Baton Rouge, LA
As fans of the show, we believe imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. :)
Here is our bunny tribute to the real Mythbusters!
In this myth, we are setting out to discover whether rabbits really are smelly pets.
For our first experiment, we will smell rabbits around all parts of their body. ::sniff-sniff:: Hmm, there really isn't much of a smell! We did find that males, particularly un-neutered ones, do have scent glands and sometimes spray, but the rabbits themselves do not smell bad. However, we DID find that the rabbits that were left in uncleaned cages did have a bad odor, but because the cage was the source of the odor and not the rabbit, we're going to have to call this one... BUSTED!
We have received a letter from a viewer who is concerned about her neighbor only eating pellets. She writes that the bag claims that it is 100% nutritionally complete, but she worries about variety. Hmmm, we love to eat, so what are we waiting on? Let's get started!
We searched and located several guinea pigs to help us with our experiment. The first g-pig was given a "100% complete" pellet diet only. Our second g-pig was given a pelleted diet and hay, and a third was given a diet of 1/3 veggies, 1/3 hay, and 1/3 pellets. After one week, we went back to check on our guinea pigs. The first g-pig who had eaten only pellets was not lacking in vitamins, but he was very bored and had such a desire for other tastes, he began chewing on his cage accessories! The second g-pig seemed to be healthy both mentally and physically, but the third g-pig appeared to be the most alert and healthy overall. While we won't go into detail about which diet is better (that's a future episode in itself!), we can tell you that the pellet-only diet may be healthy enough for your body, but isn't necessarily so for your mind. Since there are many reported accounts of rabbits living OK on a pellet diet only, we'll call this one PLAUSIBLE.
Another letter from our mailbag tells of Louie who chewed things in his owner's house so much, that she locked him up for good! While we couldn't find an exact document of this event, we decided to check out our bunny-chewer and friends under the microscope.
We arrived at Louie's house and followed him and several bunnies around for the day and observed their behavior. We did find that almost all of them chewed or nibbled at something other than their food. We went to our rabbit-expert for more information. "Rabbits have open-rooted teeth, meaning they grow continuously. If a rabbit doesn't wear down its teeth, they can become overgrown and painful, and eventually they may not eat and even starve!"
Back to Louie's we went, where we completed more testing. Our results showed that chewsticks and other wooden toys did a great job of keeping teeth worn down to a decent level, and that those rabbits who had the opportunity to chew on these items chewed on other unknown items such as electrical cords and remote control buttons much less frequently. Regardless of the item, those buns sure did like to chew, and apparantly needed to! This one is a definite CONFIRMED.
Many photos often depict cute bunnies outside eating and playing in the grass. While wild rabbits definitely do well in the outdoors, its rare that we see a domesticated rabbit of varying colors running loose in the woods. Why is that? Aren't rabbits supposed to live outside? Let's set out to investigate.
Here we are at the local rabbitry where rabbits of all sorts are bred for many purposes. WOW there are so many different types of rabbits! There are small ones, furry ones, skinny ones, huge ones... and according to the breeder, all are suited for something special, whether its fur, food, or pets. How did this come to be? The breeder explains that over many years, these animals have been bred to fit human needs, like long fur to make clothes or smaller, "smooshed-face" buns for cute pets. While they are well-suited for these jobs, we compared them to the cottontails found in the nearby forest. Hmm... their body shapes are definitely different! The wild rabbits have long ears to hear predators and dissipate heat, brown coloration for camoflauge, and lean bodies to run like the wind. Just like the bunnies at the rabbitry, these guys are well-suited for their job - survival!
So back to those domesticated rabbits... how well would they do in the wild? Here we are with the pound manager to learn more about domestic rabbits running loose in our urban jungle. The pound manager tells us that people often think all rabbits are the same, a rabbit is a rabbit right? Not necessarily. Just like a person is a person, but you wouldn't stick a tiny guy in a professional basketball game and expect him to do well! So what happens to the domestic rabbits that people "set free" when they no longer want them? Well, it's a sad story, but let's just say they don't all end up in rescue. Rabbits are prey animals after all.
While we have found that rabbits don't do well running wild, what about in a nice cage, protected from predators, in a backyard? That sounds nice! Our pound friend refers us to the exotic vet in town, so off we go!
We arrive at the clinic and the vet welcomes us inside. She leads us to the back where some rabbits are being treated. She shows us two rabbits who are on IV fluids because their water bottle fell off of their cage and they were unable to get a drink. Wow, what a simple thing seemingly, but apparantly this rabbit's owner thought because it had a huge bottle and feeder, it didn't need to be checked on! But that could also happen indoors, so we ask her whether she recommends indoors or out for her rabbit parents. She is quick to tell us that indoors is much better, as the outdoors has many potential problems, just as it does for other pets. Some of these include bugs such as mites, fleas, and ticks, heat stroke in heat above 85*, and more. She notes that predators can still scare your rabbit, literally to death! Rain & pollen can make them sick, and because their families aren't around much, health problems can easily go unnoticed. Plus, if a bunny is solo, boredom sets in pretty fast!
After our visits today, we can definitely say that our domestic pet rabbits are not wild bunnies and are not suited for running wild, and would be much better off indoors! Pet rabbits best living outside? BUSTED!
One of our viewers sent us an email saying that she read that rabbits can be litterbox-trained. Her rabbit is so messy, she says, and poops everywhere! Can this really be true?
To find out about rabbit behavior, we headed out to the rabbit rescue to talk to a counselor who has lots of experience with rabbit husbandry and behavior issues. Our counselor gave us the grand tour, and showed us many rabbit habitats with litterboxes, and amazingly, the cages were quite clean! She explained that it's not quite as deeply ingrained as a cat's, but rabbits do have an instinct to eliminate in one area. If a wild rabbit would poop as it went, it would be very easy for a predator to track it. Well, what about our viewer's rabbit? Ahh, marking! Thankfully rabbits don't always use their scent glands to mark their territories, and just a few hard poops will do. She explained that there are many factors that affect a rabbits ability to be box-trained as well as attitude and how its kept. She told us that if a rabbit feels like its space is being invaded all the time, it will constantly feel the need to mark its cage. Unneutered males can be the worst. Behavior, health, age, and personality all can be factors. So is it true, that a rabbit can be litterbox-trained? As we watch one of the adoptables hop out of its litterbox leaving a few poop-pellets behind, we can put this myth to rest!
On a trip to the pet store we noticed that the rabbits for sale had a pretty cheap price tag compared to the dogs and cats. If it doesn't cost much to breed and raise them, and they are everywhere around Easter, they must be fairly cheap to have as pets, right?
We stop by the small mammal section of the store and are amazed at the products. In days gone by, a pet store often only had half of an aisle of rabbit products, but now there are shelves upon shelves of products - fancy cages, plush bedding, litterboxes, shampoo, toys, leashes... holy cow! To get a better idea of what products it might take to keep a pet rabbit, we asked an associate for help.
Our associate guided us through the aisles explaining the types and features of each product. She started off at the food bowl section, noting that there were many varieties - plastic, metal, ceramic, gravity-bins, why so many choices? Each material had a benefit or drawback. The plastic was cheap and came in an array of colors, but may be easily dumped or chewed, and when it becomes chewed, it can get sharp or be difficult to clean. The metal ones seem to be better as they definitely would be easy to clean and could stand up to bunny teeth. Unfortunately they too were lightweight and were expensive, and though they wouldn't be warped by bunny teeth, there sure wasn't much variety of colors... silver, or silver! Then there were the ceramic crocks. These definitely had variety, but they were expensive too. Our associate suggested these as they were difficult to tip over, easy to clean, and stood up to chewing... plus they came in many colors and designs. Geesh, who knew something as simple as a choosing a food bowl could be so complicated! Our associate continued explaining the various products, all with an array of styles, benefits, and prices. When we loaded up our basket with the items we had to have and those that were too cute to pass up, we were shocked at the register's total. It was far more than the rabbit! And then there was the upkeep... though bunny food and bedding is cheaper than a cat or dogs, it still adds up. And then there's spay/neuter and vet checkups, which can be as much or more than a cat or dog. Thankfully few vets recommend annual vaccinations!
Right before we were about to call this myth busted, we received a call from our rabbit rescue friends. Having recently learned so much at the pet store, we asked how they were able to stay afloat with all those rabbits! Buying in bulk and being creative were her answers. Since she believed in putting things to good use, she told us that she used newspapers for bedding and papertowel tubes and garage sale stuffed animals for toys. While buying in bulk isn't for the average pet owner, buying 50lb sacks at the feed store sure makes things easier - and cheaper - for the rescue. She explained that besides food, they spend almost NO money on general day-to-day maintenance. Bedding is recycled newspapers, toys are old cups or kids meal toys, and litter is part of their hay. She mentioned that of course they must often replace other items such as water bottles, bowls, litterboxes, and carriers, but that day-to-day maintenance can be very low. Hmm, we can see how this myth got started and has stuck around! While startup costs can be high, maintenance costs can be low, so we'll call this one PLAUSIBLE.
While on a trip to the local feed store, we noticed that there were many wire-bottom cages available for rabbits. In fact, that's pretty much all they sold! The guy behind the counter said that most folks get frustrated or have never heard of a rabbit using a litterbox, and that a wire-bottom that allowed poop to fall through the floor was a very efficient way to keep the rabbit and its cage clean. Sounds smart. But wouldn't that hurt? Is wire-bottom flooring really the best way to go?
Back to the vet we went to ask her about those wire-bottom cages. Since we learned in a previous myth test that rabbits could be litterbox trained, we asked why these cages were still being used. She told us that was a good question, and though she could see the positive side of the rabbit not sitting in its waste if the owners would not be able to clean the cage or litterbox often, but a person that doesn't have time for cleaning probably doesn't have time for the rabbit period! But back to the subject doctor, what about that wire? Does it hurt? Absolutely, she says. Even though they have fur to give their feet some comfort against the wire, they do not have pads like a cat or dog. It could be likened to us humans wearing socks and walking over a drainage grate. It may not actually hurt right then and there, but it certainly is uncomfortable. And then there are stubbed toes and ripping nails... ouch! Plus not having a solid surface to sit on can cause sore hocks, our vet said, because of the pressure of the whole body weight and leg being put on a single spot on the foot instead of spread out as it was designed to be. Hmm, sounds like a good case against this myth doc. One more thing, she said. Rabbits poop two kinds of poop - the normal hard pelleted type, and a special mushy poop called cecotrophs, which they need to eat. Ewwww, doc! She laughed then explained that though it sounds gross, rabbits need to eat this in order to put bacteria back into their digestive system, as rabbits digest their food differently than most animals. Thanks doc, but I think we had a strong enough case already to call this one BUSTED already!
A viewer who saw the previous episodes about litterbox training a rabbit, rabbits needing to chew, and rabbits being cheap (and all their cool accessories that our associate showed us) wrote in to say that she has always seen cages for rabbits in the store that were barely big enough to fit most rabbits, much less room for all those toys, litterboxes, and hideaways that they sold. How on earth are they supposed to have all that stuff if they are to live in those cages? Do they need larger cages or a cage at all, or do they belong in a cage because of all that chewing? Good question... and thanks for watching all our previous episodes!
Since the pet store only sold small cages, we went back to the rabbit rescue who utilized all sorts of cages, hutches, pens, and rooms to see what they had to say about how rabbits should be housed. We met up with our counselor again and had many questions! What sort of accessories do the rabbits really need? What size cage is acceptable, and if the pet stores ones are too small, are they just supposed to run around the house? Our counselor smiled and got to work explaining.
First, she said, is that the accessories will depend on your rabbits personality and where it is kept. A rabbit outdoors will need more protection from the weather and predators, so a hide-away house inside the cage will help it feel safe as if it were in an underground tunnel. Of course, indoor rabbits love hideaways too. Litterboxes are optional, but are a huge help when cage-cleaning, and helping to keep your rabbit clean - and healthy! While these weren't 100% necessary either, they were strongly recommended. But if each rabbit were to have its own hideaway house, litterbox, plus food bowl... where would the rabbit itself fit in some of those store-bought cages?
Our rabbit counselor began showing us the many types of cages that had been donated. When rabbits are surrendere to the rescue, sometimes their cage comes along too, which is usually a great help. But sometimes, the cage was not a very good one, and it is either saved or sold for a smaller rabbit, modified to be safer and more comfortable, or thrown away. She showed us many home-crafted hutches, great for a weekend project for your husband and the kids! Because they were made for the specific rabbit in mind, they could be made to fit any space, any rabbit, and any accessories. She pointed out that many ideas came from the internet, including building some of the indoor cages with NIC cubes, a type of shelving piece set that can be made into a cage instead of a shelf! Many materials can be used, and all have their benefits and drawbacks, just like those different food bowls. Each rabbit definitely needs enough room to move about comfortably in its cage, and still have all the comforts of home, including that litterbox & hideaway. She was also quick to mention that even if a rabbit had a roomy cage, it still needed time outside of its cage to truly exercise, have some stimulation, and bond with its owners. So her answer to our caged questions? Rabbits do need to have a cage, pen, or area to call their own, but certainly do not belong caged up all the time, roomy or not. Plus the run of a bunny-proofed house is certainly the best a rabbit can ask for!
This is a great one - we've all seen pictures of a a child holding a rabbit around Easter time and being that they are smaller than a dog, make great pets for kids. But with our previous myths about chewing and training, maybe we should visit this one as well?
Off we go again to the rescue, where rabbits are often brought because a child loses interest in them. Our good counselor friend invites us to a local event where children are petting the rabbits and giggling loudly... but the rabbits seem OK. The older kids are having fun brushing their soft fur, but the younger ones sometimes grab their ears and try to pick them up, despite the signs posted around the pen. The counselors are so good - they quickly intervene on behalf of the rabbit and show the child how to properly pet or pick up the bunny, much to the bunny's relief! She then brings the rabbit over to us and gives us a good lecture about kids and rabbits. She tells us that the rabbits they have brought to the event are the exception, and they are very mellow compared to most rabbits. Since rabbits are prey animals, they tend to run away from the jerky movements and high-pitched squeals of young children, and no animal likes to have its fur or ears pulled on! Though older children are much better, rabbits are ground-dwelling creatures and don't often like to be held, or especially toted around, like most children prefer to do. However, just like these rabbits, there are some exceptional children as well. Most kids lose interest in a pet that starts kicking and scratching - its version of saying "let me down!" - after a week or so, but some children can understand that a pet rabbit may or may not enjoy lots of attention, being held, or even just being giggled at, and will pet it briefly and still be willing to let it exercise daily and clean its cage, even if its not their idea of the perfect pet.
Thanks counselor! So let's review - most rabbits tend to shy away from small children, but older kids aren't so frightening to rabbits. However, even some older kids won't understand or respect the rabbits desire to be left alone or on the ground, and some rabbits may enjoy lots of attention. This myth could go either way based on both the child and the rabbit, so we'll call it PLAUSIBLE.
Everybun has seen the famous image of Bugs Bunny eating carrots. Everybun has heard of carrots being a great treat for rabbits, or even a major part of their diet. So do rabbits really love this orange root that much?
We decided to try this final experiment on our own. We lined up multiple rabbits and gave them a ton of carrots. Their response? They dug in! Though some ate more than others, most everybun loved it. We continued giving carrots throughout the week, and though the rabbits did enjoy them, they much preferred a variety of veggies to just the carrots, and even preferred some fruits such as apple & bananas over the carrots! Of course, there is always too much of a good thing, so we made sure to keep all treats and new foods in check.
We think we can see why Bugs enjoyed his carrots so much. Though everybun enjoyed other veggies and treats as well, everybun sure seemed to love those carrots too! Myth CONFIRMED