Joburg Expat: Baby Killer

May 12, 2014

Baby Killer

Our neighborhood may be up in arms about the recent coyote scare and the supposed threat to our very own children, but we've had a more private and yet not lesser wildlife-related drama unfold at our house over the past week.

It started with me opening the back door when our cat, Findus, was meowing, wanting to be let in. Right in front of him, between his paws, was a baby bunny. Not more than three or four inches long. Here we go again, I thought, and began to turn to get the dust pan to clean it up, when I realized that the bunny was breathing and had its eyes open, sitting perfectly still awaiting its fate. Naturally, I picked it up, and saw that it was completely unharmed. I was on my way to collect someone from school and didn't have time to make a plan, so I embarked on what seemed the best course of action: I took the bunny up to some trees where I'd seen the grown ones hang out, and I banned Findus to the house. Surely, a cat-free day out there would give the rabbit enough time to make its escape.

If you want to stop reading now, you still can.

The next morning, Findus was chomping at the bit to be let out. Not thinking about it very much (and also not wanting him to use a corner in our house as his litter box, as he'd done once before when deprived too long of the flowerbed), I let him out.

Not 30 minutes later he showed up with another baby bunny. Presumably the same one from the day before, though I can't be sure. He got smarter too this time around. Instead of presenting a live one to me, he'd already killed it. Another 5 minutes later, it was all gone - skin, bones, everything. At least no need for the dust pan.

It pains me to tell you this, but the next day it was the same story. Another dead bunny at our back door, another feast, and a cat laying under the patio table all day, panting because he was so full. I wanted to yell at him: "Moles are okay, M-O-L-E-S, you hear? Bunnies are F-O-R-B-I-D-D-E-N! Although I do realize there is hypocrisy in that.

How many bunnies are in that nest, I wondered? How many more days would we have to put the kids through this? And why the hell couldn't these rabbits run away faster? Would I have to make an indoor cat of Findus while the rabbits were breeding? How long were they breeding?

This morning started out like the others. We were rushed for time leaving the house, it was raining cats and dogs (or, in the event, bunnies), and Findus was somewhere out there. When I came back and settled at the kitchen table with my tea, I suddenly heard a thump. I got up and looked out the door, and there was Findus running circles on the deck in the midst of the downpour, chasing yet another baby bunny, bedraggled and drenched but very much alive. The thump must have been from him crashing into the door trying to turn a corner. So naturally, I opened the door to yell at Findus or do whatever else might temporarily stop him, and the bunny, sensing an opening, ran right inside the house, Findus hot on his heels.

That's how I found myself with two dripping furballs sprinting around the center island.

It's now a few hours later. Findus is sleeping on the chair next to me, and on the counter is his cat carrier holding the baby bunny. Neither of them is moving. I'd been able to snatch up the bunny before Findus did, because he had stopped his chase for a few precious seconds, shaking off all the water like a retriever coming out of the pond. He is part dog, that cat, I swear. He likes nothing more than rolling on his back and letting you scratch his belly for hours, and sleeping at the foot of our youngest child's bed.

I've been busy. I've already watched on YouTube how to feed a blind 3-day old baby bunny with a syringe, and I've Googled what to feed a two-week old (as ours seems to be). I've made a rehydration solution according to a vet's instructions to help the bunny over his shock. I'm just waiting for the rain to stop so I can find some clover and dandelion. I'm hoping the lettuce and carrot and apple will tide him over, but so far he has refused all of it.

And I sent off a text message to my husband.

He sent this in reply: "OK. This is now the worst of both worlds. I don't like pets. Cat kills baby rabbits. We must save last survivor, and now we have two (2) pets!

I sent another text message to a friend, extolling the virtues of a pet bunny for their daughters.

Her reply: We are not taking a pet bunny. We already warded off the snake and the gecko, thank you very much.

So I tried her husband, thinking it never hurts to ask. His reply: "Aaaaaeeeiiiii! No way! You are forbidden from saying anything to a child of mine. I will personally feed it [the bunny, presumably] to Findus if necessary."


Somehow, the people around me are less than enthusiastic about baby bunnies. Have they not seen the pictures? Have they not felt the oh so soft fur?

In the meantime, we wait with bated breath each day to see what Findus might show up with at the door. Or we wait with plugged ears while he is meowing away in the basement, incensed that we won't let him outside. I hope the killing has come to an end. If our new pet bunny doesn't start eating soon, I'll have to put him back outside. In someone else's yard.

My consolation is this: If Findus hadn't gotten any of the baby bunnies, the Coyote surely would have.