It’s hard to imagine your little bun becoming aggressive. This is why many people underestimate the work that’s involved with bonding rabbits.
When I first introduced my two rabbits, I had an oven mitt on my hand ready to break up a fight but I was still shocked at how my sweet bunnies changed so fast!
I thought I had taken the right steps, but I still moved too quickly at first.
But don’t worry, with a little more patience those two bunnies who were at first a ball of fury together, became a bonded pair. They cuddled and took care of each other for the next seven years!
Rabbits are very social animals so getting them a friend is a great idea. It’s just that they're also territorial animals. Rabbits that haven’t accepted each other as friends in their home can really hurt each other.
I’m going to take you through my best tips, step by step. Bonding rabbits is all about going slow and being prepared. But watching your bunny family grow is very rewarding!
How To Bond Rabbits
Before we get into the step-by-step bonding experience, you need to know how to set two buns up for success. There are a lot of different scenarios in which two rabbits are bonded.
Some of the easiest scenarios:
- You get two baby bunnies coming home together.
- You get two new adult spayed/neutered rabbits and bring them home at the same time.
A little harder:
- Bringing a spayed female rabbit home to a neutered male rabbit you already own.
Not impossible but more difficult:
-Bringing a female rabbit home to a female you already own.
-Bringing a male rabbit home to a female you already own.
-Bringing a male rabbit home to a male you already own.
Bonding two adult rabbits is much easier if both are spayed/neutered. And you shouldn’t start the rabbit bonding process until it has been at least 2 weeks since the surgery. That way the hormones have had enough time to get out of their system and they have healed up from surgery.
When I bonded my two rabbits, the situation wasn’t ideal. I had a female rabbit I had since she was a baby and she had been spayed. But I was introducing another female adult rabbit who hadn’t been spayed as it was an emergency situation where a rabbit needed a home and hadn’t been spayed yet.
So although some combinations are easier than others, whatever the situation, they can probably bond with a little work.
There are some instances where rabbits are introduced and it’s love at first sight. When this happens, consider yourself lucky! You won’t need to go through all of these bonding rabbit steps as I have laid out, but continue to make sure they don’t become territorial when you move them to more personal spaces.
Step 1: Two of Everything, Separate Cages
Before you bring your new rabbit home, make sure you have two separate cages that can be placed close together. Each rabbit will need their own food, water, and toys. Make sure they each have a hideout for when they want to get away when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
The goal with step one is to make each rabbit comfortable in their own space while also getting to look at their new rabbit friend without being able to touch their new rabbit friend. They will also start to get used to each other's scent.
Make life with this new friend very calm, comfortable, and also fun! Herbal blends can help keep everyone calm and happy. You can mix them into their hay or food.
You could put both of their hay piles on the end of their cage that is almost touching the other cage. So they can eat and forage for herbs together!
Check out Zen Tranquility Herbal Blend. Some rabbits might want to try their herbs separate from their familiar food at first. Some rabbits love variety and others can react a bit like toddlers.
I placed my rabbit’s cages so close that they could almost touch each other's noses as they were smelling each other.
The mistake I made was that I tried to introduce my rabbits after only a couple of days in this setup. After my first failed attempt that started a fight, I left them alone like this for another week.
I would take them out of their cages but never at the same time. And I mostly let my original rabbit out and about so she didn’t feel like her life was changing too much!
Step 2: Meeting On Neutral Ground
It’s normal for rabbits to get comfortable and claim their space. Imagine having a stranger come into your bedroom and start throwing blankets and pillows off the bed. You would feel territorial too.
So try to empathize with your rabbit as they are experiencing big changes with rabbit bonding. When you have your two rabbits feeling comfortable with step one, you can start putting them together in a neutral area to meet for short periods.
What is a neutral area?
A neutral area is one where neither rabbit has had time to make it their own. This is somewhere they have never been. It’s much easier to meet strangers in the park than in your own house, right?
If there’s a room in your house that your first rabbit has never been in then that would be perfect. In my case, my rabbit had a lot of freedom and I didn’t have a place where she hadn’t been. I actually used the bathtub for the first few meetings (without any water of course).
This not only eliminated some territorial behavior but also distracted them because they were sliding on the floor of the tub a bit. They became a little more concerned with where they were than with each other.
Some other ideas for a neutral space for bonding rabbits:
- The top of a bed
- Outside in a playpen
- In the car
Of course, if you are bringing home two rabbits at the same time, then any space is neutral. This is why it’s a much easier scenario for bonding rabbits!
Step 3: Create Positive Associations
So imagine me and two rabbits in the bathtub with a bunch of carrots. Carrots and lots of petting smoothed over our first successful meeting.
Bonding over food… rabbits aren’t all that different from people!
Make the meetings as fun as possible with treats and love! Have a rabbit bonding meeting once or twice a day together and make it a party.
This doesn’t need to be any more than 20 minutes. And after that they can go back to their separate spaces.
Step 4: Move Their Meetings To More Personal Spaces
For me, once we had our successful bathtub parties, it was smooth sailing. I remember I tried in the yard and then in the living room next.
But if moving your meetings to more personal spaces causes a fight, then just go back to the previous step and try again later.
When you move your meetings to personal spaces like the living room, keep up with the treats! They distract your rabbit from the need to react to each other right away, and by the time they are ready to give each other attention, they’ve already bonded over Healthy Snackers.
You can slowly increase the amount of time they have together. This is where it gets really fun. You start to see them play and binky and love the time they spend together.
Step 5: Combine Their Cages
If the goal is to get these two buns to share a cage then this is when you can give that a go!
Once my rabbits were cuddling and licking each other I knew we were good and they shared a cage and a litter box from then on.
I had a very large cage for them. I built it and it was taller than me! When you have more rabbits you need more space.
Be Prepared For Fights
I mentioned earlier about an oven mitt. When rabbits start to fight things move fast and they could easily attack your hand without even realizing it’s you. Using an oven mitt to protect your hand is one idea.
Other people have used a spray bottle to squirt the rabbits with water to break up the fight long enough to separate them again.
While it’s important to be prepared for fights it’s even more important to prevent them from happening. Go slow. One bad encounter can start negative associations and make future meetings harder.
Bonding Rabbits Is Great For Their Mental Health
While the initial rabbit bonding process can seem tricky, rabbits actually do so well long-term as a bonded pair.
Rabbits bond for life. Once they accept another rabbit as their buddy, they shouldn’t be separated.
Rabbits are happiest living in pairs! So once you get over the initial challenges of how to bond a rabbit you will have two happy bunnies with many days of binkies, hay munching and lazy saturdays ahead of them.