Learning how to bond rabbits properly is necessary for the health and well being of nearly all rabbits. It’s becoming more commonly known and accepted that rabbits live longer, healthier, happier lives with a partner. Much like people, rabbits are social animals. In the wild they live in large groups and are co-dependent for safety and social reasons.
We’re going to look at some ways to safely and properly bond rabbits. I’m also going to talk a little bit about why it’s necessary to do these things (it’s confusing!) and how to make it less stressful for you and your buns!
How to Bond Rabbits
There’s no completely correct way to bond rabbits. Learning how to bond rabbits is a lot of trail and error because every pair is going to be different!
Let’s start with some general tips:
- Stay calm: your rabbits are going to react to your energy. If you are a nervous wreck, they will be too! It’s a stressful situation for them already so don’t add to it by being upset or anxious.
- Choose a proper pair: If you are adopting your buns (which I totally recommend, there are so many unwanted bunnies out there!) you can usually set up a play date or multiple play dates for your rabbits to meet and see what their reactions will be! If not, check out my tips on choosing a proper pair of in order to successful bond rabbits!
- Neutral ground: Rabbits are possessive of their space. Until your rabbits are bonded fully are sure they are spending time on mostly neutral ground. Small rooms like bathrooms work great!
- Be patient: It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to bond rabbits in just a few minutes. This process can take weeks or even months. That is not to say that your rabbits might not bond very quickly, just a reminder that the process can take some time.
- Be present: Do not leave an un-bonded pair of rabbits alone! They can seriously injure themselves or each other. Even rabbits who seem well bonded can get into fights in these early stages.
- Come prepared: Long sleeves, leather work gloves, and a towel are always on hand for my bondings sessions. Your rabbits know you and they love you but once these scared or aggressive tendencies come out they won’t realize they are hurting you or someone else. The gloves will go a long way to keeping you from a skin-breaking bite and long sleeves make it easier to avoid scratches. You can also throw the towel over them to keep them from being so feisty when in the midst of a chase scenario.
Choosing a Good Pair
You can’t bond rabbits if they are not well suited for one another. Here is some info on choosing a good pair of rabbits to bond. Note: it will always be harder and in some cases impossible, to bond rabbits who are unaltered. You should have your rabbits altered if at all possible. I know it’s difficult and expensive in some cases, I just want you to know the best way to achieve a good results when bonding rabbits.
- Male | Male: If they are unaltered this is NOT going to happen. If they are altered you need to give them three to four weeks (or more depending on their age) for their hormones to level out and calm down.
- Female | Female: Some females will fight just as viciously as males. Again, altering them will help calm these feelings down but in some cases they can be just as difficult to bond. I have a pair of bonded females who love each other. It’s not impossible, just a little more difficult sometimes.
- Female | Male: Rabbits seem to bond easiest in opposite sex pairs. Both should still be altered in this situation but you want to make sure at least one of them is altered or you’ll be looking at babies. Lots of them…and fast.
Size doesn’t matter when it comes to bonding rabbits. Of course it can be a bit awkward when going through the mounting, circling, and negotiations of dominance with an oddly sized pair but ultimately it’s going to come down to temperament and personality, not size.
Age can play a factor in the success of your bonding sessions. An older rabbit is going to be irritated and less likely to enjoy the company of a bunny who is full of energy. Try and keep your pairs to roughly the same age or at the very least the same life stages.
Supplies Needed to Bond Rabbits
You won’t need anything special to bond rabbits. Some of the safety options I mentioned above will help out but there’s nothing special you’ll need. If you have a play yard (I love these ones) either for kids or animals it will help make the process simple and easy. You can set it up in a neutral space and use it to keep them in common space. It is also helpful for keeping two rabbits in the same space but separated when you can’t be watching them.
Remember that every time you have to separate them you’ll need to start the introductions over. If at all possible they should be housed in separated but shared housing until they are fully bonded. I also really like to switch them back and forth from day to day so they get used to each others smells and they can’t claim space as their “own” during this process.
Cleaning supplies will be a must. During this process of bonding rabbits (even if they’re altered) there will likely be some territory marking. Even rabbits who are diligent with their litterbox can end up leaving scent and poops around the space as they get used to a new housemate. Be patient. This will only last a short while. Keep everything as clean and scent free as possible to help things along!
Now we get to the really interesting stuff! Here’s a (sort of ) step by step guide for how to bond rabbits.
- Put their cages or carriers together: You’ll get a pretty good idea how rabbits are going to react to each other by placing their cages side by side. You can also do this with carriers or a play yard that is separated in half. You want to see how they react to each other initially without exposing them to potential injury.
- Introduce them on neutral ground: After a few days of being nearby you can introduce them on natural ground. This is key to bonding rabbits. They need to be able to get to know one another in a safe and secure environment that is not really belonging to one or the other.
- Take them for a ride: It can be helpful to place the rabbits in their own boxes or carriers and then put them together in the car. Have someone drive you so you can watch over them to avoid issues but the stress of the car ride can help bond them!
- Make noise: Go about your business but run the vacuum, make noise, play music, talk to them, let them know you are there but you don’t necessarily want to hover. They will go about their business eventually but probably not if you are following them around and constantly intervening.
- Be firm: Circling, mounting, and some nipping are to be expected. You must let them get through this process. They need to establish dominance and they can’t do that if you separate them every time they mount or circle. A firm and loud command or hand clap can help stop an interaction before it gets too heated.
- No chasing: While certain things are bound to happen you don’t need to let them chase. Chasing can quickly lead to fighting when trying to bond rabbits. Avoid the chasing by spritzing with a bottle of water, firm commands, hand claps, or other distracting (and a bit frightening) events.
- Introduce other pets: If you are bonding rabbits to live in your home free run you’ll need to introduce your other pets. If you have dogs, cats, etc. you’ll need to let them be a part of this as well. Usually the added stress of meeting larger animals will help the rabbits bond too! It’s a win win.
- Remove when stressed: It’s important to remove and separate the rabbits when they become stressed. Not all rabbits will be easily stressed during a bonding session but some can. Stress is dangerous for rabbits, especially young ones! Keep everyone safe and happy by stepping in only when things seem too overwhelming for them to handle on their own. Keep them housed near each other to avoid having to start the process all over again!
- Watch for good signs: It’s more than just lying next to each other or being calm around one another. If you notice grooming habits that’s a great sign. Your buns will learn to trust each other and work together. Grooming is a good sign! It’s also a good sign if no one is charging or protective of certain areas of their space. Keep an eye out for signs that your rabbits are bonding. These will help you know when things are going well. Relaxed rabbits who are happily lounging together is a great sign.
We can’t all have rabbits running around in our home full time. I get that. I have rabbits who roam free and others who only have access to certain rooms and spaces. Some are chewers (hello, goodbye chargers of all sorts) and others don’t like the hardwood floors and need carpeted options. Whatever the case may be, you should have a space prepared for your pair!
- Will I need two of everything? No! Once your pair is bonded they will eat, drink, and use the same litter box as well. You should always have a backup plan in case you would need to separate them for whatever reason but for all intents and purposes they’ll use the same items, you’ll need just one set of everything.
- Why do I need to bond rabbits? Unless they’ve been raised together from the time they’re born until their current age, rabbits will aggressively try to establish dominance and sometimes viciously fight. While they like to co-exist with other bunnies in the wild and in your home, they need time to build trust and affection. Bonding rabbits is key to a happy and healthy life for your furry friends.
- Can a bonded pair ever “break up”? Yes. Sometimes. If you have to separate them for any length of time this can break their trust and bond. You may need to go through the bonding process again. Occasionally they’ll need a break from each other as well. If you notice excessive aggression or stress you should separate them safely and start the process again.
- What if my rabbits won’t bond? It’s possible that you will have two rabbits that just won’t bond. In most cases this is due to hormones. Get them altered and try again. If things still don’t improve you can let them have time together and separate them when necessary. Some rabbits prefer to spend time alone as well as with a partner or other rabbits.
Hopefully these tips and tricks will help you successfully bond your rabbits! Please let us know if you have questions, we’re always happy to try and help!