Vagabond in America 2016 travel blog


Pooka and his litter box

Pooka peeking out of a "hiding" box

Pooka hiding in the dining room

Pooka likes that my leg tastes salty

"From old celtic mythology; A fairy spirit in animal form, always very large. The Pooka appears here and there, now and then, to this one and that one. A benign but mischievous creature. Very fond of rum pots, crack pots, and how are you Mr. Wilson?"

-Harvey, 1950

My next jump was to West Virginia. As has become my custom, after I setup my camp site, I went to the grocery store, the nearest of which is a Walmart. There was a teenage girl in the parking lot selling baby bunnies. I checked inside the Walmart and they sold all of the equipment that I would need: a carrying cage, rabbit pellets, alfalfa hay, bedding, etc.

And, today is my birthday!

So, I figured what the heck. Everyone's always telling me to get a pet.

He's a Mini-Rex. I considered naming him Harvey, after the best friend of Elwood P. Dowd. In the 1950 movie, Elwood was played by James Stewart. In the 1998 remake, Elwood was played by Harry Anderson. In case you’ve never seen either version, Harvey is a 6’ 3.5”, white rabbit who can only be seen by Elwood. Harvey is a pooka who’s very friendly and a bit mischievous. I think he's the only famous animal that never appears in his own movies or many stage plays. None of the others (Lassie, Mr. Ed, Bambi, etc.) were invisible!

Well, bunnies have personalities and his personality seems far different from Harvey’s. So, I’ve decided to name my bunny “Pooka” since he’s very friendly and very mischievous!

I’ve owned five bunnies (Snowball, Bashful, Spunky, Snuggy, and Buttons). Each has lived longer than 10 years. Outdoor bunnies are very easy to take care of. Make sure that they have food and water and occasionally clean their cage. But, indoor bunnies require much, much more work. Of course, they also provide much more company. I knew I was making a long-term commitment when I decided to invite Pooka into my RV.

Before getting into how Pooka and I are learning to get along with each other, it’s important to learn more about their digestive systems than you probably want to know. Bunnies have two types of droppings. One is poop; the other is called a cecotrope. Their poop is not a big problem. It doesn’t smell, doesn’t stain and is easily picked up with a broom or vacuum. The cecotropes are something quite unique to bunnies. Bunnies eat them! In fact, bunnies will die if they don’t eat their cecotropes. It’s hard to derive vitamins from grasses. Each species has evolved to deal with this problem. Elephants have huge digestive systems. Cows have multiple stomachs and eat their cud. Bunnies eat their own droppings.

The other issue with a house bunny is their pee. It smells and it stains. So, our first priority was litterbox training.

Unfortunately, you can’t just give a litterbox to a bunny and expect him to use it. No. What you do is let them decide where they want to pee. Then you put the litterbox there. Pooka quickly selected a corner for his pee. I equally quickly put a litterbox there. Much to my delight, Pooka adapted to the litter box and started using it within an hour. So far, he seems to pee only in the litter box. What a good bunny!

The next issue was determining where Pooka was welcome to go and where I didn’t want him to go. Bunnies are exceedingly cautious. They have to be; they’re prey animals. They’re near the bottom of the food chain. Bunnies never venture out before they have found multiple hiding places.

Although the rear of my RV is basically just one big open space, I classify it into four rooms: living room, kitchen, dining room and office. All of them have wall-to-wall rugs except the kitchen. At least for now, I decided to restrict him to the linoleum floor in the kitchen when I'm not watching him carefully. Fewer opportunities to get in trouble. I’m going to try to keep him out of the front of my RV where my bedroom, shower and bathroom are located. I’m allergic to bunnies and would like to minimize the allergens in my bedroom. (I'm even more allergic to cats and dogs; so, I prefer bunnies.)

For the first day, Pooka never wandered more than about three feet from his carrying cage. That was not a problem. I made sure that he had his water bottle, some bunny pellets, plenty of hay and his litterbox. He had everything he needed right there. I closed him in his carrying cage that night.

The next day, Pooka was much more curious. He started exploring the RV. He quickly found several really good hiding places. It was taking me longer and longer to find him each time. He was also running and jumping everywhere. Knowing that bunnies are prone to chewing on electrical cords that get in their way, I moved most wires out of his reach. Those that I couldn’t move, I taped to the wall.

When I went outside for a while, I made a barricade to keep him in the kitchen. When I got back, he wasn’t in the kitchen. After a considerable search, I found him under the recliner.

The next time I left the RV, I made a much bigger barricade. When I got back, sigh. Once again he wasn’t in the kitchen. This time I finally found him under the couch. That night, I again closed him in his cage.

This isn’t working. He's now had plenty of time to explore the RV with no supervision. He's found that he can squeeze into places that I never thought he would fit. I don't want him pooping or peeing in places that I can't reach!

The next morning, I went over to Walmart and bought a baby gate. This will close the kitchen off quite effectively and won’t add much to my RV weight. I also bought some cheap towels to stuff under the sides of the couch. So far it’s working. I can keep him in the kitchen when I’m not here and keep him out from under the couch when I am home.

It’s taking three days but Pooka and I seem to have a workable truce.

Tomorrow, we’ll head for Kentucky.

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