A few weeks ago, out of nowhere, Felix sighed and said "I don't have a pet."
We got into a long discussion about pets, what is involved with the care of an animal, and about the responsibility involved.
"I used to have a pet bunny," he said.
"Yes, you did. But he ran away to be with his family."
"Didn't he like our house?" I was so blown away that Felix actually arrived at this concept.
On Felix's third birthday, he was given a pet bunny. He was named Cake, and he was a sweet little ball of fluff. The most adorable thing in the world. They don't come much cuter than baby bunnies.
Cake also came with a hutch to live in, but I read up on bunnies. I knew he'd never be happy living in a hutch, even a two-storey one. He needed space to run and hop.
Luckily, we have a great backyard: a paradise for a little rabbit. Lots of shade, grass, lots of plants and places to explore. It's fully fenced, with part of that fence being a brick wall, and the part that's not brick is embedded into concrete. He'd never be able to dig his way out.
We live in a suburb that is fairly close to the city and definitely in a built-up metropolitan area. I was pretty sure there was nothing lurking around that could get into my yard and attack him, but even so, I made sure to lock him up in his hutch at night. It was pretty easy to tempt him in there with a bit of carrot at night.
Cake quickly made himself at home in the yard. He had several hiding spots that he enjoyed: under the red hibiscus, mainly, or deep in the jasmine vine. At around 4pm, when the shade stretched over the grass, he often hopped about on the grass and nibbled on flowers. Sometimes he just relaxed under the orange tree.
Yes, he was adorable. He was also a complete menace to the garden. I thought, how destructive could one baby bunny possibly be? The answer is very. Very, very destructive. After a few weeks, he had no more hiding spots left, because he'd eaten all the leaves on the lower half of the bushes. The garden was clearly suffering for it.
I thought that something needed to change. I had to come up with a way to give him lots of space but protect the garden at the same time.
Eventually I decided to build a rabbit run. I'd make a large, covered enclosure out of rabbit wire. I could stretch it over the unused, raised garden bed we have. I could even plant lots of rabbit-friendly plants in there so he could graze. He'd have space, I'd have my garden back. Perfect.
That weekend we had some friends over for dinner. They stayed fairly late, and by the time they left it was dark outside. I went out there to put Cake in his hutch, but he was hiding somewhere...probably in the jasmine, which he hadn't completely destroyed yet. The dark made lots of new hiding spots for him. I couldn't see him anywhere, but I figured it was no use hunting in the dark for a bunny that didn't want to be caught. I left a bit of carrot in his hutch anyway and made sure he had lots of hay and water in there; and although I was worried, I decided he'd be safe for just one night.
I never saw him again.
I hunted everywhere that day...under all the bushes, all the places that I'd ever seen him. I checked the perimeter of the fence for any holes he'd dug: nothing. I searched everywhere. I left more carrot out for him, carrot that went untouched. He was not there.
I still have no idea what really happened to him. Perhaps he did escape, somehow. Maybe that night a cat caught him? I saw no sign of anything. No struggle, no fur, no blood, no holes, no way for him to escape. It's like he was abducted by aliens. Just...gone.
I felt incredibly guilty. If I had made sure he was locked in his hutch, this wouldn't have happened. I didn't really know how to tell Felix: there was no body, no evidence, nothing. Given the lack of a corpse, I decided to tell him that Cake ran away. Because it's possible that he did. It's as good as any other explanation, and I thought that three years old is still young enough to benefit from not having his reality muddied by unsolvable mysteries. I also didn't want to try to explain the concept of death without anything to back it up with. He took it pretty well, although he was sad about it.
I couldn't believe this happened the weekend that I had stumbled upon a perfect solution, and that the one time he wasn't in his hutch at night, he disappeared.
I still feel guilty when I think about little Cake, but I'm not sorry I gave him the freedom to run around. It was a choice between a life in a tiny hutch, or a short existence hopping about in a bunny's Eden. I have always felt that it's wrong to keep living creatures caged up. Cake lived the good life while he was here. Shady hiding spots, plenty of food, social interaction, the freedom for him to become fat and complacent. I hope that he did somehow escape and run off to live with his bunny family, but I know that's not very likely. Wouldn't it be nice if this story ended with Cake returning out of the blue. Unfortunately, a year on, he has not.
While I am not racing out to get any other pet any time soon, I did enjoy having Cake here and often thought how sweet he was, lopping about on the grass in the afternoon. He was a good pet, a good bunny; and while the plants have recovered, the garden has never seemed so empty.