The great rabbit odyssey

Published 10:48 am Friday, July 13, 2018

As far as could be determined by the untrained eye, the juvenile rabbit was the common eastern Tennessee breed, the eastern cottontail. The baby rabbit was saved from the two pet cats we own. That night before Aug. 13, we heard a high pitched squeaking coming from our backyard.

Thinking our two cats had gotten a mouse at first. We don’t like the idea of our cats hunting and preying on mice, but it is their nature as predators and we thought it best to let nature take its course. The squeaking continued and did not want our cats to let an animal suffer, so we decided to see if we could shoo them away from whatever treat they felt they had found.

Upon checking out the ruckus, it was discovered the source of the noises wasn’t a mouse, but the aforementioned baby rabbit. The cats were toying with it, and it was absolutely petrified. We chased the cats off and took the rabbit away, bringing it to where we thought it may have come from in our yard — as we’ve seen rabbits in that area before.

After taking the rabbit back to where we thought was best, the problem seemed to be over and done with. This was not the case. The very moment before walking out the door to go to work, the very same squeaking was heard again. Somehow, the same rabbit was being tormented by our cats yet again. Chasing the felines off for a second time and snatching up the frightened baby, a makeshift nest was constructed out of the only cardboard box we had to keep it safe while a solution was sought.

Looking up information online about how to care for wild, juvenile rabbits stated that while wild rabbits can eat what domesticated rabbits eat, they most likely will not become domesticated like a pet rabbit bought from a store will.

Bell County Cooperative Extension Service Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Stacy White, stated that unfortunately there were not any local people or groups in Bell County who work with wild animals to rehabilitate them. He stated that the best option was to keep the cats inside for three or four days and set the rabbit loose to give it enough time to re-acclimate to his environment and get away.

This seemed like the most reasonable and logical thing to do. But we, having already gotten attached to the little bunny, were too worried that it wouldn’t make it on its own as its nest was not found when we went searching for it. We did not want to risk the cats finding it again whatsoever. There are also stray cats and dogs in the area as well.

After more calls around town, the Harrogate Hospital for Animals stated we could surrender the rabbit to them, and a person who works with rehabilitating animals in Virginia would take the baby under their wing, and that is what we did. We packed the rabbit up in a box with some grass bedding, water and thinly sliced carrots (they indeed eat carrots) and took to where he had, in our opinion, the best chance at survival.