When it comes to making friends, our Rabbits can prove to be a bit of a conundrum!
Rabbits are highly social animals who thrive on the companionship of their own kind; however, they are also very territorial little critters so when it comes to introducing a new friend to your bunny, you simply can not just add another rabbit into your current rabbit’s living environment and expect them to live happily ever after!
It just won’t happen!
So therefore, you need to slowly introduce potential companions to your rabbit(s), and in doing so there are a few rules to follow before you even consider going down the path of finding your Rabbit a friend.
Please make sure your Rabbits are ALL neutered, regardless of gender.
It makes no difference if, for example, your male rabbit has been castrated, but the female remains in tact or vice versa, the fact that she will not become pregnant bears no real advantage to this thinking; you simply have to remove, not just the ability to breed, but the ‘hormonal’ urge also.
Neutering is not just beneficial for health reasons, i.e. cancers of the reproductive organs, but neutering removes all sorts of ‘normal’ rabbit behaviours, such as territorial tendencies, urine scent marking etc. thus reducing not just any potential health issues, but the likelihood of fighting thus increasing your chances of a successful bond.
Females can also suffer phantom pregnancies which if allowed to continue can become emotionally distressing – they pluck fur from their bodies to prepare the nest only for no babies to materialise and so the cycle continues.
With an approximate 67,000 Rabbits in Rescue it simply makes sense, not just financially, but ethically to #adoptdontshop!
Hop along to your nearest rabbit savvy rescue and give a home to (one or more) of the many rabbits in need! Not only will you save lives and money (a good rescue will have vaccinated, neutered and health checked bunny prior to re-homing), you will also receive the correct care advice compared to the scant information you generally receive by either a pet shop or a backyard breeder!
A reputable rescue will also assist you in finding a good pairing for your bunny by setting up a series of dates with one or more bunnies to try and find the best match possible based on, not just character, but age, size etc. and of course provide you with lots of helpful advice on how to proceed.
The best rabbit bonding pairing is usually a male / female match – of course you can bond males or females to each other, but generally speaking, these matches are generally hard to make if the rabbits in question have not grown up together.
Of course it’s not to say a same sex pairing would never work, a lot depends on the character of the rabbits in question, but a same sex pairing is not a match I would consider trying. Whilst I have now successfully bonded four pairs of rabbits, and about to embark on a new bonding, I simply do not feel experienced nor confident enough to attempt this and most rescues will stick to the male/female golden rule too.
Now you can either dive right in or take a slower path, there is no real right or wrong way but more how much time you are able to allocate to bunny dating, however you do need to be consistent, and of course, patient.
I personally prefer to take the slow approach to bonding.
You need to look at not just where you are going to bond them (set-up their temporary living areas) and ensure the area is neutral to both rabbits. It is generally harder to introduce a male into a female’s home simply due to the fact she will be naturally more territorial over her space; this is not to say it’s impossible, it just has the potential of being slightly more problematic. So wherever possible, neutral territory is best.
Once you set about bonding and commit to the sometimes, long process – you may be lucky and discover that your rabbits find love at first sight (pretty rare), or it can take a couple of weeks, or even months before your Buns are able to live happily with each other – either way is good, there is no real golden rule as to how long the bonding process will take as our buns are all different in the personalty department, but it can be a waiting game and one you may feel like giving up on when progress is slow, or you feel as though none is being made at all.
Once your set up is ready you may want to either: keep them separate for the first few days with regular swap overs to allow them to get used to the presence of each other before you give them some face to face time, or likewise, give them a short date together to see how it goes before settling them into the bonding environment. Neither way is wrong.
The trick is to keep them close, adjoining pens for example so they can see each other through the bars, preferably without being able to harm/bite each other.
You also need to do regular swap overs and place each bunny into each other’s pens, ensuring they are both able to use each others toys and litter trays etc. this way they get used to each other’s scents.
A stuffed toy each with both of the buns scents on can help them adjust to a companion and they will often start to snuggle and groom the toys as if it were another rabbit companion.
In the early days a bit of fighting / chasing can be normal, but of course, you do not want this to become serious to the point they attack each other or the chasing becomes severe and the pursued rabbit becomes distressed, so you need to stop these behaviours before they become an issue.
This is where it is especially important to know the body language of Rabbits. If you see one or the other raising their tail and preparing to lunge, then keep a very close eye and intervene quickly.
Humping, or mounting each other is of course natural, its simply them determining who will be in charge in the relationship and establishing a pecking order.
Just make sure the bunny being mounted isn’t feeling too put out by being ‘dominated’ otherwise they may bite the other in addition to not allowing this ‘normal’ behaviour to continue for too long!
But of course, whenever you feel trouble may be brewing, be careful not to get your hands in the way or you risk a serious bite! Often an oven glove can come in handy for these situations.
Bonding tips and tricks:
Should there be any bad feeling towards each other, I find making a loud noise will often stop them in their tracks if you suspect a potential fight is about to break out! Having the vacuum cleaner on standby ready to flip that switch can be useful – of course we don’t want to stress or scare them too much; most Buns will already be familiar with ‘loud’ household items, so even though it can act as an un-welcomed noisy deterrent, it will should not overly stress them to the point of doing harm. A short sharp shock can help them ‘forget’ what they were about to do and hopefully, again make them realise the other bun is not a threat.
Putting them in a pet carrier together and going for a short drive can help them find comfort in each other as they will often huddle together and find comfort.
If you don’t have a car, a brisk walk round the house/garden with them in the carrier is often just as good.
Once I even took a pair of my bonding buns on a trip round the supermarket in their carrier whilst stocking up on greens! You may get some funny looks, so best doing it in the evenings when it’s not so busy, plus you have the advantage of finding some yummy bunny friendly greens at a reduced to clear price!
When it comes to putting bunnies together for their date time too much space during bonding can also cause problems, once you feel able to get them together you’re better starting with a small area and slowly increasing it once you feel comfortable that they are getting on reasonably well.
Give them things to do, throw in the odd toy, cardboard box, a few treats through their hay or some yummy greens, it helps them interact with each other and again, limits the thinking that the other bunny is not a threat.
Ignoring each other is great during bonding dates, it just shows they are fairly comfortable with the presence of each other. Remember, with rabbits it all about gaining the trust of their new companion.
When bonding, try not to end ‘dates’ on a bad note if at all possible – sadly bonding Buns can take time! I have given up in the past with this, more in the early days when i didn’t know what I was doing .. so don’t give up quite yet unless things are really bad!
Often separating them for a week or two without the face to face dates, but still able to see each other can help, then start again, slowly…
A good tip is to, and yes it may sound yucky but it helps, is to crush up one buns poop and rub it into the other bun’s coat, and do the same with the other – this way each of their scents gets on the other rabbit and they will become accustomed to each other when they groom themselves.
To help instigate grooming each other, a small dab of Vanilla extract, not essence, on the rear of the neck, or likewise gently rub a piece of banana on both of their heads. This will help make bunny smell sweet to each other and can often help stimulate grooming during bonding.
You do not want to dominate bunny dates with your presence, keep a close eye and make sure you can access them quickly should any problems arise; however, it can help on occasion to get in there with them once they are a bit more settled together but not quite there on the friendship scale.
Placing the buns next to each other and giving both a gentle cheek rub whilst talking softly to them (as you normally would) you will find that bunny, or both will start making happy tooth purring, again this helps them realise that the other bunny is infact quite nice and will help them relax in each others presence.
Of course none of these tricks may work first time, but they can help towards nudging things along the right course. Just play around with them and see what works best for your rabbits, remember, it’s all about trust, so just keep taking those deep breaths and you’ll soon have a hoppy ever after bonding!
If you wish further advice on any any other bonding or group bondings, then send us an email with your queries to: firstname.lastname@example.org