Jungle Book HomeWed, 16th May '12, 4:00 pm::

Today I learned that Rabbits and Prairie Dogs are extremely territorial. Sit back and read the tale of how I found that out first-hand.

A little over a week ago, we got two adult Prairie Dogs. Having taken care of them for some time now, I know one of them is very friendly (named Willy) while the other one is very shy (named Nilly). Nilly can get a bit bitey if you try to play with her so Juliet and I are very careful around her. As I was making my afternoon arounds in the backyard, feeding and tending to our home zoo, I notice the friendlier one, Willy was on his feet, barking loudly and biting the cage wires. I walked up to his cage and he started rubbing his head under my fingers. I opened up his cage to pet him and he gently walked over my arm, moving towards my shoulder. Since I haven't played with him outside of his cage much, I thought now might be a good time to let him feel comfortable around me.

I locked him back in his cage, walked over to the big walk-in bunny cage, made sure Buttercup the bunny was sitting quietly in her little bunny hutch, out of the view, and brought Willy into the bunny cage. Willy suddenly got all excited at finding dirt under his feet and started sniffing around. I was starting to feel quite pleased with myself when suddenly, he stood up on his two feet like Prairie Dogs often do and started barking and yelping at me. I tried to pet him but he kept lunging at my hands. Now Buttercup, hearing all the commotion, got out and pounced towards Willy. Picture me, a grown-ass man on a Wednesday afternoon, trying to separate a rabbit from biting a Prairie Dog and vice-versa. Now I know why people sit in front of computers in cozy offices all day - no hissing animals trying to bite everything around them!

I kept separating them, then tried to calm Willy down, when all of a sudden he would bark, and Buttercup would rush out of her hutch again. This went on for about fifteen minutes, by which time I ran out of breath and my back started hurting from bending up and down constantly. I knew there was no way Willy was going to let me pick him up and put him back in his cage.

So I devised a plan. I would bring a little sleeping bed from his cage and put it in the bunny cage to make him feel at home. I carefully got Buttercup to go hide in her hutch, while I nudged Willy into the furthest corner away from Buttercup. Now that there was some distance between the two, I opened the bunny cage door, rushed to the Prairie Dog cage, got Willy's bed, and hurried back into the bunny cage before the two started something again. Fortunately, upon seeing his bed, Willy calmed down, but not enough to let me get near him. Now I had to find a way to pick him up along with the bed without being torn into shreds.

I know! Thick plastic gloves! Once again I put the bunny in her hutch, and moved Willy and his sleeping bed to the corner. Then I darted across the backyard at full speed, jumping over the cats relaxing by the pool, into the back porch, where I struggled to unclasp the bungee cord securing the doors of the cat food cabinet, inside which I keep a spare pair of thick plastic gloves. I pulled those out of the cabinet, ran straight across the yard yelling "NOOOOOO" at the top of my lungs to Buttercup, who was now inching cautiously towards Willy. Just a second before Buttercup was ready to leap, I swung the door open into the cage, effectively barricading her from Willy. Now began my yellow-gloved dance of calming Willy down.

I didn't wear the gloves fully, leaving a good two-to-three inches of finger-tips hanging empty so if Willy bit it, I wouldn't get hurt. Oddly enough, he did not mind being petted by the soft empty glove tips but anytime I tried to hold him in my grasp, he fought back. After about ten minutes, he got used to the glove enough that I could pet him. Then before he noticed, I quickly picked his bed up, four feet high above the ground - high enough that he wouldn't jump. So naturally, he tried to jump right into my face but having learned my lessons when handling sugar gliders and even small kittens in the past, I managed to maintain a safe distance between Willy and my face. With my other hand, I slowly opened the bunny cage, walked out, gently closed the bunny cage (without being able to lock it shut), and rushed over to the Prairie Dog cage, opened it up and let Willy in.

Within five seconds, he was rubbing his head against my hand, and kept doing that even after I took the gloves off. He was back to being the sweetest thing ever. Meanwhile, Giga the boy cat was readying himself to get into the cat-attack mode at Buttercup because she was trying to get out of the bunny cage. I immediately closed the Prairie Dog cage, ran towards Giga to chase him away, and locked the bunny cage. I walked back to the Prairie Dog cage, tightened the lock to make sure it was secure and then finally trudged my way into the back porch.

And there she was, my girl kitty Tera - sitting on the floor, hastily chomping down days worth of cat food, having pushed down the sealed container from the cabinet on to the ground, scattering food pellets all over the floor. Within seconds, Cookie and Giga joined her in the unexpected feast. I'm living Jungle Book meets Night at the Museum!

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