We’re going to take a break from adoption for a moment. I bet you’re thinking that this is going to be a funny post about how I can’t stand Jackson’s rabbit, so I have to tell myself, “I will not kill my son’s rabbit.” Unfortunately, it’s not humorous. There are people who want me to kill my son’s rabbit.
Jackson is in 4-H. He chose the Rabbit project – he raises and shows rabbits. He started with one rabbit, Zella, a mini lop. I know, you’d think mini lops would be mini, but Zella is actually a little bit bigger than your average rabbit. She’s 6.5 pounds, and larger in size than your average house cat. We needed that, because our cat Jinxy is a known rabbit killer. (Long story.)
For months after we got her, Zella hated leaving her cage. She would scratch us anytime we took her out. And by “scratch” I mean “give us huge gashes.” I had to buy those large bandages to cover the wounds. I admit, the words “rabbit stew” were said, more than once. Eventually, after many, many months, she stopped. I’m guessing she realized, “My cage is still there even when I’m not in it, and they always put me back, and they feed me, so… maybe I should just go with it.”
Zella is a bit big for Jackson to handle to do showmanship. In showmanship, the 4-Her shows the rabbit by pointing out all of its body parts, indicating what a person should be looking for to ensure the rabbit is healthy. This involves flipping the rabbit over and having her lie on her back. It took Jackson more than one month to make Zella do this, and it was hard work for him.
Over the summer, Jackson convinced us that he should get a second, smaller rabbit for showmanship. We settled on a Holland lop. Jackson got to name her – Buttercup, after the Powerpuff Girl. We got her in October; she had been born in June. As of this writing, she’s 8-months old.
For the first two weeks, Buttercup was one anxious 4-month old bunny. She seemed to be always on alert. She freaked out when someone put his/her hand in her cage. She mellowed overall, but she still hates being taken out of her cage. She bites. If you were a cute little 4-pound ball of fur designed to be some hawk’s meal, wouldn’t you get a little freaked out if someone removed you from your enclosed metal haven? Once she’s out of her cage, however, she is the sweetest bunny ever.
Case in point: There was a rabbit meeting in November and they were going over showmanship. I fished Vampire Bunny out of her travel cage and gave her to Jackson. Jackson snuggled her and laid her out on the table. She just laid there while Jackson gave her belly rubs, her little nose twitching happily. One of the moms was organizing 4-H marching in the holiday parade. Our conversation went something like this:
C: Are you and Jackson marching in the parade on Saturday?
Me: I’m not sure. There’s a rabbit show, and those start really early in the morning. I think he’ll be too tired.
C: Oh. Well, we have a little float with a trailer attached, and it’s just big enough for 1 or 2 of the little kids, and we could use a little kid who has a really mellow rabbit.
Me: Ah. Well, then I guess we’re marching in the parade.
C: Seriously, I think that’s the mellowest rabbit I’ve ever seen.
At the parade, Buttercup snuggled into Jackson’s chest for 2 hours.
She went to her first show in January. She bit the judge, who said she was evil. She went to her second show in February. Again, she bit the judge. This time, the judge said, “this rabbit should die.” He wasn’t kidding.
The other judge at that show gave Max some tips on getting her out of her cage without biting. (I can’t go to rabbit shows – another long story.) Jackson was near tears at the thought of someone killing his rabbit. Our rabbit leader actually offered us another rabbit, but I said that Buttercup was really quite sweet, she just didn’t like being taken out of her cage, and probably got anxious around strangers. She gave us a tip for getting her not to bite as well.
At the last 4-H community meeting, one of the women, who breeds rabbits and was at the last show, took me aside. I’ll spare you the gory details, but she essentially said that “the sensible judge told him to cull that rabbit. You need to kill that rabbit before someone gets seriously hurt.”
She’s a breeder. She has 23 bunny babies at home. She has a completely different mindset than I do. Jackson’s rabbits are our family. They are his pets and projects. I wanted Jackson to join 4-H so he could learn the responsibility to look after another living creature, as well as learn to respect other living creatures. He made a commitment to each of these rabbits. We will teach Buttercup not to bite when we take her out of the cage. Or, like Zella, she may just grow out of it by learning that she’ll always get to go back home. We will not kill Buttercup because she doesn’t do exactly what we want her to do.
What if Buttercup doesn’t learn not to bite? Then she can’t be a show rabbit. She’s just a pet. Then, she’ll only bite us. And let me be clear: I’d rather be bitten by a rabbit than scratched by a rabbit. Rabbits have very powerful legs with a total of 18 claws. Their teeth are sharp, but there are only two of them that matter.
Buttercup is not a mean rabbit. She is a rabbit who feels safe in her cage, and gets scared and anxious when she’s taken out of it. Once she’s out, she calms down, at least here at home. The more she travels, the more people she encounters, the less it should freak her out. So no, I’m not killing my son’s rabbit.