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Rabbits/One Rabbit or Two

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QUESTION: Hi Cat, I am reading conflicting views on whether you should have one rabbit or two. Some say rabbits are social animals and therefore require company, others say the opposite as they fight or want to breed. We are wishing to have a lionhead as a pet which will spend time in the house when we are home. We are looking at two options, purchasing two babies or rehoming a 8 month old single lionhead. I feel compelled to rehome or even take on all three. So to the questions:

1. Are rabbits happy on there own if partially having human company?
2. Is it feasible to bring an 8 month old together with 8 week old rabbits who are unknown to each (clearly we will undertake neutering and spraying where necessary)?

Many thanks for your advice.
Sylvia

ANSWER: Hi Sylvia

I would always recommend a pair! But a pair must be spayed/neutered and properly bonded. They are territorial first, friends second so having a pair takes time and care to get them to bond. A breeder is likely to be anti-pair as they only have intact rabbits, and when they've still got their plumbing the hormones make it almost impossible for a solid bond to form.

For a trio, again that's really tricky to do if you don't know what you're doing. The 8 week olds wouldn't be able to bond until they're 6 months and spayed/neutered. It's all down to the individual personalities of the rabbits. They are all so very different and you can't assess that from an 8 week old baby!

I would recommend leaving the two 8 week olds, adopting the 8 month old single. Get that 8 month old spayed/neutered and find a similar aged and opposite sex bun, make sure that bun is spayed/neutered too. And read up on bonding! If you have any good rabbity rescues near you they will be able to advise on bonding, do "bunny dates" to find the perfect match and may even do the whole bonding thing for you.

My pair of bunnies and snoozing on their mat and grooming one another right now, I couldn't imagine them living singly. They'd be miserable!

I recommend this forum: http://forum.rabbitrehome.org.uk

Good luck!
Cat

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Cat,

Here I am again!!

The rescue bunny we want to take is a significant drive from our house, possibly nearly an hour.  I've read that rabbits can get stressed with travelling. How much of an issue is this?

Thanks again
Sylvia

ANSWER: Hi Sylvia

That should be fine, make sure the carrier is cozy with hay and drape a blanket over it. They can get stressed but as long as their kept in the dark and quiet (no car radio!) then they should be fine.

The rescue I volunteer for will home up to 3 hours away and several times a year my two come to visit my mum with me which is a 2 hour drive.

Once you get home let them come out of the carrier in their own time and don't fuss them too much for a couple of days. Just let them settle and get over the shock!

Good luck!
Cat

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Chester
Chester  
QUESTION: Hi Cat,

It is me again, we have our beautiful 8 month of boy, he is just adorable.  Can be a bit shy when first getting him to come out of the hutch but once out he is very friendly, never ever bites, happy to sit on my 7 year old Daughter's lap for hours or spreads himself out on our floor.

He was castrated last week as he was used for breeding.  He has recovered well from the operation and the vet was happy at the check up.

We have a beautiful outdoor run but he doesn't seem very interested in being in it.  I was expecting him to be bouncing and running about but he just sits in the corner.

So of course I am now worried he is lonely.  As per our conversations previously we were going to look at getting a second bun.

The breeder we got Chester from also has his sister, they shared a hutch and a run together until they were 4 months and then were separated.

The breeder originally said to me Chester would be more than happy on his own and that I didn't really need to get another bun.  I then approached her about another rabbit and as she is not breeding or showing anymore, said she might let another one of our prized buns go!!

So to my questions:

- I am worried Chester's behaviour will change when introducing another bun, he might not be so friendly with my Daughter or might not be so happy to sit peacefully on her lap.  What is your opinion on this?

- Regarding the bonding, will Chester remember his sister?  Will they bond?  Although they were separated at 4 months they did share a supervised run together, the breeder said he never attempted anything with his sister.  So in essence he has only been away from her for just over a month, since we took him.

- I guess that he is not going to fall in love with his sister?  So will it not be the best match for him?

I don't want him to be lonely but I do still want my daughter to have this lovely bunny who is happy to sit and be pampered.

The breeder said she wouldn't recommend bunny dates or bunny holidays as she would be worried about the bunnies becoming ill, even with vaccinations.  That her bunnies are purebred and best not to be mixed.  Hence the reason why I thought it might be worth considering taking another bunny from her.

Please let me know your thoughts on the matter.

Many thanks and kind regards
Sylvia

Answer
Hi Sylvia

Glad to hear your boy is healing well. With the run, make sure he has hiding places and he'll become more active then.

With his sister, they could well bond, my pair are brother and sister. But it's all down to their "grown up" personalities. You need to give him a month for his hormones to leave his system post neuter. She will also need to be spayed.

It's a myth rabbits become "less friendly" with people when they're in a pair. It's quite the opposite, think more of a tag team for affection, or being tripped up by two bunnies instead of one when they hear the treat jar! They become more confident in a pair.

Do lots of reading on bonding, there are plenty of good websites and forums to help you. Breeders will have little experience of bonding as the majority (if not all) their rabbits will be intact and therefore not bonded. Keeping singly is the "norm" for breeders. You will need neutral territory (i.e. the bathtub) and be prepared for it not to work out. Do lots of reading on bonding behaviour as what could at first be viewed as positive behaviour could in fact be quite the opposite!

Also, not sure what the breeder was worrying about with mixing her purebred with unrelated bunnies, in rescue this happens daily! Illness risk is just as big a problem in the show ring anyway. My two are siblings, but you see just as many very obviously unrelated bunnies in happy "married" pairs.

Hope I've helped a little?

Good luck!
Cat

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Cat

Expertise

I can answer questions around the welfare of pet rabbits, basic health queries including gut stasis, diet worries, bonding questions and the proper welfare standards around housing rabbits (i.e. no wire floors, no small cages and they should be kept in properly bonded de-sexed pairs in very large enclosures). I cannot answer showing questions nor complex breeding issues as I do not agree with either, seeing the other end of the story in the world of rabbit rescue.

Experience

I have two 7 year old rescue rabbits and volunteer for a well established rabbit rescue here in the UK, both physically doing cleaning out etc and I am also their events and awareness co-oordinator, helping educate the general public on proper rabbit keeping, this means I have to ensure all information I give is correct and matches current welfare standards.

Organizations
I belong to the RWAF (Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund) and volunteer for a major rabbit rescue.

Education/Credentials
I have no formal education on this subject, however read everything I can to keep up to date with current welfare standards and health problems. Both my rabbits have sensitive guts and constantly keep me on my toes.

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