Rabbits are very sociable animals and enjoy living together with another rabbit or in small groups. Unless you are already purchasing two rabbits that have bonded, you will need to consider how to introduce your new rabbit to your existing pet. You cannot assume the two rabbits will be compatible with one another. Animal instincts rely on a rabbit interacting with another until a pairing is established. There are various methods that can be used to ensure that your pets bond and adjust well to sharing their hutch.
Taking Out The Stress of Rabbit Bonding
Rabbits can be quick to enjoy the company of another rabbit or take an instant dislike to one another. While you may accept that they will just have to get along, this can result in a lot of unnecessary stress. As with any relationship, two bunnies will want to suss one another out and establish their own hierarchy. From the outset, it can take up to six months for two rabbits to be fully bonded. It will be necessary to have another rabbit hutch or cage available for separating the pair and sufficient space for the two animals to interact safety without risk of harm.
As with any pet interaction, patience is the key. You cannot rush things and force two pets to get along. You need to consider what you will do if the two pets do not get along.
Having another pet to play with might be appealing to you or your family but it comes with added responsibility and cost. Only consider having another pet if you can afford to give it the care and attention required to maintain its health and wellbeing. Having more than one rabbit can be rewarding. Ensure that you spend the same amount of time with each pet. Rabbits enjoy human interaction and love attention. Getting a companion for your pet is not a replacement for sharing time with them. Your pets have their own personality. You may see changes in behaviour that you have not experienced before such as aggression through biting or fighting. A confident rabbit may be overbearing on a more timid companion or your existing bunny may become withdrawn as it feels threatened in some way by the presence of another.
Rabbits will be less bored if they have a playmate. They will share experiences and learn off one another. Chewing, digging and other activities are natural behaviour but may not be something your existing pet has done until being influenced by their new friend.
Before Introducing A Rabbit Companion
If you have not already done so, your existing and new rabbit should be spayed or neutered before they are introduced to each other. Allow a few weeks to pass after surgery before bringing your pets together as this helps to curb some of their natural urges and also prevent unwanted kittens. The other reason for ensuring the surgery has had time to heal makes sure that if your rabbits do get into a fight that it does not interfere with the wound. It is also advisable to have both rabbits examined by a veterinarian to make sure they are healthy and innoculated against various diseases.
Next, it is advisable to have two separate housings at least for a temporary period. Try to make sure the accommodation is roomy and can be placed near your other pet. To avoid territory issues, try to consider a location that is new to both animals before you bring them together. You also do not want your pets to be able to nip or bite at one another through the mesh. Some activities are social, such as eating; whereas other are less so. You can place greens between the two cages to allow your pets to interact in the social activity but place the bedding and litter trays farthest away from the point of interaction. Whilst your two cages or hutches may not be similar, as long as they both allow sufficient space for the size of your rabbits, you can switch them around so that they each spend time in the other pet’s cage to get used to one another’s scents and reduce the potential for either individual to become overly possessive about their cage.
Picking A Mate for Your Rabbit
A rabbit in the wild will choose its own mate. In domesticity, we control the opportunities available to a pet to bond with another. If possible, you may be able to have your pet introduced to other rabbits to help him or her find a compatible mate. If this is viable, you will want to introduce both rabbits to a neutral area, cage space or small room where they can interact. Some people will use a spray bottle filled with water to spray on the rabbits if they begin fighting or will wear heavy gloves so that they can pick up a rabbit without worrying about being scratched or bitten. Do not include any food, water or litter tray in the area, as this will help to prevent any territorial behaviour.
Watch Out For Aggressive Rabbit Behaviour
Rabbits may fight if left unattended or if they dislike one another or are trying to assert a territorial right over the space. Fighting is not to be encouraged and should you notice signs, then you should separate the animals. Signs include the tail being raised, some gathering of tension and ears tipping back. While these are seen as signs of aggression, they differ from dominance behaviour. A rabbit being dominant will mount the other one who will be submissive. It can become tedious and tiring, so it is best to separate them it the attention lasts too long. Mounting behaviour is not just between male and female rabbits; the behaviour is exhibited between same sex pairings as well.
Gradually Introduce Your Rabbit to its Companion
If the rabbits do not fight, then things are perhaps more optimistic in reality. They may interact, sniff, and act as if the other bunny is not present. This indifference towards one another is a useful sign as it demonstrates that neither animal is threatened by the presence of the other. Where you are able to have your pet interact with a selection of other potential mates, you will quickly deduce which rabbit will be the best companion for your existing pet. Do not necessarily assume that your rabbit will prefer the same breed or size as they will develop a bond that suits them.
Generally, try an opposite sex pairing first, and then move on to same sex pairings later if you are unable to find a suitable match. Also consider the age of your pet. Young animals tend to enjoy the company of others but as they become sexually active their hormones begin to change the dynamics. In these situations, you may find that bonding adult rabbits is much easier.
Begin with brief sessions first lasting no longer than 15 minutes once or twice per day. If things are going to plan, you can increase the frequency and length of time your rabbits spend together. When you notice your rabbits grooming one another, then a bond is forming. If they show signs of happily wanting to be in one another’s company, then you will have successfully bonded your rabbits.