Bunny Love, The Story of A Therapy Rabbit

Mar 3, 2012 | 2012 Articles, Helping Hands, Lee Juslin, Pets

by Lee Juslin

Can you imagine anything more soothing than stroking soft bunny fur when you’re sick or lonely? That’s exactly what China provides when she goes on her therapy visits to a Veterans Hospital or an area nursing home.

Blanca, who adopted China from a bunny rescue, describes her as a CA mix, “She has the sweetest temperament and she is content to be rubbed and cuddled for half an hour or more.” At the Veterans Hospital where China and Blanca visit amputees and hospice vets, China has been a revelation because most of the soldiers had never seen a domesticated bunny but knew only wild bunnies. As one veteran said to Blanca, “We thought we’d seen everything. Sure didn’t know you could train a bunny.”

China

At first the veterans were a bit unsure about China, but as they’ve gotten to know her they’ve become real softies with her. In fact, one veteran who is a favorite of China’s doesn’t hesitate to instruct the other vets on how to gently hold and pat her. And, China, for her part, does have her favorites. Blanca told, “I can always tell when China really likes someone, even though she doesn’t purr like a cat. With her favorites, she’ll relax on their bed or in their laps and just want to stay with them.”

At home, where she is an only bunny, China continues her therapy work with some neighborhood children who often come to Blanca’s house to play and cuddle with the bunny. One little girl is a favorite of China’s as she is very gentle and quiet with her and because she gives China lots of pats in her favorite place: between her ears. Together they often play hide and seek. China also likes playing with her plastic ball which she kicks around the house and, for treats, Blanca gives her willow toys to chew. China is litter box trained and has the run of the house as she never chews or destroys anything other than her own toys and treats. But, less you think China is perfect, she does have a bit of a temper. “Once,” said Blanca, “I was late with her dinner. She came to find me, stood in front of me, and stamped her foot. I make a real effort to see that dinner is on time now.”

China with food

Therapy certification for a bunny is similar to the requirements for a cat. First, China’s personality had to be evaluated by her vet. A bunny must like people, be able to sit quietly for long petting sessions, and have no inclination to nip. As expected, the vet pronounced her a friendly, people-loving soul who would be a good candidate for therapy work. Next, China and Blanca have to complete ten supervised therapy visits. To date, China has done nine visits, some with her good buddy Moorea. When she completes her last visit and becomes certified, Blanca and China intend to continue their visits to the vets and the nursing home, but also want to add participation in a reading program at their local library.

China in stroller

China, like therapy cats, visits in her own stroller and wears a custom-made pink harness with a matching leash because Blanca wasn’t able to find a suitable harness in the stores. Bunnies especially need a calm, quiet environment as they can have a heart attack from loud noises and, though they don’t bark or meow like dogs and cats, will unleash a loud scream at rough handling or if they are uncomfortable or in pain. Blanca says she has only heard the scream once, but that it was quite impressive.

Whether playing with neighborhood children or cuddling with servicemen at the Veterans Hospital, China, like all good therapy pets, is a bundle of love and comfort.

Check out some other therapy animal articles here in KRL-Therapy Dogs, A New Kind of Service Animal: Rats and another article by Lee about her therapy dog Frosty.

Lee Juslin, a free lance copywriter, graduated from Bucknell University and received a masters degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Along with Frosty’s Story. Tails of a Therapy Dog, she is also the author of the Nurse Frosty children’s books. All are available directly from the author’s web site: www.ibdoggone.com or amazon.com. Lee lives in New Bern, NC with Frosty and the rest of her family including husband, Scott; Frosty’s brother, Tarquin; and two Scottish Fold cats.

9 Comments

  1. Very well-written and informative! China seems like a wonderful therapy animal. 🙂

    Reply
  2. I pet sit for a couple of bunnies and have seen the late-with-dinner-stomping-feet-temper! It’s impressive. It’s very cool to see a small animal charm and win over a tough guy like a veteran. You go China!

    Reply
  3. What a wonderful story. Told by a true animal lover.

    Reply
  4. That is very cool, I have two Therapy dogs. I want to someday train a Therapy Cat, who do you go thru for that? Where my dogs are certified they only do dog certification.

    Reply
  5. Love on a Leash certifies cats. It involves a recommendation from the vet and supervised visits. You can see more on their web site http://www.loveonaleash.org

    Reply
    • Thanks, who does the supervised visits? I can’t find that on the website, do they have to be a member of Love on a Leash or is it someone at the facility you choose to do your visits at?

      Reply
  6. I’m not current on testing information but it used to be, if there isn’t a chapter in your area or another member, then the activities director or other person from the facility could observe. Email the group and ask for imformation to get the current rules. I know they’ve certified all kinds of animals over the years.

    Reply
  7. I have never heard of bunny therapy. I thought bunnies did not like being snuggled very often, so I am a little surprised. But if the vet okayed it, then go for it! I think bunnies are softer than cats and dogs so I bet it is really soothing for the people.

    Reply
  8. I really like the way you have shared your thoughts and experience. I have been taking care of my bunnies since 2010 and I love them so much.

    Reply

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