Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Nail Patrol

Although rabbits are categorized as self-cleaning mammals,
they do need help with their nails,
a nail that is too long can catch, break off and cause lots of bleeding,
or in extreme cases a broken toe.

For almost a couple months, twice a month, I've been volunteering at the Rabbit Haven adoption show trimming nails, cleaning scent glands and performing minor grooming. Free nails trims are one of the services that the Haven offers the rabbit community. Donations are welcome, but not required. Rabbit nails need to be trimmed every 6 to 8 weeks, though some rabbits need to have them done every month. It took me quite awhile to be able to trim nails on my own rabbits, they were good teachers. I have developed three possible holds for the procedure, depending on what the rabbit will let me do. My preferred hold is to have the rabbit on it's back on a towel, slightly cradled between my thighs. This is not trancing because the rabbit's head is not tilted back and it is not unconscious. The position is comfortable and calming for many rabbits. The hind legs of some rabbits shake. Holding the rabbits legs so they stop shaking will not make the rabbit less afraid. Shaking is not a bad thing, it is, in fact, a good thing. Shaking is a neurogenic reaction to stress or fear. It is the body's mechanism for releasing tension/trauma. In a stress and shaking study using chicks it was found that the chicks that were stressed and shook were more resilient to disease and subsequent stress than chicks that were not allowed to shake after stress AND chicks that were not stressed at all. Sometimes people shake too, you may have experienced this if you have had to do public speaking, given birth, or been in scary situation. It is possible to access our shaking abilities and shake out old traumas to our emotional and physical bodies, the system is call TRE and you can find out more by clicking HERE.

Harriet is comfortable and ready for her nails to be trimmed,
Amelia is also comfortable in this position,
Sydney likes to sit up like a baby in a lap,
and Tyler must be done with four feet on the lap,
this is tricky and takes much twisting on my part, but it can be done,
and he insists it is the only way for him.

When I clip nails I work more slowly than the other people who are on nails. Unlike others I cannot talk while I am working. In my case the rabbits can tell if my attention wanders and it's then they will squirm over. They are still teaching me, have no expectations, just sit in the moment and see what it brings, clip nail. This last week I worked on a rabbit for the second time, I've been doing it long enough that I get repeats! The first time I was warned that this rabbit was very bad for nail trims and had been just awful the last time. Her nails were very long, I presume her human had been avoiding the issue as long as possible. I introduced myself to the bun, and petted her for a bit, then turned her over on my legs. I tried to stay focused and calm, and let the bunny turn over when she wanted, which was after each foot, then turned her back over. When it was done I massaged her and told her she was good and beautiful and perfect. This time she over turned once, for the first paw, then was still and relaxed for the rest. Everyone was happy.

Amelia patrolling in the Blueberry Bunny Park.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Being an Angora, Bernadette is all about her fur. When she first came to visit for fur re-hab and to wait for her fur-evah home her facial fur was shortish. It was evident that the person who had her before, and who did quite a bit of de-matting, had had to cut her face fur. I am told, by those who know (TWK) that Angoras DO NOT LIKE to have their facial fur cut. They find it embarrassing, humiliating, and very depressing. When she first came Bernadette was skittish; to be expected, but as I observed her longer it became evident that part of the issue was vision. Her fur was just in the way and things had a way of sneaking up on her. Now that her fur is almost grown out it can be styled away from her eyes and she is more confident. TWK said that a simple barrette was fine, in fact a good thing. Actually the words used were "baby barrette", by which I was not sure whether a barrette for babies was meant or a small sized barrette. I looked for both. I went to three different stores looking for the perfect Bernadette barrette. I could not fine a small enough one with rhinestones so settled for a card of a variety of colors. I do her hair in the morning, removing the barrette each night.

Today was a blue barrette day.

I think she likes it.

Now I can tell when she is looking at me.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Rubbing Bunnies

Harriet and friend, waiting for a massage.

Some time ago I won, I won, I won!! through The Rabbit House blog a DVD called The Relaxed Rabbit massage techniques for your companion rabbit authored by Chandra Moira Beal, who is a professional bodyworker for humans in addition to being a dedicated bunny slave. If the title sounds familiar you may have seen the book by the same name, or like myself may have the book, but misplaced it during moving. If you already have the book you should get the DVD too, you really should. Although I had absorbed many of the techniques from reading, the DVD cleared up questions and provided excellent visual clarification. If you have neither the book nor the DVD you may be wondering why you should learn rabbit massage and isn't petting just the same thing? Massage is close to petting, but more specific and complex. Rest assured if you can pet your bunny you can learn to massage your bunny. The benefits of rabbit massage are extensive both physically and emotionally; effecting all the systems of the body. Ms. Beal does a thourough job of explaining the various aspects of rabbit massage from contraindications and endangerment zones, to feedback signs, as well as the techniques and how to put it all together in a complete treatment.

Because of her fur type Bernadette enjoys
the massage technique called "compression"

I waited so long to write about The Relaxed Rabbit because I wanted to be able to report on observed results. When I do nail trims at the Rabbit Haven adoption shows I do just a little massage on the rabbit before clipping. It's a nice "how do you do, I am not going to hurt you, you sweet little lagomorph". A few times owners have told me they have never seen their rabbit so well behaved and relaxed during a trim. Last week an apologetic human warned me that the rabbit was really bad for nail trims. Some massage and some Happy Pet spray did the trick, the rabbit was really quite good. The next time she will be even better because of the positive experience.

Daikon, formerly known as Radish, has issues to being picked up.
The massage technique called "tapotement", gently applied,
helps his muscles relax and he is easier to pick up

At home I have been pleasantly surprised. Sydney, who does not like to be touched, and I recently found out never has, does not object to massage and afterwards seems more inclined to be friendly. Harriet asks to be picked up since I incorporated some massage into our lap sits. Tyler is much more amenable to being picked up, not skittering away when he realizes what I am going to do. And, as you all suspect, Amelia wants it all the time. We give The Relaxed Rabbit DVD four paws up. You find out more about Chandra Beal and purchase a copy of the DVD HERE.

Adara, a red satin Angora, is staying next door,
she comes over for grooming and massage.
She will be available for adoption through
The Rabbit Haven after
she is spayed.