Once-stray bunny shows his silly side in foster home

Peter the rabbit nose-to-nose with an orange tabby cat, beside an orange rolling ball cat toy
Don’t let his stoic expression fool you; Peter is a fun-loving bun who’s full of surprises.
By Sarah Thornton

In the blink of an eye, the smallest cup in a stacking set is tossed up and plonked down on the floor — hard. Dry flowers rain down in its wake and are immediately hoovered up into a speedy little bunny mouth. This stacking puzzle is old hat to Peter. As soon as he sees the cups coming, he’s in the mood for food and barely even waits for them to be placed down in front of him before he pulls them apart for his snack. He’s a very clever bunny, after all.

And he’d had to be clever long before he discovered the fun of food puzzles. Somehow, Peter had wound up outside, all by himself, in northern Utah. With no family to take care of him and sticking out like a sore thumb with his white fur, Peter had to be smart about keeping himself fed and out of danger from watchful predators. It’s not clear how long he’d been wandering stray before someone found him and brought him to a local shelter, but his ears were chewed up and he had half a nose with a soft bump on it.

Things started looking up when Peter was scooped up off the street though, and soon he was headed to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Here, he’d be safe and secure, with all the time and care he needed to feel his best and get ready for a new chapter in his life.

Helping a bunny feel happy and hoppy

Peter wasn’t in the best shape when he arrived at the Sanctuary. Aside from all the signs of rough living on the streets, he had sores on his hocks (his little bunny heels), and he walked a bit funny. He was already neutered, however, which came as a bit of a surprise; most newcomers to the Sanctuary’s Bunny House are not. He had almost certainly been someone’s pet before, but what had separated them was a mystery.

The spots on his hocks were typical for a bunny who’d spent his life on a wire or concrete floor like what one might find in a typical rabbit hutch. They were bald and painful when he moved. But soothing cream rubbed into the spots went a long way to help Peter feel better.

As for his slow, awkward walk, veterinarians suspected arthritis was the cause. And as soon as they prescribed him an arthritis medication, his whole personality turned around. He’d been friendly and bright enough before, but all of a sudden he was full of energy and performing feats of incredible agility. In one instance, Peter leapt clear over the three-foot-tall gate of his run and bounced around greeting his neighbors the second caregivers’ backs were turned. He was feeling good.

[Bunny with a head tilt gets second chance at Best Friends]

To avoid any more escapes — and give the newly revitalized rabbit all the attention he wanted — caregivers moved Peter into the Bunny House breakroom. And, oh, was he excited about the move. He’d hop up onto the chairs and table to seek out pats and sniff at lunches. As soon as he saw someone step into his new space, he’d come running for attention. Peter simply loved being around people; he loved being the center of attention. He couldn’t get enough.

With the Sanctuary preparing for the arrival of several new bunnies and rearranging some animals’ living spaces, caregiver Keala Richter and her husband, Wesley, decided to open their door to plucky little Peter by fostering him. It turned out once he moved into his foster home, Peter had a whole new side to show off.

Peter shows his silly side

Peter made himself right at home from the moment he arrived. There wasn’t an ounce of hesitation or fear in his fluffy body; he just got right to exploring his new digs. Even when his feline foster siblings came to inspect the new arrival, Peter barely twitched his nose at them.

“He was not afraid of the cats,” Keala says. “He just went right up to them; he didn't even care to sniff them. He wasn't really curious about them. He was just like, ‘Oh, those are there.’” The cats, for their part, took in that confidence and welcomed him with open paws. Well, they might have been a little spooked at first by his odd shape (this strange cat’s ears had clearly taken the length his tail had lost) and quick hopping, but they soon settled into a smooth companionship.

[A kitten and his bunny buddies]

In fact, Peter was soon playing all their cat games with them. He’d bop balls around their tracks with his nose, and he was particularly taken with the wand toy, chasing it just as happily as any of the cats. In turn, he’d share his hay with them — something to bat around and chew on when the mood struck them.

Peter was full of those sorts of surprises. Whether it was his time on the streets or something he picked up in a previous home, Peter had an appetite for anything and everything edible. Not just the greens and fruity treats other bunnies crave — Peter would sit up and beg for just about anything his foster family was eating. Fries? Yes, please. Pasta? Just a taste, he’d beg. Spilled soda? Very exciting. Of course, a lot of what he’d beg for wasn’t good for him, and Keala had to resist those big bunny eyes. But that didn’t stop Peter from hopping up onto her desk to really make sure she meant it.

To feed his playful side — and his belly — he got a whole pile of food puzzles. The stacking cups are a favorite of his, but he’s also mastered the rolling sort by simply uncorking it. Any puzzle that’s placed in front of him he works out in a few short moments.

That includes the puzzle of maximizing the attention he receives. With his spring-loaded legs, Peter launches himself into the laps of his foster family whenever he notices a lack of hands running through his soft fur. “He is very demanding when he wants attention,” Keala says with a laugh. “I have to have one hand on him while I'm playing video games. He’ll fall asleep in my arms; he loves it. He's really cute.”

Hopping toward the future

Home life certainly agrees with Peter, it seems. He’s all bright eyes and wiggly nose these days, and even if he doesn’t get everything he begs for (not all of it is good for bunnies), he’s content just getting all the petting and snuggles he wants. He’s feeling good and opening up to show all his hidden sides — as silly and surprising as they have been so far.

And Peter’s story doesn’t end there. He still has a whole lot to look forward to. That outgoing, bright personality has won him a new set of admirers: a family to call his own. That’s right; Peter worked his charm and got adopted, and now he’s off to a whole new venue for showing off his tricks and earning himself treats.

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