the bad mother

My rabbit is building a nest. It’s a terrific nest, made from shredded newspaper and a pile of fluffy white fur that she pulled from her throat and chest. She’s been working on it for days, obsessively moving it from one side of the cage to the other, thrusting her worried face deep into the pile to check for some unknown rabbitty detail. She works with a ferocious, single-minded purpose, carrying around bits of paper and fur in her mouth, looking at me inquisitively for answers to her unfathomable questions.

She’s pregnant. Ordinarily, I’d be jumping up and down with joy. This is Fluffernutter, my most beautiful bunny. She’s a show-quality Holland Lop, with rounded ears that hang down the sides of her face, and a flat pushed-in nose like a bulldog. She’s a soft honey brown, shading to a smoky gray on her belly, nose and paws. Her fur is plush and velvety, like a life-size Webkinz.

She’s also a killer. Whether by neglect, or other methods more sinister, she has terminated ten or twelve baby bunnies, and possibly, one adult male.

So why do I keep her?

Well…she’s gorgeous, for one thing. That face, that fur. But she’s also friendly, gentle and personable, always looking up at me for a pat and a kind word. When she lays down on my lap and I put my fingers in her fur, despite the dreadful things she’s done, a feeling of peace and well-being flows through me.

So what makes one rabbit a caring mother, and another rabbit, an unfeeling killer?

I can only guess. Everything eats bunnies. Maybe she felt threatened, maybe she thought she was in danger. Maybe it was some kind of exaggerated territorial response. Maybe she thought, in her peanut-sized bunny brain, that babies would attract dangerous predators.

Or maybe it’s this. Week after week, the news brings some shocking story about parents neglecting, abandoning, abusing their children. Maybe people are just like rabbits. Maybe some of them are just not meant to be parents.

Alone, safe in her cage in the kitchen, Fluffernutter pokes her nose into the pile of fur and shredded newspaper, and I hope for the best. You never know. Maybe this time will be different.

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