How to bond rabbits
What does rabbit bonding mean?
Rabbits are very social animals so they need the company of another rabbit to keep them happy and healthy. Very few rabbits seem happy on their own so despite any initial difficulties in bonding it is important to have patience and just take time. Just like humans some rabbits bond quickly but some take 3-4 weeks.
What is the aim of rabbit bonding?
Although rabbits are sociable they can also be territorial so your beloved pet rabbit may be wary of a strange rabbit arriving into its home and could attack the newcomer. Bonding is a way of gradually introducing two rabbits in a controlled and safe manner. This allows them to become lifelong friends and provides much needed mental stimulation for your rabbit. The aim is to eventually have both rabbits living with each other without supervision. A bonded pair of rabbits lying together and mutually grooming is a lovely sight.
What rabbit pairings work best?
The most successful pairing of rabbits is between a neutered male and a neutered female. Neutered male brothers can also work well if they are neutered at a young age. The pairing of females whether siblings or not can prove more difficult and may lead to fighting as they age.
How do I introduce my new rabbits to each other?
Introducing new rabbits to each other can take a long time and a lot of patience, but if done right can lead to a successful bonding within a few weeks. The best way to approach it is in stages.
· Keep them in separate living areas beside each other divided by wire mesh so that they can smell and touch noses. This means that they can get acquainted without getting too close to each other.
· Swap their litter trays daily. Clean them out mostly, leaving a small amount of faeces from the other rabbit to allow them to get used to their smell.
· Swap a cuddly toy between them daily. This also helps them to get used to each others smell.
· Stroke them as often as possible, switching between them every 2-3 minutes.
· When this is all going well, move onto Stage 2.
· Now we can start putting the rabbits together for short periods of time under supervision. This must be done in a totally neutral environment that neither rabbit has had access to before such as bathroom, spare bedroom or large cage.
· Start by placing them together at breakfast time so they are concentrating on eating. It can help to spread the food on the floor so that the dominant rabbit doesn't become possessive over a food bowl.
· Remove them back to their living areas before they react to each other and repeat later in the day.
· Ignorance is a positive sign. Humping, lunging and grunting can also be normal.
· If they start fighting or becoming distressed, use a spray water bottle or a pair of thick fleece gloves to separate them and place them back in their living spaces.
· Grooming, lying next to each other, eating and eventually allogrooming (grooming each other) are all very positive signs. Be aware some rabbits may never groom each other so do not to worry if everything else seems to be progressing well.
· As the days go on, increase the amount of time spent together. You can also increase the amount of space they are in.
· A simple trick of placing a dot of fruit juice on their head or backs can help to promote grooming.
· Many rabbits can be bonded in around 20 days but some can take a lot longer.
· If it seems that they are going backwards, it is best to start the whole process from Stage 1 again.
· Sometimes stressful events can help rabbits to bond such as going on car journeys together or spending time at the vets!