Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Life in the Warren

The rabbits seem pleased that I am back from all my gadding about, but while Calypso Spots takes this as an opportunity for increased petting, Orion appears to have mixed reactions. He wants to be near me, but avoids attempts to pet him. I think this means that he hopes it is really me but has suspicions that I am actually a monster in disguise.
Travis inquired recently whether rabbits are hierarchical. It's generally said that they are indeed, but I think it is more accurate to say that, as with humans, lapine interest in hierarchy depends on the individual. It seems unlikely that anyone (human or lapine) genuinely wants to be at the bottom of the heap, but beyond that, I suspect that many individuals of both species spend most of their time in relative indifference to hierarchical niceties. Certain individuals want to be on top, but may or may not get what they want. The deceased Penelope clearly wanted to be the dominant rabbit, and had she treated George nicely when he was the new rabbit, he might have been happy to let her take that role (he was much enamored), but she was nasty to him, so he had to show her who was boss, and during their lives together she only occasionally managed occasional bouts of week-long dominance in a relatively equal relationship.
After Penelope died and Ms. Spots entered the scene, she rapidly developed a deep attachment to George and recognized that since he could no longer take care of himself properly, it was her job to be Dr. Spots and do her best to keep him happy. This did not seem particularly hierarchical at the time, merely affectionate and generous, but now that George has been succeeded by Orion, it appears that Ms. Spots takes the view that as she took care of George, it is Orion's job to take care of her. She is not, of course, in any way disabled, but merely seems to regard herself as Senior Rabbit, so while she does lick Orion's ears, she does so rather infrequently. It is my impression that Orion, who courted her with great sensitivity and skill, has concluded that his beloved is a bit spoiled and does not really give him all the loving he would like, although this does not keep him from lavishing affection upon her day and night. A bit of hierarchy seems involved here, but Orion does not strike me as a lower-dominance rabbit. Instead, as with many human couples, the two seem to be of similar dominance but have worked out a relationship where one is mildly subordinate in specific areas of life. Ms. Spots is quite fond of her beau, and he knows it, but as Junior Rabbit he supposes that he should usually respond to her requests for grooming even though she tends to ignore his.
Of course, Orion may have simply set up a precedent when, at the outset of their relationship, he licked her nonstop for twenty minutes.
Meanwhile, they are indulging in considerable lapine cuddling and grooming. Orion can groom Ms. Spots pretty much endlessly. As my parents have observed, his tongue never seems to get tired.

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Blogger Julia said...

How do rabbits signal they want grooming, by nosing the likely groomer?

Glad to hear you're back safe and sound, have a great Thanksgiving tomorrow!

November 21, 2007 10:36 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

They do sometimes nose the groomer, but mainly they seem to settle in front of the groomer and "present" their heads. Calypso Spots also (although these techniques work well for her) gets away with simply lying down next to Orion, who usually takes the hint. Sometimes she doesn't even have to show any sign of wanting grooming. He sees her standing nearby and starts in.

Freud would have something to say about Orion's oral fixation, which is not to be confused with the average rabbit's interest in chewing and licking.

November 24, 2007 5:18 PM  

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