For the love of bunnies
As a foster mother to 16 rabbits in the last eight months, Makayla Middleton loves all bunnies equally.
“I don’t choose favorites,” she says.
She picks up a rabbit and smoothes the ears back to calm the animal, then snuggles her face into its fur.
“And that’s the truth,” says her mom Julie Middleton. “She wants to adopt all of them.”
But she knows she can’t. Makayla helps her mom foster the pets through Leaps and Bounds Rabbit Rescue, a local nonprofit organization comprised solely of volunteers. The 8-year-old began volunteering with the group in September along with her mother.
Bunnies are the third most popular pet, but also the third most surrendered. With this being Chinese Year of the Rabbit and Easter around the corner, some people eagerly acquire a rabbit — without understanding the commitment involved to properly care for these pets.
“People go out to buy a baby rabbit from a pet or feed store as young as 4 weeks old and it’s adorable,” says Nola Williams, director of Leaps and Bounds. “It grows up, gets bigger, the hormones kick in and they become territorial. (These people) don’t know the time involved. Basically, they haven’t done their research.”
Some of them abandon these pets, which end up in animal shelters. Once the space is full, the shelter starts euthanizing the rabbits. As a rescue group, Leaps and Bounds removes rabbits from shelters first. The group currently has 46 rabbits in need of permanent homes.
“We’re overwhelmed right now,” Williams says.
About 12 to 15 families foster these bunnies, including the Middleton family, who became acquainted with Leaps and Bounds a few years ago when they adopted two rabbits.
Makayla’s friends at Oakhills Elementary School call her the “Bunny Whisperer.” She keeps her school informed about her rescue rabbits and facilitated the adoption of two bunnies by a classmate.
On a recent afternoon, Makayla climbs into the cage where four foster bunnies — Coconut, Mouse, Scampers and Oreo — and their mother, Faith, nibble lettuce, climb around and groom each other. There is a fifth baby, a brown one unlike the others who is named “Little Orphan Annie.”
In February, Makayla and her mother handled an emergency foster assignment when a bunny was abandoned in the snow in Foresthill. The rabbit was pregnant and gave birth to six bunnies while at an animal shelter. The mom was malnourished, had already lost two babies and the outlook was dire for the other babies. Makayla named the mama rabbit Faith and assisted her in nursing the babies back to health.
A second emergency call came 12 days later when an orphaned bunny was found at a park all alone. Faith and her babies accepted this new family member.
“(Makayla) already wants to keep Little Orphan Annie,” Julie Middleton says.
The family has fostered these bunnies for six weeks at their Granite Bay home. The animals cannot be adopted until they are at least 8 weeks old because they’re still nursing.
“I feed them, I clean up after them, I give them toys and fresh water,” Makayla says.
She also socializes with them during their playtime rotation, and cares for them in a way that many adults cannot, says her mom. Sometimes, she is the only one who can tell the difference between two similar-looking bunnies.
The fostering period can last from a few days to a couple months. Foster families are responsible for covering the cost of “soft supplies,” which include food, hay and litter. On weekends, Leaps and Bounds hosts adoption events at PETCO on Douglas Boulevard in Roseville.
“People should do the research first and make sure they’re ready for the commitment,” Williams says. “They do take a lot of time and energy. They’re very social animals. If you have bunnies, have them spayed or neutered. And always consider adoption first.”
Sena Christian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Placer SPCA's tips for rabbit adotion
If you are considering a pet rabbit, keep in mind the following:
- Rabbits are not low-maintenance. Their cages or pens need to be cleaned daily, and they need fresh hay, vegetables and water on a daily basis. They also need to be monitored for health issues.
- Rabbits can easily suffer serious injury if handled roughly or dropped by a small child
- Rabbits need social contact and do not do well when penned outside by themselves
- Many rabbits do not like to be picked up or carried, and can scratch or bite
- Rabbits are active animals with powerful legs for jumping. They need enough space to move freely and a small cage purchased as a carrier is not large enough for a permanent home.
For more information, contact the Placer SPCA at (916) 782-7722 or (530) 885-7387, extension 100 or email email@example.com.
Easter Egg Hunt and Spring Festival, a fundraiser for Leaps and Bounds Rabbit Rescue
When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 23
Where: Legends at Woodcreek Oaks, 5880 Woodcreeks Oaks Blvd. in Roseville
Cost: $3.99 for kids and $6.99 for adults for Bunny Breakfast Buffet
Info: Leaps and Bounds Rabbit Rescue bunny rabbits, bounce house, golden egg Easter basket giveaway, raffle, kids-friendly activities. Visit www.legendswoodcreek.com or call (916) 771-5161.
Leaps and Bounds adoptions
When: Noon-4 p.m. Saturdays
Where: Adoption room at PETCO, 1917 Douglas Blvd. in Roseville
Info: www.leapsandboundsrabbitrescue.cfsites.org or call (916) 782-8669.