How to Introduce Rabbits
Rabbits are social animals by nature and enjoy living with one another. However, they are quite territorial, which makes the introduction, or bonding, process more difficult than with other animals. Rabbits are naturally hierarchical, but they will learn to live with other rabbits if they are introduced properly. However, strange rabbits that come into their territory are attacked and forced to run away.If you didn't buy two rabbits at the same time and your rabbit has been living alone, you can follow a few simple steps to gradually introduce them to one another so they become bonded friends.
Preparing the Rabbits for Introduction
Pick your pair.Any combination of rabbits can live together. Whether it is male/male, female/female, or male/female, rabbits can learn to live together no matter what sex they are. The most natural coupling is male/female because this is how they typically form in the wild.
- If you buy your rabbits at a young age or buy them together, it doesn't matter what sex they are because they are likely to bond with ease. They may also already be bonded when you buy them.
- It is easier to bring a female home to a male rabbit because female rabbits are quite protective of their territory. However, two female rabbits will likely get a long faster than two males.
Spay and neuter your rabbits.When you are introducing rabbits to one another who are going to be living together, they must be spayed or neutered. This is so the rabbits won't fight as much or breed. Each female should be spayed and males should be neutered anywhere from 2-6 weeks before you begin the introduction process. This allows time for the rabbits to heal and the hormones to dissipate.
- You need to make sure you keep male rabbits away from unspayed female rabbits right after they are neutered. They can remain fertile for up to 2 weeks after they are neutered.
- If you buy your rabbits as babies from the same litter, you still need to spay or neuter them as soon as possible. They will bond closely when they are young, but if they reach sexual maturity before you have them fixed, then they will fight and break their bonds, most likely for good.
Place the rabbits in adjoining cages.Once you bring your rabbits home, you need to place them in adjoining cages or hutches, rather than immediately putting the new rabbit in the old rabbit's cage. Putting the rabbits in a cage together could trigger fighting, since original rabbit will be upset with the new rabbit in his territory.
Watch their behavior.When you first put the rabbits close together, they will be very curious about each other. You should expect them to touch noses through the cage and will likely show signs of courtship, such as honking and circling. After they are like this for a little while, they will become more relaxed with one another, even laying down beside one another on the edges of the cage. This should take a few days.
- If your rabbits are taking a long time to get to this stage, you should try feeding them near one another so they get used to eating near each other.
- They may display courtship behavior even though they are spayed and neutered. This is how they communicate with one another.
Take it slow.You need to understand that the introduction process takes time. If you introduce your rabbits too quickly, your rabbits can injure themselves and each other. You will also make it much harder or impossible to properly introduce your rabbits if you put them together too quickly.
- Watch your rabbits for when they are ready to meet face to face. This can take a few days or weeks, depending on the personality of your rabbits.
- If you put your rabbits together too quickly, they will likely fight, which will cause the rabbits to see each other as a threat and make it difficult for them to bond.
Setting Up a Face to Face Introduction
Find unfamiliar territory.Once you think they are ready to see each other face to face, you need to find somewhere that is unfamiliar to both of the rabbits. This is so they can meet on even territory that doesn't belong to either of them. Places in your home such as bathrooms are good for the rabbit's introduction. Once both rabbits are in the room, crouch down onto their level and stay on the floor with them.
- Make sure you remove all the things in the room that could get knocked off and harm them if they start moving around or jumping.
- It is also a good idea to have a cardboard box with a hole in either end so the rabbits can retreat if they get too nervous or scared.
Watch them closely.You have to watch them closely, especially when you first introduce them. There are three common scenarios that might occur when you put the rabbits in the room together. The most common is that both rabbits will be wary of each other first, but one rabbit will take the lead and start to assert dominance on the other. That rabbit will take the lead and approach the other, sniffing, circling, and possibly trying to mount the other rabbit. As much as this might look like mating, it is a play for dominance. Keep a watch to make sure the less dominant rabbit doesn't hurt the more dominant one as they learn each other.
- Another scenario that could play out is that they will automatically attack one another. This is rare, but you cannot miss it when it happens. Because of this, you should always wear thick gloves when you introduce your rabbits for the first time. When this happens, you need to intervene quickly so the rabbits don't hurt one another. You should then put them back in separate cages and let them get more acquainted before trying again.
- In another rare occurrence, your rabbits may approach each other as equals automatically. They will sniff and nuzzle each other and enjoy each other right away.
Deal with fighting.Rabbit fighting is apparent when it happens. The rabbits will jump at each other and start clawing, biting, hissing, and trying to harm one another. To help prevent or stop fighting, you need to have a spray bottle, turned to stream, on hand when you introduce your rabbits. If you think the rabbits might start fighting, you should spray them to stop the behavior. This may also help when they first start fighting, as long as it isn't too vicious. Spraying them will also help encourage them to groom one another, which will help bonding as well.
- Nipping at each other is not considered fighting. This is a way for them to communicate with each other, to get attention, and to show curiosity.
- Mounting and circling may turn into fighting. If the dominant rabbit is mounting head to tail, you need to move them around. If the less dominant rabbit were to bite the genitals of the dominant rabbit, it could cause serious damage.
Continue the meetings.You should only leave the rabbits together 10-20 minutes at a time, especially in the beginning. As they get more familiar with each other, you can increase the time to 30-40 minutes after the first few days. Once they start laying down together and grooming each other, the rabbits are bonded and can live together without supervision now.
- You can add small obstacles or hide vegetables to help give the rabbits something to play with as they get to know each other.
- It can take a few days or a few weeks. It just depends on your particular rabbits and their temperaments. Keep at it until your rabbits are bonded.
Deal with resistant bonding.Sometimes, rabbits will continue to be aggressive or not make much progress in terms of bonding. If this happens to your rabbits, you can try to, essentially, force the issue. On a day where you are going to be home all day, set up a decent sized exercise pin in your living room and gather gloves and a spray bottle. Put the rabbits in the pin and pop in a movie. Keep an eye on them while you watch, making sure to spray them if they seem aggressive or look like they are going to fight.
- After awhile, they will get tired of being sprayed and will start sulking. Eventually, one rabbit will go over to another and show submission, which starts the official bonding process.
- You can also read a book or play a game with friends or family while you wait. Just make sure you pay attention to them so you can stop any hint at fighting.
QuestionHow can I introduce a male to my two female rabbits I currently own?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerMake sure either both females or the male are neutered. Remember, a male rabbit remains fertile for 2 – 4 weeks after neutering, so plan to keep them apart until then. Follow the steps in this guide, paying special attention to introducing the rabbits on neutral ground. This could be an old duvet cover spread over the floor. Put some food in each corner, and put the rabbits in opposite corners and let them discover each other slowly. When they are eventually housed together, provide four hides, so a distressed rabbit always has somewhere to run to.Thanks!
QuestionMy 7-year-old male rabbit lost his female companion two weeks ago and is still very depressed. Should I buy another female rabbit for him?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerThis depends on his personality, and there's no right or wrong answer. While another rabbit will provide company, there's no guarantee he will welcome a new rabbit into his territory. If you want another rabbit and have the facilities to care for her separately if they don't get along, then there's nothing to lose. Alternatively, give the male plenty of strokes and fuss, plus some extra special juicy shoots to help ease his grief.Thanks!
QuestionI have a 2-year-old female and I want to get two 8-week-old females. Will this work?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerIf the adult female isn't spayed then it might be a good idea to get her done. Entire female rabbits can be extremely territorial and surgery will reduce her hormone levels and make her less likely to fight. In addition, when housing all three together use new hides, food bowls, and toys so there is less for the existing adult female to be territorial about.Thanks!
QuestionIs it OK to put a spayed rescue rabbit in a pen with a mother rabbit (spayed) and her son?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerYes, with a few provisos. Introduce them gradually on neutral territory. Once they are used to each other, then you can start putting them in the same pen. They are more likely to live in harmony if they have plenty of space, so make sure the run is big enough. Also, provide one shelter for each rabbit so that each can have its own space. Put food in three different locations in the pen so that one rabbit can't guard all the food, which increases tension.Thanks!
QuestionIs it okay to put two unspayed female rabbits in the same cage?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. I have two unspayed females in a cage, and in the early stage, one of them tried to mate with the other as if it was a male, but she got over that and the two are living together happily now.Thanks!
QuestionCan you put a male and female rabbit out together to play?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerRabbits are companion animals and would much rather be with a buddy than alone. Put their cages together first so they can sniff through the bars and see how they get along. If they are expressing curiosity and no aggressiveness, you can put them together. However, be warned, unless you intend to be a breeder,don't put them together unless one is neutered. If you neuter the male, he can still be potent for week, so wait until some time passes before you let them out together to play.Thanks!
QuestionI have an older male bunny and want to get a male baby. Can I introduce them, or will the older male be too aggressive?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerOlder bunnies are usually more accepting of having another companion, and can get less picky with age, especially if they've previously been bonded. Watch the younger one for signs of aggression.Thanks!
QuestionIf I have a male and female together and the male was neutered, will the female get pregnant?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo. However, the female may be more aggressive toward a new rabbit than she would be if she was spayed. If they don't get on, think about having her spayed.Thanks!
QuestionWhy does my new bunny drink her own pee?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThis is not a good sign and is very bad for her health. It's normal for a rabbit to eat her poop, but their urine is too concentrated with ammonia and is hazardous. Check the color of her urine by putting some newspaper where she goes to the bathroom, and if it looks odd, take it with you to the vet. She could be getting sick.Thanks!
QuestionWhat should I do if my rabbits will not get used to each other?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerKeep them in separate cages, and try it against the following week; this will allow them to take a break from each other. If that does not work, bring them both to the vet to get checked, as there might be something wrong with them.Thanks!
Should I get my older rabbit neutered if it's going to be around another rabbit that is neutered?
To introduce rabbits, place them in adjoining cages or hutches for several days or weeks and watch them carefully. Once they seem comfortable, place both rabbits somewhere neutral like your bathroom for about 10-20 minutes at a time. Crouch down onto their level, and squirt them with a water bottle if the rabbits start to fight. Wear thick gloves in case the fighting becomes serious and you need to separate the rabbits. Once the rabbits lay down together and groom each other, they have bonded and don’t need to be supervised.
- The same methods can be used if you are introducing multiple rabbits at the same time. The level of difficulty may vary depending on the sex of the rabbits and the overall temperament of your rabbits. You should just make sure you keep the rabbits in separate cages, no matter how many rabbits you have, until they are introduced properly.
- If you are bringing two rabbits home at the same time and you did not previously own rabbits, the introduction process should be easier. This is because neither rabbit can claim your home as his territory and they bond easier over being in a new, foreign place.
- Even if it take a while, especially at first, keep trying to bond your rabbits. They are not meant to be solitary creatures and love socializing. Eventually, this instinct will take over and they will bond with one another.
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