spent most of her time laying down rather than sitting up.
Thankfully I have an escape-proof garden so every day she'd have access to the outdoors to get some fresh air and exercise. Luna was also obese when I first rescued her, so I wasn't a stranger to dealing with overweight rabbits and helping them get to a healthy weight - but Pumpkin really was something else!
"I repeatedly walked in on them both stealing kisses"
This part of the story brings us to the main point of this blog - bonding Pumpkin with Rocket! Rocket and Luna took six weeks of "dates" before they could be left alone together, so I braced myself for that and worse. However, I needn't have worried at all. By day two of Pumpkin being in the house, Rocket had already shown a positive interest in her, and she for him.
I had split my kitchen in half with metal dividers to keep them separate, and I repeatedly walked in on them both laying up against each other through the bars and even stealing kisses!
Read more: How to introduce rabbits to each other.
"They were desperate for someone to cuddle up with."
By day four of having Pumpkin home, I took the plunge to put them in the same neutral space. Ordinarily, I would have waited at least a week before these sorts of introductions, but there was just something about these two that was different. They both had lost their companions and were desperate for someone to cuddle up with and you could see that just by looking at them.
Armed with my thick gardening gloves, I braced myself for the worst when I let them both meet each other without the divide of metal bars. But I had nothing to worry about at all.
After a quick sniff of each other, they both happily munched on hay and other fresh veg together, as if this was their hundredth meeting rather than their first. And the rest as they say was history!
Rocket's behaviour completely changed once more, and whenever I let him out to the garden he binkied higher than I'd ever seen him before! Even Pumpkin managed to do little hops and binkies with him.
"It's very clear to me that they really love each other"
Despite their size differences (Rocket is a giant rabbit and weighs in at over 4.5kg, and despite being overweight Pumpkin is a mini lop rabbit and at her heaviest weighed 2.6kg).
Rocket is a true gentleman and is very careful and gentle with her. It's very clear to me that they really love each other.
They won't go anywhere without the other and they spend a lot of their time cuddled up together and grooming.
I always knew rabbits needed to live with at least one other rabbit companion, but seeing Rocket go from rock bottom to sky high has really solidified this for me.