Rabbit bonding is so important, not just to rabbits, but their owners too. In fact matching your rabbit with another rabbit, in a successful union that lasts a lifetime, is the greatest gift you can give your bunny!
Helping others to achieve successful rabbit bonds is one of the main reasons I started this website. Stressing the importance of a successful rabbit companionship and the ways in which these bonds can be achieved are still ongoing missions of mine.
No two rabbits are the same. Oh yes, rabbits are as individual as you and I, and their bonding stories are not as uniform as you may think.
Of course there are certain strategies and techniques to follow, which you can learn by continuing on this page. However, I have seen that many rabbit owners have their own individual stories or set of 'problems' that require answers.
Getting the help they need at the right time, has been just as stressful as watching their rabbits getting upset in the process of bonding itself.
See what I mean below...
Bonding rabbits means to find a suitable friend, partner and companion for a rabbit that is on it's own.
Rabbit bonding is a complex process and I recommend reading this whole page, but if you want to go straight to a particular section that you need information on, these jump-titles will help:
The Lonely Rabbit
Companion animals are company for the lonely, for both humans and bunnies! However, rabbits, more than dogs or cats, need the company of their species. Rabbits needing other rabbits.
In fact, rabbits are so sociable that if they don't get the companionship they crave, they can develop illnesses through stress, starvation and injury - some owners report that they are convinced their rabbits die of a broken heart when their bonded partner dies before them. It's almost as if they just loose the will to live. (Us humans can be like that too.)
Rabbit Bonding - What's That?
Domestic pet rabbits have had a bit of a raw deal with their companion relationships. For a long time, especially in Britain, rabbits have been kept in hutches, alone, with no stimulation or company. It's so sad - and wrong! But this is mainly down to the fact that most people just don't know enough about the social structure of rabbits and why rabbit bonding is so important to them.
Rabbits are extremely social creatures. They love the company of others. It's vital to their happiness and health!
Who's Boss Bunny?
A group of rabbits is commonly called a herd and in the wild, rabbits are free to choose their own friends from their extended groups. They can also choose which warren and which boss they'd prefer to spend time with. (See Rabbit Hierarchy - it's fascinating!)
In wild warrens the "chief" rabbit is usually male. In domestic groups, the dominant bunny is usually a female and a bossy, more aggressive one at that!
Get Off My Land!
With rabbits it's all about territory. Peeing and pooping play a big part in marking boundaries. You can see this from walking across popular rabbit land and seeing LOTS of poop piles. Fortunately, domestic rabbits mainly live in pairs and their need to poop all over the place, marking their land, is not a major issue.
The introduction of spaying and neutering has also made the 'mess' issue practically disappear as a calmer, less territorial rabbit doesn't feel the need to mark everything and everyone.
With the rabbit being Britain's 3rd most popular pet, it's interesting to note the social structures of the other two favourite pets before appreciating the hierarchy system of our beloved bunny. By the other two, I mean, of course, dogs and cats respectively.
The main reason is territory and newcomers that are introduced in the rabbit bonding process bear the brunt of territorial behaviour. The aggressive show of dominance rears it's ugly head in a domestic group, just as it they would in the wild.
Rabbits show their anger in a number of different ways. Some rabbits will chase you across a room or garden, some can even 'nip' at your hands or feet to make their point. Some use their front feet to 'box' you when you pick them up, some bite hard (enough to bruise but not to break the skin, which shows amazing restraint), but then others may feel the need to give you a bite that involves their teeth sinking in hard in to your flesh and not letting go. (Like a Terrier with a rope!). The most painful display being the bite hold and the box kick combined. ('Ouch', might not be a strong enough word for that one!)
Causes of Bad Behaviour
What we may term as bad or unacceptable behaviours are often just signs of the rabbit trying to communicate in the only way it knows how. If you are on the receiving end of a little nip or kick it could be that you are holding the rabbit too tightly or you're blocking an important doorway that the rabbit wants to get through.
A 'naughty' rabbit will probably
undergo some radical positive changes
in character after rabbit bonding
has been successful.
Bad behaviour in rabbits can be down to a number of factors. It could be due to a sad case of being mistreated before, by humans, they've just had enough and are voicing their feelings.
Being mistreated can be interpreted as 'little things' in our eyes but they are classed as being big nasty cruel things in a rabbit's view. Unacceptable behaviour by us to a rabbit would be things like constantly shoving your hands in front of their faces and greeting them like you would a dog, probing around inside private areas of their hutches, sheds or cages, while they are still inside, speaking too sharply to them or even teasing them with food.
Over time, pet rabbits that have been together for many years, show an evolving group dynamic and new introductions then to take less time than they did in previous years.
The result being that the transition time in acceptance with rabbit bonding can go from at least two weeks to much less than a week with evolved groups.
In an evolved herd the aggression levels toward a new rabbit is milder and shorter-lived, so the newcomers, in turn, appear to learn the group dynamics, as in daily structure and other important social facts, in a much quicker time.
This is because the 'culture' of the herd has been developed over time. Culture being the transmission of behaviours from one generation to the next. This culture does not necessarily come from the older generation, it can come from knowledge and habits acquired from other rabbits within the group.
Wild rabbits have the luxury of choosing their mates from an array of
suitable partners but domestic rabbits don't have the benefit
of a vast 'singles club', and they, more often than not, have a another rabbit
suddenly thrust into their hutch that they have to like or lump! (I know I wouldn't take kindly to a stranger being in my bedroom wanting 'cuddles' and then helping himself to the contents of my fridge!)
In rabbit bonding the new rabbit will either be 'lumped' or 'humped' in most situations, but some pet rabbits have been on their own for so long they have no idea what it is they're supposed to do! And this is where the trouble starts...
Why Rabbit Bonding is So Important
Rabbits are much, much happier when they have another friendly rabbit to share their life with. They are emotionally and physically healthier too. A rabbit companion offers fellowship, jollity and intimacy, to name just a few.
Sociability also plays a big part in health too. Bonded rabbits spend a lot of time grooming each other and their mates can reach places that are impossible for them to get to, thus keeping them clean and disease-free.
Making the Change
If your rabbit is a solitary pet, you may think "It's OK , I'm at home all day, I'm his friend, he doesn't need another rabbit!" Then please change your thinking as this is just not the case.
Friendships All Round
Once your rabbit has a friend, he or she will not forget about you! Like humans, rabbits can have many individual relationships. You may even find that your rabbit is more friendly and outgoing once they have a bonded companion to share their life with as their happiness levels rise considerably.
If you have decided it's about time your single bun should be with another rabbit, then WELL DONE, you're about to make your rabbit a very happy bunny...
Introducing Rabbits Together
You need to think carefully about the first rabbit bonding steps and ensure you are prepared for the time commitment that a new introduction may require.
Here are some basic points to remember at each stage of the rabbit bonding process:
In most cases rescue rabbits have already been through the rabbit bonding process at the shelter as it is easier and cost effective to care for bunnies in pairs than it is to house them singularly.
But sometimes they
have rabbits in need of rescue that are single for one reason or
another. They may have just come in, they may have not been neutered or spayed or it could be that they just haven't been successful in rabbit bonding with that rabbit to date.
If you have a rabbit at home that has recently lost it's partner, allow a certain amount of time for grieving (usually about 2 weeks) and then make an appointment with your local rescue centre to choose a new mate for your lonely rabbit.
The best mate for your rabbit is one that they choose themselves and are interested in. Unlike some popular human cultures, it is always best to let your rabbit choose their own partner. Bunnies have in-depth personalities and so have their own preferences, rabbit bonding will be easier if you pay attention and go along with their instincts.
Try & Try Again
It's a good idea to take your rabbit to several foster homes and let them meet several other rabbits. Inform each of them about your intentions and they will make sure the appropriate rabbit is ready for you to try your introductions. An experienced member of staff can help you interpret the signals once the introductions start.
Boarding Your Rabbit
You could also consider boarding your rabbit at the rescue facility for while and let the staff there do the rabbit bonding for you.
If neither of these options are available, you'll have to do rabbit bonding at your own home instead. But I think this is a good thing as the rabbit bonding process is a great opportunity for you to spend quality time getting to know your rabbits.
Here are the normal rabbit bonding procedures in more detail:
Bonding can take a lot of time and effort, but the end
result is well worth it. Bonded bunnies keep each other happy and entertained and the positive benefits to their health and general well-being is significant.
How Will My Rabbit Change?
Once a rabbit bond is successful and each bunny has settled in to their routines together, will you definitely notice a change in your rabbit.
Rabbits have very different personalities and characters, so each rabbit bonding situation is unique. I can't say what will happen with your rabbits but I can say that they will be happier!
Here are some basic scenarios to put your mind at rest:
I realized that there are so many of you out there that have had rabbit bonding experiences and situations, good and bad, that their stories needed to be to shared so that others may help.
Whatever the reason for visiting this page, take comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone and someone out there can empathise or aid you on your important duty of putting two rabbits together in successful bond for life!
Creating a successful lifetime union, is the greatest challenge most rabbit owners go through at some point during their bunny ownership years.
Share your stories here. Get advice, tips and help or offer your experienced knowledge with others.
(A trouble shared is a trouble halved. If we all help each other, not only do we benefit, but above all the bunnies do too!)
So 'Pay it Forward', offer help to others if and when you can, it's what makes a great community :-)
Let's hear your story... even if you are stuck for a solution or you have a success story to share, we'd all love to hear about it.
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...
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I'd really appreciate all the feedback you can give, as this process is such a crucial part of creating a happier life for all those misunderstood bunnies out there!
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