Are you thinking about getting a second bunny? Rabbits are highly social creatures who love the company of others and who bond for life. Your bunny will probably be much happier with a companion, and we encourage anyone considering a second rabbit to do so! However, strange rabbits will usually fight and can hurt each other badly, so any introductions must be done in neutral territory and by an experienced rabbit person.
Please don’t just bring a second rabbit home! Your bunny will like some rabbits better than others, so you should take him on some “dates” so that he can pick his favorite.
- The very first thing to do is to get your bunny neutered. Most adopters won’t even introduce your rabbit until he is fixed, because intact animals are far more likely to be aggressive toward each other. Get him neutered and wait at least two weeks, and preferably a month or more, to let his hormones settle.
- Next, call the nearest rabbit rescue to find out when you might bring your bunny by for some dates. There may be a mobile adoption event happening nearby that could work, too, but call them ahead of time to make sure that there will be someone there who is comfortable overseeing the bonding. This will also give the rescuers the option to bring certain rabbits that they think might suit your bunny best.
Once your bunny has chosen his new companion, the three of you will return home, and it will be your responsibility from then on to oversee any and all interactions until you are confident that your rabbits are in love. Bonding can take weeks or even months, and it can be extremely stressful and time-consuming, so be prepared to put in many hours of hard work. Maybe it’ll be easy; but maybe it won’t so just in case it isn’t, here are some tips and tricks to help you with the bonding process.
TAKE IT SLOWLY! Don’t rush the process, even if it looks like your bunnies are getting along just fine.
- Use neutral space. Rabbits are extremely territorial, so you want your bunnies to be the best of friends before the newcomer enters your “old” guy’s space. Spend as much time as you can at the adoption center, because the space is completely neutral and there will be experienced rabbit bonders available to help you out of sticky situations. Ideally, the rabbits will be cudding and kissing each other before you take them home together, though even if they are, that doesn’t necessarily mean your work is done. DO NOT just put them together in your first bunny’s pen as soon as you get home!!!
- Put the bunnies in one carrier together for the car ride home. Car rides are great for bonding, and rabbits will turn to each other for comfort during the scary ride home.
- At home, set up a bonding area that is as neutral as possible: preferably a room in which your “old” rabbit has never entered.
- Oversee dates every day for at least half of an hour, if possible. The more time your rabbits spend together, the better, though you don’t want to drag things out if they’re not getting along.
- If you have a car, start each session with a 20-45 minute car ride, with the rabbits together in a carrier. This is our favorite bonding trick! If you don’t have access to a car, you can put them in a box on top of the dryer and turn it on (with the heat off!). This will simulate the same sort of motion as a car ride.
- After the ride, put them together in their neutral area, sitting in the pen with them if you’re worried about fighting.
- When you set them down in the pen, put them right next to each other, hold them there gently, and stroke their noses and ears. This will start things off gently, and after a minute or two, you can slowly move your hands away from them and let them begin to interact.
- Sniffing each other is fine, but watch out for nips which can quickly turn into a fight.
- Don’t let them chase each other more than a moment. If they do, pick one up and give them a time out, then start again with the group nose rubs.
- Mounting is ok as long as they don’t start chasing each other or fighting. Rabbits live in complicated social structures, and your two need to work out who is in charge. Mounting is one way to establish dominance, so it shouldn’t be discouraged if it remains relatively peaceful.
- If and when your bunnies tussle, separate them immediately and give them a time-out for a few minutes. Let everyone’s nerves settle, then put them next to each other for a group nose rubbing session. This need last only a minute or two, but you want to be sure to always end a date on a positive note. By inveigling a cuddle session, you are allowing them to leave the situation with the memory of a lovely cuddle rather than a nasty fight.
- When you feel confident that no one will attack the other, get out of the pen and stand nearby to watch them interact without you there. Be ready to pick one of the rabbits up if things turn ugly. You might want a dust pan handly to stick between their bodies and break up a fight.
- As you and they become more comfortable, you might read or watch tv nearby for longer periods of time, though staying close enough for quick intervention.
- When you see fit, you can move the bonding location to less and less neutral areas, watching carefully for increased tensions.
- When you’ve got them hanging out together in the room in which they will live, you can then move on to going into the next room where you can see and hear them; leaving them for a few minutes, then longer, then longer.
- Don’t leave them together unattended until you’re sure they’re best buddies.
- At the end of a date, put them in separate cages that are a few inches from each other. You don’t want your rabbits to be able to reach through the cage and bite each other, but you want them near each other so they can get used to being together.
- Switch their litter boxes every day, which will help them get used to the idea of sharing their space.
- Trade blankets and stuffed animals so they begin to associate the other’s smell with comfort.