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Helping the house rabbit on the loss of a companion

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Psychologist Dr. Wallace Sife, founder of the Association for Pet Loss and Grieving and author of “The Loss of a Pet” says that when a companion pet passes away, allow the grieving and validate the grief of yourself and your surviving pet by offering compassion and support.

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There are ways to help your pet with the healing process: start by allowing your rabbit to see his deceased companion in order to understand what has become of his friend. Spend extra time with him, carefully monitor his appetite; a grieving rabbit who is not eating can go into life-threatening GI stasis himself. Offer him his favorite foods, offer him extra treats (within reason). Give your rabbit extra attention, petting and grooming. Make sure his favorite toys are available, and perhaps offer a new toy – anything to perk him up and spark his interest. Other ways to help include:

  • Try homeopathy - Bach’s Rescue Remedy blend is invaluable in situations of grief and stress, as it contains the flower essence of Star of Bethlehem (you can also get pure Star of Bethlehem from Bach’s). Another Bach’s flower essence that is invaluable for grieving pets (or people) is Bach’s Walnut essence (for help during times of life changes). These homeopathic remedies involve placing 3 drops of the flavorless-to-mildly-sweet liquid on a treat or they can be rubbed onto the inside of an ear flap once or twice daily. The Bach’s remedies can be found at health food stores (Olympia Health Foods in Kettering for example) or online.
  • Gentle classical music – and especially harp music – can have a soothing effect. Try 88.1 WDPR in Dayton.
  • Color therapy – in times of grief, the color pink can have an uplifting effect, as can the color green. Placing carpet squares in or near the rabbit’s living area or hanging some towels in this color near his quarters may help soothe him (and it certainly can’t hurt).
  • Check out the website of the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement. Consider participating in one of the many online chats which are moderated by trained professionals; Dr. Sife moderates Friday evening chats.

Once your bunny comes through the worst of their grief, you may begin to make changes to the (previously) shared environment very slowly. It is important to leave down shared mats and throw rugs that smell of the companion that has passed away, only gradually removing them one at a time as the grieving companion has begun to recover. It is helpful to add a new item as one is removed - something to spark the interest of the bereaved house rabbit and create a new, positive focus.

Be kind to yourself and your surviving bunny. Console each other; talk to your bunny about the loss of your beloved friend. Your capacity to grieve honors the memory and the depth of love that you both have for the departed friend. Together the two of you can work through the loss.

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The bunnies in the slideshow are all adoptable through the Humane Society of Greater Dayton, 1661 Nicholas Road in Dayton, 937/268-PETS (7387).

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Helping the grieving house rabbit

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