Rabbits are terrible at masking their joy. Really, truly awful. The eyes, the ears, the body language -- all are dead giveaways, but the real giveaway is in the hop. When a rabbit is happy, like so pulsing with lagomorphian ecstasy that it truly can't contain itself, such emotions manifest themselves in mid-air. First a sprint and the a jump with a twist, head going in one direction and hind legs in the other -- it's a spasm of pure, unbridled joy that rabbit owners have, predictably labeled with the overly precious name of "binky," and in a world of veiled emotion and doublespeak, it may well be the greatest thing about having a bunny. Top five, at least.
I pitched Boing Boing on a piece extolling the virtues of rabbit ownership a while ago, pulling together some testimonials from folks who, like myself, have eschewed the predictable worlds of dog and cats for a long-eared friend. I went back and forth a little bit, with regards to the timing of such a piece. Would it be a bit too on-the-nose to have it go up right around Easter, when their kind are all over the drugstores and advertising break, hawking cream-filled eggs with a litany of chicken sounds.
Fact of the matter is, however, that there's really no better time of year for such a thing. See, in spite of the springtime celebration of bunny-kind, there's a bit of tragedy surrounding the holiday, with shelters overflowing with unwanted rabbits purchased by parents on a whim, alongside baskets full of plastic grass and hollowed chocolates. I was told precisely this when I adopted Sylvia [above] from a kill shelter in Harlem. That was six years ago, which would put her around eight or nine, if the estimates of the people who found her abandoned in Marcus Garvey Park are to be believed.
That would make her old, certainly, but not elder. Properly cared for, these guys and ladies can live as long as many dogs. Syl sleeps in my kitchen (also my office -- this is New York City, mind) in a puppy pen, a short octagonal fence designed to keep new dogs from chewing all your worldly belongings. She's litter-trained and subsists largely on fresh vegetables and hay that I have shipped to my house in five-pound boxes from a guy who calls himself "Farmer Dave." She's the quietest roommate I've ever had in this godforsaken city, save for those times when she playfully tosses her toys around. And when it gets warm enough outside, she gets free range of my tiny Queens backyard (with adult supervision, mind), where she just binkies up the joint. It's a pretty good deal.
I could go on like this, naturally. Instead, I've opted to turn the floor over to some fellow fans, who, if all goes according to plan, will help convince you think twice about walking past the small animals room at your local shelter. At the very least, it's a good excuse to look at a bunch of pictures of rabbits on the internet. Enjoy.
Rabbit: Hazel, 11 years
The rabbit is a top quality animal and makes an excellent pet. The best piece of advice I can give to anyone thinking about adopting is to research the subject thoroughly beforehand, and make sure they know what they're getting into. Most preconceived notions of rabbits are inaccurate: they should not in fact be kept in hutches outdoors, and large quantities of carrots are actually bad for them. They're quite nervous creatures, so children need to be taught to treat them gently and with respect.
As for Hazel, she has lived to the ripe old age of eleven (about 110 in human years) because we keep her indoors in a large enough space for her to run around, feed her mostly on greens and hay with just a few carrots, and take her for annual check-ups at the vet. Another piece of advice- try to find a vet with an actual rabbit specialist, like Symphony Vet on 96th St. She remains in excellent health and is just as lively as she ever was.
She and her brother Fiver- who checked out a couple of years ago- were of course named after the rabbits in Watership Down. Great book, even better movie- but make sure you see the 1978 version, not the cutesy-pie remake from 1999.
Jacq Cohen, Fantagraphics
Rabbits: Nico and Lou are The Velvet Bunderground, three-years-old.
Valiant, four-year-old male. Aaron, two-year-old male.
I got my very first rabbit in college. Her name was Olive and she was the most punk rock bunny to ever live. Olive and I moved from the dorms at UC Santa Cruz, to flop houses, to punk houses in several different cities along the West Coast. When I started working in comics, she chewed her way through two of the three publishing companies that I worked for. She passed away at the age of seven. It took me 2 years to recover from her passing. But, while at the Humane Society with a friend (who was adopting a cat), I fell in love with The Velvet Bunderground, Nico & Lou. They were the start of my new rabbit family.
After a few months, I found Valiant on PetFinder.com. He was so broken, I just wanted to save him. As you can see in the photo, he only has 1.25 ears. Valiant also has back leg weakness and constant vertigo. In my research for how to properly care for a special needs rabbit, I came across Special Bunny ( specialbunny.org) a local Seattle rescue focusing of rabbits with disabilities. I started volunteering and it has changed my life. Caring for special needs rabbits is so rewarding. No one appreciates attention more than a bunny that you've nursed back to health. That's how Aaron has come into my life. His front legs are paralyzed. He is technically in "permanent foster care" with me, meaning that Special Bunny will continue to help pay for his medial bills. We are currently building a custom wheelchair for Aaron. I'll keep all you BoingBoing readers posted on how Aaron's front-end wheelchair comes along.
Rabbits are the 3rd most common house pets, and the most misunderstood. They have a wide range of personalities and habits. If treated and taught properly, they can be litter box trained and can do tricks. If you adopt a rescue rabbit, the people who you adopt from can help you find the right rabbit for your household. Also, adopting a rabbit makes you endlessly cool with ladies. Trust me people, girls like girls/boys who adopt rabbits!
PROTIP: Trust Oxbow for timothy hay and food pellets. If you want to make a rabbit endless love you, parsley is their jam! Do you want to spend the rest of your life alone? Neither does your rabbit! Bond your bunny to another bunny friend. PetFinder is like OKCupid for rabbits.
Rabbits: Patty and Selma, six-years-old [Image by Gabby Schulz]
My housemates and I saw some cartoon rabbits on TV and thought they were really cute, so we started talking about getting rabbits. I did some research about rabbits as pets at the library and then after discussing it some more with my roommates we eventually went down to the Oakland Animal Shelter and picked out a bonded pair of rabbits.
They are a great low-key pet. You don't have to walk them like a dog, and they won't knock all your stuff over like a cat. They are endlessly cute and entertaining to watch, and very nice to pet. Our rabbits help us eat more healthfully because we buy more vegetables which we share with them. If you're going to get a rabbit, get two! As long as they get along and bond, they will keep each other company and help clean each other. It's also twice as cute when they cuddle up together.
Shawna Gore, Stumptown Comics
Rabbits: Roxy (seven-years-old), Billie Jean (two-years-old)
Right now I have Roxy — a miniature lop who is about seven years old (adopted after she was offered for free on Craigslist when she was retired as a 4-H breeder), and Billie Jean — an American Silver Fox (aka a domestically bred "meat rabbit") who is maybe two years old. She was found in the trash area behind a bar in downtown Portland last Easter Sunday, and a friend of mine who works at the bar called me to see if I would take her. Just before Thanksgiving this past year, our little boy bunny Ali died — we adopted him five years ago, after he was rescued from a notorious rabbit hoarder in Portland in 2007, and he was Roxy's bonded partner.
I adopted my first pair from the Humane Society in 2003 after meeting a few other pet rabbits (and visiting with a yard bunny who lived in my neighborhood). I've had sleep-related anxiety most of my life, and one of my relaxation techniques up to that point involved envisioning sleeping rabbits. Someone suggested to me that maybe that meant I needed rabbits in my life, and that sounded right to me.
Rabbits are very charming to be around; it's almost impossible not to feel happy when there are bunnies dashing around your house, or stretched out at your feet, or grooming/licking your pants. There's also something really touching about gaining the trust of rabbits, which are commonly prey animals.
Always interact with them, always touch and pet and hold them (which is important for monitoring their health as well as for bonding with them), and incorporate them into your household as much as you can. Rabbits aren't meant to languish alone in cages — we would never do that with dogs or cats, and we shouldn't do it to rabbits, either.
Kevin Dresser & Kate Johnson, BrooklynBunny
Rabbit: Roebling (eight years old)
Kate had a rabbit as a child and also had a rabbit living with her when she and Kevin met while living in Brooklyn, New York. Kevin's childhood best friend was his stuffed rabbit toy named "Bunny".
Rabbits are very misunderstood in our society. Most people believe that they are designed to live secluded in cages outside and that they are not very sociable. However, it is quite the opposite. Our rabbit Roebling lives inside and is never locked in a cage. He is free to roam every square foot of our place. He has a little station where he eats and drinks, a few little areas to take his naps and even visits the litter box like most sophisticated house pets. He does not like to be alone and likes to follow us from room to room.
First thing all rabbit owners need to do is visit the House Rabbit Society homepage at www.Rabbit.org and educate themselves on everything rabbit. Second, cut down on any sugary sweets. Occasional treats are okay, but stock up on great hays from Oxbow and American Pet Diner. Hay is the most important way to keep your rabbit healthy.
Our fact-of-the-day to those that do not know much about rabbits is that rabbits cannot vomit. When they are grooming themselves, they can build up a massive amount of fur in their belly. This is very dangerous and sometimes fatal in rabbits. So, be sure to keep them on a proper diet that helps breakdown occurrences like an upset tummy.
Leslie Stein, Majestic Creature
Rabbits: Mackenzie, Jack and Elvie
My first rabbit was Mackenzie, a grey Netherland dwarf my mother and I fell in love with at our local pet shop when I was eight or nine years old. I remember my friends were all very jealous because I had the cutest little friend in town. I taught her to walk on her hind legs for treats. We lived in a long narrow flat that she ran up and down all the time in these almost spastic bursts of energy. She lived for about seven years. On my seventeenth birthday, my mother surprised me with two more Netherland Dwarfs that she said looked bonded and didn't want to separate. They would mostly lay on top of one another behind the couch. Elvie bonded to my mother and Jack bonded to me. Elvie lived a long life and loved papaya tablets. Jack lived even longer, about eleven years, he was fond of almonds.
Rabbits are a pretty misunderstood pet and they often times suffer from the neglect of people who do not understand their special needs. Patience with them is important as they frighten easily (remember how big we are to them!). If you are a loving and patient person, I would encourage you to adopt a rabbit, they are sweet creatures that need a lot of love but also need you to respect their tiny stature.
Cover exposed extension cords in bath tissue rolls. Also we cut a hole at the bottom of our screen door so the buns could play in our fenced in yard and come in at night or when they were hungry... or scared by a big possum!
Brian Heater (@bheater ) is a senior editor at Engadget and the founder of indie comics site, The Daily Cross Hatch. His writing has appeared in Spin, The Onion, Entertainment Weekly and The New York Press. He hosts several podcasts and shares an apartment in Queens with a rabbit named Sylvia.
MORE: Delightful Creatures