Amy Pratt AKA The Bunny Lady
For those of you who don’t know who Amy Pratt is, she’s also known as The Bunny Lady. She’s one of my favourite bunny YouTubers and content creators. She’s super knowledgeable about rabbit care, and kindly agreed to do a bunny 101 crash course and interview for the Carrot & Clover audience.
Here’s what Amy, AKA The Bunny Lady, has to say…
Hi Amy. Please can you tell the Carrot & Clover audience a bit more about who the Bunny Lady is and your work with, and your passion for rabbits?
Hello! I’m Amy Pratt, also known as The Bunny Lady. I’ve been volunteering with rescue rabbits at my local animal shelter for the past 4 years. I work to help socialize rabbits in shelters, and I also teach other volunteers about rabbit behavior and care so others can also work to get our rabbits ready for adoption. Last year I started a blog and a YouTube channel: The Bunny Lady, along with my partner rabbit, Elusive, to help educate people on rabbit care.
What advice would you give to first time bunny parents or people who are interested in adopting a bunny for the first time? What are the top things they need to know and how can they prepare for the arrival of their new pet?
The two main areas that I would focus on to make sure you are set up for success is to make sure your rabbit has a healthy diet and to make sure your rabbit has enough space.
A healthy diet for a rabbit should consist of mainly hay. Fresh leafy greens are also healthy for rabbits and should be given on a daily basis. Pellets are mistakenly thought of as a staple of a pet rabbit diet. However, they should actually be kept to a minimum. And common fruits and vegetables (including carrots!) should only be given as treats.
Rabbits also need a lot more space than most new rabbit caretakers expect. The cages that are sold and marketed for rabbits are usually much too small. Instead it’s better to get a rabbit exercise pen, and use that to set up an enclosure for a rabbit. That will give them a lot more space and it’s usually cheaper too.
* Lauren’s note: I created a handy infographic on what rabbits should eat, take a look.
In terms of bunny behaviour, we know that bunnies can act “strangely” at times. Please can you tell us about the most common bunny behaviours and what they mean?
- Binkies: A binky is an adorable twisty jump that rabbits do to express their happiness. It’s the best sign of a happy bunny!
- Flopping: A rabbit flop is when a rabbit is sleeping on their side. It can look scary to a new bunny caretaker because they might appear to be dead, but it’s actually a very good sign because rabbits won’t flop over to sleep unless they feel very safe.
- Nipping: Rabbits might nip you for various reasons, but usually it’s not aggressive. They might nip as a way of grooming you. They can also nip you as a way of telling you to get out of the way.
- Eating their own poop: Rabbits have a special kind of nutrient-packed poop called cecotropes. They need to eat these special poops to get most of the nutrients from their fiber-dense diet. It may be gross, but it’s a healthy behavior for rabbits.
- Thumping: Rabbits can thump their back legs really loudly. It can be a really startling sound and generally means one of two things: your rabbit is very scared, or your rabbit is angry and upset.
- Teeth grinding: Rabbit teeth grinding is also called a rabbit purring and it means your rabbit is happy and content. It is when a rabbit softly grinds their teeth together causing a vibration in their head and whiskers, sometimes you can even hear it.
Amy, what advice would you give to bunny parents of picky eaters? Since I adopted Clover, I have struggled to get her to eat enough hay (she was hand-raised, and this has been the major contributing factor to her not loving and eating as much hay as she should). As a result, she has suffered from teeth problems, requiring multiple dental operations to grind her teeth down. Do you have any tips or tricks that could help get bunnies to eat a proper, healthy diet?
Picky eating in rabbits can be a real problem since hay is usually not as appetizing as the other parts of their diet. The best we can do is try to encourage our rabbits to eat as much as possible. These are some tips you can use to try to get your rabbit to eat more hay:
- Make sure the hay you give your rabbit is as fresh as possible.
- Mix in different types of grass-based hay, such as orchard hay, oat hay, meadow hay, or herbal hay. (avoid alfalfa unless you have a baby rabbit).
- Add your rabbit’s daily pellets and greens to their hay rather than using a separate bowl. This will force the rabbit to forage through the hay to eat the yummy foods. Hopefully they will also munch on some hay in the process.
- Avoid overfeeding on pellets. If rabbits have unlimited pellets available, they’ll almost always go for those and ignore the hay.
- Place the hay in or next to the litter box since rabbits like to munch and poop at the same time.
- Use hay in some fun toys. You can buy or make a toy where you hide a treat in the middle and cover it with hay. The rabbit will be able to smell the treat and will have to get through the hay to reach it.
* Lauren’s note: I love Amy’s last point. I created a post which details how to create your very own DIY bunny toys which you can put hay inside of to encourage your bunny to eat more hay.
Carrot and Clover are partial free-roam bunnies. The only time they are in their hutch is overnight, to keep them safe from any predators that might be lurking outside. When they’re not in their hutch, they have the freedom to roam anywhere they want, be it the garden or house. They often “dig” – both in the garden and on the tiles in the house. What is digging and why do they do it? Is it harmful to them to dig? Also, what is your take on free-roam bunnies vs. bunnies kept in hutches/enclosures?
Digging is a natural behavior for rabbits since in the wild they would be borrowers and dig tunnels underground. It’s definitely best to find ways, as you have, to allow your rabbits to dig as an enrichment activity. Giving your rabbit digging boxes or putting cardboard down on the ground can be ways to let them dig to their heart’s content without worrying that they’ll tear up a carpet.
I think it’s really awesome that so many people are starting to free-roam their bunnies in their homes. It allows rabbits to be treated more as companion pets, the way cats and dogs are. That being said, it is important to make sure the house is completely rabbit-proofed so the rabbit can’t get into any danger. Some rabbits are incredibly stubborn and it can be tricky to find ways to allow them to roam around without some supervision. I think your solution is really great, because it gives the rabbits plenty of time to spend with the family, but it also keeps them from getting into trouble at night when you can’t watch over them.
Bonding with bunnies can be tricky. For example, when we adopted Carrot in 2018 (the vet estimated he was around 4 months old), he was a completely feral bunny. He was born in a park near me, which is a local hotspot for people dumping pet bunnies and has its own feral bunny colony. It has taken the better part of 2 years to get him to trust us, and he is still a bit skittish around humans. It’s a slow process, and most people won’t adopt a feral bunny, but how should people go about bonding with their new bunnies?
Usually the best approach to helping rabbits be friendly with people is to make sure you’re patient with them. Go slow and give your rabbit a choice in their interactions with you. Let them explore and come up to you when they are ready to, and try not to make them feel trapped or cornered. You can sit on the floor near them with some treats to reward them for approaching you. This will give your bunny a positive association with people. Rabbits are social and curious creatures by nature, and if you give them time and space they’ll eventually learn to trust you.
You also don’t want to pick up your rabbit too often. This is a big mistake that a lot of people make. Rabbits often feel trapped when they are in someone’s arms, since there is no way to escape. So if you pick up your rabbit too often, it can cause them to be afraid of you and run away. It might be necessary occasionally, to clip their nails for example, but you don’t want to pick your rabbit up very often if they are still learning to trust you.
What are the main health concerns that pet bunnies face? How can people be aware of them and what signs/symptoms should people look out for?
Rabbits are prey animals, which means they’ve evolved to hide symptoms of sickness to avoid being singled out by predators. This means that we have to pay attention to subtle changes in our rabbit’s behavior to catch any signs of sickness early.
The two most important behaviors to keep track of their health are a rabbit’s eating habits and their pooping habits. These tend to be the first clues of just about any sickness you’ll see in rabbits. So look to see if they’re suddenly eating less, or maybe they used to eat hay but refuse to now. If they’re refusing to eat at all, then that’s an emergency symptom and the rabbit should be brought to a vet.
You want to keep an eye on your rabbit’s daily poop too, in order to make sure that they have faecal pellets that are a consistent size and shape every day. A change in the amount or shape of a rabbit’s poops can be an indication of hidden health problems. If your rabbit stops pooping for more than 10-12 hours, that is another emergency sign and your rabbit should be brought to a vet right away.
Whenever I do an interview with someone, I always ask them this question. What are your top 5 favourite things about bunnies?
- I love watching rabbits binky!
- Rabbits are quiet pets, so they won’t be barking or meowing at you all day long.
- I love meeting all different kinds of rabbits with their spunky personalities.
- When my rabbit grooms me to tell me she loves me.
- I love learning about rabbit behavior. It’s really fascinating to me and it’s fun to learn how to decipher what a rabbit is feeling based on their body language.
If you have any questions for Amy The Bunny Lady, you can contact her on her website here, she has a wealth of interesting and helpful content. Plus, if you sign up to receive her newsletter, you’ll get a free PDF guidebook on the basics of rabbit care.
My goal is to be a resource for new bunny parents and to advocate for bunny rescue and adoption. If you enjoyed this article, please follow me on Facebook and Pinterest for more about Carrot & Clover as well as fun & helpful bunny content.
Love & binkies – bye for now!