Wednesday, June 12, 2013


He looks at me longingly. He craves a moment of my time and a snippet of affection. If he is in the room with me while I’m on the sofa, he’s quick to snuggle up close, often on my lap. No, I am not talking about my husband. I'm referring to our pet rabbit, Waffles. If you haven’t had much to do with rabbits other than “Peter Cottontail” or as the main ingredient in a fine French stew, then you will learn something new from this article.

We adopted Waffles from a friend about three years ago when he was six. He was a Christmas present for our then fifteen-year-old son who had been pleading for a bunny for years. I thought a pet rabbit would be like a hamster or a guinea pig, cute but minimally interactive. I presumed that the feeding and cage-cleaning would eventually fall onto me, the mother, as is often the case with family pets. Another household chore that I wasn’t thrilled to add to my already overloaded domestic plate.

But before long, Waffles had hopped into all of our hearts. He offered solace when we were down (we call this “Waffles therapy”) and companionship to everyone in the house, including our dog, Taffy. Incidentally, Waffle's name was Taffy when we got him, but we had to change it to avoid confusion. We considered using Taffy 1 and Taffy 2, but that idea won out to Waffles, our son’s choice.

Waffles lives in a comfortable condo type cage, all on one level, but with a couple of rooms. He has a carpet that he can hop onto outside of his cage whenever he wishes. There is a hut on that carpet, which we call his bedroom. He doesn’t venture off the carpet because he is afraid of the slippery hardwood floor. In the morning he’ll spring onto the carpet to greet us with an anxious plea for affection. If we kneel on the floor beside him, he’ll put his little head on our knee and luxuriate in a head massage. And when I talk to him he flicks his right ear and twitches his whiskers. I’m sure he knows what I’m saying, but my younger son thinks I’m a little woo-woo to believe that.

Taffy is a lap dog and weighs just a few pounds more than Waffles. But surprisingly, Waffles is more inclined to sit on our laps than Taffy is. If he is out for a hop-around on the carpet in the family room while I’m watching TV, he’ll jump onto the couch and then onto my lap, and will stay there for as long as I pet him.

When springtime comes and the weather warms up, Waffles spends many hours in our fenced-in backyard. As is a rabbit’s nature, he’ll burrow under a shrub to conceal himself from predators. While there, he enjoys digging in the earth and flipping twigs. If I happen to be in the yard doing garden work, he’ll come out from his lair and pay me a visit. I think he knows that I won’t let any big bad creature get him!

Studies have shown that rabbits who have constant human interaction will live twice as long as those who don’t.  Likewise, milk cows will produce twice as much milk when they are given names and are spoken to with kindness by farm hands. And I’ve been told that even speaking to plants will help them become healthier and more fruitful, which apparently is no myth.

So, talk nicely to your pets, and the birds and the bees, and also the trees. But most importantly, be nice to your mother (so I tell my children)!