How To Support A Grieving Rabbit
How To Support A Grieving Rabbit
In most cases, rabbits are purchased in pairs of a litter. The likelihood of them dying in close proximity is highly unlikely therefore all owners should be prepared for when the time comes that they're left with just one rabbit for a few months or possibly years. As rabbits are social animals living in groups, being alone can be terribly lonely and stressful. It's important for owners to help their bunny cope with the loss of a loved one.
The First Week
It's not uncommon for rabbits to not act their usual selves for a few weeks after the loss of their friend. In cases where their friend was taken to the vets and didn't return home it can be a very confusing experience. Where did they go? It's known that rabbits cope better when they see the lifeless body of their companion as they know what has happened to them and they can cope with it better. However, there are instances where one rabbit has to be rushed to the vets for emergency treatment but then don't return home. In the first few days of your bunny being alone, you may not notice a difference. They're probably just confused and trying to carry on as normal hoping that their friend returns home soon.
Like most animals, rabbits can feed off their owners body language. Have you ever been really nervous holding a bunny and they wriggle to their hearts content whilst you're holding them? You're feeding them that energy. Naturally it's hard for owners to brave a smile when their beloved pet has passed on. Crying is expected and can be done in front of your rabbit as long as you're not making loud wailing sounds which may distress your bunny. Showing sadness may give them the realisation that their friend won't come back. Think of it as telling them something isn't right. Once the realisation has kicked in, it's natural for your rabbit to be 'grumpy' They may grunt for you to leave them alone or run away when you approach their hutch. Having the company of another rabbit makes them more confident and being on their own makes them feel very vulnerable. My recommendation on how to cope with this is not to rush anything. Just like bonding when you first receive your bunny, you're going to have to use some of those tactics again in order to gain more trust.
It can be very easy to slip into a sluggish routine when you're grieving. Sometimes you may feel like you don't want to see your rabbit at all because it will remind you that your lost one won't be there to see you. You may even try to put the responsibility onto someone you're living with. 'Do you mind feeding the rabbit today?'. This is a mistake. Although it may hurt, your rabbit is hurting just as much as you are and they will want to see their best friend for comfort. Whilst they're grieving I'd recommend monitoring that they're eating and drinking properly. If you notice any sudden changes then I'd recommend a trip to the vets - better be safe than sorry!
If you have an outdoor rabbit then their entertainment has always been their friend. Once they're gone they're left in an empty hutch that can be quite cold especially during the winter. Rabbits want to feel like they're safe and a part of a family. I'd recommend bringing them inside your home for a few hours each day. Even if that means them hopping around your bed whilst you go about your business. There may be some initial toilet accidents as they adjust to being inside but eventually they get used to it! Coming inside will become a fun thing for them to do as they get one to one play time with their owner and all the attention. As rabbits are burrowing animals, some owners like to buy their rabbits cat beds that are enclosed so that they can 'escape' to somewhere they feel safe. Not only this but they can also flop out inside and chill out comfortably. During the cold winter months your rabbit will easily become colder than normal as they don't have another bunny to snuggle up to. I'd recommend bringing them inside or in a shed or garage and also purchasing an approved pet microwaveable heat pad. Over a few hours, the heat will travel throughout the hutch and keep your bunny nice and cosy.
Discussing your options with your vet once you've lost your bunny is important. If your rabbit at home is only young, you may consider purchasing a compatible companion. Despite thinking your bunny won't cope alone, in time they can adjust with lots of love. Some rabbits even enjoy being the only rabbit - more food and attention for them!
All of these points should help you support your grieving bunny. When sticking together, you can both be able to grieve and move on from losing your loved one.