About Us!

Welcome to our page! We do our best to provide to-be and current bunny owners up-to-date info on the best care for their house rabbits. When we adopted our first bunny in 2005, there was almost nothing on the internet to tell us how to care for him. Just in the past few years, information has exploded online, and now it can be confusing! We try to simplify it by posting weekly articles on current issues, daily care, concerns, proper feeding, and other info so you can enjoy your house-bun! If you are just finding us, feel free to look through the older posts also. Please email us if you have any questions! Happy bunnies make happy hearts!
Email: thebunnyhut101@yahoo.com

Monday, February 1, 2016

Bonding Bunnies

Rabbits are very social creatures that don’t like to be alone. Yet it can be quite challenging to get two (or more) rabbits to bond and live together peacefully, because they are also quite territorial. We collected expert advice as well as actual bonding stories for this article.
Experts suggest to choose a neutral place for the bonding location; an area or a room that neither rabbit has claimed for themselves yet. Separate food and water bowls as well as various hiding places with multiple exits (so that one rabbit can’t corner the other) should be provided. Let both rabbits loose at the same time and stay in the room with them. At this point they might fight each other to determine a hierarchy (love at first sight is rare). Unless they seriously hurt each other, this fight shouldn’t be interrupted and the pair shouldn’t be separated anymore. Rabbits have a complicated social structure and need to figure out who is going to be dominant. If they get interrupted, they have to do it all over again the next time. Stay calm and affectionate at all times, even if it is hard to watch. Humping is not always a sexual act in this case, but a part of the fight for dominance. If you do have to separate them, keep them away from each other for a couple of weeks before trying again. It’s usually not a good idea to keep them in separate cages next to each other, because they feel the need to solve the rank/hierarchy issue without being able to do so, which causes more aggression. Bonding can take as long as several weeks and is only successful when the rabbits cuddle, groom each other, and eat together. You can let them out of the neutral area then. It’s a good idea to clean and rearrange the “old” area before you let them return to avoid additional fights (window cleaner will do the trick). It is easier to bond a neutered male and a female than it is to bond same-sex rabbits, because they are more likely to accept the other rabbit as a partner rather than competition. It’s also better to bond rabbits of similar ages. Babies shouldn’t be bonded with older rabbits until they are at least 4 months old and big enough to defend themselves.

Bunny Love. Big’s and Tux.
Vicky S: It took about 3 weeks for Big’s and Tux to “love” each other. And yes, big changes for me. Lots more cleaning, and not just the extra litter box. Tux loves to dig really big holes, Big’s never did that. He chews up her boxes, eats the food out of “her” bowl, and sometimes pees on the hay. But we love him just the same. Because they have so much fun running around together and sleeping together, even using the litter boxes at the same time! Big’s came to our house first. Someone dropped her off at the animal shelter in a box during the night. She was about 8 weeks old. I was going to foster her for The Children’s Educational Farm at the shelter. We all know how that goes – it’s been 3 years! She did live indoors for the first year. I would take her outside every day for some romping time. More and more she didn’t want to come in at the end of the day. The shelter bought a large outdoor hutch and I got a large fence and today Big’s is a happy outdoor bun. Anyway, about 6 months ago I noticed a mammory lump and took Big’s to see the shelter vet. It was determined to be a cancer. The only way to stop it was a spay and removal of several teats. After her recovery, I thought now is the time, since she is now spayed, to see if she would like a friend. At the shelter she is always hopping around the bunny room. Seemed to have a thing for Tux. He was there for a couple weeks. Took him home for a trial and did the through the fence thing for a few minutes at a time. It went ok. Putting them together, well Tux, being intact, just wanted to do the humpty-hump the whole time. But there was no biting.That is a good sign. The vet offered to do a neuter for me, couldn’t pass that up. After Tux’s healing, we did the fence thing again and gradually introduced them over about 2 weeks for longer and longer periods until they had a sleepover. I can safely say they have never had a fight! They have been together for about 4 months now. I think Tux is about 3 years old. But it doesn’t always happen that way. I have seen some nasty bunny fights. Bunnies can make some noises you have never heard before. When they are across the room from each other and charge it is not a pretty sight! Every story is different. I have a different one for my bunnies that live indoors. I have bonded buns several times and be aware that it doesn’t always work. Sometimes they just don’t like each other. Bunny fights are not a pretty sight. And sometimes it will take 2 people to get them apart. It shouldn’t get to that point!

Mid-bonding face off.
Jennifer K: Indoor buns. Hobbes (tri-colour mixed breed) was a 2(ish) year old rescue bun when we got Indy at 8 weeks (blue otter mini lop). At first there was nipping through the cages. I bonded them when we’d had her 3 months and she was big enough. The first attempt was unsuccessful, he was nipping and pulling fur, then ignoring her. Unfortunately, I didnt have the time to see that through. On the 2nd occasion I sat with them for 6 hours on a piece of carpet in our kitchen. There was fur pulling and nipping on his part and submissive behaviour from her. At the end of the evening they were eating and being civilized. She seemed to have more social skills than him. I moved them to a small pen during the night, the next day they were fine and they’ve been together ever since. Although she was submissive to start with, Indy is now more dominant than Hobbes. He is so much more chilled out and happy since we got Indy. They are always up to mischief.
Maggie T: Betsy was the sweetest of my rabbits, but skittish. So I assumed bonding her would help her gain confidence. I attempted to bond her to one male, Bean (I would not subject her to the cruelness of Bella or Bambii), but that did not end so well. I attempted putting them together in a ‘neutral’ room, placing food in the room to distract them. Nothing worked, she just feared him (all 2 pounds of him). Then we received Beau, a lop. Reluctant to put Betsy through that turmoil again, I let it go, but one day a mix up occurred and both were let out for their free time at the same time. They avoided each other like the plague. Seeing this as an okay sign, I began to allow their free time to cross over for first 10, then 20, then 30 minutes. Again, I placed food down to distract and was always on the floor with them so one or the other could run to me if they felt threatened. It took about a month of this, and each time, Beau would try and procreate with Betsy (both being fixed). I would either distract him or she would run off. After that month, they would clean one another and wherever she went, he would follow. He ‘protected’ her from the cat (and us owners) and when he would get scared, he would run and hide his head under her tail. Bonded they became. ♥ Beau is now ill with E.Cuniculi, but on the mend. Betsy passed away a few days ago. They had not seen one another since Beau became ill in late April.
Diane R:  I had one male bunny, but someone dumped another male bunny at my vet’s office and he ended up coming home with me. I tried the traditional way: get into the pen with them and let them interact, but be there to get between them if they fight. I tried this several times, but all they wanted to do was kill each other. Finally, I could stand it no longer (after at least two months) and so I placed them together in the traveling case and drove around for about 45 minutes. By the end of this trip, the two were cowering together for protection from the unknown. That was it. They got along after this well enough that they could be left alone without incident.
Brandon: My girlfriend and I bonded our two buns, Bunnard and Lyra, using a few methods. During the day, Lyra was kept in her own section of the living room (We had Bunnard for almost a year before adopting Lyra. Bunnard was a free range rabbit at this point as he proved to be very well behaved and trustworthy). This allowed them to see one another but not risk them harming each other. Everyday, we would switch one potties and a towel from one bun to the other. We would also lock one bun in the bedroom to allow the other one time to explore the others space. (Bunnard got the short end of that deal since we had to give Lyra more time to stretch her legs and get exercise). The idea behind these tactics were the same: get them use to the other’s scent/presence. At night, we had bunny dates in the bathtub. For the first week, the dates were 15 minutes. Second week, 30 minutes. Then the 3rd week, 45 minutes. At first, the ignored each other. Then the humping for dominance and the demands for grooming started. They never really fought, thankfully, but they were both very stubborn about who was going to be top bun! Eventually, Lyra won that contest, which is funny because of the two, she is the most skittish and timid! Today, they are totally in love with one another! Lyra also turned out to be an even better behaved bun and is free range. She even goes into the kitchen. Bunnard won’t even consider it, lol.
Josie S: Our male was food aggressive prior to being bonded with our girl. Now he shares food, hay, veggies, and treats with her. No problems. He has also stopped nipping at our hands at feeding time. Definitely a plus! On the negative side our female became quite defensive of her territory when the bonding process first began. She would nip at Bonham (the male) and chase him away from her favorite spots. She grew out of it as the bonding went on and now she shares her favorite places with him and wouldn’t have it differently. I guess I should say that we had Otis (the female) first, so I can understand why she may have acted like she did. It took us about a week and a half with our two to even be able to let them in the same room without fighting. Now they share everything!
Judy K: Put a touch of vanilla on their noses to mask scents. Put them together in a cage for a car ride and rub their fur together. Make sure you start in neutral space that has no scent of either to put them in. Start out slowly then increase the time spent together. These are some of the things BunnyLuv Shelter in Van Nuys had me do when we tried bonding bunnies. I volunteered there when I was working at UCLA. Oh, two older males usually were the most difficult. Male and female and young worked best, but I have 4 boys that got along well and all were introduced later in life.
Amber R: We bonded a rescue male to our female rabbit and there were no negatives! In fact it was beyond positive. Our female knew how to use the litter box, but refused to do so. She preferred to pee on our couch or anything else plush and soft. Yikes! We tried EVERYTHING to break her habit; Blocking off the couch, putting her in the litterbox after x amount of time. Finally we just got used to covering our couch with plastic mattress covers and sheets, thinking she was never going to change and this was just something we would have to put up with. When we adopted our little guy, he had great litter habits and only used the litter box. We were so worried he’d pick up her bad habit, but luckily it was just the opposite! Surprisingly, within a month he had taught our little girl how to use the litterbox! We have been couch pee free since then! It is truly remarkable how they teach each other!! Oh and not mention they are so much happier now that they have company.
Diana M: Let them look at each other, but be separated for awhile. Then supervise them, so they can’t attack or misbehave. Feeding them together, but at a safe distance, is a good way to get them comfortable. Some suggest play dates to see if two bunnies are compatible personality wise. If there is no fighting, it is always a good sign.
Racheal K: Since my bunny now has a buddy, no more cord chewing and no more carpet digging, because he no longer gets bored!
We hope this blog post is helpful and if you have any questions or stories and/or pictures to add, please contact us at info(at)BunnyApproved.com

4 Rabbit Bonding Beliefs That 
Aren’t Always True
By Sandra Lee

1. “I should do everything I can to prevent them from fighting.”

I understand – when a bun gets hurt during bonding, it’s traumatic for everyone.  BUT, until your rabbits

The Stare Down
The Stare Down
establish a pecking order, you’re going to have trouble bonding them.  And that means letting them “duke it out” a bit.   There will obviously be a point you need to intervene so I have personally devised a  system that I use when bonding.   

When one of the buns is mounting the other, I will count to two and then gently push the other bunny off.   The key is give the situation enough time to see if the “bottom bunny” will submit to the dominant one.  One successful mounting can save you hours of bonding if the dominant bunny and the submissive bunny are able to use the time to work it out on their own.  If the dominant bun keeps mounting, I gently push him off each time to keep the submissive bun from becoming agitated.

Next, when a bunny lunges, I give them a few seconds to work it out on their also before intervening.   This can get confusing when an aggressive lunge turns into a chase.
 I don’t allow chasing.   I always stop chasing immediately as this is not a dominance battle and just builds up aggression.   Now how do you intervene in these situations?   I have heard (and seen) a great many people who sit in with the bunnies during the bonding session to prevent fighting quickly.  Although this is sometimes okay, a lot of times it will only create unnecessary aggression or jealousy between the two.  Remember, you are already bonded to your pair – it’s now time to bond your pair to each other.  So keep out of the way!  Allow them to meet each other without your presence being a factor.  The best way I’ve found to do this is to keep something that will stop a fight quickly around.
Loud noises they are not used to seem to work the best.  What works for me?  A vacuum.  Every time they begin fighting with fur pulling and chasing, I turn the vacuum on.  This has always worked to stop mine in their tracks immediately.  Your bunny isn’t scared of the vacuum?  Try shaking the exercise pen vigorously, use a metal spoon and a bang on a pan, or even use that detested squirt bottle to break them up!  It’s stressful – and stress will do one thing.  Bring them together.

2. “Always stick to short (10-30 minute) dates and bonding sessions.”

When bonding my 4, I had the most success doing what I called “power bonding sessions.”  Sometimes these would last all night and I’d get no sleep, but it worked for me.  Of course, if two bunnies are really

All-Nighter in the Oxbow Box
going at each other, don’t try this technique.  My reason for doing these “power bonding All-Nighter in the Oxbow Boxsessions”?   I would consistently have the same problem over and over each time the bunnies met.  For the first week this was okay, but then I began to hit the “brick wall”.  The brick wall?  That point in your bonding sessions where nothing new is happening.  You are getting nowhere and the relationship isn’t progressing.
My four could be together for an hour to two hours with no new happenings.  They just needed to get past the first 15 minutes of  arguments and scuffles.  Your bunnies can be together for a whole 45 minutes with no aggressive behavior?  That’s great, right?  In the beginning, yes.  As time rolls on, no.   They are not progressing their relationship.   They are hitting a brick wall.   As time consuming as it was – the longer sessions were worth it.

My first real development was spending the night next to them as they were all being bonded in a completely neutral territory – a giant Oxbow hay box.  I spent 24 hours with them in that box.   They did the first 15 minutes of scuffling and arguments per usual.  Then they went for hours doing significantly well.  Some shuffling around but no aggression or dominance battles.  Around 4am I was awakened by banging around in the box.  I look in and Simba (the 4th bunny being introduced) was mounting everyone.  I let this happen for a few minutes and then gently pushed him off every other time he tried.  They have been bonded since.  No separating.  They went directly from the box to another neutral territory in the kitchen set up in an x-pen.  A few lunges but nothing new or overly aggressive.  And then from the x-pen to their new territory together.  The changes in territory led to a few other small disagreements but I refused to separate and two days later they were living together in their new shared home peacefully.

3. “Stress bonding should always be a last resort.”

Stress bonding is the BEST bonding in my opinion.  No one likes to stress out their rabbit but sometimes

Laundry Basket Stress Bonding
it’s necessary and the BEST way to get your rabbit to trust his new companion.  Bonding is all Laundry Basket Stress Bondingabout teaching your rabbits to trust one another.  You are not there as a mediator to get them to like or accept one another – you are there to teach them that this other rabbit is someone they can rely on and trust for the rest of their lives.  This is what bonding is about.  Bonding in a stressful environment will teach them to use their natural instincts to come together and rely on the other(s) in the group.  Being in a stressful situation is hard but it’s always better with a buddy and your rabbits will begin to realize that maybe this new guy isn’t so bad in a tough situation.   Now does this mean you need to spend the whole bonding periods stress bonding?  No.  But it’s a perfect beginning and a perfect solution to any problem when bonding.

4. “A big bonding space is a good bonding space.”

To help increase interactions when things were really difficult, I put them in a tiny area  — and even stress

Litter Box Bonding
bonded them with the vacuum in this area.  How small is small?  Four 4 lb. buns in a extra large Litter Box Bondinglitter box and that’s all the room they had!  The problem that can arise with a bigger space is that both bunnies choose not to interact – once again making you hit the dreaded “brick wall”.   So what I did was force them together.  
In a small enough area, there is no possible way they can’t interact and acknowledge the other rabbit.  Did this create a few scuffles and fur pulls?  Yes.  But did I get the interaction I was looking for?  Yes.  And through this interaction they were able to move forward in the bonding process.
The constant interaction also led for a lot more dominance battles but these dominance battles encouraged them to move forward with the bonding process and the acceptance of the new bun.

Bottom line:  there’s lots of advice out there – some good, some bad, and some terrible.  Some of the most success I’ve had in bonding has been ignoring all of this advice and experimenting on my own, learning what works and what doesn’t – because after all, every bonding session is going to have its own unique personalities, dynamics, and results.  I encourage you to do the same.

So what do you think?  Have bonding beliefs that haven’t proven true for you?  Share them in the comments!