Introduction to Bonding Rabbits

Photo by Cameilja|

The Importance of Friends

Panda and Slimmy

Bonding rabbits is often the most challenging aspect of bunny ownership. Rabbits are herd animals. Most species of rabbits, including the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus - which is an ancestors of our domestic bunnies), live in large groups. They make lasting friendships and usually do not stray far from each other. They comfort their friends during stressful situations. They snuggle together during nap time. They shove each other from the best treats, and they demand lots of grooming from their partner. Many bunnies fall into a depression after the death of their partner. So would your single bunny be happier with another bunny friend? Most likely the answer would be yes!

That being said, however...

Just because bunnies love other bunnies does not mean you can just take home any two random rabbits and expect the two to be immediate BFFs. I have met many people over the years who are dismayed, frustrated, alarmed and generally freaked out about how violent these sweet little woodland creatures can become when they’re really mad. Owners are quite honestly baffled by the duality. "I thought bonding rabbits would be easier. Does my bunny want a friend or not?’"

To understand rabbit relationships, it helps to compare it to the relationships that fill our own lives. I introduce the concept like so: you and I may become best friends, but if I show up at your house a couple of hours after we first meet, with my suitcase ready to move in, you are going to call the police. If you take home a new bunny, and put him or her in the same pen as your current bunny, your rabbit is going to feel exactly the same way. They are going to pull out the bunny equivalent of a baseball bat and get rid of this intruder that has suddenly broken into their home.

Now to compare it in human terms again, how do you meet new people? At a workplace, school, café, family gathering? Going back to the example of you and I, a much better way to establish a friendship may be inviting you to coffee or lunch and spend some time together in a public and neutral space. Does this guarantee that we will be best friends? Of course not, but the more we get to know each other, the likelihood of either of us calling the cops on the other diminishes. Careful "dates" are key to successfully bonding rabbits.

Roxanne and Abbey
Photo by Kristina Driskill taken at BunnyLuv Rabbit Resource Center.

Think of all the relationships in your life - parents, spouses, children, relatives, friends, co-workers, employers, your mechanic, etc., - you interact with them on different levels. Even with friends, you interact at on different levels, since not all friends are equal. There are some that are very dear to you - they’re practically soulmates - and others with whom you may only have a superficial bond. Rabbits have complex personalities and emotions. They will not love every single rabbit they meet, just like you will not adore every single person you meet. Some you love, some you tolerate because you have to (maybe at your workplace), and others you absolutely loathe. Rabbits can feel the same.

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