Cute baby bunny Timmy plays with ball.

My latest Youtube video is here and I also need some photography advice.

Petit bébé lapin “Timmy” joue avec le ballon.

Piccolo coniglietto “Timmy” gioca con la palla.

Whichever language you speak, it’s freaking adorable (also I feel so proud I translated the title and description into French and Italian for Youtube)!  Enjoy cute bunny video (sorry about the wobble):

By the way (and this is why I tagged photography, sorry if that’s going to annoy people I promise I don’t usually do this), does anyone have any tips for photographing fast moving objects that startle if you move too close??  Any tips at all even if they seem obvious?  I find it hard to get my focus etc sorted before the rabbit moves again and he’s so movable!  And when he moves, the light levels change from where he was to where he is, and then I need to change all the settings on my camera by which time he’s moved again!  What do other people do?

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Billy Idol and Slash: Download Festival Day 3 Part I

There’s a good reason I never finished writing about Download Festival. Sunday was the day when I realized that I did not actually know my best friend of 9 years. That’s been one of the hardest things to deal with in the past year. You can get through most things with a good friend by your side. Without one, everything is an uphill battle.

Because the first half of the day pretty much revolved around her (as had the previous day) I was uncertain how to write this post. I had gone to the festival to see bands play. I’m still not really sure why she had gone, but I’d realized on Friday and Saturday that she had virtually no interest in rock bands. Following a narcissist around a festival does has its advantages – the lack of empathy makes them force their way through other people to their “rightful place” at the front of the crowd. What could I do but follow, or risk being separated again?

Billy Idol at Download 2015. I didn't know my camera did this stupid date stamp until I got it home and uploaded everything. How irritating!!
Billy Idol at Download 2015. I didn’t know my camera did this stupid date stamp until I got it home and uploaded everything. How irritating!!

Let’s start with Billy Idol. Surprisingly, there wasn’t a huge crowd amassed yet, and we stopped much further back than we could have done. I got the best view I’d had all weekend. He sang many of my favourites including (of course) White Wedding and Rebel Yell, as well as some of the stuff from his most recent album Kings and Queens of the underground, which I am also rather partial to. Unlike many acts from the ’80s, Billy Idol has never overhauled his fundamental identity, so hearing him today is like hearing him in the ’80s, but better, because now he can do his newer stuff as well (which didn’t exist back then) which is still true to form. White Wedding will always be my favourite, and hearing, seeing, feeling him sing it was worth the cost of the three-day ticket in and of itself. The view, as I said, was excellent, and I wasn’t prepared to leave it (despite protestations from my friend to go and get drinks from the bar. I decided to stand up for my right to get a decent vantage point, and declined to leave the crowd), so when the set change between Billy Idol and Slash was going on, we moved forwards and got almost to the very front. We were nearly 5 rows from the front and the view was fabulous.

Slash came out with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. If that sounds like “Burt Bacharach and His Band,” it’s definitely ironic. There’s nothing stuffy or staid about Slash’s latest act, and I was privileged to witness his incredible guitar playing. When the crowd surged forward, I got propelled to three rows from the front. At some point, my friend told me her feet hurt, and would I walk back to the car park with her to get a change of shoes (about 2 hours round trip given the mud and her walking speed). I told her I’d wait right here for her (!) and turned my attention to the band again. I worried that I might have hurt her feelings, but my less caring side told me I shouldn’t give a crap after the way she’d treated me for the last 3 days. Nothing could drag me away from this.

Slash playing his guitar at Download 2015.
Slash playing his guitar at Download 2015.

Slash did a few things from his Guns N’ Roses days including Sweet Child of Mine, Welcome to the Jungle and Paradise City, as well as some stuff I didn’t know, but the real piece de resistance, the thing that blew me away and which defined Slash as the real genius behind Guns-N-Roses was Anastasia. If you haven’t heard it, there’s a fantastic live version here:

I was surprised to hear him playing the Guns N’ Roses stuff but I can only think that he and Axl came to an “agree to disagree-ment” that meant they didn’t sue each other for playing stuff they co-wrote.

The crowd surged me forwards and I found myself at the very front, clinging to the front rail for dear life.
The crowd surged me forwards and I found myself at the very front, clinging to the front rail for dear life.

Watching Slash play was a real treat. He seemed to zone out from the crowd, from the rest of the band, and just seemed to merge with his guitar, all his focus was on what he was doing. From the outside, he looked like he wasn’t even paying any attention to what he was doing, and the guitar was being handled as carelessly as a child’s toy or a toothpick. Under his hat and sunglasses, and his incredible mop of black curls, however, I could almost feel the energy he was pouring into the guitar. And in return, its strings danced a song under his fingers. I was mesmerized. I’ve seen some pretty incredible acts, but I’ve never seen anything as hypnotic as watching Slash manipulate those metal strings as a man might make love to a woman. Oh God, what I would have given to be that guitar, even just for a minute…

Then he pulled out the 12-string guitar. Mind… blown! Looking far less like a toothpick and more like he’d just swapped his pea-shooter for a chainsaw, his fingers continued to twinkle over the strings.

The crowd kept surging forwards and I could hardly breathe, one row from the front, until I could grip the safety bar and I was finally at the very front. I wasn’t aware that this was the venue (called “monsters of rock” but since renamed, presumably due to notoriety) where Guns N Roses played and there was a crush as the crowd surged forwards that killed two fans in 1988. I could certainly see a dangerous situation was forming, but the site security were managing it excellently without harassing anyone. Several times I helped people climb over the barrier because you couldn’t get out any other way, and security led them round to safety once they were over the barrier. Nobody going over the barrier was trying to get to the stage. Mostly it was mums with kids.

The 12 stringed guitar.
The 12 stringed guitar.

Having now seen a LOT of bands, many of which have been styled “the greatest band of all time” at one time or another, I can definitely say that of all the living guitarists, Slash is the greatest guitarist alive and if you love guitar music he’s definitely one to see playing live. He does NOT do that thing that I’ve noticed at a few other concerts, where the accoladed “lead guitarist” actually barely plays anything and some replacement gets on with the actual music making. I saw that at The Who AND Megadeth, and I was unimpressed. Slash didn’t do that.

Another real treat was watching Myles Kennedy. Because Slash is a great guitarist, NOT a great frontman, he needs a Circus Master to lead the audience, to sing the words, to add that characteristic fizz of energy that Axl Rose used to be able to portray so eloquently (even in his pyjamas).

Myles Kennedy at Download 2015.
Myles Kennedy at Download 2015.

Myles Kennedy is like a stable, more music-focussed Axl Rose, but he’s clearly no imitator – he’s an accomplished artist in his own right, Myles’s voice is more versatile than Axl’s and he can do a lot more with it; I can see exactly why Slash has collaborated with him so much recently – they pair together better than beans and toast, and when you listen to Axl Rose’s “Chinese Democracy” then follow it up with Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators’ “World On Fire” there is just no comparison. I’m sorry Axl, but falling out with Slash was the dumbest thing anyone ever did in history. He’s a Stoke-On-Trent escapee (as am I; I’ve always got time for anyone who gets away from that shithole of shattered dreams) and in my vast experience of attending gigs, he’s the greatest guitarist you can actually see play music. I know I just said it but it bore reiterating. I felt like I was in the presence of a true Maestro. This must have been how people felt when they saw Mozart at concerts back in the day.

Then, like a sparkler or a particularly enjoyable cigarette, the spark that the music gave life to was extinguished as it was time for the next act.

What could Motley Crue hope to offer that even remotely compared to Slash’s mind blowing performance?

I was about to find out.

See what’s on the rest of my Bands Bucket list
Other concerts I’ve reviewed.

My Official Bands Bucket List

So I keep referring to my bands bucket list when I write about things I’ve been up to.  Today I wanted to go back and explain what it is.

You are probably aware that a bucket list is usually something written by people of all ages to ensure that they get to do all the things they’ve dreamed of doing in life – all the things they want to do before they “kick the bucket,” to coin a term.

In my case, that would be my ever-dwindling 30-list and my currently being written 40-list, which are the things I want to do before I reach age 30 and age 40, respectively.  It would probably not surprise you, then, to know that, when I was eighteen, I started this whole thing by writing a 20-list, a set of things I wanted to do before I turned 20.

The Bands Bucket List is very separate.  My age-lists are really more a set of things I feel would be achievements, accomplishments, or that I have some control over.  Things you can get with work and dedication.  They are lists of things that are within my power to make happen, however unique the circumstances would need to be for the achievement to be made.

The reason I don’t include bands on my 30-list and 40-list is because anyone can buy a ticket and travel to a gig.  Yes, some bands only tour in their homeland of Japan or The Faroe Islands, but by and large, live music is a capitalist, class dependent commodity (ooh er) that anyone with time and money can engage in.  For that reason I don’t think it’s an achievement to see The Who or Lynyrd Skynyrd, in the same sense that it would be an achievement to climb a mountain or get a master’s degree.  It would certainly be an achievement to play in a band, an honour that I have never been privy to (flutes tend to get stuck with orchestras rather than popular music bands, and ukuleles are the sonorous pariah unwanted in most ensembles), but seeing a band?  I am responsible for quality control of my lists and I decided it would cheapen the accomplishment of a PhD or climbing Everest to liken them with going to Download Festival (sorry, Download, it’s not that I don’t think your wonderful, but you are very easy).

I did need to keep track of a large set of data though, to make it possible to organize, and as I was spending more and more time on the internet typing different band names into Google, I thought I needed a spreadsheet.  I do love a good spreadsheet.

So I wrote them all down in alphabetical order, every band I could think of who, if their members died in a plane crash and they ceased to exist, I would feel like I’d missed out if I had neglected to attend them.  I know I won’t see all of them, but I wanted to make a concerted effort to see as many as I could while I could.

The list doesn’t distinguish between bands who have been apart for 30 years and those who are still coherent, it does separate out individual artists who are known to currently have a solo career and also link them to the band they used to be in (so, for example, the entry for David Gilmour states “Dave Gilmour/Pink Floyd” and Roger Waters’ entry is “Roger Waters/Pink Floyd”) ensuring that the musical genius that spawned the bands are placed to be seen even when they can’t be in the same room as one another.  Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are another example, where their entries are “Jimmy Page/Led Zeppelin” and “Robert Plant/Led Zeppelin” respectively.  Either entry can be ticked off once the required people have been seen, so if I’d seen Jimmy Page, it would then be at my discretion whether I decided the performance was sufficient to tick off Led Zeppelin, or whether I also wanted to see Robert Plant first.  I have ticked Guns n Roses off because I’ve seen Slash, and his performance with Myles Kennedy would be sufficient to tick off Guns n Roses (although GnR weren’t on my list) even though I haven’t seen Axl Rose and the band he’s put together when he kept the name Guns N Roses.

This list, and the ticking off part especially, has raised two very interesting dilemmas facing the modern music fan of older bands:  To what extent does the name of the band matter if none of the original members survive, and what actually counts as having seen a band?

The naming question is difficult.  So for example, there’s only one founder member of Lynyrd Skynyrd left in the band, but when I went to see them you could tell straight away that it didn’t matter.  Trying to define a band as who they were when they first signed on the dotted line of that fateful first record deal in the 1960s is a constrained and counterproductive way of going about things.  Take Pink Floyd again – guitarist Dave Gilmour wasn’t even in the original line-up, but for many people, he IS Pink Floyd, moreso than any other member.  Likewise, I need to be cautious about letting too many things be defined as the correct band.  It gets to a point where the only member of a band worth seeing is the drummer, and unless it’s Ringo Starr or Keith Moon, you might as well go and see a tribute band and tick off the real thing.  It’s false.  So somewhere between these two polarized opinions lies the way forward.

With The Who it was easy – the lead singer/guitarist and the lead guitarist are both still knocking around, the drummer is Ringo Starr’s son, and the bassist is an excellent session musician.  Hearing them play, you can tell they’re the real deal not some tribute band which have learned their songs meticulously to the letter and never deviate from the script.  They had the spark of Who-ness that made them Who-lesome.  I make no apologies for the wordplay.  Not all wordplay is a pun.

With Guns N Roses it would have been harder, since Axl kept the band name but is the only remaining member.  Seeing Slash play was such a jaw-droppingly stirring experience that I decided there was no way any replacement guitarist could ever possibly outdo him, unless Axl had hired Hendrix or Jimmy Page (which he hasn’t, which is a good job because Hendrix is dead and in either case, they’d want to play like themselves so you’d not get the same result).  It’s all a matter of style and substance.  Tribute bands and lesser replacement musicians can copy the style but have no substance.  Replacement musicians who are greater than the original will have substance but a differing style.  It takes a rare genius to walk the line between these two and still come out on top.  So I ticked off Guns N Roses.

The second dilemma is also one that I could spend years obsessing over if I wanted to:  How much of a band counts as “having seen” a band.  Here are my criteria:

1. It has to be live.

2. I had to be close enough to see and hear the band, not just watch the video screen, because that defeats the point.

3. I have to have heard the actual band play at least one full song.

4. Televised appearances are lovely, but there is so much loss of quality and atmosphere that they can’t possibly count, and the same goes for Youtube and other ways of seeing them.  For example, I watched the Pink Floyd Live 8 performance live on the BBC as it happened less than 20 miles from where I was sat (2 days after my mother had tried to kill me resulting in my being removed and never returning home, and 5 days before the 7/7 bombings), but it doesn’t count as having seen them, even though it had a profound and evelasting impact on the course of my life after that moment and probably stopped me killing myself.  That bit where they played “Wish You Were Here” and dedicated it to Syd had me in tears.

5. It doesn’t matter what they play:  If I wanted to hear a specific song I could buy and listen to the proper recording studio version.  That’s not what I’m looking for in my quest to see these bands.

Then there’s the single criterion for removal from the list:  If there are no living members of a band or if a solo artist dies, they are taken off the list.  Here is the list so far, there are currently 60 entries, and things are always being added:

Click to enlarge, again to zoom.
Click to enlarge, again to zoom.

For planning purposes, only the bands in white/orange matter:  The ones in pale grey are supposed to be ones who are just not touring at all, so they’re discounted from planning purposes (but breakups/reunions etc are so fickle that I don’t exclude reunion tours until the last member has kicked the bucket).  The ones in dark grey are ones I’ve now seen.  The ones in lime green are currently not attainable due to either dates, cost, or some other factor of sheer preposterous awkwardness that makes them unachievable such as announcing on the day of sale, selling out in 10 minutes and placing ridiculous resale criteria on the tickets, that only means that WHEN the tickets are resold, they’re triple the price they would have been so the resellers make even more money.  The ones in lime green are generally ones I’ve written off for this year.

So that’s my bands bucket list.  What do you think?  Who would be on yours?

Meet Our Rabbits

So I thought after all these months, it might be nice to actually introduce our rabbits to you.  I know I put lots of pictures of them up and obviously do all the rabbit care articles as well, so let’s go through them, in order of when we got them:

Banacek (2012-present):

Banacek when he had up ears.
Banacek when he had up ears.

Banacek is a mostly white, with brown splodgy bits on his fur, that used to look exactly like someone had drizzled treacle on his back when he was a baby.  Now he is an adult, it looks more like a respectable snowy camouflage.  We got him in April 2012, the week after Mother’s Day (UK edition, usually 2 months earlier than everyone else has it).  We bought him brand new from Pets At Home because there were no adoption bunnies in a 50 mile radius, and there hadn’t been for months and months (literally, I bought hay, toys and a food bowl for a new rabbit about 7 months before we finally gave up on getting an adopted bunny and just bought one).  He had up ears when we first got him, but after about a year they both gradually became lop ears, apparently this happens sometimes with particular cross breeds where the genes can’t make their minds up whether to give the rabbits up or down ears.  For a while he had helicopter ears, and even now, one of his ears is much more lop than the other.  After about a year, we realised he was profoundly lonely, and given that we weren’t allowed a bunny in our house, we started to look for a new house of our very own so we could bring a friend home for him to adore.  It took a ridiculous length of time but we found our perfect house and then we looked for a friend for him.  He likes to jump on the sofa and try to drink my tea (with soya milk and no sugar, of course – the bunnies are lactose intolerant and I have a milk allergy).  He also has developed a habit of trying to steal my toast in the mornings.

Cleo (2005 to present, we had her 2013-present):

Cleo in front of her home with Banacek.
Cleo (on top of the toy) in front of her home with Banacek (inside the toy).

When we were looking for a friend for Banacek, we were sure that we wanted someone who was adoptable, since we felt bad that we had bought Banacek, even though there were no adoption bunnies at the time.  We looked everywhere but there were no female rabbits for adoption.  Banacek was a male and we knew he hadn’t got on with other males since he’d been neutered at 7 months old, because he had regular playdates with my friend’s rabbits.  At long last, we found an advert on Gumtree.  There were three rabbits up for adoption, all Netherland Dwarf bunnies, about 15 miles from where we lived.  The owners were emigrating.  We phoned and asked questions.  We were initially disappointed, as the female hadn’t been neutered, and neither had one of the males, and the males were kept separate from the female, and they were all eight and a half years old.  We knew bunnies could live to see a decade, but I also knew that this was not always the reality of having a bunny, and I didn’t want my current rabbit to be lonely again in six months if his new friend died.  This was in September 2013.  We asked if we could arrange an introduction, and the following day, we took Banacek on the car ride that would change his life.

Cleo, Sebastian and Neville’s former owners had two outdoor runs, where the bunnies played out all day during the day, then went back to their hutches at night time.  We put Banacek in to meet Cleo.  At first she was terrified – Cleo had never seen such a big rabbit!  She wouldn’t stop running away and we didn’t think this was going to work – she was such an elderly bunny, and Banacek was so young and full of the joys of spring, that it looked doomed to fail.  We left them alone for half an hour, though, and Cleo started offering her nose to Banacek.  Netherland Dwarves do this to say hello, and other bunnies don’t do it as much, so it was astounding to us when Banacek offered his nose back!  He had never done this on any of his playdates with other buns the same size as him!  They soon were chasing each other as a game, rather than out of fear.  Three days later, we brought Banacek back, to check whether they were still going to get on or not, and they remembered each other straight away (which rabbit care websites claim is impossible).  The hardest part was having to put them in separate boxes to get them back down the motorway to our home, as they didn’t want to be apart!

We put them in the living room and let them play together.  I was still worried about leaving them unsupervised so I put Cleo in her hutch outside every night at bedtime, because she is such a tiny rabbit and I didn’t want to close her into Banacek’s hutch in the living room until we knew he was happy for her to be in there – and for about two months, she showed no interest in going into his hutch to explore.  One day, though, she had a bit of a cut on her nose and I wanted to keep her in as the weather was getting colder, so I put her into Banacek’s hutch, ready to pull her out again at the first sign of trouble, but she was ok, he was ok, and we came downstairs the next morning to find them snuggled together on the bottom floor of the hutch.  We did have to make some reasonable adjustments to the hutch as it was designed for a bigger rabbit and Cleo couldn’t climb up to the higher platforms, but once we put extra climbing blocks in for her to get onto, she was soon on the top floor at night time with Banacek – which was his favourite spot!

Cute flopsy fluffy snuggly bunnies

Neville (2005-2015; we had him 2013-2015)

Neville, our little Netherland Dwarf bunny.
Neville, our little Netherland Dwarf bunny.

Neville and Sebastian were twin brothers, and were from the same litter as Cleo.  When we went to get Cleo, my husband fell in love with the boys too.  The only problem?  Banacek didn’t get on with them.  After a couple of scuffles we had to give up on the idea of a rabbit foursome in our living room, so we then had to think seriously about what to do.  We decided that, if we only wanted to get rabbits to be friends with Banacek, then perhaps we shouldn’t get any rabbits at all, not even Cleo, because in our eyes they wouldn’t all be equals.  We re-examined why we wanted rabbits at all, and came to the conclusion that if we brought Sebastian and Neville home, it would be because we liked them and wanted them to be happy in a new home, not with any kind of illusions that they would ever be friends with Banacek (but it would be great if they ever did).  My husband decided he liked them anyway, and so they came home with us too.

Neville was always the loudest, most energetic of the two.  He was the one who had been neutered, and he was definitely the dominant twin.  Sebastian was a quieter bunny and liked to sleep for long hours, while Neville was the most playful little bun, always starting games with his brother.  More than that, they had never been apart since they were conceived by their parents.  When Neville got attacked by Fifer, later on, we took Sebastian to the vet with him to keep Neville’s stress down, and kept them both in the bathroom for a while, until Neville had healed.

Neville went on to make a full recovery, but about eight months later, just one month before his tenth birthday, we found him dead in a corner of his hutch.  We left him out for the other bunnies to see, as this helps them with their grief (if they don’t see the dead bunny, they will assume they are out somewhere, and will sit and wait for them to come home for weeks).  We buried him in our back garden the next evening.

Sebastian (2005-present, we had him 2013-present)

We didn’t think that Sebastian would cope without Neville, and watching him grieve was profoundly sad – if we’d had to guess, we both expected Sebastian to go first, not Neville, as he was less active and often didn’t leave his hutch during the day.  We thought he was winding down in life.  It’s five months later, and Sebastian is still going, still just as inactive as ever.  Occasionally we see him running round, but not often.  We tried introducing him to other bunnies, but it turns out that he wants some peace and quiet in his retirement, and hasn’t been particularly kind to Fifer when we tried to get them to be friends.  We are letting him have his own space as he seems content with the friendship that Katie and Fifer keep offering him through the fences between their rabbit runs, but face to face he is less than polite to them.

Sebastian and Neville snuggled together in the summer.
Sebastian and Neville snuggled together in the summer.

Fifer (2014 to present)

Fifer, enjoying a brisk morning hop.
Fifer, enjoying a brisk morning hop.

When I first saw Fifer in Pets At Home, he was 3 months old, and named Clover, and they thought he was a girl.  I thought she was the most adorable little bunny I’d ever seen, and she clearly was annoyed that she was up for adoption, disliking the attention,  preferring instead to hide in a tunnel so only her back legs and tail were visible.  She was a beautiful wild-looking bunny, and when I asked the store manager if I could handle her, she attacked him viciously, covering his hands in angry bloody scratches in seconds.  They clearly had a history.  The second he passed her to me, Clover stretched out her nose and snuffled mine, to see if I was friendly.  Then, when I brought her closer to me, she licked my face and snuggled into my neck.  She came home that same day, I didn’t care that we already had four rabbits (and really, I had shared ownership of Banacek, who is his own bunny, Banacek has Cleo, and my husband has Sebastian and Neville, so Clover would be a bunny just for me), she was my little darling.  I had high hopes that she would integrate with Cleo and Banacek, and offset how hard it was going to be for Banacek when Cleo died, as Cleo was 9 years old at this point.  Hilariously, I booked her in for a spay, and cried when I gave her to the vet to sort out.  The vet took a look and pronounced her male.  So we changed her name to Fifer.  Fifer got neutered, a procedure I was far less stressed about, and he came home and we stopped trying to introduce him to the other rabbits.  We gave him his own section of the garden to play in, which he really liked.  After about three or four months, though, he seemed really bored and disinterested in life.  He just sat in the same spot, day after day, staring wistfully at Sebastian and Neville.  We’d tried to get them to make friends before, and it had all gone wrong, so we didn’t want to try again until we were certain they would be okay.  Fifer had other ideas.

I came downstairs one morning to find Sebastian and Neville’s rabbit run strewn with fur, Banacek was sitting at the front of his run, staring into the kitchen window (he lived outside all of last summer) and Cleo, Fifer, Sebastian and Neville were nowhere to be seen.  I went straight outside, concerned that the boys had been fighting, and I was very surprised to see Fifer sitting in Sebastian and Neville’s run, looking like that girl at the start of Battle Royale.  I scooped him up and popped him on his own side of the run, and he had the sense to stay there.  I opened the shed doors to get to Sebastian and Neville’s hutch and found Sebastian trying to bite my hand, clearly trying to protect Neville, who was very very badly injured and had taken himself off to a quiet corner to die.  I ran to the house and grabbed a rabbit carrier, brought it back to the hutch, carefully extricated Sebastian, then even more carefully got Neville into the carrier, trying not to hurt him more by picking him up.  I left the other bunnies where they were, closed the runs and gave the vet a heads up that I was coming in with an emergency, and drove straight to the vets.  After 4 hours of surgery and three hours of recovery, I got a phone call telling me Neville was going to live, but we needed to keep him indoors for two weeks and give him strong painkillers and antibiotics and examine his wounds several times a day.

This is what Fifer did to Neville.  The saddest bit was that he lost a part of his ear.
This is what Fifer did to Neville. The saddest bit was that he lost a part of his ear.

We didn’t know what to do about Fifer.  We were obviously very angry, hurt and upset that he had gone out of his way to try to kill Neville, but we also knew that every time we’d tried to introduce them, Neville had attacked Fifer.  Fifer had learned this behaviour from Neville.  My husband suggested taking Fifer to the RSPCA, and we discussed whether we thought that what he had done was bad enough to warrant him being put to sleep.  I was heartbroken, and I didn’t think it was fair on Fifer, that he was such a young rabbit, not even a year old, for his life to be over when he had his whole life ahead of him.  It was the hardest thing we had ever faced with our rabbits, and I felt awful for bringing Fifer home in the first place.  I think this was when we realized he was at least a half-wild rabbit, and when we researched them, we found out he has the right shapes and behaviours to be at least part wild.  Our best guess is half-wild, half-Netherland Dwarf.  Despite all my negative feelings, I also felt that I had a responsibility towards Fifer.  He was my bunny, where none of the others were in the same way.  I went out to see him after two days of not looking at him when I fed him, and I picked him up, and I just held him and cried, because he was my little bunny and I didn’t know how he could do such an awful thing to another bunny.  He just snuggled me, but I could tell he knew he’d crossed a line.  But I’ve crossed lines in the past, and felt like there was no redemption in sight, like I would never be able to make things right, and I knew how Fifer felt.  So I made the decision that any mother would.  I bought him a bigger, new hutch all of his own, I got my husband to build it, I placed it in the living room, and I moved Fifer indoors.  I decided that if he was too wild, then we needed to bring him in so he could be around us and learn how to be more domesticated.  After about three months of taking it in turns with Banacek and Cleo to be indoors for the day, and always sleeping indoors at night, Fifer had shown a great improvement in his behaviour.  He stopped acting in fear and started feeling more confident.  That was about the time when I saw Katie.

Katie (2013 to present, we adopted in late 2014)

This was Katie Bunny's enclosure in the adoptable area at Pets at Home
This was Katie Bunny’s enclosure in the adoptable area at Pets at Home

Katie was (you guessed it) another adoptable from Pets at Home.  She actually came from the same holding enclosure as Fifer.  Her story was that she was dumped outside my vets in a cardboard box one night, so they passed her on to Pets At Home.  When I first saw her, I was very excited because I thought she was the perfect size to be safely paired with Fifer.  When I took Fifer for his vaccinations, I asked the vet about her, and she said that Katie had a lovely temperament and would probably get on with Fifer.  The best guess is that she’s two years old, but nobody really knows.  She was already microchipped and neutered when we got her.  I went to Pets At Home and arranged an introduction between Katie and Fifer.  There was uncertainty, there was scuffling, but ultimately, Fifer learned that this ginormous female marmalade bunny was just immune to his aggression.  She would literally just lie down and ignore him.  When she got bored, she’d lunge at him then go back to sleep.  After two hours of introduction, we decided they were getting along.  We didn’t take her until the Saturday, when we took Fifer back, expecting to have to re-introduce them.  They remembered each other, though, and shared a bowl of vegetables.  They were so friendly, I brought them both back in the dog box that we’d brought Fifer in (Katie was too big for those cardboard Pets at Home boxes), and when we got home and I opened the box, they just lay in there together for about an hour before coming out.  Katie moved into Fifer’s hutch straight away, and they’ve never been apart since.  Katie thinks she’s the size of Fifer, and he seems to think he’s the size of Katie; she’s very timid, and I don’t know what happened before we got her, as she has a lot of fears and hang-ups, but Fifer looks after her and makes her feel safe.  In return, she seems to have helped Fifer to become a kinder, more loving rabbit.  I would never separate them.

Katie and Fifer in the living room after a hard day's play.
Katie and Fifer in the living room after a hard day’s play.

So that’s all our bunnies.  We reconfigure who lives where on a regular basis so they all get their fair share of life indoors and outdoors, and we’ve just bought a new hutch (a £30 fixer upper two storey ex display model, down from £99, from Pets At Home) so Banacek and Cleo can move out for the summer to keep them cooler, and so we can get Katie and Fifer back indoors and spend more time with them.

Cute bunnies! Rabbit lawnmowers! One washes face; another sleeps, eats dandelion.

It’s Soft Soft Sunday, and here are my seven favourite cutest bunny pictures of my rabbits from this week.  In the spotlight this week are Katie and Fifer because they did some really adorable things while I had my camera to hand for a change (usually they dodge the camera):

Left: Fifer, Right: Katie.
Left: Fifer, Right: Katie.  This is a run I’ve set up in our front garden to get the grass mowed by bunnies.
Fifer strikes a pose.
Fifer strikes a pose, surrounded by grass he and Katie have cut down for me.
Left: Katie, right: Fifer
Left: Katie, right: Fifer.  Tired from lawnmowing, the bunnies settle to some flopsy time.

In the next four pictures, watch Katie eat a dandelion in realtime:

Katie eyes up a dandelion.
Katie eyes up a dandelion.
Katie bites dandelion
Katie bites dandelion
Katie eats dandelion.
Katie eats dandelion.
Katie moves on to find new nibbles.
Katie moves on to find new nibbles.  This whole sequence took about 10 seconds to unfold.

What did you think of Katie and Fifer’s cute bunny adventures this week?  They had a lot of fun exploring places but all my cat-proofing (which has stopped the other 6 cats getting in) hasn’t stopped one persistent feline from trying to get at the bunnies when they’re out of their run (which is all the area behind that fence next to Katie in the final 4 pics), so I have to supervise them outside rather than from the kitchen window, which limits what I can do when they’re outside, so affects how long they can be out, which is a shame.  Fifer is more timid and gets a bit scared about being loose in the garden if I’m outside, because he’s part wild and doesn’t relate to humans very well, so he hardly comes out while I’m there, but Katie will nose my legs and play chase with me sometimes.  She’s come a very long way from when we first brought her home and she was too scared to come out of the travel box for over an hour, and Fifer was the bravest out of the two of them!  I sometimes forget we haven’t had her for a full year yet, and that we’ve barely had Fifer for a year, they just seem so much like part of the family and I get bunnysick for them when we’re away from home, and they miss us too (all five of our buns usually won’t say hello for the first 24 hours when we get back from holiday just to show us that they are displeased that we let someone else come and feed them).

Cleo defeats the Mechon Robot

Take that, mechon robot!  For I have defeated you with softness and snuggles!  I am Cleo, defender of all things soft and cosy, and I have nibbled your nose!  Your reign of cold metallicness will be no more!

I was born ready... to snuggle.
I was born ready… to snuggle.
It's over... for now...
It’s over… for now…

This was a working K-9 model I made for a fancy dress party about 5 years ago.  It was remote controlled and generally made of awesome.  I found it when I was clearing my dad’s flat.  My aunt, when she robbed the place before I got there, had left it crumpled and broken and in pieces on the floor.  I’m thinking K9 deserves a Viking burial.  In the meantime, the rabbits are having great fun playing with the component parts.  Since K-9 is obviously a good guy, I’ve decided that the bunnies are defeating a giant mechanoid robot thingy.

How to make toys for your rabbits

Toymaking for Rabbits:

So I’ve been reading some other rabbit sites recently, mostly trying to find out whether there’s a law in the US governing hutch size, which is the topic of a separate article. What I have noticed is there is a definite hole in the bunny-site market for a good quality, well thought out article on toymaking.

Some people will be thinking to themselves “why does a rabbit need a toy?” You, my friend, need to read this article. Other people are looking for inspiration, which you will find here in buckets.

Rabbits need toys for several reasons. Primarily, rabbits have higher intelligence than many people think they have. If you compare the skull size of the average rabbit with that of a cat, you’ll notice they’re a similar size. Rabbits, in fact, have bigger brains than most kittens. Would you put a kitten in a box full of sawdust with no toys? I sincerely hope not. Rabbits need just as many stimuli and growth opportunities as larger pets. They need puzzles to solve, projects to work on, variety of environment and shared experience. What does this look like to the average rabbit owner? Toys, and someone to play with (that’s you).

rabbit hay box
Cleo is in a hay box – basically, cut the top out of a box and fill it half to two thirds with hay. Rabbit will climb inside to eat tasty hay and nibble box. Sometimes they will sleep in them.

Puzzles to solve:

Bunnies like thinking with their teeth. This means puzzles, such as:

1. A box with a hole that’s not quite big enough for them to run through quickly (get a box, seal off the top and bottom with duct tape, cut a hole in the front and another in the back that’s just the same width as bunny in hop mode – that’s about 30% narrower than his sitting down width. Bunny will chew the hole bigger). They can then solve this puzzle with their teeth.

2. A box that doesn’t quite sit in the natural environment is a puzzle they can drag around the room until it’s solved (get some shapes and sizes of boxes and just randomly scatter them in a corner. Bunny will either fall upon them and start rearranging, or occasionally nibble them, it’s a bit hit and miss).

3. A treat on a high platform is a puzzle they can solve by exploration and discovery (make it visible, accessible, but make it require some thought to get to, e.g. put it on a table with a dining chair in front of it).

4. A slinky with the base attached to something solid is a puzzle they might never solve (but you get hours of fun watching them try).

5. A tunnel with only one entrance and exit is a puzzle they can solve by chewing extra holes in the side to add multiple escape routes (get a long thin cardboard box, cut a hole at either end to make a tunnel, put it against a wall or piece of solid furniture; it sometimes takes time but eventually bunny will probably chew the entire wall-facing side out of the tunnel. We’ve seen this three times with three different rabbits and tunnels).

Rabbits just love puzzles, once they get the idea that they can interact with them. Puzzles are often incorporated into other toys, as a secondary purpose, as you can see with many of the examples above.

rabbit cardboard castle
This “large” box is a cardboard castle, there’s a hole in the back as well so rabbits can get in and out through different holes. Cleo can get in through the top hole, Banacek can’t, giving the toy different ways of playing for different sized rabbits.

Projects to work on:

Bunnies like projects – these are things they can work on over a longer period, having a nibble, then doing something else, coming back to it later that day, week or month. Pragmatic rabbits love projects like these:

1. A hay box with an overhanging edge of cardboard (get a box, fill with hay, make an entrance for rabbit if the top is too high. Avon delivery boxes are really good; paper ream boxes are a little too small). Remember to empty the hay every once in a while because bunnies often poo in hay.

2. A box filled with smaller cardboard boxes. Rabbits seem to prefer three dimensional cardboard to chew, although occasionally they will chew flat card. Banacek loves chewing labels from new clothes, and has been known on several occasions to chew around them in such a way as to turn the words on the labels into cryptic messages, such as “happy” “magical u” (was magical unicorn) “cheer” (was cheerios) and “millionaire” (was Millionaire’s shortbread). I think it happens because he goes with patterns that he finds pleasing in terms of light/dark balance (words, to those who can’t read, are after all just shapes), and I think these are projects he likes to work on, for example, magical unicorn was “magical uni” for quite a while before he eventually finished it. He also once chewed us a perfect triangle out of a square. I measured 60 degrees at each corner with a protractor.  Rabbits are way clever.

3. A large chunk of wood; make sure it’s clean and not infested with slug eggs or something equally horrible, then place it near a rabbit. If it’s tasty wood, they’ll be all over it in seconds (this extends to pieces of furniture so watch out for that antique pine cabinet your grammy left you) and it will take weeks or months to devour. Check which woods are safe for bunnies, and be sure which species of tree the wood chunk came from, to ensure you don’t accidentally poison your bunny with something deadly such as yew sap.

Fifer loves chewing sticks
Fifer’s outdoor run includes a large stick which he likes to chew on to wear down his teeth, which are permanently growing.

4. A wicker basket. This is a project any bunny would love, especially if there’s bits of wicker ends sticking out visibly. Make sure it’s not treated with anything that makes it taste bad – we got one from a charity shop that’s the only wicker basket our rabbits have ever not pounced on – a year later it’s still virtually pristine, we can only conclude it’s not very tasty. Usually, though, rabbits plus wicker = om nom nom.

5. A dig box made of packing materials. You know the masses of brown paper that Amazon insists on sending you every time you order something small that arrives in a large box? Take out the something small, and the delivery note, then give the box and the brown paper to the rabbits. They also love tissue type paper that comes as gift wrap. Avoid metallic colours or anything glittery or plastic backed – a sick bunny is a sad bunny.

Variety of environment:

I would love every bunny to have all the environments described here, but I know most will get one or two. It’s still worth knowing what’s there, in case you get an opportunity to treat your bunny to a new place:

Sebastian and Neville ponder the mysteries of the garden.
Sebastian and Neville love the garden. That’s a block of chewable wood in front of Neville, and a plastic rain shelter for when they want to hide.

1. The garden: This is far and away the absolute best rabbit environment for indoor or outdoor bunnies. Once they’re satisfied that it won’t try to kill them, they all love the garden. There’s so much to do out there, and you can make the garden environment even more fun with a few quick hacks. Put rabbit runs in grassy areas, away from any plants that might be toxic. Add a paving slab or two for the discerning sunbathing rabbit, or in case it rains so they can avoid the mud if they want to. Don’t forget to buy a second water bottle to attach to the run (or bowl to put in there) in case they get thirsty. Add a couple of sticks for nibbles, and a small area that’s sheltered from hot sun or cold rain, and it’s a perfect, compact outdoor play space that’ll all fit inside a standard run. But why stop there? There’s so many other things you can do with a rabbit garden over time that I’ll discuss them in a separate article closer to spring.

2. Carpeted flooring: Bunnies interact completely differently on carpeted flooring to any other environment. They love to lie out on it and sleep. I think they find it more comfortable than solid surfaces, although come summer, they tend to sleep on the metal bit in the doorways or on the tiles around the (utterly disused) hearth, or wooden platforms in their hutch, I think they’re regulating temperature by doing this. Carpet is the indoor rabbit’s racetrack of choice, because it offers the best friction without being uncomfortable on little paws, and they love running fast around the carpeted parts of the house. Do be careful with transitioning a rabbit from living predominantly outdoors to indoors – some of them don’t understand the difference between carpet and grass, and will dig and chew the floor. Training them out of this is part of acclimatizing them to indoor living, along with letting them gently adjust to the temperature.

3. Tiles: Bunnies love tiles when it’s hot. The cool ambient temperature of ceramic tiles are their preferred sleeping spot on hot days. If you’ve got no tiled areas in your house or in their hutch, consider laying a two foot square of tiles on some plywood or cardboard for bunnies to cool down. They’re also easy clean.

4. Platforms: Bunnies love to climb. Give them things to safely climb on and make it worthwhile for them to reach the summit. No-one wants to climb Mount Coffeetable if it’s got nothing on it except a dangerously slidy surface. Mount Cardboard Box is good as long as the top is sturdy enough to take rabbit’s weight – over time, they can start to get a bit crushed from over-use. McFries boxes from McDonald’s make excellent bunny platforms to enable them to reach higher places. If you plan platforms that bunnies ARE allowed to play on, they’re less likely to make the effort to get onto high places where there’s nothing interesting, and where you don’t want them to go.

5. Laminate flooring: It’s not most rabbits’ idea of a good time, they struggle to get a friction coefficient so their paws slide all over the place. But it can provide a good exercise and also teach them that there are many different surfaces in the world so they know how to carefully navigate slippery surfaces – possibly a good idea before they break a rib slipping on an icy puddle in winter. I wouldn’t make this their usual environment, or at least put them some rugs or lino down so they can move comfortably, but it’s an educational environment for the inquisitive rabbit.

Shared Experience

Bunnies are social creatures. In one study, female rabbits chose companionship over food or territory. They need interaction with others. Here’s some thoughts on firing their imagination with friends:

1. You’re their best friend. As a bunny owner, you are the best friend and companion they will ever have. You talk to them, take them places, feed them when they’re hungry, stroke them when they’re not moving, play with them by holding boxes so they can give them a good chew, fill up the hay when it gets low (don’t leave it until empty, they rarely polish it off due to a natural urge known as preservation of resources), play chase with them when they want to practise their moves, and provide mountain rescue for them when they’ve got themselves stuck on top of a bookcase or shelf. Take time to play with bunny, give them all the input and attention (and healthy boundaries) you would lavish on a child, and they will reward you by being your most loyal supporter.

Banacek waits for Jason to come home with carrots.
Before Banacek had a rabbit girlfriend, he spent hours each day sitting on the arm of Jason’s chair waiting for Jason to come home. Jason was his human BFF. His favourite cuddly toy bunny is in his hutch in the background

2. Get them a girlfriend or boyfriend. This needs proper thought, don’t just bung two rabbits in a hutch and leave. Rabbits are picky, like humans are, and won’t just bond with any old rabbit. They need to be introduced carefully in a way that doesn’t threaten either rabbit or their status or territory. For this reason, a neutered male and female often make the best pairings. Take it slow. Read up on it, the Houserabbit Society of America has the absolute best articles on introducing rabbits, and I don’t want to try and explain something that’s already been discussed very well by other people, because reinventing the wheel is not working smarter (although I intend to discuss how I bonded my own rabbits in a separate article, but mine seem to have all been the exceptions). Check the Houserabbit Society out.

3. Get them a different animal companion: People have had success pairing rabbits with small cats, guinea pigs, tortoises and even dogs (give them separate living quarters in every case). There is a huge huge huge (I can’t convey how huge this is) welfare issue if you shove two different species who have never met into a hutch together and lock the door, never to think about either animal again. Aside from that, I can’t see how you would manage mealtimes if the animals were housed together. Keep your cat in a cat place, your dog in a dog place, your bunny in a bunny place and your guinea pig in a guinea pig place, and let them have contact during supervised, managed playtimes. This is apparently a good option if you’ve got a rabbit who doesn’t get along with other rabbits – cats and rabbits have had good pairings. The main point is to do your research, gradually introduce the animals, be ready to separate them at the slightest, and make sure they’ve got their own places to go. Never, ever leave a rabbit unsupervised with a non-rabbit – there have been plenty of stories of rabbits and guinea pigs being left in hutches together and it always ends with dead guinea pigs. I could forsee this happening with the rabbit ending up seriously hurt if you left it alone with a dog, and with the cat, it could go either way depending on the temperament of the cat and the rabbit. Rabbits don’t often have the ability to make very loud noises to alert you to distress, so need housing separately to other pets. Train the dog or cat, make sure they’re tolerant, and make sure if you’ve got a cat or dog in the house that the rabbit gets regular vaccinations/boosters because the cat/dog could bring home RHV or Myxomatosis by contact with wild rabbits whilst walking or roaming.

4. Cuddly toys: If you can only have one rabbit, and don’t have as much time as you’d like (24/7 please) to adore your bunny and spend time with him, put some soft toys in their living space and around their hangouts. Banacek was an only rabbit for 18 months before we could get him a friend, and during that time he’s been given about four different cuddly toys, which he still looks after now. Sometimes we’ll see him positioning Squeakytoy (a 50p soft bodied dog toy) at the water bowl to drink. Sometimes he’s washing White Rabbit’s ears so they stay clean. Other times, he’s gone to sleep snuggled up to Brown Bunny. A little tinkle alerts us to the times he’s grooming Cat Ball (a baby toy) or Baby Bunny (another baby toy – Mothercare wanted us to know they’d replace it if it became damaged, then retracted this when we informed them it was for a rabbit). Check soft toys for safety when you buy them (this is why baby toys are the gold standard as far as I’m concerned, plus they’re usually more stimulating in the ways which rabbits are able to interact with toys) – button eyes, bits of edible plastic, etc are dealbreakers – and check them regularly for damage and remove/repair accordingly so they don’t ingest stuffing.

There are plenty of other ways you can make a fun and stimulating environment for your rabbit, to help avoid Bunny Brain Death: You’ve seen those rabbits in hutches that just sit there, not moving, not doing anything? Sometimes they gently rock back and forth for hours. I call it Bunny Brain Death, and I firmly believe it’s one of the reasons “outdoor” rabbits have traditionally had shorter lifespans than houserabbits.

Sebastian and Neville, our 100% outdoor rabbits, are kept well stocked with toys and interesting environments both in their hutch, shed and run (all of which they have 24/7 access to), and they are curious, interested rabbits who never just sit there. To summarize, make life interesting for your rabbit, and your rabbit will be interesting. Make your rabbit bored, and they will be boring. Unlike certain other “small” pets (c’mon, some rabbits are dog sized), they’re not stupid enough to repeat futile activities endlessly to amuse you.

Sebastian wonders if he is really the king of the castle or if it's all a social construct.
Our outdoor rabbits’ hutch is kept well-stocked with toys so they are mentally stimulated. Outdoor toys are changed more regularly. These ones were a variation on the indoor “cardboard castle” because a huge box wouldn’t fit in this hutch. Some of these toys were made from a Cookie Crisp box, others were made from corrugated cardboard and brown paper to give a variety of chewing texture.