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Rabbits/Rabbit Bonding Problems

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Question
Hello Cat,

I was hoping you would be able to help me please?

I have two male neutered rabbits from different litters that are both between 6 to 12 months old.  I'm trying my best to introduce them to each other but so far, it’s been about 8 weeks now, they are continuing to live separately.

Briefly, I adopted the second rabbit as company for the first rabbit (as I had the first rabbit from a member of my family who couldn't look after him anymore).  I felt sorry for him so adopted what I thought was a female rabbit until it came to spaying time and it turned out to be a male!!

I’ve tried various bonding methods and have received a lot of conflicting information on how to bond them.

I have spoken to my local vets several times and one vet said it was okay to make the introduction after 10 days and subsequently another said only after 6 weeks!  Recently another has said 8 weeks…

I think initially we tried to bond them too early (based on the advice given).  We used a neutral room (bathroom) and Lucky mounted Bobby but we separated them as they were circling each other.

Then we used another neutral room (spare room) and they were behaving well 50% of the time eating, cuddling, cleaning themselves but also fur pulling, nipping and chasing too so we just kept them together but stopped the bad behaviour using a water bottle.  We did this day after day for up to an hour without much progress.

We waited several weeks to try again, hoping their hormones would settle.  We then took them in a pet carrier in the car, all was fine and we put them in a pet run that was a bit larger for more than 12 hours.  Mostly they were fine but occasionally they’d have a tiff where we would firmly say ‘no’ and place them side by side talking to them gently and smoothing them both which calmed them down until the next bout (we gave up on the water bottle).  Then all of a sudden a full fight broke out (circling like mad) and one screamed so we separated them permanently.  During this time Bobby was trying to mount Lucky (the reverse of what happened before) and Lucky groomed Bobby but Bobby did not reciprocate, I don’t know if this is typical or not.

They swop hutches every day as one is in a 6ft hutch with a large run and the other is in a much smaller hutch and run.  They also both come into the house every day and spend an hour together every day BUT are separated with mesh.  Even though there is mesh between them Lucky still grooms Bobby and they sleep, eat and clean themselves quite happily.  We are in the middle of cornering off the garden to make a big 20ft x 20ft run for them too.

Sorry, it’s a bit long winded.  Now we are at 8 weeks after neutering for both and want to try again.  I personally think it is just a dominance issue now and neither will succumb.

Do you have any thoughts about how we should approach the next bonding session(s)?  I have considered using a completely different bonding technique such as bonding them in a bigger space instead.

I'd be grateful for any advice.

Answer
Hi Lisa

Bonding same sex bunnies is always going to be tricky, especially when they're not from the same litter.

You can try the larger space technique, it does work for some, but you need to be on hand with a broom to break up any fights. Nipping and humping are often part of bonding, but when it escalates that's not good. It could be that these two are just an incompatible match due to a clash of personalities.

Have a chat with the guys on this forum for some more hints and tips:
http://forums.rabbitrehome.org.uk/forumdisplay.php?60-Behaviour-amp-Bonding

Good luck!
Cat

Rabbits

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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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