Runaround is officially 14 years old this year which is 1 less than RAW week! In 2007 we started to think very hard about rabbits and this propelled us to the first RWAF conference in Bury.
We had made tunnels and boxes in strong mesh and a door and pipe link. Over the years these refined and changed but the concept remained very similar and the desire was to allow rabbits out of hutches into their runs without the owner having to remember. We found even good owners could arrive at work and be cross they had forgotten the rabbit who was quietly suffering at the bottom of the garden.
Being a vulnerable pet we found three things went very much against the rabbit's chance of happiness. First they don't make a sound when they are suffering but continue to look cute, second as a prey animal there was an urge to lock them up very securely (which goes against their natural needs and the fact that a prey animal is terrified when locked up or caught in a a small space without exits), third that as quiet, fluffy creatures they were assumed to be desirable and easy child's pet.
Poor rabbits. On top of this the Victorians who fattened them up for dinner in hutches had popularised their fattening cages and the hutch became the second word after 'rabbit' in our language and appeared in many genres but especially children's books teaching children it was a happy situation.
Quite a lot to work to do against all this incorrect information. No pet should be cheap or easy! All pets rely on you heavily and even if they are not locked up you are responsible for their needs 100% of the time. If locked up, as was the custom with rabbits, the dangers of accidental mistreatment were huge. The only comparison I would use is children. Pet care should be the same level of thought and care, factoring in we don't know them so well as our own kind and we have to be very perceptive to understand correctly.
Runaround came from the point of view that to be free was the best for a rabbit but as a second best there should be some equipment in place to accommodate the bred and captive rabbits that were currently owned. To do this we just wanted the best second alternative. There had to be choice of movement, places to hide, ability to run, dig and stretch.
There had to be room for minimum 2 rabbits and a push to engage everyone to take on a pair not a single bunny. We got the connection rolling to let all those bunnies out of the the hutch (early days we used to smile and say 'another freed bunny' when we sold one) Then we added things and sturdy runs to make a long lasting living habitat. We cared about the design and the function but most of all we cared about how our rabbits responded to it all.
The early runaround did not cater to the owners that much. The rabbits were able to evade them very well! In order to make sure future owners would offer this we then worked hard to make it accessible and easy to use with the door allowing blocking off when catching a rabbit was necessary. We are still thinking everyday about what we can do to improve and we appreciate the feedback over the years, most of which has been absolutely lovely to hear. Vital points were made along the way that helped to eradicate anything that failed or simply improve the design. I have to say I like this part of the job the best!
I hope the designs we have made can help anyone in the most awkward size or shaped back garden or yard to do something incredible for their rabbits and really get a lot more fun out of keeping them too. We want to encourage invention and many rabbit owners out there have made wonderful installations on multi-levelled outdoor spaces to utilise the space for their pets.
The rabbit is smart, active and social. As selective rangy eaters their diet is hugely important. Once we look after them in the way they would wish their confidence in us increases and a bond of respect grows.
These adorable small pets can thrive and live until their teens with you, amazing you every day with something you didn't know about rabbits!