At the Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine, it is our philosophy that rabbits require companionship of at least one other rabbit to keep them happy and comfortable in our care. Rabbits are very social by nature, living in large social groupings. It would be very unusual for a rabbit to live alone, and our goal is to educate clients about safe ways to have more than one rabbit. Sometimes, when rabbits first meet, there are some territorial confrontations and dominance arguments that manifest as fighting.
The following tips were created by educators from the House Rabbit Society. These ideas are based on the experience of several very rabbit-savvy pet owners with many years of experience introducing rabbits to one another in hopes of providing them with a lifelong companion. For more information about bunny bonding, go to How to bond bunnies
- “Gently rub one’s chin on top of the other’s head and then switch. It gets their scents on each other and makes them think they are being groomed!”
- “Swapping bunnies’ pens and litter boxes isn’t just about acclimating each bunny to the other’s smells; it also allows you to introduce the less territorial bunny to the other bunny’s “territory” each time you start a bonding session.”
- “The best piece of advice we’ve found is to do the car rides, and then return and do a series of very short neutral territory intros AFTER the car rides. When we drive the buns around, it makes them want to cuddle. As long as the car is moving, they don’t fight. I will also take buns to the vet and put them in the same laundry basket or dog bed (we use both) and use that as a time to bond.”
- “Let your rabbit choose his/her companion. Like with human love, bunny love comes in all genders, shapes, and sizes.”
- “The key things to understand are that the rabbit picks his or her friend, everyone should be spayed/neutered, and be patient.”
- “One key piece of advice I give to caretakers going through the bunny-bonding process is to exercise patience. When we push rabbits to become bonded within a certain time-frame, and we become impatient, we put additional stress on the rabbits, and make it harder for them to relax and get to know each other on their own terms.”
- “How do you know the rabbits are bonded? Bonding is a process. Our experience has been that once rabbits have co-existed in a room or pen for 48 hours without fighting, they’re on the way to becoming a rabbit family unit. It’s relatively rare for any serious fighting to occur after that point. After a few weeks of co-existing, the relationship may change, and you may notice more snuggling and grooming. Even if you do not see a deepening of the relationship, at this point the rabbits should be considered bonded.
- There aren’t really rules; just techniques and suggestions. I’ve worked on bonds that needed a great deal of supervision and baby steps, and I’ve also had bonds for which I threw out all the rules and just plopped the new bunny in someone’s pen and said, “My job here is done!” Bonding can seem like a complete mystery, but it’s just a relationship. You’re bringing in a new bunny and plopping him/her in your current bunny’s territory and expecting complete love and acceptance. Probably not going to happen. Bunnies don’t have to spend ever second of every day together. Sometimes they just want to nap in different places.”
- “Car rides, car rides, car rides!!!”