What does an old bunny want?
September 26, 2006 5:35 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any tips for caring for an elderly rabbit?

Beth is old and she's showing it. She's old-age grey now, not just grey rabbit grey. She's always shedding clumps, and the edges of her ears make her look like a well-loved toy. She has the run of the living room, but she doesn't come out much anymore (she had a little stroke a few months ago that left her slightly lopsided). And she feels a little cool the touch a lot of the time.

Her vet just says that she's old, and she's lucky to be this old. But my wife and I want her to be as comfortable as possible. She has a blanket to keep her warm that we wash twice a week, and as many treats (graham crackers, mostly) as we can give her without making her sick and as much hay as she wants. Is there something that we're missing?

(she's the first real pet that was totally mine when I was a real adult and it pains me a lot to see her so tired and vulnerable, so no suggestion is too far-fetched to at least read.)
posted by Mayor Curley to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have never cared for an elderly rabbit.

Our rabbits love greens (romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, collard greens, cabbage, broccoli, etc). If your vet clears it, you might add those to her diet. Slowly, though - it can give bunnies diarrhea to have too much at once.
posted by joannemerriam at 5:42 PM on September 26, 2006

Our bunny is getting up there as well, she has had two we-need-to-rush-her-to-the-vet-tonight moments.

Her absolute favorite thing are these weird plush toys. They make a few of them specifically for rabbits, but I've seen the same material on toys for other pets (and kids too).

I don't know what it is, but she just likes to sit there and lick them. If you grab one and start rubbing her head with it, she will start grunting and grinding her teeth (her preferred sign of affection.)

If I can find out the brand when I get home, I'll post it here.
posted by quin at 6:02 PM on September 26, 2006

Not a rabbit expert by any means, but this is general old-pet advice. There are blankets made for elderly or arthritic cats which have a heat-reflective filling, this might keep her warmer than just a blanket, but I would provide her with both one of these and her regular blanket, so she can use either as needed. Check her teeth and adjust her food accordingly. Make sure she stays hydrated. Ensure that she is pain-free (there are analgesic meds which are safe for rabbits). And don't let her have too many more bad days than good.

A quick Google yields the following: Care of the Elderly Rabbit, links to various articles. Beth is lucky to have caring owners like you.
posted by biscotti at 6:09 PM on September 26, 2006

I lost my senior rabbit last summer, so I know it's hard. I'd spend more time down on the floor, near wherever she lives. Let her come over and hang out with you without having to make too much of an effort. Bunnies like to be near you, even if they aren't snuggling.

I also would take him outside and let him sit in my lap while I read. He used to run through the garden, but at his age it would have been too easy for him to pick up a parasite. He just liked the fresh air.

I think mostly attention will do it. You'll be happy you did that for her. The day before mine died, I'd let him scoot around the back yard, but not for very long....I felt bad later that I'd brought him in when he clearly wanted to stay out. He became ill and passed away very quickly, as is usual for rabbits.
posted by Salmonberry at 6:25 PM on September 26, 2006

The brand of the plush toys is LM farms (picture here).

Some other things at the suggestion of the wife:

Parsley (link is to video of my bunny destroying with great glee a bit of the green stuff)

Try putting some hay in a paper lunch bag with the top curled over so she has to chew it open. Great mental stimulation.

Also, LM farms also makes a cracker. We only got them a couple of times because they are kinda pricey, but everytime we did the bunny went nuts.
posted by quin at 6:55 PM on September 26, 2006

Hey, Mayor. I can't tell from what you wrote whether she is the cuddly kinda bunny that loves staying on your lap or the kinda bunny that likes to do her own thing.

Either way, keep her nice and warm. She'll like that. And if she likes it, just let her chill on your lap with you and a blanket. Have a beer and watch some tv with her.

Almost all of my animals, when they got to that age, have really liked the affection the most.

I could go on with stories but I won't. Best wishes to you and Beth.
posted by snsranch at 7:18 PM on September 26, 2006

I just e-mailed this question to a friend who has several rabbits. (She's even been a "rabbit advocate" in court in an abuse case.) Here's what she said:
Great article to point him to

He should cut out the crackers and find a more rabbit friendly treat - my guys go nuts for plain rabbit pellets (they only get them as a treat).

Rabbit.org is a sensational resource for all things rabbit, and I am happy to help in any way I can :)


He should cut out the crackers and find a more rabbit friendly treat - my guys go nuts for plain rabbit pellets (they only get them as a treat).

Rabbit.org is a sensational resource for all things rabbit, and I am happy to help in any way I can :)
posted by web-goddess at 9:12 PM on September 26, 2006

I volunteer at a rabbit rescue shelter several mornings a week, and they have several old and/or sick rabbits. They sprawl on faux sheepskins, get lots of fresh green food (if they can handle it) and, if they want the attention, plenty of pets throughout the day.

Perhaps provide your bun with a soft, plushy "mattress" to go along with her blanket. If she's having problems getting around, trim down the edge of her litterbox to make bathroom trips a bit easier. Invest in a good brush if you haven't already. Rabbits, especially the elder ones, have a difficult time grooming their rumps. Some help would probably be appreciated. Bunny Bytes has an excellent assortment of brushes to choose from. I use their rubber curry brush on my rex and he loves it.

Give her plenty of pets and attention. Your bun is lucky to have such a loving human.
posted by hercatalyst at 7:24 AM on September 27, 2006

Never had an elderly rabbit, but our buns (we couldn't keep them when we moved...) loved loved loved the 'strings' from shucked corn! It's still in season around here, and if you have fresh corn, you might consider that as a treat too.
posted by dbmcd at 9:33 AM on September 27, 2006

If she can't make the jump up to the couch anymore, consider picking up/building a set of steps. I've seen them advertised at the local PetCo for small dogs and the like.

Our mini-rex, Robocop, has hit middle age recently. while he still likes exploring and the occasional bink-fest with Beef Wellington, he's more likely to lay down and kick out than he used to be.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:21 AM on September 27, 2006

My elderly cat got a soft bed with a desk lamp pointed over it to keep him warm like a little french fry. We put it under a table with a tablecloth on it to keep all the heat in. He loved it all winter. I don't know if this helps, but I wanted to contribute. Of course you have to weigh the fire hazard aspect for your particular setting.
posted by Marnie at 1:28 PM on September 27, 2006

And don't let her have too many more bad days than good.

I think this was the most important thing said so far. Work with your vet to make sure that you're keeping Beth pain-free. As long as she is, enjoy your fleeting time together.

If she's not, though, you have a tough decision to make - where the kindest thing to do will be to help her end the pain early.

It sucks, I know - had to put down more than a couple pets and its a horrible thing to have to do, but sometimes its the only way.
posted by allkindsoftime at 2:10 PM on September 28, 2006

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