The lucky bunny
Monty the cat takes on a baby bunny and loses.
It was May, but still summer. The weather was clear, warm, sunny days, crisp and cool at night. The poplar trees down the drive had turned a gold that glowed in the mornings and the leaves were just beginning to flutter down, but from the dry rather than the cold. The only sign of any sort of precipitation in the last month was the morning mist that drifted up the harbour, little tufts of clouds that hung over the water until the sun was hot enough to burn them off. It was a beautiful season. Feed was a bit short on the farms, but the cockies weren’t complaining. They knew winter was just around the corner and the wet would come all too soon. This spell of good days gave everyone the chance to catch up on all the jobs that needed doing before the rain set in. The digger contractors were busy. The fertiliser guys were booked out. Any contractors with virtually any sort of machinery were fencing, cleaning out drains, putting in dams, or mowing and topping.
Fortunately for the Vet, things were not as busy. The pregnancy testing season was mostly behind him. Only a few of the bigger farms had autumn calving mobs, and the good weather meant there had been few problems.
A couple of calves hadn’t lined up right to leap into the world. One was just a front foot back and the Vet admitted he’d had to writhe and groan a bit to make it look like he was earning his fee for that one. But in fact it was literally just a flick to bring the leg forward and the calf slithered out in seconds.
There was another case of tail presentation, which had not been so easy. By the time the farmer noticed anything amiss, the calf had gone rotten and the cow was pretty seedy. It was a stinking awful job to cut the calf up inside the cow and bring it out bit by bit. Even once it was out it would be touch and go and a lot of antibiotics before the
It’s not its fault it was born a bunny... it’s just a frightened little baby.
cow could hope to recover.
It required a big shift in mental gears to assist Jan Freemont when she presented a small box with holes in the lid and put it quietly on the examination table.
“And what appears to be the trouble with your box today?” the Vet asked jovially. “I see quite a few puncture wounds.”
“Air holes.” She answered. “It’s a bunny. The cat was batting it around downstairs. Not getting much fun out of it. But I heard it squealing at one point and managed to grab it before Monty ran off with it. He knows I don’t approve of him bringing his catches home. They are usually just heads by the time I find them.” “A wild rabbit?” “Yeah,” Jan looked uncomfortable. “Yeah, I know they are a damn nuisance. And I know it will probably raid my lettuces. But heck… it’s not its fault it was born a bunny. It’s just a frightened little baby.”
“Well, I guess rabbits don’t really get out of control up here,” the Vet reasoned. “The winters are just too wet for them.”
“Yes. I think the good weather this year meant Mum and Dad rabbit had time for another brood. I figure the wet will bring the population back into line in a month or two. Meantime, this little thing is just hurt and very freaked out.”
Jan had packed the bunny in the dark box with a hot water bottle. The Vet carefully picked it out. The rabbit froze in his hands. It was barely a handful of soft brown fur, with big black eyes and long soft ears.
“There is just a bit of blood on the hindquarters, might be a bite wound from the cat,” he said. “It’s not too bad, but usually they die from shock. How long ago did you find him?”
“It was two nights ago now. I gave him a few drops of rescue remedy the first night. Then I put him in the box, I didn’t really expect him to survive. I just left him in the dark and quiet in the hot water cupboard to keep him warm. I put a bit of lettuce and carrot in with him. He might have had a bit of a nibble. When he was still going the next day, I thought I had better let you look at the leg.”
“Rescue remedy. Hmmm, well, who knows,” the Vet demurred. “Well, if it made it through the first 24 hours, it certainly has a good chance now.”
The baby rabbit was about 100mm long, which meant it was maybe three to four weeks old.
“He is probably weaned now,” the Vet explained. “So you don’t have to worry about milk replacer, though I believe goat milk is the best. But you can just try him on a bit of clover and rabbit pellets, lettuce, carrots, all that stuff you read about from Beatrix Potter.
“But really,” he looked sternly at Jan over the top of his glasses. “It’s not a good idea to try to keep feral rabbits in captivity.”
“Oh I know that, I just want him to get big enough and smart enough to stay clear of Monty or the hawks. I promise I won’t handle him any more than necessary. And I will let him go before he gets too tame.”
“You are a lucky one, Peter Rabbit,” the Vet addressed the bundle of fluff. “I won’t worry about pain relief for him, it’s a bit late for that. The wound is more of a puncture than tear. Antibiotics should stop any infection. If he has any future it will be up to your feeding.”
“Oh, and I was just wondering, any chance of telling what sex he is,” Jan asked. “I just sort of assumed… but is it a boy?” “I haven’t tried sexing rabbits since vet school, but I know the theory: hold bunny on its back, hold the tail out and press under the privates with your thumb. See what pops out. It it’s a little mound with a slit then it is a girl, a potential baby rabbit machine. If it’s a spout like a teapot then it’s a boy.”
He placed his thumb on the appropriate place. Pressed and looked. Girl.
“Flopsy. Mopsy. Your choice.” n