“Just Like Humans, Some Animals are Just Jerks.”

by Emily Gooden
(Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia)

Who's in Charge?

Who's in Charge?

My sisters and I have an enquiry for anyone able to answer about rabbit bonding, and would be grateful for any response!

Here's some background information:
Momo is a three year old Netherland Dwarf cross Lop mix, Naga is a 10 month old Mini Lop Mix, and Pabu is a 7 month old Netherland Dwarf cross Lop Mix. They have all been desexed, and all live in separate cages, although we are looking for a hutch for Naga and Pabu to share. They all live in a large fenced in rabbit pen in the backyard, where they are allowed to roam during the day in schedules that mean no interaction happens between Pabu and Naga with Momo.

We are relatively new to rabbits, with Momo being our first, and therefore are unsure about how to go about rabbit bonding as none of us has much experience.

Momo is a quite the jerk to all other rabbits he has met, and does not take kindly to any other animals aside from humans.

We have attempted to bond him with two separate rescue female rabbits, one of whom died due to dental complications after a year of attempting, and another who did not bond with Momo (not from lack of effort on her part), but managed to bond very easily with our other rescue male rabbit Pabu, who is the same breed as Momo.

The female that died, Appa, we attempted to bond with Momo over a year, but only managed to get to the level where he was comfortable with her resting around half a metre from him.

We used all the suggested techniques, yet nothing seemed to work overly successfully. This is when we bought Naga, an incredibly friendly and sometimes overbearing lady whom Momo immediately hated, despite her attempts of friendship.

It got to the stage that Naga was experiencing depression from lack of companions, so we rescued Pabu, where they experienced instant love upon meeting and bonded in as little as three short dates.

Momo seems to be a very dominant rabbit and has a hard time sharing things with a pretty impressive temper, and upon meeting both female rabbits he attempted to rip chunks of fur out of them, and continuously attempts to attack our other male Pabu through cage bars.

After watching our bonded couple of Naga and Pabu, my sisters and I are deeply invested in finding Momo a suitable partner as we believe he would be a much happier rabbit for it, but are unsure how to go about it.

As the Simpsons famously said, “just like humans, some animals are just jerks.” We are unsure if Momo is just a grade A jerk, or just incompatible with certain rabbits.

We are unsure as to why he is so aggressive to other rabbits, as he was our first bunny and not a rescue, and is desexed. He shows no aggression to humans, only having bitten my sister once when she was cleaning his cage, and when he was unwillfully detained by a friend of the family.

Are there any techniques or tips that would help this situation?

We would love to add another rescue bunny to the family, but we don’t want them to be rejected by Momo and left on their lonesome, like Naga nearly was.

Thank you for any advice you can give us!

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Jun 10, 2015
Your Growing Family!
by: Kerry

Goodness, you really have got it all going on! What a wonderful update though. You write so well, it's easy to picture them all in their hierarchies and daily activities :-)
Thanks again for the update, love it!

Mar 26, 2015
Update Time!
by: Emily Gooden


So, it's been a while since this post, and in this time some things have happened! A local vet came to the family cafe that my family and I own, and told us she was delivering guinea pigs from her vet practice to a local pet store. She then offered us one of these guinea pigs as a possible friend for Momo, so we accepted, and welcomed little Poki to the family!

At this time, we had a female rabbit on hold for Momo that we were purchasing from the local pet rescue store, but were unable to pick her up as she was being treated for mites.

To our surprise, Momo completely tolerated Poki! We gave them a play-date and he was not threatened by her at all, he let her groom and snuggle as close as she could to him, and even lay down while she was climbing all over him, which was a first ever in the history of Momo tolerating other animals!

However, as Poki was living away from her sisters she became quite scared and withdrawn without her latest buddy Momo as we had heard horrible stories of guinea pigs living with rabbits, so we went to the pet store again (on valentines day!) and adopted Poki a little guinea playmate called Gertie, nicknamed "Gertie the turdie" for her unfortunate shape and colour.

Poki and Gertie were living the high life together in their love-cage which once belonged to their long-distance friend Momo, and after a week of guinea time all day every day we were finally able to pick up Momo's soon-to-be girlfriend from the store. Unfortunately we were unable to bring Momo in for a compatibility check due to the whole mite situation and the fact that none of the pet places where we live offers such services, so we had picked this particular rabbit based on her personality - she was sweet, enjoyed grooming all her sisters, was a big attention hog and loved giving out bunny-kisses. She showed no signs of dominance while living with her 7 sisters, even when we picked her up when she was 3 and a half months old. We named her Ori, and settled her in quickly at home as the guineas immediately fell in love with her, and were loathed to be separated.

As such we introduced her to Momo on neutral territory in our lounge room. Things went well for a few moments, Momo casually checked around the area while keeping an eye on Ori (who was more interested in the paper she found on the ground). However it turned south when Momo suddenly decided to charge for her and tried to rip some fur out of her face. Luckily Ori was not traumatised, and as soon as we removed Momo she happily went back to tearing up the paper and binkying around the room.

We have not introduced them again, as we are having her desexed before any future introductions, and currently have them living in separate cages where they can still see each other, but cannot cause trouble.

On a side note, Momo is no longer king of the castle! An unfortunate incident occurred with both Momo and our other residential male Pabu escaping their hutches and getting into a tiff. Though both desexed, Pabu made short work of Momo, ripping out large chunks of fur and giving him a good scratching. Momo escaped the battle, and was residing in the top of his hutch after we realised what had happened, with now-leader Pabu claiming Momo's old pooping spot with a vengeance. After a vet check to make sure all was well, we have noticed a large shift in the rabbit dynamic! Leader Pabu now has all the responsibility of looking after the group, becoming a very stressed out little guy. Luckily his girlfriend Naga is very supportive, frequently offering grooming services and generously letting Pabu eat some of the leaves we give them daily.

Momo has had a shift in behaviour himself - instead of being so wound up and easily upset by Pabu, he is now very relaxed and rarely causes a scuffle. Though he still likes to run around Pabu's cage during free time to annoy him, he is generally more relaxed and has ceased all attempts at causing trouble for the other rabbits, such as eating their mineral treats though their bars and rubbing his chin on their cage.

Overall we are optimistic that mellowed-out Momo will have a chance with mini-lop Ori, since he has been dethroned and spending many hours with Poki and Gertie and now our newest addition Ponyo, of whom we adopted this very afternoon! We see no reason that with some dedication Momo will find a companion in Ori, as he is slowly becoming more sociable (or biding his time, as he prefers the "sneak attack" option of pretend he is just hanging around and then attempting to rip out someones hairdo).

That is what's happening in the situation, just thought I should give some sort of an update! Thank you for your help, we hope we will succeed!

Feb 02, 2015
Misunderstood Momo Bunny
by: Kerry

Poor Momo. I don't hink he's a jerk. If he were human he'd probably want to run for Prime Minister!

Agreed, he is being a jerk as far as not doing what is expected of him, but there may be valid reasons for his behaviour. (See this page for some tips on behaviour: https://www.justrabbits.com/rabbit-behaviour.html)
NOTE - Polititions may NOT use this as an excuse!

On a positive not, if handled in the right way I'm sure you'll find his 'soft spot' or 'trigger' for a change in behaviour for the better.

You didn't mention anything about Momo's past, but just like humans he may have had something happen to him that would be a reason for his anti-socialble behaviour now.

There are many different dynamics that come in to play with rabbit heirachy systems and sometimes understanding this is half the battle. Have a look here: https://www.justrabbits.com/rabbit-hierarchy.html

However, despite the many different techniques, advice, tips and stories that you may read, sometimes the only solution is 'perseverance'. I have known some rabbit bonding sessions to continue for over 4 months! The message here is not to give up. Make sure the rabbit's are safe and just continue with the sessions.

If you haven't already, try the bath technique. Yes the bathtub! The slippery surface is enough for bunnies to feel a little insecure and forget about agression being the dominant feeling. Some may think this is a bit cruel but if the rabbits are safe and you are right there with them (with gloves on) to separate them as soon as aggressive contact occurs, then bonding in this way may be the solution for you.

Dominant rabbits tend to revert to a more 'protective' role when faced with a possible dangerous or threatening situation. Even a trip out in the car together (in separate carriers to start with) may also get his protective juices flowing.

This page may also offer some help: https://www.justrabbits.com/bunny-rabbits-together.html

But, these are just ideas and experiences I have come across that work. There may be others out there that can help too.

Please comment below and help Momo find his mate!

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