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Rabbits/Difficult Bond - Don't want to put her up for adoption


QUESTION: Dear Christine,

I've had three rabbits that have been bonded for three years now, but about 4 months ago, two of my rabbits started fighting.
To give you more information, I have three bonded female trio, and yes, they are all spayed.
I adopted two rabbits at the same time, Lily and Amber. It took me about 1 week to bond these two. Months later, I adopted another rabbit named Mochi. Lily and Amber really hated Mochi, being very aggressive towards her. It took me about 4 months to get them to finally accept/tolerate Mochi. Not only that, I had to clean their entire home and reconstruct their large cage (so that it didn't have the scents of the other two & it's an unfamiliar home to them all). This helped because they were too busy exploring their new house, ignoring Mochi. Couple of days later, they all got along and were inseparable.

So, back to the problem...Amber and Mochi are the ones fighting so I had to keep Mochi separate from Amber and Lilly. I've tried bonding them every single day for months now, and I am starting to lose hope.
I do not have the space in my place to adopt another rabbit so that Mochi can have a friend, and I certainly do not have space to build a second cage for her. The one she currently staying in is small, but I let her out hours a day to exercise. I am approaching back to the time where I will start classes again. And I am afraid that I will be too busy with work and school to continue bonding. I have no one else to help me currently.

This is how the bonding has been:
First month, they keep nipping and chasing, 2nd month - the nipping and chasing lessened. By the third month, Amber grooms Mochi...they together (in neutral territory). Down to the fourth month, I see that they have stopped chasing/nipping altogether, but also, stopped grooming or make any contact. They stay far away as possible from each other and just sit still the entire bonding sessions. I tried moving them to another place, only to see Amber start attacking Mochi again, and Mochi biting back.

I have tried car rides and other ways to stress them out but this doesn't help at all.
Also, Iíve tried putting Lily in the sessions at times, but Amber just cuddles with her and leaves Mochi out of it.
I am very stressed out and frustrated by this as it seems that the situation is heading south. Do you have any suggestions/tips/tricks? I really want this to work out and I donít know why they improved for a whole month and suddenly went bad again.


ANSWER: Ricky,

It's so sad when I see this happen, but it does happen occasionally. It's immensely frustrating to see that hard work disappear overnight with no real reason why. I'll be honest up front with you when I tell you that as hard as you worked before to bond them, you'll have to work just as hard, if not harder, to do it again. I have two suggestions for you.

First one is to try putting a pair of shoes or something in the dryer (something that will make a rumble) and put them in their carrier on top of it. Same concept as a car ride, but a different sensation. That might work if you haven't tried it already.

The second suggestion I have is to perhaps contact a rescue that can offer to help you with bonding. Some rescues and sanctuaries are able to take on the care of your bunnies for a few weeks/months to spend more specialized time with them and bond them back together. Obviously, because they're there all day, they can spend MUCH more time working with them than working stiffs like you or I could. You may have to travel and it may be inconvenient, but isn't it worth it to have them all be friends again?

I do have a quick question about your location for these attempts at re-bonding. Where in your home are you attempting this? I've seen that when a bond is broken and has to be rebuilt that it's often done in the bathtub - the bathroom is probably the only place in your home that will smell like people and not animals. If you haven't already tried it, line the tub with a few towels and supervise this time to see if they'll bond in there.

I hope this helps Ricky. Please stay in touch.

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

QUESTION: I wil try the dryer today. Usually stress-bonding doesn't help them though. They'll get scared for a while but once I put them down somewhere, the aggression rises.

The rescues and sanctuaries for rabbits are far away from my area, most places here are only for dogs and cats. As much as I appreciate the suggestion, I cannot take them because it's several hours away. Sadly, that would have been the best idea in my case since I am low on time to bond them as of currently.

I have tried rebonding them on the kitchen floor, where I blocked off an area where they can sit in, and another place I tried was the hallway. The place where they groomed each other a lot was when I put them on a big table in which is covered over with a blanket. They interacted much better on the table, but then both started ignoring each other and stopped interacting.

I started to bond them in a bathtub several days ago, like you have mentioned. They don't seem to interact at all. Is this normal? Usually my bonding sessions are from 45 minutes to a little over an hour. About 99.9% of the time, the rabbits just sit still away from each other without moving. No interaction is made between the two. Only once per bonding session will Mochi get close enough to Amber, that Amber would grunt and nip her. Mochi usually gets annoyed back and nip her back, then runs away. I hold two sessions per day for several days now (in the tub), and usually that's what would happen. They don't even interact, but just sit there in their spot...and would nip each other once, at most, each session.
I am not sure if the bonding sessions are supposed to be like this, I thought they would try and approach each other.

Please let me know your thoughts on this.

Thank you so much

Hmm... try the dryer and then sit them in the tub. When you put them in the tub, pet one (being sure to rub on the scent glands on the chin) and then pet the other. Repeat. Blend the smells... that could also work in getting them interested in approaching each other. It's clearly going to take time, whatever method you choose, so hopefully you can dedicate a few hours to your methods.

If all this doesn't work, I'd still strongly recommend you take the trip to a sanctuary or rescue to have them help you. You'll only need to make the trip to drop them off and then again to pick them up. If it's too far for a day trip during the week, book a day on a weekend to take them up. If you're determined to re-bond them, which it sounds like you are, then you have to buck up and make the trip for their sake. Otherwise, get ready for separate living quarters.


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Christine Whetstone


I am not an expert on wild rabbits, only domesticated rabbits. I can answer questions regarding habitats, behavior, diet, health, pairing/bonding - pretty much anything having to do with owning a rabbit.


I've owned indoor rabbits for the last 10 years. During that time I've gained experience in areas like bonding exercises, understanding behavior, warning signs of sick bunnies, how to handle more serious illnesses (GI stasis, abscesses, eye problems, etc.) and more. It's rare that I come across an inquiry that I do not already know the answer to.

House Rabbit Society, supporter of local rabbit rescues


Personal experience beats the pants off of a degree, in my opinion.

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