Saturday, March 17, 2012

Toffee, Tilly and Jinx

contributed by Sharon Butler (from the UK)
"In the spring of 2003 my eldest daughter bought a black baby female lion head rabbit & named her 'Tilly'.
Tilly had a small hutch with an attached run & lived in my daughter's back garden.
Tilly in her old run

Tilly was a lovely girl, she didn't like being picked up but she did love lots of fusses &; liked to lick bare skin (usually legs).
I thought Tilly deserved a bigger hutch, more space to run around and of course another bunny for company. So over the next few weeks we made these things a priority.
I think we must have started off by sectioning off part of the garden for her to run around. Then it was time to start on the hutch.
We used the top of an old wooden office desk for the base (approximately 6ft x 3ft), then built up the sides with old fence panels.
We then built a roof and a sliding mesh door for the main side of the hutch & a hinged door for the sectioned off bedroom area. We then covered the roof & sides with various materials for insulation etc.
Tilly looked so tiny sitting in her hutch after seeing her in her original hutch.

Next came choosing a boyfriend/bunfriend for her. So my husband, son &; myself went to an animal rescue centre.
It's so hard to choose just one rabbit when there are so many. There was a cute brown male lion head rabbit but if I remember rightly he was awaiting neuturing, that would mean we would have to wait longer for a mate for Tilly so we decided to choose another rabbit. My husband chose a cute little brown male called 'Toffee'. He was 18 months old, we were told he was handed in to them because the children of his previous family were no longer interested in him.
A reserve sign was stuck on the outside of his cage. We then filled out some paperwork & went home to wait for a homechecker to come & visit.
We didn't have to wait too long, I can't remember how long we had to wait for her visit, but it was probably within about 2 days.
Well the homechecker came & met Tilly (got her legs licked) and she seemed quite happy with the rabbit area.
I think we may have got a call from the rescue centre the next day saying that we could go; collect Toffee.
So on 6th July 2007 we went to pick up our new rabbit.
He wasn't keen on his car ride &; I think it was quite a hot day too which didn't help.
We introduced the rabbits to each other in our kitchen. Toffee stayed in his pet carrier for a long time &; Tilly stayed in one corner for a long time. Tilly finally got the courage & came over for a sniff, but ran off again. When they eventually came face to face out of the carrier they were both a little cautious &; then there was a little fighting, but nothing really to worry about.

Toffee and Tilly's First Kiss

I think I video filmed some of this, I would have to search through lots of footage to find it so it is unlikely to be added to this story, although the photos were easier to find.
Toffee was put in Tilly's old hutch with attached run right next to Tilly's new run. So the 2 rabbits could see each other without the danger of injury at the times we were unable to supervise.
Sadly though in the very early hours of the next morning one of my other daughters was in a car accident with her boyfriend & his friend. My daughter survived with just minor injuries, as did her boyfriend's friend. The boyfriend though sadly lost his life.
Obviously this took priority over trying to bond the 2 rabbits.
Both rabbits still had room to run around, were still fed & watered etc. They just weren't getting the attention from us.
Despite this, we did resume trying to bond the rabbits after a few days. There was fighting &; chasing, but gradually they became more friendly towards each other.
Then one night I thought it would be a good idea if we could put a wire mesh divider in the large hutch between the sleeping area & the main area. Tilly would have the large area & Toffee the smaller sleeping area. That way they could be close if they wanted & no risk of fighting.
The wire mesh was quite high, but there was a bit if a gap at the top, this didn't appear to be a problem though.
I know some rabbits would bite each other through the wire, but these two seemed to have no interest in biting each other through the wire.
Everything seemed fine in the morning, but I thought I would let Toffee have a run around in Tilly's run for a while before I let Tilly out too.
Toffee was enjoying his runaround (Tilly was not amused) it was her run & she seemed really agitated that he was out there.
Then I was quite shocked to see Tilly jump at the wire mesh, she clung on tightly & managed to scramble up to the top until she was high enough to get over and then land in the other side. She then ran out of the hutch & joined Toffee.
I had never seen Tilly jump so high or climb over anything before & I never did again.
This was it then, the barrier was now irrelevant so we took it down & let the rabbits stay together. I was a little worried the first night though, but it all turned out fine. The rabbits bonded, loved each others company & would spend much of their time preening each other.
Toffee was neutured, Tilly was not and she did spend quite a bit of time burrowing &; moving bedding &; her own fur (sometimes into their bedroom & sometimes down a burrow).
The hutch later had an upstairs bedroom put in with a ramp & their part of the garden was fenced off properly. During the day the door of the hutch would be opened & the 2 rabbits would be able to come & go as they please. They would be shut in the hutch just before it got dark at night & then let out again in the morning.
At a later date the hutch was moved into a small shed at the bottom of the garden (giving them a larger covered area if the weather was bad). We also fenced off a section of the garden directly outside of the shed which is just for the rabbits.

The 2 rabbits lived together happily for years, but in the summer of 2011 Tilly was not as active as she always had been, she became a little wobbly & stopped going up the ramp to the bedroom.
Most nights (but not all) Toffee would spend the evening in the bottom room of the hutch fussing Tilly.
By the time winter arrived I was concerned about Tilly, worrying that she wouldn't be warm enough if Toffee decided to spend the night at the top of the hutch. So I took out the ramp & blocked off the top room, to make sure Toffee stayed with Tilly, therefore keeping her warm enough. I also bought a Snuggle Pad (I think that's what it is called), it was a special heat pad with a cover on which could be heated up in the microwave. I would put this in their bed at night & when I would open the hutch in the morning Tilly would be laying across it.
As time passed, Tilly started to lose the use of her back legs & sometimes she would literally drag herself around by her front legs, it was very sad to see. Then there were days that Tilly would not come out of the hutch. Toffee would come out for a while, eat some grass & then go back in & fuss Tilly. I think he knew she wasn't well, he was very loving towards her at this time. I would carry her outside & put her on the grass & she would happily eat lots of it.
After a couple of days though she deteriorated & it was horrible to see, so my husband & I took her to the vet.

She was 9½ years old, I had previously looked online for information about lion head rabbits & it seems that they can live upto about 9 years. As Tilly was 9½ years I thought she had done quite well and had a good life.
The vet thought it would be kinder to have her put to sleep, it was a horrible decision to make, but I hated seeing her like that & agreed to have her put to sleep.
We took her home & led her in the shed where Toffee would be able to see her before we buried her. He did go upto her & sniffed around a little.
After we took her away though he would keep going to the spot where he last saw her. He seemed confused in his hutch alone for the first night & when he came out in the morning it looked as if he was searching for her. We opened up more of the garden for him where there was lots more grass. He enjoyed the freedom & made a good job of keeping the grass short. But after a while he would just sit huddled in a corner, looking very sad  lonely. He would become more active if people went in the garden, he also became more interested if one of the cats went out there too.
It wasn't nice to see him on his own, he looked so sad. I then thought that maybe it was time to get another rabbit. I hated the idea of replacing Tilly, she was such a lovely rabbit, but it wasn't fair on Toffee being all alone. So my search began.
I looked on the website of the rescue home that Toffee came from. They had mostly young males, I think the only females were a bonded pair (sisters I believe). Sadly though it looks like they still have those sisters, their longest staying rabbits. We couldn't really take on 2 more so I searched the internet every day.
Sometimes I would spot an ideal female rabbit, but she would always be hundreds of miles away.
I really wanted another rabbit from a rescue centre, but there just didn't seem to be any.
Then one day a friend was visiting & I mentioned to her that I was on the lookout for another female rabbit. She said she had a female rabbit that she was trying to rehome. Her rabbit was approximately 2½ years old. The rabbit was a baby when she bought her & was told that she was a dwarf rabbit. Because of this she bought a guinea pig hutch thinking that it would be ideal.
I don't know where she bought the rabbit, but they were definately wrong about her being a dwarf. She is twice the size of my regular sized Toffee rabbit. Therefore her hutch was really too small.

Well a few days later I collected the lady bunny named (Jinx) &I introduced her to Toffee in our kitchen. Toffee really wanted to be with her, he would just keep going up to her looking like he wanted to fuss her. She had never been that close to another rabbit before & would just keep running away from him.
She seemed scared of him, she was also in a strange environment with people she didn't know (& 3 cats too).

Despite this, less than 24 hours after they first met they were snuggled up on the kitchen floor with Toffee cleaning Jinx.

This was great, but when they were moved to the outside run Jinx kept running away from Toffee every time he tried to approach her. I could tell Toffee was getting frustrated, all he wanted was to be friends.
They spent 3 or 4 nights in separate hutches, which were face to face so they could still see each other.
Then one afternoon I shut them in the big hutch together for a few hours. Jinx kept away from Toffee as much as she could for a while, but then every 10 minutes she would go over to him & demand a fuss (which Toffee happily obliged to). Each fuss lasting longer than the previous one.
I let them back out to run around outside for the rest of the afternoon, then I put them both in the same hutch overnight.
Jinx moved everything around in the hutch, bowls, bedding, paper, hay etc. She made a right mess, but they are both happy now.
Jinx has only been with us for a few weeks, but she has certainly made a difference to Toffee's life. He seems much happier now & is enjoying the company of another rabbit again.

We also put the ramp back inside the hutch & opened up the top section too to give them more space.
Jinx has started burrowing now, but she is a much larger rabbit than Tilly was so I am dreading the size of holes (burrows) she is going to make.
We took on my daughter's rabbit Tilly so she did not need to be rehomed by a rescue centre.
We then adopted Toffee from a rescue centre because he was no longer wanted.
Then lastly we took on my friend's rabbit Jinx.
Although only one of our rabbits came from a rescue centre I do feel that we rescued all 3. We gave them a larger home/hutch, large run/section of the garden & of course the company of another rabbit.
I am sad that Tilly is no longer with us, but I'm happy that Jinx is a happier rabbit with much more space & of course she has her very first bunfriend in Toffee.
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