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Bonding

Reasons for Bonded Pairs

Why Do Rabbits Need a Companion?

In nature, wild rabbits live in groups and work together to create a peaceful and loving environment. They raise their young, locate food, and establish a warning system against predators. This need for companionship has survived despite them being domesticated. While a domestic rabbit may enjoy the attention of a human, or the companionship of another furry friend such as a guinea pig, or a well-mannered dog or cat, they are happiest with another rabbit. This is because rabbits have their own language which is mostly non-verbal. This rabbit language is expressed through subtle shifts in body position, grooming activities, and skillful dancing techniques. After watching a bonded pair truly relate to each other, it is easy to understand that non-rabbits are only partially able to meet a rabbit's needs.

Some Things to Consider:

Adopt a Bonded Pair

If you are just now thinking of getting a single rabbit, why not adopt a bonded pair from the beginning? Most rabbit rescues have already gone through the bonding process in an effort to keep single buns not yet adopted from getting bored and depressed. By getting a bonded pair right away, you will be assured of having a healthy and happy bunny pair immediately.

How to Find the Perfect Companion for Your Bun

Decided to get a friend for your resident rabbit? Like people, not all rabbits get along. Ask anyone who has been through the "fur-flying and tail-chasing" routine. It is not pretty! Rabbits need to select their own companion, on neutral territory. The best way to accomplish this is to take your bun to meet other buns at a local rabbit rescue group (make sure your bun is already spayed/neutered). These people have the experience to help you find a companion best suited to your bun's personality and to help with the bonding process.

The most successful pairing is between a neutered male and a spayed female. While same sex buns can get along, it is unusual. It may be necessary to introduce your bun to several different buns. This introduction can take several forms. It can be "love at first sight" in which the buns are immediately attracted to each other. Often, the introduction will create curiosity and suspicion. One bun may mount the other, or sniff unmentionable places. The other bun's behavior will determine the outcome. Some buns nip the other and that's it. Or, it may turn into a full-blown fight. Separate fighting buns immediately to avoid injury, and make a different introduction.

What to Expect When You Get Home

Rabbits are very territorial and will "protect" their living space. This behavior can occur even after a "love at first sight" meeting at a neutral place. If necessary, don't hesitate to contact your rabbit rescue group for advice to help you complete the bonding once your new pair is home.

It is recommended that the new rabbit be placed alone in an enclosed area close to family activities. This allows the new bun to familiarize itself with the new environment, and allows the home rabbit to get use to having another rabbit around. It is normal for the two to check each other out through the enclosure. Nipping or boxing may also occur within the first day or two. The home rabbit is trying to show the new rabbit that he is the boss.

After one day, allow the new rabbit to leave its enclosure. Be close by to supervise in the event of a fight. Fighting is normal and means the buns aren't ready to share territory ... yet. If a fight occurs, separate the two and try again later. A squirt of water or the deft insertion of a broom between fighting buns can distract them long enough to separate them without you getting nipped in the process. Keep the supervised interactions to short periods of time, and gradually extend them until the buns are interacting peacefully. As soon as one bun starts grooming another, you are almost there.

You can also try speeding up the bonding process by the use of shared, slightly stressful experiences, like car rides. Put the buns in the same carrier when you head out for short errands, for example. Most buns are somewhat alarmed by the car ride and will huddle close to the other rabbit for comfort. This can often result in them transferring the feeling of comfort they get in the presence of the other rabbit to everyday situations.

Successful bonding can take up to two weeks, and some, like mine, can take six months! It is a very stressful time for the caretaker and the buns, but with time and patience, a successful bonding will result.

Bonding Trios and More

While there have been successful bondings of more than two buns, it is difficult. In my experience, one bun in an odd numbered group is always left out. This causes friction. Sometimes, having an even number of buns in a bonded group works, but it is very important to get experienced advice before undertaking this endeavor.