Thursday, September 27, 2012

Saving Money Without Compromising Quality Care

Special thanks to Amber for contributing this blog post!
The cost of adding a pet to the family can seem daunting. Below are some tips we here at 4 Lil Pigs n Buns have found to help with the cost of keeping our furry pets - and our wallets - happy. 

For very small critters such as hamsters, gerbils, mice or rats, you can commonly find an abundance of very well priced cages on Craigslist. If you can’t find one you like, try asking friends and family. I have found most of my family (especially those with children) have an old cage or two in the garage or shed. Homemade cages can also give tons of room while being quite easy and cheap to make.
For guinea pigs or bunnies, ask around with your friends whose puppies have grown up. They may just have an extra exercise pen or two hanging around.
If you wan to go the C&C cage route, I have found lots of the cubes for sale at yard sales and on the internet right as school is letting out for the summer and college kids no longer need them. The coroplast can usually be obtained for free after any election. Just ask around with your neighbors with yard signs to see if you can take them off their hands. The parties may also have extra signs they are looking to get rid of.
Animal carriers are far too overpriced! A tall plastic storage bin without the lid usually works just as well, but if you have a high jumper, or would just like a commercial carrier, they can usually be found very cheaply at thrift stores, yard sales or even on the side of the road for free.  

This carrier cost me $5.26 at the thrift store. A pet store would charge you at least triple that!

Cage Necessities:
Food and water bowls need to be of good quality. If you buy one that is plastic or too light weight, it will cause big problems when your pet decides to play by flinging it, or accidently tips it over, making a huge mess. But heavy duty bowls at pet store are pricey and most are themed for dogs and cats. A great solution is to stop into your local thrift store and check out the selection. All bowls I have bought from Goodwill have been under $3. The best part is I can always find a wide variety to match my d├ęcor.
Veggie bowls bought at Goodwill for just over $1 each  
XL brown bowl bought at Goodwill for $3
 I also scour outlet stores. Most have an even further discounted section where they have pieces to sets that have no match. The discount sections of your favorite big stores such as Target are a great place to look as well. They usually have various holiday themed bowls and small rugs at great prices, especially after that season is over.
Litter pans can get pricey. A nice, large box at a pet shop can make you do a double take. If you have an old plastic bottom cage, it would make a fantastic large litter box. If not, a large plastic storage bin with a low lip can be used. If you have a larger big laying around you want to use instead, a simple circle cut in the side makes it a great litter pan that keeps the mess in and the cage nice and neat.
Litter can be purchased in bulk. Just ask for compressed wood bedding for horse stalls at any farm supply store.

This 40lb bag cost me the same amount as a 7lb bag at the pet store!
Looking to get a hay rack? A bent grid works great and you probably already have one laying around! Old cardboard boxes also work great.

The one thing you never, ever want to skimp on is quality food. Places like Walmart or Publix just don’t have quality pellets. It may cost a little more, but it is worth it for the health and happiness of your pet.
Hay can be bought in bulk by the bale or half bale at most farm supply stores. Remember to ask to see the hay first to be sure it is good quality. If you prefer buying your hay online, sign up for a few company’s newsletters or ‘like’ them on Facebook so you can keep up to date on their sales.
The price of veggies can really add up. To save major bucks, look into your local farmer’s markets and produce stands, remember to haggle if you are buying large amounts! You can also sign up for services where veggies will be delivered to you on a schedule for a set price (though with this option you usually will not know what you will be getting).

Our small fuzzies tend to be rough on their toys, and most don’t last past a week. So why pay a fortune for something that will be gone in the blink of an eye? Simple things like toilet paper rolls, cardboard boxes and old wrapping paper/newspaper are all free and enjoyed just as much as those high priced toys!
Another great source of free play things are old children’s toys. If you don’t have any, ask any friend or relative with small kids. They will probably be happy to get rid of them! Stuffed animals, plastic baby toys, tents, tunnels and play mats are all great items that make a leap from baby toy to critter toy.

All of the toys and such here, including the pen, were from friends with children who grew out of them.
Blankets and towels can usually be picked up for free as well. Usually something as simple as making a post about it on Facebook will get you all you need and more!
Want a cute little cat toy ball or small fleece blankie? Pick some up at your local Dollar Tree for just a buck!

Vet care:
Have multiple pets? Ask your vet if you can bring them all in at once and only get charged one office visit fee. If you are looking for basic services like vaccines or getting your pet fixed, check out your local low cost or not for profit clinic. 

Let us not forget the biggest cost saver of adding a new furry friend: Adoption! Spays and neuters, health exams and vaccines will have already been preformed, saving you tons of cash. 

If you are looking to save even more, check out 4 Lil Pigs n Buns’ reduced adoptions fees through the end of September!

Come join us this Saturday, September 29th, from 10am to 1pm at the Brandon Petco!  If you are pre-approved to adopt, you can come meet your possible furry forever friend!  This is the LAST weekend for our reduced adoption rates!   And anyone can come by to ask us questions about bunny, guinea pig, or small furry critter care and meet the animals.  We hope to see you there, and donations are ALWAYS appreciated!  We especially need donations of hay right now.  Thank you!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy Tales (Why We Do What We Do)

People often ask us, "Why do you do this?  It's so much work.  Surely you must get tired of it!"

Well, the truth is, we do get tired of it.  It is difficult to get one dump request after another.  It can be exhausting keeping up with emails and phone calls.  We have our own animals and foster animals to take care of.  We spend a lot of money out of our own pockets to keep the rescue running.  We all do this on a volunteer basis.  It can be hard to balance our personal lives with rescue work.

So what keeps us going?  Why do we do it?  YOU - the adopters.  The forever homes.  Seeing an animal adopted out into a loving home is the ultimate reward.  That is why we are ecstatic to get updates from our adoptive families!

Here are a few of their tales.

Guinea pigs
We have quite a few guinea pigs come through the rescue!  We pull from various humane societies and SPCAs as well as taking in a few private surrenders (and yes, we've even received piggies found as strays!)  Much of the time, we don't know their story.  In most cases, they are likely bought as a child's pet and later surrendered/abandoned.  Luckily, we have been able to find wonderful homes for many of these previously unwanted piggies.

Spot and Chance
Spot and Chance have been living the good life since being adopted!  Here is an update from their family:
Just wanted to give you an update on Spot and Chance, the two pigs we adopted from you.  They're doing great!  They've put on some weight and are very social little pigs (well, as social as Chance can be!). They're great with the kids and are hearty eaters - carrots and basil being their favorites!  They turned 3 years old last month.
Thanks Denise!

Senator Theodore Turkleton (formerly Abetting)

Clearly the Senator is pampered!  Here is a message from his family:
We changed his name to Senator Theodore Turkleton. He's a shy piggy but he loves to cuddle.  He gives kisses too. He has a buddy named Sir Charles Chewbacca the 2nd. He loves to run around the living room, and he loves his orange slices. He got a piggy bed for my birthday and he loves laying and eating his treats in it.
He also loves to burrow in blankets. We love him very much! Thanks again for helping us find him.
Fernando and Galileo
Fernando and Galileo are two more 4 Lil Pigs n Buns alumni who are happily living in their forever home!  Here they are with their buddy Pudge.
Wanted you to see how happy the adopted piggies are!  Fernando (who never got curly!) is like a scrub brush!  Galileo (Leo) is sooo happy and eats anything!  And then there's our Pudge, he's the one stretching.  They were in their play pen with a puppy pad underneath them while their cage got a good cleaning!
Thanks for posting this on our Facebook page, Vondalee!

Anya, Latte, and Primrose
Well, I figured I had to put my own happy tale in here too.  These are my girls, all adopted from 4 Lil Pigs n Buns.  Latte was a private surrender.  Anya & Primrose were both surrendered to Suncoast Humane Society, and we pulled them from there.  I adopted Latte first as a friend for my piggy Ginger (who passed away last year).  She is my little old lady at around 6.  Latte and Ginger didn't get along initially, and that's where Anya came in.  She was the glue that held them together!  Primrose is the most recent addition.  After Ginger passed away, I toyed with the idea of adopting another.  Well, Primrose came along and I fell in love.  My guinea herd lives the good life!
As with the piggies, we don't always know the story behind the bunny.  Again, most of the time, people buy bunnies for Easter or for a child's pet and are not prepared for the responsibility.  These bunnies end up homeless.  Thankfully, there are responsible adopters out there who will give these formerly unwanted bunnies a home.

Yuyuko (formerly Tabitha)
Yuyuko came to us with a batch of bunnies from a shelter in Key West.  She is a well-traveled bunny, as she was flown up to the Tampa area by Pilots N PawsI don't believe we knew very much about her history, but we know about her future.
She is happily living in her new home.  Here is an update from her family:
Tabitha came home with us in early June and was re-named Yuyuko. An anime character is named yuyuko, meaning "ghostly child". With her mostly black coat, you can only see her face blaze in a dark room. But there is another japanese word that sounds a little like it. Yuuyaku can mean "taking heart, being in good spirits" which is how we all feel when she is around. She is a very cuddly girl and wants attention all the time. That just means she needs a husbun now!
Let's see if we can arrange some speed dates.
Thanks for posting on our Facebook page, Toni!

Anya (formerly Rio)
Anya was part of a litter born at the rescue back in 2009.  Once she grew up and was spayed, she found her new home!  She lives with her mom Pamela and her duck (yes, duck!) friend Snuggles.  She even has her very own Facebook page!

Pearl (formerly Stella)
Pearl was part of a litter surrendered to the rescue (along with the parents) in spring of this year.  While it was fun to watch her grow up, we were so happy to see her find her forever home!  She even has a new husbun!  Bonding is in progress - and you can keep up with it on Wilfred Bunny's (her husbun) tumblr page!  Pearl is now a part of the blog as well. 

Snowflake and Hershel
We love foster homes, but we really love when the foster bunny ends up becoming a permanent resident!  Snowflake started out as a foster bunny.  She had a pretty rough start in life.  She was dropped off at Suncoast Humane Society.  She was spayed, and during the surgery, it was discovered that she was pregnant.  When we picked her up, her beautiful white coat was covered in urine stains.  The person who surrendered her actually recorded her coloring as "white and creme".  The "creme" was actually urine stains.  She also had a terrible case of ear mites.  On top of everything else, her front legs were slightly splayed.  After healing from her spay and ear mites, she went into foster care.  Well, her foster mom just fell in love with her.  Despite everything she had been through, Snow is just an awesome, lovable bunny.  We were afraid she would never get adopted - she is white with red eyes, has splay leg, and is a large bunny - all factors that work against bunnies!  She beat the odds and is living the good life.

Snowflake's new mom decided she needed a husbun, and that's where Hershel came in.  We pulled Hershel from Collier Animal Services.  Hershel is a Flemish Giant - he is BIG!!  He was a stray and had the appearances of a tough life.  His fur was sun-bleached and he had various nicks and scars.  The bonding with Snowflake was a success, and they will live happily ever after!

Want to become a part of this?
We always love hearing from our adopters.  If you've adopted an animal from 4 Lil Pigs n Buns, please send updates and pictures to or post on our Facebook page!

If you want to give one of these animals a chance at a loving forever home, get started today by filling out our adoption questionnaireWe do want to ensure that our animals go to the best homes possible - after all, they've been through a lot.  Before applying, I recommend taking a look at these links to research proper care:


Litter Box Training:
Cage: &
Bunny Proofing the Home:                          

Finding a Good Rabbit Vet: 
Guinea Pig


Thanks for considering adoption! 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Awesomeness of Red-Eyed Bunnies

We hear it all the time.

"Eww!  That rabbit has red eyes!"

"Red-eyed rabbits look evil!"

"Rabbits with red eyes are creepy!"

People who can say this have never had the joy of actually knowing a red-eyed bunny.  If you know a red-eyed bunny, you know what amazing creatures they are.

Let me tell you a story.

A few years ago, a red-eye white (REW) bunny fell into my life.  I love all bunnies, but I had never really thought about having a REW.  Like most animal people, I do have a weakness for a particular kind of bunny.  I'm a complete sucker for lops.  My Chloe is a lop (well, one of her ears lops - she's a helicopter bun).  So, I admit I gravitate toward them.

Then I met Milhouse. He was a REW.  He had had a pretty tough life.  He had been dumped outside, and by the time he was found, he had a broken ear and a missing tail.  He was sick, so I decided to foster him.  Well, I fell head-over-heels in love with him.  I couldn't help but admire his spirit.  He had been through hell, but he was one of the most friendly, sweet rabbits I have ever met.

Milhouse shortly after I took him home.
Well, I adopted him.  After he was neutered, I bonded him to Chloe.  You know, after everything he had been through, he was just the most trusting, sweet bunny.  He would just pass out sleeping in the middle of the floor.  It was like he knew he was now safe and could relax.  I just adored him. 
Chloe adored him too.
He knew how to relax!
Tragically, Milhouse passed away in May 2010.  I was just devastated.  I still miss him - in fact, I am tearing up while I write this.  Milhouse carved out a soft spot for all REWs in my heart.

Ask any other parent of a red-eyed bunny.  They will be happy to tell you how incredibly awesome these bunnies are!

One of our volunteers has wonderful things to say about her REW.  She was originally going to foster Snowflake, but fell in love with Snowflake's awesome personality.
Who wouldn't want her as a TV watching companion??
So, Snowflake's foster home became her forever home.  Her mom has some great observations about red-eyed bunnies.  Next time you see a bunny with red eyes, look at them with these words in mind:
They are actually quite beautiful!  Like little rubies shining back at you.  With them being lighter, they actually convey more emotion than the black or brown-eyed ones.  When it's bright out and her pupils contract, her irises are the prettiest shade of pastel pink!
I couldn't have said it better myself.  Snowflake's mom says that she is a loving and playful bun.  Snowflake had a really rough start in life, and she clearly appreciates being in a loving home.

Did you know?
  1. The red or pink eyes are caused by a lack of pigment.  They are certainly not caused by evil or "freakishness"!
  2. Bunnies with red eyes often "scan".  This is the movement of their head back and forth as they "scan" their environment to see better.
  3. Bunnies with red eyes are commonly the most difficult to adopt out due to prejudices against them.
So don't shun them!  Embrace them!  We currently have some red-eyed bunnies up for adoption!
Meet Stormy.  This little red-eyed girl has moxy!  She is playful and adorable.  She has been up for adoption since April 2012.
Bugzy is a cute little red-eyed boy.  He came in with a batch of babies, but he is more likely to be passed over by adopters.  He has been up for adoption since June 2012.
Meet Snow and Flake.  This adorable little brother/sister REW pair has been with us since May 2012.
Special thanks to Melissa M. for contributing to this blog.

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Milhouse, my sweet little boy that showed me how wonderful REW bunnies can be.

Monday, September 3, 2012

I Now Pronounce You Husbun and Wife

Do you have a single bunny?  Do you worry that he or she is lonely while you're at work?  Perhaps you  have wondered if maybe you should find a friend for your bunny.  Our answer is yes!  Most bunnies benefit from having a friend of the same species to play with, snuggle, groom, and keep company.  There is a plethora of information on bunny bonding out there, and I don't think there's any way to cover it in one blog post, so I will be including some helpful links at the end.

I dare you not to say, "Awwwwwwwwww!"

Getting Started
So where do you start?  Well, if you don't yet have bunnies, the easiest thing to do is adopt an already bonded pair!  For this, we'll go on the assumption that you already have a bunny companion, and are looking for a friend.

First - are you prepared?  Is your bunny spayed/neutered?  BOTH bunnies need to be fixed before being introduced (and must be given time for hormones to wear down).  Bonding takes work on your part.  While "love at first sight" does happen on occasion, it is rare.  Expect to work on your bunnies' relationship with bonding sessions.  Successful bonding can happen in as quickly as a week, and can take as long as several months.  You will need separate housing for each bunny until they are fully bonded, as well as lots of patience.  Expect setbacks, but don't get discouraged when they happen.

If you've decided to make the commitment, the next step is to look for a local rescue to take your bunny on a "bunny date".  If you've already adopted your first bunny from the rescue, all the better!  You have a head start.  The rescue can help match your bunny to some candidate bunnies.  It is important to let your bunny do the choosing.  Maybe you really want to adopt the cute little lop, but maybe your bunny would prefer to be with the plain brown bunny or red-eyed white bunny.  And all bunnies are cute!
Calypso & Coco - a bonded pair adopted from us
What to Expect on a First Date
 You'll want to introduce the bunnies on neutral territory - a place that neither has previously claimed as his/her own.  Always make sure you have something readily available to break up a fight.  Do NOT stick your hands into the middle of a rabbit fight!  You might end up with stitches!  I use a big fluffy towel that I can throw over the buns if I need to.  You can also wear heavy gloves.

While we always hope for the love at first sight scenario, don't expect it.  A good sign of success is if the bunnies ignore one another.  This is what I always hope to see.  There may be a bit of chasing or mounting.  This is okay as long as it doesn't get out of hand.  If they immediately lunge at one another to fight, separate them...and probably try a different candidate bunny!

Okay, I Found a Successful Candidate Bunny...
Congratulations!  You now have two bunnies who didn't hate each other right away!  They're not bonded yet - this is where the real work begins!  An initial step you can take is to switch litter boxes back and forth.  This helps get each bunny used to the other bunny's scent in their area. 

For bonding sessions, you need to find neutral territory in your home.  A bathroom might be a good place if your bunny rarely visits it.  You want to keep the initial sessions short - a few minutes to start, then gradually increase the time as the bunnies grow more comfortable with one another.

You need to expect some chasing, mounting, and disagreements.  Unless it is (or is very close to) an all-out fight, don't separate them.  They need to work out who is in charge.  It may be unnerving to see your precious bunny being mounted by this outsider bunny, but this is necessary!  If they start to actively circle one another, you can interrupt to stop it, but don't separate yet. 

Here is a great guide from the House Rabbit Society about aggressive behavior:
Warning Signs
Watch for aggressive behaviors: tail up, ears back, growling, boxing, circling, chasing and biting. If one of these behavior occurs several times in a row; if neither rabbit backs down; if it leads to further aggressive behaviors, it should be interrupted. A spray of water, aimed at the rabbits' heads, may interrupt a fight about to happen but has no effect once anger is aroused. If a fight advances to a clench, use a towel to separate the rabbits. Or, pour water from a water bowl on them. Using your hands is asking for a skin-breaking bite. Take a break and revise your strategy. To accomplish the match, you must prevent the fight from happening in the first place.
 You never want to end a bonding session on a bad note.  Bunnies remember!  If they have a bit of a tussle at the end of the session, I sit on the floor with them and calmly pet them to get everybody to settle down.  Once they are relaxed while sitting close to one another, then I will end the session.

Some tips and tricks:
  • Try smearing a bit of banana or plain canned pumpkin on each bunny's forehead to encourage grooming.
  • Try an uncomfortable situation.  A car ride can be scary!  Try putting the bunnies in a carrier and going for a car ride.  Ideally, they will look to one another for comfort.  Best done with someone else in the car to help.
  • Try a session in an empty bathtub.  Bunnies don't like slick floors (this is another "uncomfortable situation" example.
  • Try giving them a nice plate of greens during the bonding session - this will give them something else to concentrate on.  I had great success with this.

Snowflake and Hershel.  Snow was adopted from us first, and her adoptive mom successfully bonded her with Hershel, whom she also adopted from us.
 When can I trust them?
This all depends on your own observations.  Have they started to groom one another?  Do they seem very comfortable with one another during bonding sessions?  Has the chasing and mounting mostly stopped?  If you think it might be time to start housing together, try it out while you're home and can observe them for a while.  When I bonded my current pair, I would put them in the pen together when I got home from work and keep an eye on them for a couple of hours.  Do they coexist peacefully?  Do they snuggle?  Do they groom one another?  Once I felt that I could trust them, I left them in the pen together while I went out to do some errands.  All was well when I came home.  Soon, I was able to leave them while I was gone all day at work.  Once fully bonded, a pair of rabbits should never be separated.

Yeah, that sounds great, but my two keep squabbling!
This is where the patience comes in.  Some pairs just take more work than others.  Try to figure out what works and what doesn't.  Maybe the space you're using for bonding sessions just isn't working out for your bunnies.  Try a different space.  Try the tips listed above again.  If each session is going poorly, you can try giving the rabbits (and yourself) a little break, then try again.  There are many places to find support online:
This is just a small sampling of helpful places to turn to.  A Google search for "rabbit bonding" will turn up more!  These are just a few of my favorites.

In summary:
  1. Make sure both bunnies are spayed/neutered and that you are ready for the commitment that bonding takes.
  2. Contact a rescue organization to take your bunny on a "bunny date".  Let your bunny do the choosing.  Indifference to one another is good!
  3. Start with short bonding sessions at home on neutral territory.  Don't separate the bunnies while they are figuring out who is in charge, but watch for escalating aggressiveness.  DO separate if a bad fight is imminent or does occur.
  4. Try "uncomfortable situations" to encourage the bunnies to find comfort in one another.  Try food to bring them together.
  5. When things are consistently going well, try putting them together in their pen/condo while supervising.
  6. Once they do well with that and you feel comfortable with it, trust them to be on their own.  Snuggling, grooming, and peaceful coexistence are good indicators!

Because two are better than one...and you get photo ops like this.
 Case Study: Chloe and Kahlua (the bunnies in the above photo)
Chloe lost her bonded mate Milhouse.  She went on a "bunny date" at 4 Lil Pigs n Buns.  They were a classic example of "indifference".  They mostly ignored one another.  Chloe was a bit freaked out at the situation.  Once home and in more familiar territory, she was more confident.  Short bonding sessions were conducted in a hallway that is normally blocked off to bunny access.  At first, there was plenty of circling, butt-sniffing, mounting, and the occasional scuffle.  A couple of fur tufts were pulled out by each bunny.  All sessions were ended with calm petting.  During the bonding process, the buns were housed in an NIC condo separated by wire grids.  Litter boxes were switched back and forth.

As bonding progressed, the buns were allowed sessions in a larger area.  Canned pumpkin was rubbed on their foreheads to encourage grooming.  They peacefully shared plates of greens.  Once comfortable with that, the buns were allowed supervised time together in the pen.  They progressed to the point of being trusted enough to be left alone.  The whole process took a little over 2 weeks.

As bonded bunnies, they do not groom one another as much as some pairs do (and they both demand it!), but they do some grooming.  They snuggle quite a bit.  They also get into mischief together.  They do occasionally mount one another and have small scuffles.  Typically a clap of the hands will distract them enough to interrupt them.  They live together successfully!  Just remember, each bunny pair is different!

Interested in finding a friend for your lonely rabbit?  Our adoption fee for finding a friend for your bunny will be $30 in September!  (Your bunny must be spayed/neutered)