Rabbits/Bonding

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Question
Hi. I picked up a couple of rabbits that someone had posted on freecycle. I was prepared to give them a LOT of attention. I wanted to be able to pet them and hold them a lot. Unfortunately, they don't seem to want that. Every time I reach in to pet them or take them out, they pull away from me and hunker down in the corner. Yesterday I was holding one and he looked like he was about to fall asleep in my arms, when he suddenly started making a rapid running/clawing motion with his front legs, and tried to jump off my lap! What am I doing wrong? Also, they are both 4 year old males who were never fixed. They've been together most of their lives (they are brothers, but not littermates), and they don't get along, so they have to be in separate cages. I can't keep two big cages in my house, but I also know that rabbits like to have a companion. Am I going to have to give away one rabbit? And are they too old to be litter trained? They were never trained to a litter box, they just literally just go all over in their cages.

Answer
Hi there Cee

Well done getting these two off freecycle!

The first thing I'd do is get them neutered. Four years is not too late. Unneutered males are unlikely to ever litter train, another reason to neuter! This will help vastly.

Next look at their living arrangements. Cages are old fashioned and based on the theory you're going to eat the rabbit, not interact with it. When you reach in, they are basically cornered and terrified by these big pink grabby things. You would be better using puppy pen panels with non slip lino as a base. You can sit in with them and they can choose when they want to come near to you. If they don't want to, that's fine, that's their choice, be patient with a few yummy things in your hand like some parsley and they'll quickly learn that your presence can only mean nice things!

As for them living separately, get them neutered and allow them to settle for a month, you can try and introduce in a neutral spot but there's a high chance they won't bond again if they have had fights in the past. A male/female neutered/spayed pair is the easiest bond. It's up to you whether you try and bond the toys boys, try and find them each wife buns, or rehome one and find a spayed female for the remaining one.

Hope I've helped a little?
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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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