Following his 16th birthday on 9 February 2019, Mick the agouti rabbit from Berwyn, Illinois, USA, has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the oldest rabbit.
The OAP (old-age pet) has already exceeded the average age for his kind by about six years. The typical domestic rabbit lifespan ranges between 8 and 12.
Mick’s owner, Liz Rench (USA) – a long-time rabbit enthusiast and carer – was overjoyed when she heard the record had been approved. "I am very proud of him and have been very inspired by the resilience and positivity he’s shown throughout his life," she told us.
"There were countless times I thought that I was going to lose him, but he's been able to adapt to the ageing process with a good attitude and stays strong.
"I've been caring for rabbits for 20 years and have never had a rabbit live beyond 13. Mick is extremely special and I feel lucky to have him in my life!"
Find out about more record-breaking animals in our records showcase
Liz first met Mick, who she describes as having a "gentle, sweet and mellow" nature, at an animal shelter at which she was volunteering in 2004. He had bonded with another resident rabbit, called Bianca, at the shelter. (As you may have guessed, the two loved-up bunnies were named after a famous couple from the world of rock ’n’ roll.)
Not wanting to split them up, Bill – a friend of Liz's – took on the "Jaggers" and they had five happy years together. Bianca sadly died in 2009, but Mick has persevered.
In fact, Mick found love again when he was introduced to one of Liz's pet rabbits – PJ – in 2015. To avoid breaking them up, and with her friend Bill about to move to the other side of the country, it was decided that Mick would move in with Liz on a permanent basis.
The late-life romance wasn’t to last for long, though, as PJ passed away the following year, leaving Mick a widower once more.
Fortunately for him, Liz ensures he doesn’t get lonely: "I groom him regularly since he cannot do that any more and he is rarely left alone. I have a great job that allows me to bring him to work, which has really helped me take care of him."
As befits his superlative age, Mick is leading a chilled-out lifestyle in his senior years. His vision is not what it used to be (due to cataracts) and arthritis, particularly in his rear legs, makes mobility difficult. Liz does all she can to keep him comfortable with pain medication and physical supports, and by adapting his living space to better suit his needs.
Mick has even had complementary therapies like acupuncture, which helps to relieve pain in his joints.
Against the odds, Mick seems to have seen off encephalitozoonosis, a parasitic infection to which older rabbits are particularly susceptible. Symptoms first began to develop in Mick in 2017. Among other things, this disease can cause loss of balance, seizures and "wry neck" (scientifically called torticollis), where the rabbit's head tilts to one side.
Despite proving fatal to around 50% of those that contract it, Mick's "head tilt" began to fade in 2018, so Liz is hopeful that they have seen the worst of it.
On another positive note, Mick’s appetite is as healthy as ever. "He continues to eat very well on his own and is able to keep on weight," Liz said. "He eats a lot of low-calcium greens and timothy hay along with special treats like carrots, radishes and berries. He loves food!"
We asked Liz what words of wisdom she would give to other owners of older pets. "My advice for other senior animal caregivers is, of course, a great diet, happy living environment and regular vet visits.
"But my biggest rule is to try to be in tune with Mick and his needs and support him any way I'm able to. Veterinary care is getting more advanced all the time and domestic animals are living longer as a result.
"Mick has a positive outlook and has continued to show me signs of wanting to live, which is why I keep helping him do that. Caring for him takes a lot of work and resources, but he's been such an inspiration that the good outweighs the bad!"
This long-lived lagomorph has some way to go before he catches up with the oldest rabbit ever. Wild-born Flopsy from Australia was taken in by L B Walker of Longford, Tasmania, on 6 Aug 1964. He passed away nearly 19 years later.
Mick follows hot on the heels of another record-breaking rabbit: Taawi from Finland achieved the most tricks by a rabbit in one minute, as we announced last month (see video below).