Meet the Creator of the Cottontail Cottage

Today’s blog post is the first in a series of interviews with local San Diego vendors who provide unique products to the rabbit community. The San Diego House Rabbit Society store carries these products and much more, so if you’re looking for gifts for your bunnies or your bunny friends, the store is your one-stop destination.

The Bunny Store will be open on December 18 from 12-3pm. This is your last chance to stock up on supplies or buy gifts before Christmas, so get your buns in there. The store will be closed Christmas Day, and we will reopen on January 1, 2011.

Amy Spintman invented the Cottontail Cottage, which can be seen in just about every rabbit’s home. We sat down with Amy to find out how her popular product came to be.

SDHRS: How did you become a rabbit person?

Amy: I’ve been a “cat person” my entire life. After moving  to San Diego, I wanted to get another pet in addition to my cat, and got a guinea pig. Tilly the piggy had a nice long life, and when she passed away I wanted to get a pet which would interact more with my cat. I did a lot of research, and actually read the House Rabbit Handbook cover-to-cover before deciding that a rabbit was the right pet for me AND my cat. At first I thought I was unusual for keeping a rabbit indoors and spoiling her rotten, but then I found San Diego HRS and learned that I was not alone.

SDHRS: How did you come to live in San Diego?

Amy: During my senior year of college I got stuck in a snowstorm driving between my home in Maryland and college in New York, and my car wound up in a ditch. I decided at that moment that I no longer wanted to live in a cold climate, and went to graduate school in Florida. As part of my master’s degree, I did a semester-long internship in Santa Barbara, and then moved to San Diego. I didn’t have a job, and didn’t know a single person. It was just me and my cat, Skimble. That was in 1987, and it was the best decision I ever made. No more driving in the snow for me!

SDHRS: Tell us about your volunteer activities.

Amy: I started volunteering for SDHRS in 1996, and became a licensed educator the following year. My volunteer activities over the years have included education events, packing hay, event planning, and answering chapter e-mails and phone calls. I was on the Board of Directors for several years, and have maintained the chapter’s mailing list since 1997.

SDHRS: How many rabbits/pets do you have now?

Amy: I have just two rabbits at the moment. After having as many as eight rabbits, I’m enjoying the quality time I can spend with these two. I adopted each of them from San Diego House Rabbit Society when they were at least 7 years old, and they’re over 10 years old now and have special needs related to their age. I also have a big black cat, Salem. I adopted him when I had the eight rabbits, and he fit right in. He even loves to munch on hay.

SDHRS:  What inspired the idea of the Cottontail Cottage?

Amy: There was previously a mass-marketed cardboard playhouse called the “Lazy Cat Lodge” which was marketed for cats. Many of us found that our rabbits enjoyed it more than our cats did. I met the manufacturer at a trade show once and suggested that they market it for rabbits also, and they thought I was crazy. Shortly afterwards they discontinued the product entirely, so I took the opportunity to create something similar, with some tweaks to make it more attractive and rabbit-friendly. That was about 10 years ago. I already had the business Cats & Rabbits & More at the time, and was able to add it to my product line. Although I sell lots of other toys for rabbits on the website, about 90% of my sales are for the Cottage.

SDHRS: Why do you think the cottage has been such a hit?

Amy: The Cottage serves multiple purposes for rabbits. As prey animals, they’re naturally attracted to places where they can safely hide out and rest. They’re also curious and full and energy and enjoy running through the openings and exploring the world from different vantage points. I refer to the Cottontail Cottage as a “bunny magnet,” because no matter where you put one in the house or x-pen, rabbits will naturally gravitate towards it.

SDHRS: There are some similar “cottages” on the market. What makes your Cottontail Cottage unique?

Amy: I designed the Cottage to look like, well, a Cottage, and not just a cardboard box with holes. It has cute graphics and cutouts so it will look nice in a home.

SDHRS: Tell us about the background of Cats & Rabbits & More, and how your work ties in with SDHRS.

Amy: I started Cats & Rabbits & More in 1998 for two purposes: To sell high-quality toys for rabbits (at that time, they were few and far between), and to help promote adoptable small animals in Southern California. When I started the business and the website, many rescue groups and shelters, especially the smaller ones, did not yet have websites, so this was the only online resource they had to promote their adoptable animals. CRM is separate from San Diego House Rabbit Society, but because I’m an active volunteer with the chapter, we’ve been able to tie it in with the chapter as an additional resource, and to also promote the rabbits in local shelters which our chapter volunteers help care for. There are about 5 volunteers who help keep the website updated.

When I started the business, I put “cats” in the name because I didn’t think I’d get enough business or interest just focusing on the rabbits and wanted to include both of my favorite animals. However, the website and the business has evolved to being about 95% focused on rabbits. I sell a few cat items (and cats like the Cottage, too), but they really don’t sell very well. I think part of that is because you can get cat toys anywhere, whereas good quality rabbit toys are harder to come by.

SDHRS:  Why should people shop locally or from CRM?

Amy: People purchase rabbit toys from CRM not only because of the uniqueness of the items, but also because they know they’re dealing directly with someone who shares their love for rabbits and supports rabbit rescue. I know many of my customers personally, and have become friends with many of them over the years through e-mail and Facebook. I also regularly donate Cottontail Cottages to rabbit rescue groups for their fundraising events.

SDHRS: So where can people get a Cottontail Cottage for their bunnies?

Amy: The Cottage starts at $17.99 and is available at the San Diego HRS Bunny Store. You can also find it through Cats & Rabbits & More as well as rabbit rescue groups and other rabbit-friendly retailers.

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