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Hoppy and Healthy

Amy Sedaris talks bunny business and how to care for your fashion rabbit

Published July 15, 2014
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"Someone once told me that bunny people were lesbians," quipped actress, comedian, author, and rabbit expert Amy Sedaris. "I thought that was so funny."

Sedaris, who is, for the record, not a lesbian, has been a bunny person since the nineties. She's had two of the little critters over the years. The first, Tattletale, was an impulse buy after gazing into a pet shop window. She adopted the second, a black-and-white Mini Rex named Dusty, who passed away recently at the age of 12. "I'm still in mourning," said Sedaris while sitting on the floor of her Greenwich Village apartment, the walls of which boast bunny paintings. Toy rabbits that resemble her own can be found on a shelf, and in the bedroom she keeps two urns with her little angels' remains. Sometimes, she writes them letters, telling them she misses them or how her day was. She's waiting a year until she gets another. "This time," she said, "I think I'll get two."

Sedaris, perhaps best known for playing Jerri Blank, a 46-year-old reformed junkie and prostitute who returns to high school on the cult TV show Strangers With Candy, isn't just a bunny lover, though. She's done a series of Howcast videos with House Rabbit Society Education and Outreach director Mary Cotter about proper rabbit care, reads Thump magazine, and is a regular attendee of bunny conferences. She even helps "rabbit-proof" (covering up wires and areas the pets might chew, and blocking off dangerous areas) new bunny owners' homes, including that of her friend and former Strangers With Candy costar Stephen Colbert.

"Stephen wasn't crazy about getting a rabbit," she recalled, flattening out her white T-shirt, which was covered in holes made by rabbit nibbles. "His kids wanted one and he didn't want the responsibility, but he got a little black bunny, who actually just had its leg amputated. And I went over to his house and was like, 'Stephen! You're doing everything wrong!' and I sent him hay and books and information. Now the rabbit is doing really well!"

With all that in mind, I thought Sedaris would be the perfect person to speak with about the fashion industry's ongoing bunny obsession, which was brought to light after Cara Delevingne (perhaps not the best pet owner) began posting pictures of Cecile (formerly Cecil, as she thought it was a boy) on Instagram, but extends to Love magazine's Katie Grand, who has a bunny named Clara; Marc by Marc Jacobs' Katie Hillier; Maison Michel's Laetitia Crahay; another Love mag editor, Alexander Fury; and yours truly. I have a black Havana rabbit named Mssr. François Froufrou, and he is my soul mate.

"I'm just amazed by them," said Sedaris of her bunny loves. "They're mesmerizing to watch. They do their floor routines, and I like that they're twilight animals. A lot of times I think, Well, I'm kind of like a rabbit. I'm fast, my heart is always beating fast…but I like the fact that you can take these prey animals and just make them the most chilled-out guys on the planet."

The fact that Sedaris' bunnies both had seriously pampered lives probably helped with said chilled-out factor. Her pal Adam Selman (at whose first presentation last year she pretended to be a photographer) made Dusty a custom striped bunny awning for the bedroom ("rabbits like to be underneath things," she explained), and fashion designer Todd Oldham built her a hyper-luxe hutch. "I never brought them on set with me, but I was always dragging things home for them," she said. "One time on Strangers, we did an Indians episode. I brought the tepee back to my apartment, and Tattletale lived in that for a while."

Photos: Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing

But while Sedaris is now proficient in rabbit care, she admits that in the beginning, she made a bevy of bunny faux pas. "All the information you get at a pet store is wrong. Tattletale didn't have any hay, I'd feed her oatmeal, I didn't know what vegetables were appropriate. I fed her those colorful pellets that you get at Petland, which are so bad. And she lived up underneath my mattress." Here, Sedaris offers some essential bunny facts, and tips on how to keep your fashion rabbit healthy, happy, and not stuck inside air conditioners.

If you are a jet-setter, a neat freak, or live in an itty-bitty studio, don't get a rabbit.

"The number one thing is to make sure you have the time and the space for a rabbit. The majority of their diet is hay, so you need to have a place for a hay box—hay's going to get everywhere. And they need room to run around. You have to engage them to get them hopping and happy. They're real communicators—you just have to be able to take the time to get to know them."

Your bunny should have a vacation destination apart from its cage.

"You should absolutely have an area other than your bunny's cage where she can hang out—though it's not recommended that a rabbit is free-range in your apartment. It could be very dangerous. It's nice for them to have a cage or a hutch, but make sure it doesn't have a wire bottom. [It's bad for bunnies' paws.] They like their own little designated area so that when they get tired of you—and they will—they can go away."

Don't feed your bunny M&M's or celery from your Bloody Mary.

"They need a variety of vegetables, pellets, water, and lots and lots of hay. I don't understand when people don't realize rabbits are total vegetarians. There was one girl who gave her rabbit M&M's and she was surprised that her rabbit died. And don't give your rabbit celery dipped in vodka. That's just stupid to give to any animal."

Definitely give your bunny massages.

"Rabbits love my hour-long massages. They love when you rub the tips of their ears. And if you can feel their spine, rub your fingers down to manipulate the area. It gives them a lot of energy."

Your bunny needs toys, and it might nibble on your furniture.

"Bunnies want chew toys and things to toss around. They need to be entertained. I like to make what I call Dynamite Sticks. You take a toilet paper role, fringe the sides—they love anything fringy—and then put hay in it. They'll grab it and throw it all around the room. Give them any kind of cardboard to chew on. They love it. They chew everything. My rabbits chewed my shoes and the side of my bed. They shredded my bed skirts. All of my clothes still have holes. If you really love your rabbit, you won't care."

Bunnies do not enjoy loud experiences, like booming music or, say, fashion week parties.

"They don't like loud music. It scares them. And they can die of a heart attack if they're frightened."

Bunnies are, in fact, deeply intelligent and can learn fun tricks.

"Rabbits are really inquisitive, and they love to learn tricks—they just want to be rewarded for it with a treat. I found an animal behaviorist who lives in Chicago, and she taught Dusty how to play cards. I'd put out a deck, and then she'd take the cards and flick them into the bowl. I also taught her how to take the lid off of oatmeal containers."

Bunnies are not dogs. Don't try and bring them everywhere, and don't put them on a leash.

"First of all, rabbits don't like to be picked up. They're prey animals, and they like to know where they are and what's going on. No surprises. Sometimes people get leashes and take them for walks, which isn't good, either. They don't want restrictions. They'll struggle, and along with heart attacks, the number one reason why they die is breaking their backs."

Bunny's always the boss.

"That's actually a rabbit conference motto. You just can't believe how bossy they are! They'll nudge you if you're in their way or if they want you to get up and play. They know how to get your attention. And if you're a rabbit lover, you'll do anything for them. They just rule the house."

Bunnies are spectacular pets.

"They're very clean animals, they're quiet, and they love attention. If you get down onto their level, they'll cuddle with you—they'll end up rubbing their chins on you. I love how affectionate they can be. They purr. They make little noises. And when you've had a bunny for a while, you realize that you're tuned into their senses. It's really nice that you can communicate with an animal like that. It's amazing."

For more information on rabbit care or adoption, visit rabbit.org.

Photos: Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing
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