I don't know how familiar with rabbits most of my readers are, especially since so many of my posts focus around my dog Kitsune. To anyone unfamiliar with rabbits, convincing two rabbits to cohabit peacefully might seem like a simple task. They are rabbits, after all - tiny, peaceful, and sweet right? Think again! Bunnies can be downright nasty to each other when they want to be. In fact, rabbits are very capable of seriously injuring and even killing each other. That's why it's very important to go through the bonding process before allowing two rabbits to live together.
I've already written about the importance of getting rabbits spayed or neutered, although it was awhile ago now. Before you even think about attempting to bond rabbits, all rabbits involved should be fixed. In my case, Barnaby was neutered when he was young, and Poppet was spayed before I adopted her.
When I started fostering Poppet I knew right away that I wanted to attempt to bond her to Barnaby. Rabbits are social animals and many of them love having another rabbit around to interact with. Keep in mind though that, like people, not all rabbits get along.
I had originally planned on making my bonding adventures with Barnaby and Poppet a new series on my blog, with frequent updates on their progress. But I lucked out, and they hit it off pretty much right away. Poppet hasn't even been living with us for two full months yet, and already she's living with Barnaby full time.
I think a large part of my quick bonding success was just the fact that Barnaby and Poppet have very compatible personalities. Barnaby has never been very friendly towards humans, but absolutely loves having a rabbit friend to dote on. Poppet, on the other hand, soaks up attention like a little sponge. She just can't seem to ever get enough of it. Having Barnaby to groom and snuggle with her keeps her content, since sadly I can't spend my whole day petting bunnies!
Although bonding Barnaby and Poppet was one of the easier bunny bonds I've facilitated, it was still a process. I started out by doing very short bonding sessions in neutral territory. Two or three times a day I would let the bunnies roam around the living room together, but only for a few minutes at first. I think it's important to keep the interactions as positive as possible, while still giving them a chance to figure out the dynamics of their new relationship. Luckily with these two I didn't have to break up a single fight, although there was a bit of excessive humping (rabbits, even when fixed, will hump each other to display dominance) and chasing.
I ended each bonding session on a positive note, usually allowing the two bunnies to enjoy treats side by side, then brought them each to their own cages. As they got more used to each other, I gradually extended the amount of time they were allowed to spend together. I let my rabbits tell me how far they wanted to take things. If either of them seemed like they were getting agitated at all, I'd end the bonding session. But if they were doing well and enjoying each others company, I'd let them stay together longer.
I eventually moved Poppet into the same room as Barnaby, so they could see and smell each other at all times, but were still separated. I began doing bonding sessions in Barnaby's room, since ultimately this was where I wanted to be able to keep them both. After awhile we got to a point where the bunnies were doing so well together, that the only time I separated them was when I left the house. They really seemed to miss being together when I separated them, and would both sit at the ends of their cages, as close to each other as they could possibly get. I got the hint, and stopped separating them. They now, very happily, live together full time.
I know some rabbit owners use a technique known as 'stress bonding' to help their bunnies bond, but for my two I wanted to keep things as positive as possible. I'm not going to get too much into stress bonding since I'm planning on writing more about it another time. But with one of my rabbits (Barnaby) being a senior, and very timid, and the other (Poppet) coming from a neglect situation, I didn't want to introduce any unnecessary stress into their lives.
I absolutely love having a bonded pair of bunnies again, and I know my rabbits are happy too! Despite being almost 8, getting up there in years for a rabbit, since meeting Poppet Barnaby has become more active. He's not as shy around humans as he was when he was an only rabbit, and just seems generally happier now that he has a friend to pass the time with. I still feel like I'm getting to know Poppet, but love looking in on the bunnies and seeing her snuggling next to Barnaby instead of sitting by herself.
I have a lot of experience with rabbits and could probably ramble on and on about the topic of bonding them. I know this post is getting kind of long. Look for more posts about bunny bonding to come in the future! For now, what I think it's important to take away is that rabbit bonding can be a process - you don't want to just throw two strange bunnies together and call it a day. Also, in my opinion, it should be as positive an experience as possible. You are helping your rabbits form a friendship that should last them their whole lives. Sometimes bunny bonding can be a long process, taking weeks or even months, but if they get along in the end than the wait is worth it!