While many recreational GroupMe chats have emerged post quarantine, one in particular has gained a considerable amount of traction among animal lovers. The group is called “nu bunny watching” but has gained the nickname "bun chat" among group members.
Despite being a non-academic GroupMe, the group has attracted a wide following, with a staggering 612 members as of Nov. 4.
Creator of “nu bunny watching,” Frankie Lucco, was surprised by the attention the group has garnered. The Medill sophomore created the group in the spring of 2021 during what she considered perfect conditions for bunny sightings.
“In the spring, that’s baby bunny season," she said. "And baby bunny season is amazing.”
She made the group to share her fascination with bunnies with her friends, but it quickly became the new campus craze. Lucco sees herself as the "conduit" who united hundreds through a chat that was destined to attract bunny lovers.
“I feel like it was always going to happen,” said Lucco. “That people were going to get excited about bunnies. It just so happened that I was the person that thought of it first.”
Lucco has created a Flickr page for her fellow members to geotag bunnies they find to document their locations on a fun bun map, which she plans to replace with an official website soon.
Group member and McCormick sophomore David Botana likes that the group chat functions as a “check-in on cuteness every day.”
Lucco described the Northwestern campus as a haven for bunnies. Rabbits on campus likely do not need to fear many natural predators and benefit from the wide availability of vegetation, which contributes to their big population in the area.
Group members often send pictures of animals other than bunnies (squirrels, insects, cats, geese, even opossums!) paired with corny jokes and memes. While the Lucco primarily made the group for bunny watching, members appreciate any animal sightings, following the chat description that mentions that other wildlife is accepted.
Some group members are going above and beyond just watching. Botana has scheduled multiple trips for group members to CuddleBunny CCC (“Club, Care & Community”). Cuddle Bunny is a small business in Chicago that was founded by Northwestern graduate Barbara Burdick and provides bunny daycare services. The space also, of course, includes bunnies on the main floor area that visitors can pet and feed.
“I thought it would be a fun way to spend some time on a weekend,” said Botana about his motivation for planning the trip. “If you're in a group chat for taking photos of bunnies, [you] probably wouldn't mind petting them, too.”
Jessy Kong, a McCormick senior, first encountered Cuddle Bunny through a recommendation on TikTok in 2019. She said she visited the business a month later, right around the time its doors opened to the public.
She said bunnies have been her favorite animal for a long time, so getting to interact with domesticated bunnies that won’t run away like the wild ones was a “really wholesome experience.”
Kong said it was cute that “every pen that you go into to sit with the bunnies had two that are paired up.” She was struck by the friendship the paired bunnies seemed to have. "When they’re nervous they hide together,” she said.
After seeing the bunnies at Cuddle Bunny, which to her seemed low maintenance, Kong has been inspired to adopt her own bunny in the near future.
“They seem similar to cats in the way that they can free-roam and use litter boxes, but they don’t bark or meow or anything,” she said. “I feel like they’re perfect for apartment living. And that’s what I’m planning to do after I graduate.”
Lucco said she hoped the trip showed people that they can participate in “wild social stuff” thanks to the bun chat, like “petting bunnies with strangers.”
What began as a small, fun group chat has expanded into a welcoming club for animal enthusiasts. It functions as a lighthearted way to bring the campus community together.
In Botana's words, “Life can’t be that bad if there’s something as cute as bunnies everywhere.”
*Photo slideshow developed by Nathanial Ortiz