Posted: June 13, 2011, 5 a.m. EDT
Q: I have a question about two bonding rabbits. My husband and I have been trying to bond our two almost-1-year-old rabbits for a few months. One is a male (Mal) and one is a female (Sally). They have both been spayed and neutered for about five months now. We did a car ride in the same carrier and brought them to a neutral area (our bathroom). Mal was the dominant one, mounting Sally. We let him do that for a few times, then stopped him after that, as to not stress out Sally and have a fight start. He stopped mounting her after about a month and they started lying next to each other, grooming each other (Sally is the predominant groomer), and playing together. We took this as a good sign and moved them to another, not-as-neutral area (the kitchen). Things were going very well there for a month and then Mal started mounting Sally again — at times, rather incessantly. We, again, let it happen the first couple times and then stopped him after that. He still tries to mount her in what appears to be an attempt at dominating her. They still lie next to each other, and play and groom each other (usually he gets fresh and tries to mount her when he is grooming her) and they have never fought. What exactly is going on here, and is there something my husband and I can do to help our bunnies get to the next step in their relationship? Or is this something they need to work out on their own?
A: It sounds like you have been doing a good job of bonding your rabbits. You can try a couple of things to get the male rabbit over his dominance behavior.
First, keep the rabbit bonding space small. Do the bonding in a space 4 by 4 feed (the size of most exercise pens) or smaller, plus make sure it is neutral territory. Even though your rabbits groom and lie next to each other, it seems like the male rabbit still has something to sort out. For now, keep doing the bonding in a small neutral area and let the male rabbit mount the female as long as she is just lying there and letting him do that.
I have found that if you keep stopping a male rabbit from mounting a female rabbit he won't seem to get over it and will keep trying to mount her. If you let him mount her, the male rabbit eventually stops doing it. Of course if he keeps trying and it looks like it may turn into a fight, clap your hands and gently move the male rabbit off the female.
Don't expand the rabbit bonding area until the mounting has stopped and the rabbits can be together for five hours or more without any problems. Then slowly expand the area. If the mounting starts again, go back to a smaller area until it stops. Make sure you give the rabbits a bunny salad or healthy treat every time they come together. This helps take their mind off of being territorial and gives them something else to think about when they first come together.
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