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Asking someone if they’re a cat person or a dog person is so last year. The question in 2022: Are you a bunny person?
Turns out that, after owning six dogs, I am. And so are an exploding number of others.
Search “buns” or “bunnies” or “bunny life” on Instagram, and you’ll see feeds full of rabbits hopping around people’s houses, looking impossibly adorable – and getting millions of likes and views.
One of those feeds belongs to my own Baby Funk, short for Funkhouser (as in Marty Funkhouser from “Curb your Enthusiasm”). We also call her “Mrs.”
I tell people we rescued Baby Funk from the mean streets of LA, and now she’s living her best life. That’s the short version. My daughter Clara and I were walking to a hair appointment in Highland Park two days before Christmas 2019 when we passed a pop-up rabbit rescue, packing up as darkness fell.
A woman was cuddling a white rabbit with a little tuft of hair sticking up between her ears and giant eyes, one of them sky blue. We stopped to ooh and aah, and right then a stunning, willowy woman sashayed down the sidewalk and announced that the bunny’s dramatic blue eye matched my daughter’s blue eyes and therefore she was meant to be ours. Without another word, she sauntered off into the sunset.
The one blue eye of Baby Funk and the blue eyes of Clara Whitcomb, 24, match almost perfectly. Whitcomb’s mother, Lori Basheda, says this further indicates the rabbit was destined to be in their family. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Baby Funk perches on her princess pillow while hanging out in the living room with Clara Whitcomb, 24, on Wednesday, June 8, 2022 in Long Beach. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Baby Funk takes time out to clean herself while hanging out in the Basheda’s living room in Long Beach on Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
After an exhausting afternoon being doted upon, Baby Funk crashes in her room in Long Beach on Wednesday, June 8, 2022. The bunny likes to catnap throughout the day. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Baby Funk glances at a painting of herself by Artist Monica Edwards who created it from a photograph of the rabbit. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Baby Funk, the Basheda family rabbit, has a special room devoted just to her. It features stuffed toys, a mirror for her to admire herself, tubes to crawl through, small wooden blocks, and, of course, her litter box with a privacy curtain. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Baby Funk likes to hang out under a dresser in her Long Beach bedroom. Many toys, including colorful wooden blocks, are available for her amusement. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Clara Whitcomb, 24, takes Baby Funk for a stroll through her Long Beach neighborhood on Wednesday, June 8, 2022. People often stop her to chat about her pet. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
It was all very LA, and we decided later that the super-model lady was possibly a plant. But anyway, I felt for whatever reason like we must obey her (I’m super impulsive), and handed the Bunnies of North Central shelter woman $20. We walked into our hairdresser’s shop with a bunny in a box.
Back home, we made a little litter tray with the hay from the box and our new pet jumped right in. She has used the litter box ever since with only a handful of accidents. In fact, when we take her out to play in the garden she will run back inside when she needs to “use the bathroom.”
So, bunnies are tidy and smart. It’s also true that they’re chewers. You can’t care too much about unimportant things, like table legs, and you must hide all electrical cords. (I block them with mirrors and framed photos.)
Baby Funk sometimes gnaws on a wooden drying rack near the washer, but I keep her busy with blocks, twigs and crunchy Critter Pops – their version of potato chips. Internet searches will warn that Critter Pops are the equivalent of rabbit fast-food, but I eat Taco Bell, so whatever.
Apparently, a growing number of people are willing to look past the chewing. A 2020 article at discovermagazine.com says that after dogs and cats, bunnies are the third most popular pet in the U.S. An earlier article from insider.com backed that up, listing rabbits as the second runners-up in popularity among Californians.
The rabbit as pet dates back to the Victorian era. But they were for decades relegated to outdoor hutches. Exactly when people stopped stuffing their bunnies into sad cramped cages and giving them the same freedom as cats and dogs is harder to pinpoint. But the free-range house buns phenomenon is for sure in full swing, judging by social media feeds.
My house has hardwood floors in all but one room, which is good because bunnies don’t like hardwood floors. Their furry paws slip on them, making them nervous. So, Mrs. stays in our carpeted den. That’s why our den now looks more like a child’s playroom.
We scattered little antique-store stools for her to loaf under and pet store tunnels so she can travel from spot to spot. Rabbits are prey animals so they’re skittish in the open. In fact, a hawk once swooped to snatch her up, talons out, right in front of Clara and I in our backyard. We screamed and Mrs. darted into the honeysuckle vine in the nick of time. The hawk flew away, but Mrs. wouldn’t go back outside for weeks. Cats also like to stalk bunnies, so they don’t make the best bunk mates.
Rabbits prefer other rabbits, but even then they are territorial, so it’s best to bring bunnies that are already bonded into your home at the same time. Since Mrs. is “an only child,” we bought her a few stuffed bunnies that look like her. She likes to lick them (satisfying her innate urge to groom) before flopping for naps – her favorite activity.
She spends her nights with us in the living room. Around 8 p.m., we bring Mrs. to the couch for TV time (thus her Instagram handle @couch.bunny). Head cocked, ears up and eyes popping, she stares me down until I give her two raisins from a box on the coffee table. Then she hops up onto a velvet pillow on the back of the couch like a little queen.
We keep jars of dried rose petals from the garden on the coffee table so she can snack along with us when we go in for the olives or cereal.
I’m not gonna lie, Mrs. has chewed a few holes in our pricey Anthropologie couch cushions when we’ve gotten up for kitchen/bathroom breaks – but it’s worth it. She is our muse and our entertainment. We joke that we wouldn’t have made it through the pandemic shutdown without her. On stroller rides around the block, we recorded her “talking” in her sleep, tried to guess what she would be saying if she could talk, and, most therapeutic of all, snuggled with her.
That’s another thing: A rabbit can be a very calming companion. Especially since they don’t bark or make really any noise at all. They can only emit a soft grunt when they’re happy – or unhappy. So, Mrs. grunts while hopping around Clara in a circle every morning – a common bunny greeting, according to Internet pet sites. And sometimes she grunts an unhappy grunt at the end of the night when we pick her up off the couch to return her to the den for bedtime with her stuffed bunnies.
It’s a long way from the mean streets.
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