Posted: July 31, 2013, 6 a.m. EDT
Rabbits bond at their own pace.
Q: I’ve had my first rabbit, Thumper, for about six months now, and I took in a second little rabbit more than two weeks ago. I’ve been reading about how to get them to bond, but nothing seems to be working. All they do is chase and mount and clasp onto each other constantly. Is this normal? How long does it usually take for them to start liking each other? Do you think they just aren’t a good match?
A: Are both of your rabbits fixed? That is a very important part of bonding. If they aren’t, then get that done before any bonding sessions. Same-sex rabbits can sometimes be more difficult to bond. Some rabbit just don’t want to live together.
In most cases rabbit bonding can take from a couple of days to a week to months. It just depends on how you do the bonding and how the rabbits react to each other.
At the Bunny Bunch we do bunny dating, which means people come in with their rabbit, and we do "dates” with several of our rabbits (one at a time) to see which rabbits get along the best. It seems to be easier to bond rabbits if they pick who to be with. Some rabbits want to fight right away, which doesn’t mean they won’t bond, but it does mean that it will be a more difficult bond, and it could take awhile until they can live together. Then some rabbits start grooming each other within the first five minutes, which is a great sign it will be an easy bond.
Here are some tips for bonding.
1. It is very important that both rabbits are spayed or neutered before starting the bonding process. Hormonal rabbits can get into nasty fights and can seriously injure each other. I find it best to wait two to three weeks after the surgery in most cases. That way the rabbits have completely healed from the surgery, and the hormones have died down.
2. Bonding should take place in neutral territory so neither rabbit feels like he or she has to protect the area. An exercise pen works well to do the bonding. You need to be in the pen and in total control of the rabbits, preventing any fights. Have some veggies in the pen too.
3. Start off with short sessions, only about 10 minutes or so. Stroke both of the rabbit’s ears and heads, watching their body language so you can stop a nip or fight before it starts. Do this once or twice a day, doing longer sessions each time. Once a session reaches two hours, you can be outside the exercise pen, but stay close to supervise. If all goes well, continue gradually increasing supervised session lengths until the rabbits spend half a day together, then a full day and then all night. Once rabbits spend a night together without incident, you don’t need to stay nearby all the time to supervise.
4. After the rabbits spend a night together without incident, leave them in the exercise pen for five days and five nights without letting them out. Then let them out for supervised playtime to make sure the bonding is complete.
Good luck with the bonding. If you follow the above steps, you have a good chance that your rabbits will bond.
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