Rabbits/Post Vet Brawl
QUESTION: Hello. I currently have 3 rabbits, a father, mother, and daughter (I should also mention that I believe all 3 are neutered/spayed due to the original 2 becoming a total of 5 at one point). The mother and father are 5 years and the daughter is 4 years old. They are all in great health and are always active in the two rooms of my house that they've always had. A week ago, we noticed a strange build-up of sorts underneath the mothers tail where she would dedicate from. We assumed it was "wet tail" and made a trip to see the vet as soon as possible. Their first available appointment was today, so I took the mother to get her checked out.
We were gone for only an hour and once I got her back to the "rabbit territory" in my house as I refer to it, she and the daughter started chasing each other a little bit...and not in a playful way like they occasionally would. I stopped it and it started up again a couple minutes later. I had to leave the house for a few hours and the mother was content laying down under a landing in the cage, so I made sure there was plenty of food and water and then closed the gate (which is open 99% of the time). The father and daughter remained outside the cage, open to the rest of their environment.
Upon returning a couple hours ago, I open the cage door and she quickly rushed out in anticipation of treats (they all know that they get a treat twice a day---once in the early morning and once late at night). All three of them ate near one another as they always do. I stood there for a minute, to see if anything would happen again, but nothing did, so I briefly pet each one and went to the other room in their territory, which contains the two computers we have. The father, who follows me around on a regular basis, came out for some more attention and was sitting by my foot as I sat down in my chair (none of them like being held). No sooner did I turn the monitor on and open up an internet browser, did I see the daughter bolt into the office, shortly followed by the mother.
I did the first thing I thought of, which was to give a couple quick squirts of a water bottle to the daughter, because I believed it was her that was starting things. I ended up corralling all of them back into the other room where their cage and multi-floor den is at. The daughter turned towards her mother and sat there, staring, so I snapped my fingers to try to break the apparent tension. That seemed to work as the daughter then turned to the father, asking to be groomed (which he briefly did). The mother then hopped over next to both of them and began cleaning herself. The daughter, then practically army crawling, seemed to ask for grooming from the mother. After a couple very patient minutes, the mother then groomed the daughter. The daughter in turn groomed the mother some. The father happily flopped onto his side next to them and they all laid down where they were. So at this point, I presumed whatever was going on between the two females was done. I remained sitting on the floor motionless and as silent as could be for a while longer. I was dead tired, so I even briefly nodded off a couple times. Each time I looked back over to them, they were all still in their same positions. So, after 20 or so minutes, I then got up to go back to my computer to give it one final test before I could retire for the evening. No dice.
Just like last time, the two came tearing out into the office, where I was at, and were circling each other, chasing, and flopping over one another a time or two. I stopped the commotion as quickly as I could by scaring the daughter off again (she is far more jumpy than the other two). I corralled the daughter into the office and placed a baby gate between the two rooms. I'd say it's been nearly 45 minutes at this point and the father and mother are snuggling in the other room while the daughter is in the office with me. Neither of the two took any injury, aside from a few tufts of fur was removed from each one during their scuffle (which is distressing enough for me).
When the other children the father and mother had (two boys) would have similar interactions with the father, that ended up creating a slew of problems, ending up in us having to find a good, trustworthy home for the two brothers. I don't want to see the daughter have to be re-homed. None of this makes sense to me. I've read online that it's typically not a good idea to take one rabbit from a group to the vet by themselves and instead, to take the whole group if possible. But, this isn't the first time we've only had to take one rabbit to the vet. There has been at least one instance with both the father and the daughter, each, taking a solo vet trip. Nothing ever happened then, so why would something bad like this happen now, after 4 years of getting along well? If one of the potential reasons is true (new odor now on the rabbit from being at the vets) is the cause, shouldn't they all be back to normal within a day then? For multiple reasons, I cannot keep them separated. It'll break my heart, for one, but for two, I just got rid of the doubles and triples of each type of supply I had for them (ex: cages, water dispensers, etc). I'm going to try to rig up something tonight for water for the daughter, but during the weekdays, I'm gone for 10-12 hours and I know the daughter obviously cannot go without water for that long. Please give any advice you can. I would really hate to see the daughter, who is already a very timid rabbit, be separated from the only other rabbits and other things in the environment (home, people, etc) the she knows.
Thank you for the detailed recap of the events. It helps to get a full picture of what happened.
First question, are you absolutely CERTAIN everyone is fixed? That's usually the number one cause of aggression in littermate/parent pairings.
If they are, then it's either the smell of the vet, or the fact that your one bunny is ill and your other two are looking to keep away from it since illness (in the wild) is a death knell. Often times a group will sequester and harass a sick group mate in an effort to disconnect from the "weak link".
Have you tried rebonding techniques at all?
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QUESTION: I'm certain that all 3 are fixed. As far as the two wanting to stay away from the "sick one", that isn't the cass because yhey all eat together and the father snuggles with the mother as often as always. We have not tried any rebonding techniques yet. I've been waiting, going off the assumption it's the odor from the cleaning wipes, that sets off the daughter, and hoping it wears off very soon.
Father is snuggling with momma - not the baby who, if I'm reading right, is the one being victimized here, correct? If I'm right about who's who, then it's definitely possible that they're staying away from a perceived weak link.
What cleaning wipes? I read that you took them to the vet... are you still using these wipes?
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: The vet had to use some sort or wipes, cleaners while they were working on helping the mother out. That's why it was suggested that it could be the new smell due to the cleaner/wipes used on the mom, that keeps making the daughter interested in harassing the mother. Maybe the mom is simply sore, but I removed the gate that separates the two rooms last night. The father immediately went into the other room (he's the extrememly curious type) and about 30 seconds later, the mother followed. This whole time, the daughter was sitting in a litter pan. Once the mother came into the room, she locked eyes with the daughter and darted after her. So I again, had to separate them.
So you're not currently using those, correct? If not, the smell should definitely be gone by now. Something broke the bond between momma and baby and it's either the wipes/vet visit or bun is still not quite healed/cured. What has me a bit confused is that despite the fact that the momma was the one who went and got checked out, she's the one being aggressive towards baby. It makes no sense!
Try some rebonding techniques:
Bathtub - line a bathtub with clean towels and blankets that are not from either habitat. Place all the bunnies in the bathtub with a few treats and see if the meeting in a neutral space eliminates the aggression.
Car ride - put your bunnies in a carrier (preferably one with mesh sides to maximize air flow and visibility) and put them on the floor in front of the passenger seat. Take them on a ride, anywhere from 30-60 minutes. This method is supposed to slightly stress your bunnies out, but it should also make them want to huddle together for protection and security. Note that you can put them in separate carriers and sit them next to each other if you're worried they might be aggressive towards each other with you driving and no way to stop it, but if you use this option you MUST have the mesh sides so they can see each other and smell each others smells.
On top of the dryer - same carrier setup as the car, except instead of taking them for a car ride, put a (dryer safe) pair of shoes in your clothes dryer and let it run with your bunnies sitting on top. The noise and rumble use the same principle of slightly stressing them out and forcing them into wanting to be near each other.
See if any of this works and let me know what happens.