Bonding Rabbits

Does My Bunny Need a Parter?

There is no denying the benefits of allowing your rabbit to interact with and live with others of his own species. Rabbits naturally live in groups for security. For an animal who relies on others for warnings of danger, a single rabbit may feel stripped of all his defenses. A single rabbit may also find himself getting bored, turning to destructive behaviors to keep himself occupied. However, not all rabbits feel this way. Some rabbits have the confidence to live alone without fear. Some rabbits have the trust in their humans to warn them if danger approaches. And just like people, some rabbits are more comfortable on their own then with other rabbits. While it is true that most rabbits prefer to live *near* other rabbits, not all rabbits require a bonded friend. We strongly believe that every rabbit needs to be judged on an individual basis. Our recommendation to most homes is that if you would like to add another rabbit to your family and can afford the extra care and vet costs, consider adopting a second rabbit to be a neighbor to your current bun. There will be no anxiety about bonding and no worries about them not getting along. However, if several months or years into the future the two rabbits seem quite attracted to each other, you can begin introductions and you may just find yourself with a bonded pair.

 

Natural Social Behaviors

The European Wild Rabbit of which our domestic pets derive from, live in warrens. They have underground burrows in which they memorize(for security) and have individual “rooms” in. In case of attack, their burrow rarely changes and the rabbits know every tunnel and turn. The individual rooms are assigned to female rabbits who will become extremely territorial over them. The most dominant female gets the best “room” or the one highest in the burrow and the remaining females get to choose based on their rank. The females build their nests in these rooms and protect them from the other rabbits. If a baby from another nest ventures into the wrong room, they may just be killed by the female who owns that room. It is extremely important for us to understand this natural behavior in order to provide an environment that makes sense to our rabbits. Male rabbits are very neutral in the warren and can come and go as they please. This generally means that males are easier to get along with. They have one job, to mate, and when we neuter them, they are typically more carefree and interactive pets. While spaying females helps considerably with their behavior as well, most females will still want to maintain their dominance and territory to some extent. Because of this, the best pairs are almost always female/male. A female will be slow to accept a male into her “room” but another female would immediate be seen as a threat to her territory. Rabbits typically do not like to share until they have developed a good relationship with each other. This can take a considerable amount of time depending on the compatibility of their personalities. Rabbit bonding is very much like dating in the human world. You would never consider moving in together on the first date. Neither do rabbits. They prefer to be neighbors for a while, go out on dates (in neutral territory) and have someone they trust to make introductions.

 

Bringing Home Bunny

When deciding to bring a rabbit home to bond, it is best to have low expectations and to be setup to have two separate rabbits for at least a month. Moving a rabbit is extremely stressful and trying to bond when one rabbit is highly stressed is a very bad idea. We have seen this mistake far too many times! Allowing the new rabbit to relax and find security in the new home is crucial. While the rabbit is getting comfortable, it is a great idea to allow the other rabbit to speak to them through the bars of an xpen. They will be able to adjust to each other’s presence without any pressure. If two rabbits can lay next to or groom each other through a fence, the first official date will go much better. The goal is to slowly and effectively build a *positive* base for their relationship to grow. A rushed or stressed relationship may eventually crumble so slow down and listen to your rabbits.