Rabbits are highly social animals and ideally should be kept in pairs. However, a single rabbit is possible given that the owner be prepared to devote significant time to interact with the rabbit and provide companionship.
Should I Get Another Rabbit?
Some considerations when deciding on a bunny friend:
- Age: While age does not matter to the success of a bonding, it is important to consider the age difference because rabbits will go through a rough period of mourning upon the loss of a bonded mate. As a result, it is best to keep the rabbits' ages within a few years of each other.
- Size: The size of the rabbits do not matter when attempting a bonding. A giant Flemish can be happily bonded to a small Netherland Dwarf. The most important consideration to a successful bonding is that the rabbits' personalities work well with each other and are introduced properly.
The following links contain information to help you properly decide whether or not to get another rabbit to bond.
- House Rabbit Society, Amy Espie, FAQ: Should I Get a Second Rabbit
- House Rabbit Society, Are Two Rabbits Right For You?
- House Rabbit Society, Amy Espie, The Case for Rabbits in the Plural
- The Carrot Connection, June 2002
- Happy Hoppers Rabbit Forum, Enrichment & The Single Rabbit Issue
Preparations for a Bonding
It is considerably easier for two rabbits to bond if they have both been spayed and neutered. Spaying and neutering drastically reduces any aggressive and territorial behaviors as well as prevent any accidental babies if they are of opposite sexes. When unaltered, rabbits will be trying to get along through hormonal and uncontrollable urges, while after altering, the rabbits will be working through personalities and temperament.
If your rabbit has been recently altered, wait at least 2 weeks, preferably a month, before trying to bond. This is to prevent a male from accidentally impregnating an unspayed female and for a newly spayed female from fighting off a male due to being uncomfortable from her new surgery. The interval between castration and infertility is around 4 weeks. Additionally, it allows for any hormones to dissipate.
If you obtained your second rabbit from a source other than a shelter, consider quarantining the new rabbit until it has had a health exam at a rabbit-savvy veterinarian. Many rabbits can be carriers of dangerous and highly contagious diseases such as pasteurella, fur mites, fleas, intestinal parasites, and more.
Many people do not realize that the majority of rabbit rescues offer "bunny dating" services. The rabbit experts examine the interactions between potential partners to find the best match, as opposed to just trying to bond two rabbits without knowing their preferences. Some agencies offer "speed dating", while others will let you bring your bunny to the shelter multiple times or even overnight. Having the rescue as a resource when the two bonding candidates are having issues at home can make the process much, much easier. In order to participate, your rabbit must be spayed or neutered.
While any two rabbits can grow to like each other, sometimes, it is not worth the stress and the effort. Efforts have shown that altered male-female pairings usually have the best of luck and are the most stable. The San Diego House Rabbit Society writes,
Usually the males appear to be dominant at first with their excessive mounting. The female will put up with this for a short while, but will usually assert her dominance by mounting the male or nipping him to show she is the one in charge. At this point, the male usually backs down and they start on the road to friendship.
Some good signs for a first bunny date are the following:
- Indifference by not perceiving the other rabbit as a threat. Rabbits may lay in separate corners of the room or eat in each other's presence.
Rabbits that show the above signs will usually have an easy bonding and learn to live together in at most a couple of weeks.
Some neutral signs in a first bunny date:
- Humping. Mounting can mean "it is important to me to appear to be the rabbit in control" or it can be an invitation to chase, mount, and be the boss.
- Nipping and minor chasing.
Some not-so-good signs in a first bunny date:
- Fighting and other dangerous aggression. Fighting is usually an instantly, purposely vicious attack. Rabbits sometimes attack the other rabbit's face, underside or genital area.
- Excessive chasing.
Rabbits that show the above signs will usually be a very tough bond. Expect bonding efforts to possibly go on for months or years.
While your rabbit may not find its perfect partner in the first five or so dates, it may find one in the ninth or tenth. It can be a combination of finding the right rabbit and also learning how to properly communicate to others its interest.
Here are some videos of sample bunny dates.
- larabbits, Gelato Goes Speed Dating
The most essential factor in successful bunny dating is bonding in a neutral area. This means an area where neither rabbit has been in before. Ideally, introductions should be in neutral territory with plenty of room to escape and hiding places to retreat into. If this is not possible, introducing the female to the male on his territory is more likely to be successful than the reverse.
The following are strategies to use to acclimate the bunnies to each other so that territorial marking and nipping will slowly discontinue:
- House rabbits side-by-side with a 1-inch gap between their enclosures to prevents nipping through the bars.
- Switch litter boxes and toys between rabbits regularly to encourage the sharing of belongings. If possible, switch entire enclosures to encourage the sharing of territory.
- Obtain multiple stuffed animals and rub a different one all over each rabbit. Try to get the rabbits to chin the stuffed animals as to get the strongest scent on the toy. Place the other rabbit's stuffed animal with each rabbit in its housing enclosure. If the rabbits do not pee on, nip, excessively chin, hump, or do other undesirable behaviors with the stuffed animal, there may be less aggression when they meet face-to-face.
- Burn lavender oil and rub on rabbit foreheads to calm them down.
See Further Reading for more information on bonding basics.
Stress bonding entails creating a situation for the rabbits where they will cuddle together in comfort against the frightful environment and consequently learn that being friends is not that bad. Like any other type of bonding, your mileage may vary. Some rabbits will react well to bonding over stress while others may become more aggressive towards each other.
Common stress bonding techniques include the following:
- Placing the rabbits together in a carrier or large basket or bucket and placing them in a neutral area after doing one of the following:
- Go a rough car ride together. Make plenty of sudden starts, stops, bumps, and turns.
- Be shaken and rocked by hand gently to simulate a bumpy ride.
- Be placed on top of a running washing machine or dryer to shake the container as well as provide foreign rumbling sounds.
- Putting the rabbits in an empty bathtub to interact. Not only is it neutral as most rabbits do not spend any time in the bathroom, but slippery surface induces stress as well as make it hard for rabbits to run and fight each other.
- Dabbing some smushed banana, honey, or other sweet sticky substance on each rabbit's nose. The sensation will cause the rabbit to fervently try to groom off the substance as well as throw off its sense of smell. The rabbits will be less likely to attack either other because they will be too busy grooming themselves.
We put a little warm water in the tub, then after a few minutes, put down a towel to sit on. Forces them to sit together, as they hate the water more than they hate each other. Then after a few more minutes, drain the tub. Then towel dry. We then put them in a cage together so that they aren't separated and 'unbond'. Generally no issues beyond a few squabbles and nips here and there.
.. and some more detailed instructions:
Remove their litter and towels and replace it with an inch and a half of warm water. Enough to get their feet and bellies wet. They hate it, but it won't hurt them. Let them struggle and try to jump out for a good fifteen minutes. They're going to slip and slide and hate every second of this part, and that's good.
Then, give them a towel, and set each one of them on the towel. The added traction will make them unlikely to want to leave the relative comfort of the towel. They'll be sitting next to each other for some time.
After fifteen minutes on the towel, drain the water. They'll start cleaning themselves before too long. Let them clean for a while - maybe another fifteen minutes to a half hour.
Remove them from the tub, and towel dry the soggy buns. Keep them in close quarters for a while and you should, with luck, be good to go.We've had excellent results with this, even for a rather difficult and violent bun.
Bonding Multiple Rabbits
User neanderthalman from Reddit has had success for a trio using his stress bonding method in the bathtub from the section above. He recommends placing the most aggressive rabbits in the bathtub first.
The following links contain more information about bonding multiple rabbits.
- Miriam's Bunnies, My Secrets to Bonding My Bunnies
- Rabbits United, Sky-O, Do you want to bond a trio? Read this first
- Ontario Rabbit Education Organisation, Bonding (search for "Bonding Trios")
Here are experiences of people who have tried to bond more than two rabbits together.
- Zooh Corner, Gretchen Kunze-Fahrney, A Bonding Experience
- House Rabbit Society – Md, DC, & NoVA, The Clover Leaf, Issue X, Fall 2002, Suzanne Medairy, How I Bonded A Trio
- The Rabbit Residence Rescue, Bonding rabbits into groups
- Reddit, /r/rabbits, Nataliecforbes, How I bonded my all male trio :3
Below are useful discussions and experiences about the topic.
- Reddit, /r/rabbits, Considering a trio
- BinkyBunny, Bonding groups (3+)
- BinkyBunny, Bonding a Trio
- BinkyBunny, Deirdra & Lint/tooth & Nail update
Difficulties in Bonding
The following links contain more information about dealing with difficulties in bonding.
- House Rabbit Society, Bonding When the Going Gets Tough
- House Rabbit Society - Maryland, Washington DC, and Northern Virginia Chapter, My rabbits HATE each other........
- Wisconsin House Rabbit Society, Valerie Johnson, Coping With A Bunny Brawl
- House Rabbit Society, Carol Weaver, Turning Fear Into Play
- House Rabbit Society, Margo DeMello, Ph.D., Will They Ever Be Friends?
- House Rabbit Society, Holly O'Meara and Suzanne Mallery, Mending a Broken Bunny Bond
Here are some relevant FAQs with bonding difficulties.
- Lee Meyer, Bunny bonding..
Below are links containing owner experiences with rabbit bondings.
- Rabbit Rescue & Rehab, Amy Odum, December-December Romance: Bunny Love, the Second Time Around
- Rabbit Rescue & Rehab, Abby Wolf, Bachelor Number Three: Floppy Finds a Partner for a New Leap in Life
- Reddit, /r/rabbits, Territorial Rabbit Bonding; Any Inspiring Stories While I Wait For My Two Buns To Stop Hating Each Other?
- House Rabbit Network, Suzanne Smith, Love Match: A Guide to Bonding Your Rabbits
- House Rabbit Society, FAQ: Bonding Multiple Rabbits
- Ontario Rabbit Education Organisation, Bonding
- San Diego House Rabbit Society, Bonding Tips and Tricks
- Colorado House Rabbit Society, Pairing Rabbits
- Wisconsin House Rabbit Society, Susan Smith, The Dating Game
- Minnesota House Rabbit Society, Bunny Bonding Basics
- Flash's Place, Bonding and Bonded Bunnies
- Georgian House Rabbit Society, Bonding Rabbits
- Midwest Rabbit Rescue & Re-home, Guidelines for Bonding Two Rabbits
- SPCA Auckland, Justine Shayne Somerville, Bonding Rabbits- Introducing unfamiliar rabbits
- BOING, Bonding your buns
- Corkys Cave, Bonding
- The Quintessential Rabbit, Bonding Bunnies: Because Most Everybunny is Happier with a Friend!
- BinkyBunny.com, Bonding Information
- House Rabbit Society, Julie Smith, PhD, All in the Wonderful Game: One Chapter's Approach to Matchmaking
- bunnymama.com, General Bonding Information
- Yahoo! Voices, Patti Henningsen, Secrets of Bonding Rabbits: Matchmaking for Bunnies, Part 1
- Caroline Charland, Bonded For Life
- Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund, Bunny Buddies - Why every rabbit needs a friend
- Save a Fluff, Why every rabbit needs a friend
The following are discussions with useful information about bonding rabbits.
- RabbitsOnline.net, Bunny breed questions....
Below are libraries with more links to information about bonding rabbits.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Emma Keeble, Anna Meredith, et al., Rabbit Medicine & Surgery, 2006.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 The Quintessential Rabbit, Bonding Bunnies: Because Most Everybunny is Happier with a Friend!
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 San Diego House Rabbit Society, Bonding Tips and Tricks
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 Frances Harcourt-Brown, Textbook of Rabbit Medicine, 2002.
- ↑ Minnesota Companion Rabbit Society, Bunny Bonding Basics
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 House Rabbit Society, Julie Smith, PhD, All in the Wonderful Game: One Chapter's Approach to Matchmaking.
- ↑ Reddit, Keeperofthesecrets
- ↑ reddit.com, When bunny bonding goes bad.
- ↑ Reddit, /r/rabbits, neanderthalman, Had to move them to the bathroom. Any other suggestions? :(
- ↑ reddit.com, When bunny bonding goes bad.