Monday, 14 August 2017

Bonding Rabbits

In the wild rabbits live in groups and even domesticated rabbits thrive from company of their own kind, there is nothing like another rabbit friend, once bonded, so it is highly important that if you are considering getting a rabbit that you also consider getting an already bonded pair or are willing to find your rabbit a friend.

Age and size doesn't matter when selecting a friend for your rabbit, as they all speak the same language, although it is important to stress that not all rabbits are compatible so your best option would be to take your rabbit to a rescue centre to help find the perfect bunny for them or have a plan B if your rabbits don't bond.
Remember: Rescue centre rabbits are already vet checked, vaccined and neutered.

Best match
Although most rabbits get on when they are younger, as soon as puberty hits, they can become very aggressive towards each other and fallout. So, it is important to get both your rabbits neutered for physical health, mental health and for them to be able to have a bonded friend or two. A male and female neutered pair generally works best, although not always the case. You should wait at least 8 weeks after the male has been neutered to try the bonding process as the hormones may still be in his system and can still cause aggression or potential unwanted litters and for the female to be fully healed after her spay.

Once you have found your rabbit a friend, you want to introduce them in a small neutral area, this is an area where both rabbits haven't been before and have nothing in there that smells of either rabbit, this can be a small run, crate or even the bathroom. The bathtub without any water in it, with a towel in the bottom can make a great place to start, this is usually a neutral space and if they begin the fight the towel may slip slightly and they are more likely to stop and try and regain their balance without a full on fight. If they begin to fight, you can hold a towel up in between them and remove the towel once settled, or try again another time.

You may find that the bunnies start thumping their back feet against the floor, this is okay, they are unsure of each other and it is a warning sign.

If they are humping each other - that is okay, they are trying to assess dominance and work out who is in charge, sometimes the other will give in or this can be a battle between them.
Excessive humping - is not okay and you'll need to step in and remove them from each other.
Humping of the face - is okay to some degree but too much can cause issues with the other biting the others genital area and this isn't okay and again you'll need to separate them.

You may also find that they may nip each other this is also dominance related and them telling the other off or to stay still, this is okay unless they are biting really hard or they draw blood. If they draw blood I'd remove them from each other and try again another time, after they've been living next to each other awhile - although some bonds just aren't meant to be.

From Ellis Conroy-Hargrave

Once you have put them together, you need to gauge how they are with each other.
If they have humped, groomed or ignored each other these are all good signs and I'd open up the space for them so they have a bigger area and gauge how they are in a larger space, still keeping a very close eye on them. If they continue to behave and get a long, then I'd watch them for that day, clean out the hutch or bed area with distilled white vinegar and water to disinfect and help get rid of the smells of either bunny and if I'm happy with the way they have been all day then they can go in together that night if you are happy to. Some rabbits are an instant bond, which is amazing, others can take a little longer.
If you are unhappy with any of their behaviour, it is best to put them in separate hutches but so they can see each other and smell each other overnight, just to be on the safe side and for ease of mind.

Stress bonding
Putting both rabbits in the same carrier and taking them for a 30-45 minute drive can bring your rabbits closer together, this is part of stress bonding, the rabbits are already stressed in the carrier and car so it can push your bunnies to look after each other and sit next to one another during the journey, as well as getting used to one another.

Here's Bugs and Winnie from Amy K Gregory

Living next to each other
This is a step which you can start with if you aren't happy to put them together straight away or if you are waiting for one to recover from their neuter/surgery. But it also comes in handy during the bonding process if your bond isn't so easy.
Having two runs and two hutches next to each other, will allow them to live next to each other, get used to one another's scent and behaviours and let them get to know one another. Once they start to lay next to each other, start to relax and even ignore each other, that is the time that they are usually willing and accepting of each other and ready to meet in a small neutral space.

Loved up French Lops - Arnie and Luna from Alison Frances Ford

Swapping litter trays/hutches
If your bunnies are still misbehaving together or you aren't ready to try them together yet, then you can also swap their litter trays or areas over, this will again help them get used to each other's scent without them actually interacting with each other, some bunnies will thump, throw the litter tray etc. this is normal behaviour as your bunny can smell another rabbit in what they think is there territory, once this behaviour stops you can go ahead and let them meet in the small neutral space as mentioned before.

It can take hours to days to bond a pair/group of rabbits sometimes even weeks or months, be patient, there are even services out there that can do it for you or help you through the process. Rescues often let you take your rabbit to them for your bunny to find their perfect match, they can even help you put them together and gauge how they are before you take your new bunny home and even take back the rabbit if you can't get the bond to work, although as stated a male and female neutered pair works best.

Ozzie and Dexter - nearly 12 years old! 
I swear their old age is down to their lifelong friendship
from Karen Collins.

Good Luck with any bonding! Feel free to ask any questions and I'm more than happy to add in anything if you feel I have missed anything important out.

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