Our Easter bunnies, Skip and Kipling, live as rabbits should do. They have a hutch that opens into a 9ft x 3ft run so that they always have some exercise space. We have also built them a paddock in the garden, which is an 18ft x 12ft area — mainly lawn but also some borders.
Because our terraced house has a long, thin rear garden, all we had to do to create the paddock was to erect a picket fence across the width and tack chicken wire (up to 2ft high) on to the new and existing fencing.
We put both rabbits out for an hour every morning and for several hours later on, sometimes for a whole day (as long as one of us is at home). Every evening at about 9pm — later in summer — we go out, rattle the food box and call their names. Then, after stopping for some finger-given food, they go into their hutch. Sometimes they even put themselves away.
Earlier this year, you suggested a rabbit shouldn’t be allowed to run free in a garden because of the risk of urban foxes. We think our paddock is the ideal solution.
We get great pleasure from watching them from our kitchen window, bounding about in the spring sunshine, grazing in the evening and stretching out contentedly having seen off another inquisitive cat!
PT,Eastleigh,Hants Indeed, this sounds like the ideal solution: a balance between safety and freedom. You have a good hutch with an attached large run and you let them out when you can keep the occasional eye on them.
The risk of letting a rabbit live completely free in a garden all the time is that an urban fox will get to it. But perhaps even that risk is worth taking if the alternative is living miserably in a hutch without a run.
I was surprised and pleased to hear that your rabbits could be tempted back into the hutch so easily. It probably helps that you don’t have to pick them up, as most rabbits dislike this. Rabbit-owners with high hutches might think about adding an access ramp or using a cat box to lift the bunny.
National Pet Month starts today and includes Wet Nose Day on April 24 (get involved at www.national petmonth.co.uk). Cats that eat unusual foods are expressing their individuality rather than being influenced by their owners. Whenever any of my cats are ill and off their food, they all prefer pilchards in tomato sauce when offered up to eight alternatives. They don’t like pilchards in oil or brine.
I have never met a cat interested in fresh tomatoes, but the sauce also contains vinegar, salt, spice, herbs, garlic powder and sugar or glucose. I have read that cats do not taste sweetness but my colourpoint Persian, Toby, licked most of the topping off two Victoria sponge cakes I’d left to cool on racks. Did he like the sugar, flour, eggs or butter — or the combination?
GE,Skipton,Yorkshire Tomato sauce attracts many cats. It can’t be the sugar, as cats do not have tastebuds for sweetness. The food preferences of Jasper, an elderly rescue cat, may give a clue. “He becomes wildly excited when I am preparing chicken livers, cheese or melon. The first two items are forbidden, as he is on a prescription diet for kidney failure. But, on hearing about his passion for melon, the vet agreed that at least he was getting his vitamins.
“Jasper is also keen on other highly perfumed fruits such as mango, pineapple and passionfruit, but melon is his main love. Could it be the scent rather than the sweetness that attracts him?”
I am thinking of getting a small, middleaged dog from a rescue shelter. My problem is that I have a one-year-old grandson who does not live with dogs. I want to make sure that both boy and dog are comfortable and safe. Of course, they would never be left alone together. I would like a mongrel, but would it be better to get a pedigree? If so, what kind?
VN, Bushey,Herts Getting a middle-aged dog from a shelter is a brilliant idea, and better than getting a puppy from a breeder. You need to find a rescue shelter that knows about dog behaviour. I can recommend the Dogs Trust, the Blue Cross and Battersea, all of which check out their dogs for behaviour. They can find you a dog that is experienced and safe with children. If they don’t have one available, wait until they do.
When you have your dog, buy a crate for him. This will not be used as a confinement cage, but as an indoor den for him (you will find details of crate training on www. celiahaddon.co.uk).
The beauty of a crate is that it will keep the dog safe from your grandson, when he wants to pull its tail or ride on its back.
A crate can be used in a car, in a hotel room or taken with you to your grandson’s home. There is a good dog-and-baby leaflet available from www.dogstrust.org.uk.
Last month I gave the wrong web address for the Miniature Mediterranean Donkey Association. The correct address is: www.miniature-donkeyassoc.com.
Smeegle (pictured left) and his female friend Chequer are Easter bunnies at the Blue Cross Centre in Lewknor, Oxfordshire. They have been together for four years and need a home where they can stay together.
They were given to the Blue Cross because their owner didn’t have enough time for them. This may explain why they are both rather shy. Like many rabbits, they do not enjoy being picked up, preferring to keep all four paws on the ground.
“We have been working with them to gain their confidence,” says Nicola Rixson, a behaviour adviser at the centre. “I sit with them quietly, letting them come up to me, and hand-feeding them tasty treats. Smeegle is the shyest but he is a real character when he gets to know you.”
Smeegle and Chequer are litter-trained. Like all Blue Cross bunnies, they are vaccinated and neutered (unlike pet shop rabbits). They would make good house rabbits. Alternatively, they will need a 6ft x 2ft hutch with a large run, preferably attached.
If you are willing to spend time winning the confidence of Smeegle and Chequer, phone 01844 355293 or see www.bluecross.org.uk.
Celia Haddon regrets that she cannot answer all readers’ letters personally. All sick animals should, of course, be taken to a vet.