Hop to it: Bojangles and Remus need a home
Veterinarian Chloe Kempe has treated everything from kangaroos to cattle dogs, but it was rabbits she fell for.
It’s not a love story with a happy ending.
The 28-year-old is moving to Australia in September and leaving her bunnies, Bojangles and Remus, behind.
She doesn’t think the country’s long quarantine period for incoming pets will sit well with the rabbits and is now desperate to find someone willing to adopt them.
“They are like my family. It was a very difficult decision to make, but I thought it would be best for them,” Dr Kempe said.
The Bermudian vet adopted Bojangles and Remus while living in Australia, her home for eight years.
She was working in a clinic in western Sydney when a farmer brought in a rabbit he’d found eating his vegetables.
The farmer suspected the rabbit was a pet, because she seemed tame.
“She wasn’t microchipped,” said Dr Kempe. “She could have gone to a humane society, but she weighed about three kilos and looked like a hare. People want lovely, calico rabbits. The humane society would have euthanised her if she wasn’t adopted within a certain period of time.”
She named the rabbit Bojangles and took her home. A friend said Bojangles was likely a rex cross, a French breed known for its luxurious fur.
“We quickly bonded,” said Dr Kempe, who had never owned a rabbit before. “She would sleep under my bed. If I had a call at 2am she would go with me to the door and would be waiting for me when I came home. She would jump on my bed in the morning.”
Then Bojangles grew lonely.
“She got destructive,” Dr Kempe said. “She needed a companion. Rabbits are very social.”
Enter Prince Charming in the form of Remus, the dwarf rabbit. When Remus’s owners brought him to the vet’s office, his lower front teeth were growing almost into his eyes due to malformation.
“He hadn’t eaten in two weeks,” said Dr Kempe. “He was very thin. It was really a case of neglect.”
When the owners learnt Remus would need his teeth filed every three months, they surrendered him.
“He was probably minutes from being euthanised when someone said a vet on staff, me, might be interested in taking him,” said Dr Kempe.
Bojangles and Remus had a slow courtship; rabbits can become mortal enemies very quickly.
“They can fight to the death,” said Dr Kempe. “I tried to introduce Bojangles to another rabbit called Doughnut. The fur really flew and I have a scar on my ankle from the encounter.”
But Remus and Bojangles made a great pair. When Remus had his problematic teeth removed entirely, Bojangles went along to hold his paw, so to speak.
Rabbit ownership turned out to have an unexpected benefit for Dr Kempe, as she quickly gained a reputation as the go-to rabbit person in her area.
“There aren’t a lot of rabbit experts in Australia,” she said. “Through word of mouth, I became known as someone who went out of her way for rabbits.”
She returned to Bermuda last year, bringing the rabbits with her. It took three flights to get them nearly 20,000 miles across the globe.
Dr Kempe took up a post at Endsmeet Animal Hospital in Smith’s.
“I was dealing with a lot more cats,” said Dr Kempe. “They are not really encouraged in Australia due to the threat to native birds. Here I dealt with toad poisoning instead of snake bites and tick paralysis. For the first time I was working on hamsters and gerbils. They are banned in Australia, so that was interesting.”
Dr Kempe decided to return to Australia as she misses the wildlife and the surfing.
She believes rabbits make excellent pets.
“They aren’t just for children,” she said. “They also make a good pet for mature people. They can live indoors or in a proper enclosure outside. They don’t belong in hutches, though.”
She started a Facebook page, The Bermuda Rabbit Society, to promote proper care. She plans to keep it up after she moves.
Bojangles and Remus are looking for someone who understands rabbit ownership is a serious commitment that can last seven to ten years.
They like to be the centre of attention and would prefer a home with no other pets.
They can learn to live with some cats, but certain breeds of dogs such as terriers and retrievers, are not good with rabbits.
Most preferable is a home with children older than seven; little children tend to drop or poke them. They would like human companions who own their home or plan to be there for the next seven years.
For information about adopting Remus and Bojangles call 777-3011 or e-mail email@example.com.
What’s up doc?
Bugs Bunny always munches a carrot, but the reality is that 80 per cent of a rabbit’s diet is hay.
“They eat mostly Timothy hay,” said rabbit owner and veterinarian Chloe Kempe. “Alfalfa should only be given as a treat.”
Rabbits also need lots of green vegetables twice a day. Take your pick from bok choy, kale, parsley, carrot tops, spinach, and broccoli — they’re all appropriate.
Apples, carrots, watermelon and oranges should be given only in small amounts.
Dr Kempe also gives her bunnies a quarter cup of rabbit pellets twice a day.
She recommended the Oxbow brand for hay and pellets.
“They harvest their hay at the best time to mimic the meadow grass rabbits would normally eat,” she said.
Rabbit food should not have seeds or dried fruit, which is high in fat and sugar.
Visit the Bermuda Rabbit Society on Facebook.