By: Kim Regala, Staff Writer
A lengthy and astounding line-up greeted my eye at the bottom of Maggie Benston Centre — which made sense given the news that SFU was hosting a one-day-only Bunny Cafe event. On January 29, the Health & Counselling Student Services had organized this event alongside Rabbitats Rescue Society, a non-profit and volunteer-run charity organization that offers adoption and fostering options for abandoned domesticated bunnies. Five sessions were throughout the day for students to experience a generous 45 minutes worth of bunny watching, petting, and feeding. Over a dozen rabbits — all abandoned or living in shelters — were able to receive some much-deserved bunny-loving from humans, all while creating a nice stress-free environment for students away from their busy school lives.
Despite showing up early to catch the second session at 11:45 a.m., it wasn’t until the very last session at 2:15 pm when I was finally able to attend the event. Regardless, there was still much anticipation knowing that behind closed doors was a bunny-filled paradise. Prior to beginning the session, one of the event organizers gave a quick briefing to the group, informing us of how to properly behave around the animals. We were told to avoid loud noises as rabbits are highly sensitive to sound — no surprise as they have humongous ears. We were also cautioned to be aware of our steps as the animals may be quick to hop around with no warning, as well as refrain from picking up any of the rabbits. Finally, the organizer instructed that we don’t disturb or pet them if they are resting inside of their houses — these acted as shelters for the creatures, and intruding their spaces would disrupt that sense of security.
The room was dimly lit to set a calming mood, and right away I was greeted by the abundance of bunnies scattered everywhere in various sizes and fur colours. Five rabbit “houses” were situated all around the room, each one housing two to three resting bunnies, as we were informed that it was nearing nap time for them. Those outside, though, clearly still had loads of energy to be played with, which was uplifting considering they had been doing so for hours straight. As attendees were free to roam around, so were the bunnies, as there were no particular barriers or dividers that limited their hopping space.
Each student was provided with a cup of bunny food, and all the bunnies definitely seemed to enjoy the feast of kale and basil practically being shoved into their mouths. While there were some that denied the gesture (possibly due to being extremely full from the earlier sessions), the rest looked particularly energized by the abundance of greenery available to them. It was a charming experience to be surrounded by such gentle animals, as you were able to pet their soft fur while they slowly nibbled leaves off of your hand.
Being able to pet and feed them was definitely the main attraction of the event. However, I found myself spending most of my time just sitting there and feeling completely at ease with the presence of the little creatures surrounding me. As much as it was a safe space for these formerly neglected animals to freely roam around and feel loved by humans, it was clear that the students themselves were reciprocated with similar feelings of calmness and peace. There was a pure sense of enjoyment and ease that filled the room, as I overheard conversations between students who felt relieved from the usual hustles and struggles of a hectic student life. It was a heartening experience for me as I too had this temporary escape from stress-induced days. While one bunny session certainly won’t address all of my problems, it was at least comforting to find a temporary source of relief that was available to us on campus.
I soon found out that all of the bunnies there were up for adoption, including some who had experienced some form of trauma from abandonment and/or neglect. As one of the Rabbitats volunteers walked me through the online application process for adoption, she also informed me that I could foster before fully committing to a lifetime of bunny parenthood. This way, I would be able to test the waters and see if I was a suitable fit to care for the animal. While I didn’t come to the event with the intention of adopting a bunny — nor was I even aware of the possibility walking in — I certainly left with the desire to do exactly that and look for further options to extend my care.
The first ever Bunny Cafe in Vancouver is set to open this coming spring, serving as both a place for people to enjoy the companion of bunnies, as well as create a space for these creatures that have lost or never received a home. Founding the cafe is Michelle Furbacher, the same owner of Vancouver’s Catfe, which opened back in 2015. At the time, Furbacher teamed up with the BC SPCA in order to cultivate a space for adoptable rescue cats to feel loved and cared for. While this time around, she teamed up with the Rabbitats Rescue Society, the Bunny Cafe will be a similar safe space for these little creatures deserving of love (and more), all the while letting us humans enjoy their warm and soft company.