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Bonding and Fighting Bunnies

Rabbits are territorial by nature and must be bonded if they are to live together.  However, they are also very social and once bonded they will never want be far from one another.  The first step is having your bunny altered (neutered or spayed), otherwise it will be impossible to bond two of the same sex, and putting together two of the opposite sex, well, we all know how that will work out.

You will see several bunnies together in pet stores, but that is because they are young and have not reached sexual maturity, which occurs anywhere from 3-8 months.  After that they will begin to establish dominance by fighting and marking territory.

Bunnies will mark territory in a couple of ways.  They will leave some fecal pellets around areas they are claiming as their own.  These are dry, odorless and easy to clean up.  They will also "chin" objects or people.  They have scent glands under their chin, and since we cannot smell the scent and it doesn't show or stain you don't have to worry about that form of marking either.  Urine is more of a problem and they can use that to mark territory as well.

The key to bonding is introducing them slowly.  You can begin by petting one and then the other to transfer scent.  Then try having them in separate cages side by side.  Switch the litterboxes and swap cages for them to get them accustomed to the other's scent.  Eventually they can be introduced in neutral territory for a couple of minutes, for example on the kitchen table or in a bath tub where they can also be easily controlled.  You may have to quickly separate them if they start fighting.  If its still not working you can try taking them for a car ride together because they generally dislike being in vehicles so it can cause them turn to each other for comfort.  Putting them atop the washing machine in a cage together is another idea.  It can take weeks or even months, and a lot of patience.  Once bonded, your bunnies will be very happy with their little friend.

Having said all that, I am no expert on bonding other than what I've heard other people do.  I don't want to discourage anyone from trying, but I can share my experiences.  There are lots of good websites on bonding bunnies.  If you are looking at bonding then check those out to see how its done properly.  What I'll tell you here is the other side of the story.  This is "when bonding goes bad".

We had two foster rabbits Mickey and Tiny.  They came to us bonded but a few months in they decided to have a divorce.  Both are female and it was likely a stress bond that kept them together as they were rescued from a breeder that released them out on a 80km/hour highway.  We were sitting downstairs watching TV and the bunnies were upstairs where they had free roam of the top floor of our house.  We heard thumps so loud it seemed like they were coming through the floor.  We ran upstairs to see what happened and found a lot of fur pulled out and two very peeved looking bunnies.  The fights escalated to the point of both being bit by the other a couple of times and requiring surgery and antibiotics.  At that point we had to separate them with baby gates and eventually moved Tiny downstairs.  Takara was also on that floor of the house but we fenced off some for Tiny with some hope we could eventually bond these two.

A few months after Tiny moved downstairs, I came home and found the NIC fence moved.  I looked at Takara sitting there across the room from Tiny.  Takara looks big but is maybe about 5lbs of skinny rabbit under all the fur.  Tiny is a 9lb New Zealand and very solid.  I checked both but found only a small nip in Takara's nose.  The first thing I said was, "Takara you got off very lucky!"  But then I noticed the smallest tinge of red in her fur.  Of course this had to be a weekend night and emergency vets are not cheap.  It was almost $1000 to mend what turned out to be a huge rip in her neck from side to side.  It was a miracle she even lived through it.

Again, I don't want to discourage anyone from trying to bond.  Male/female are your best bet.  Same sex bunnies will be very difficult and sometimes impossible to bond but it has been done.  Never put two bunnies together without a lengthy introduction as I first mentioned and other websites go into more detail.  There is a very good possibility one or both of the bunnies will be injured or killed.

Whether your bunnies bond, which can include two or more as many people have 3-way bonds, will depend on several factors.  The temperaments of each of the bunnies involved, the sex of the bunnies, and especially how slowly and carefully you introduce them.  Bunnies do hold grudges so if they have a serious fight it can set back the bonding process significantly or even make it impossible.  They will remember the bunny they fought with and hold it against them.  When bonding, try to ensure each time they meet they leave on good terms.

Its a long road for most, though sometimes you get lucky, the stars are aligned, there is a full moon or whatever it is, the bunnies decide to cooperate and get along in a short period of time.  Either way, when you finally have them bonded, enjoy watching your two little charmers in love.

Secrets to Bonding Bunnies - this is an informative site on bonding two or more bunnies.


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