A Holiday Gift for Your Bunny: A Massage?


(Saturday, December 22, 2007 9:35 AM EST)

Bunny-owners, does your cotton-tailed friend seem high-strung or stressed out? If so, a trip to the spa and a massage might be in order.

The Northern Virginia based Friends of Rabbits organization periodically offers “bunny spa days” in the metropolitan area, and the Animal Welfare League of Arlington recently hosted the event, offering manicures, grooming and massages with bunny masseuse Aileen Hudspeth.

Some people might wonder why a rabbit would need such royal treatment. Hudspeth understands that there are skeptics out there, but she sees this pampering as a good way to build a relationship with your pet.

“You get what you put into it,” she said. “If you don't interact with your animal, it will only come back to you when it needs you.”

For bunny parents who want their pet to be more sociable and friendly, grooming and physical contact through massage can help their bunnies sense that “humans are there to provide more than just basic needs,” Hudspeth said.

On a more basic level, owners who properly groom their bunnies have healthier pets. Brushing gets rid of extra hair that can cause medical problems if ingested, and manicures keep bunnies' nails from getting too long (nails that are too long can get snagged and pulled out, or can get twisted).

Although nail-clipping can be a little nerve-racking for fear of cutting too close to the quick, overall, grooming seems pretty self-explanatory. But how exactly do you massage a bunny?

Hudspeth uses an approach that is pretty similar to massaging a person, and has practiced her technique on her rabbits at home.

“I went to college for music therapy, which includes a lot of physical aspects,” she said. “I thought we should be able to take these techniques and apply them to rabbits.”

The massages last between 15 and 25 minutes, and Hudspeth uses the heat of her fingers to loosen muscles and eliminate muscle spasms, particularly in the leg area. Whether she's working with bunnies with muscle degeneration or those who have lost a mate, usually by the end of the session, they have reached total relaxation and are like butter in her hands.

The Friends of Rabbits spa days aren't free (the one in Arlington cost $25 per animal), but the money goes towards the non-profit organization, which provides rescue services, food, surgery and medical visits for area rabbits.

For more information on upcoming bunny events, see the Friends of Rabbits Web site at www.friendsofrabbits.org.

Alieen Hudspeth gives one of her signature massages.  Proponents say massages make for healthier and happier bunnies.

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