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Rabbits/Bonding rabbits/barbering


Hi there Dave,

I saw some other behavior questions on your profile so thought I'd see if you can help me with mine since all other experts are unavailable.

I have a spayed 8month old female Lionhead and a neutered mini Rex male (age unknown, he's a rescue stray) that I've been bonding for 25 days.

Bonding has been going very well. We've never had even a tiny scuffle. The only issue, if you can even call it that, was the male mounting the female at the beginning. That behavior stopped after a week. The female never even got upset about it. She's a very chill bunny.

I've been following a strict bonding schedule that started with brief bunny dates in a neutral room and have worked all the way up to them having free run together in the females territory (I had her first) and neither one has been territorial. They also have "locked up" time in the cage that I want them to eventually share at night together (they are free run during the day) and again, never a fight or scuffle. They eat together out of the same bowl, they groom themselves, groom each other (kinda I will touch on that later) overall they seem very relaxed around each other.

So to an untrained eye they seem officially bonded. But therein lies my question and problem. They never snuggle together AND grooming is, well, interesting. The male, even though he seems dominant, is the one who does the grooming. The female has groomed him but only a couple times. When the male does groom, he is very sloppy and odd about it. He starts on her forehead and works his way to her eyes where he is chewing off her fur around her eyes also known as barbering. She simply sits there and takes it. Except for a twitch here and there when he hits too close, she is fine.

He then makes his way to her back wher he will bite her and she will then hop away. He does this EVERY time. I've read that a rabbit biting another rabbit on the back is their way of saying "I'm the boss, move outta the way" but he does it every time, and if he is grooming her, is he dominant?

So, they never lay together, never snuggle together, they seem to just kinda pass each other but otherwise they are apart. When in the cage together, they are most often on different floors.

So, long question short, should I be concerned? Do you think they are bonded but just not cuddly? Do I need to intervene when the male is chewing off her fur?

In closing, I did want to add that the male is very "nippy" he had never bit me out of aggression. But he bites my clothes to get attention. I am consistent in saying NO and I push his head gently to the ground or I will eeeek so he thinks he's hurting me. He is also just very on edge. He's so different from my female. He will come up for head rubs, but he just seems frustrated all the time. Even though he has everything he could ever want, tons of toys, great diet, free run, lots of love and attention, he just seems wired all the time. Not sure if that pertains at all to his actions towards the female but wanted to mention in case....

So I guess I just want to know if you would consider them bonded, if I need to do anything about the chewing off of her eye fur and if I need to do anything for his anxiety.

Thanks for reading this long question :)

hi Lisa from what you describe i would say they are bonded , the male nipping her just tells her he is the dominant one .and sleeping apart is normal
you said he was a rescue rabbit and is seeking attention by nipping your clothes, i think he just wants some reassuring as you don't know what went on before he was rescued he may have had a bad owner who abused him.
don't do anything about his chewing her fur ,if she does not like it she will let him know by nipping him.


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Dave Lawrence


I can answer questions about breeding and showing rabbits. I have been breeding Black Rex rabbits for the past 10 years and have won numerous prizes for showing them. Ive also done a fair amount of judging.

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