Bonding Your Bunnies
Bonding Rabbits Takes Time But It's Worth It!!
Warning: rabbits can be aggressive - please do not just put two rabbits together to see if they will get along - they could fight and potentially seriously injure or kill each other!!
Rabbits are very social animals and appreciate living with other rabbits, especially if they spend much of the day without human companionship. Usually a male-female bond is the easiest to achieve (assuming they're both altered), although male-male and female-female bonds are also possible. Bonding takes time, so you must be patient, and initially, you must closely supervise both bunnies when they are together in order to break up any fights and prevent serious injury or even death.
Before attempting to bond two bunnies, it is strongly recommended that you try some bunny dates to see if the two seem interested in each other, or in having a mate at all (some rabbits prefer to be only bunnies, so that they can get all the attention their humans have to offer). We recommend that you contact your local rescue or shelter and arrange for some dates for your bunny so it can meet some potential friends, before making a commitment to bringing home another bun.
In the beginning, you should let your bunnies get used to each other by keeping them separate but where they can still be near each other, such as in cages that side by side (an inch or so of space between them goes a long way towards preventing injury from scuffles when you're not around). Eventually you will notice that the bunnies choose to lay near each other, and perhaps even try to groom each other through the cages. Please note that if they can groom through the cage (or x-pen), they can also bite, so be watchful for such behavior.
Once it appears that the bunnies are tolerating each others' presence, it's time to bring them together in neutral territory (where neither one has staked a claim). Some people will introduce two bunnies in a bathtub, or a hallway which is blocked off, or a room in the house where neither bunny has spent any time. This has the effect of both confining them to a certain area (where you can supervise their interaction), and putting them both on even terms because neither one is intruding on the other's territory.
Please note that although rabbits and cats may get along, they must be carefully supervised to ensure that the cat will not bite or scratch the rabbit. Cat saliva has a lot of dangerous bacteria that can lead to infection or abscesses, and can even be dangerous to humans.
This is Tamari and her first mate Hobi (who was also her son). She will be helping to demonstrate happily bonded bunnies. She will be assisted by Cocoa and Brownie, the deflated basketball twins, who showed a level of connection I've never seen before, even in littermates. The twins shared a palpable and continual connection at all times, wherever they were (there were times when I'd look up and say "would you two be quiet for just one second please?" but since they were being silent, all that would do is get some very confused and disapproving looks from them.
This is Trapper the day Tamari arrived. He's very happy (as you can see). She is too. She hasn't had a chance to come out of her pet carrier yet, but they've already touched noses and it is love at first sight. Too bad for Trapper that this means he goes to the doctor in a couple of days and comes home just as much a buck, but weighing slightly less.
Tamari is inside the cage right now (the only time the door is ever closed is during bonding), for everyone's protection. If you see your bunny camped outside a cage like this in the days of bonding them, it means that he wants to spend time with the bunny inside. The same applies if you use x-pens, which is shown in an image below when Noffy bonded with the twins.
This is Trapper whispering sweet little nothings into Tamari's ear after a short period of bonding. Tamari's opinion of people will take a long time to change, but she is happy to have a bunny friend who understands her and gives her social comfort. She would usually position herself so that Trapper was between us, in case I got the sudden urge for snuggling - this was her exit strategy, by letting Trapper be snuggly while she ran and hid.
Tamari lost Trapper while they were both at the vet, and shortly after his passing, I brought Flopsy home. He desperately needed a mate, and Tamari was good at bonding with her mates, after showing them that she would be the boss. This didn't work well with Trapper, but after that, she took the Alpha role and Chez Dave was never the same.
This is Tamari with her new mate Flopsy. She spent a few weeks showing him who the boss was, by laying in wait for him to hop by and then chasing him down. I supervised their contact to make sure no one got hurt, and Tamari showed him some affection after about two weeks - she groomed him, and you could feel his happiness from across the room.
After Flopsy left, I adopted a young Rex to be Tamari's next mate. This time, he would be there when her time came, and she wouldn't have another broken heart. Noffy got into a few fights with her when he first arrived (even with sitting right there and ready to put my arms between them), and he asserted his intention of living in my home.
Tamari and Noffy took a little effort to bond, so when I wasn't around to supervise, I'd keep one of them caged while the other got to hop around right outside, and it's always a good sign when a bunny chooses to be as close to another bunny as possible. When Tamari started hanging out just outside the cage with Noffy in it, or when Noffy did the same when Tamari was caged, then I knew they wanted to play together. This didn't mean they wouldn't get into fights, but it meant they were accepting each other in their territory. I woke up one night to Noffy crashing right into my face as I slept. Tamari had chased him into the bedroom and he jumped up on the bed and into my face, then he scurried over my head (digging in with his claws for traction). Aw, how cute. I looked down and saw Tamari on the floor, ready to pounce, and told her to leave Noffy alone, and then fell back to sleep. An hour later I woke up and saw Noffy hidden behind the pillows on the passenger side of my bed, with his head just barely peeking out over the top, ever watchful for the Rabbitch to return.
The twins, Cocoa and Brownie, came pre-assembled, as far as bonding is concerned. How could they not be bonded? Litter mates may unbond when they mature (though it's not common), but twins? These two were in perfect tune with each other.
This is Cocoa and Brownie, snuggling in orbit around each other. They look pudgy but they're a healthy weight. I learned a lot about the bond that rabbits can have by observing the twins together, who always seemed to be in touch with each other even when they were separate.
This shows Tamari, Noffy, and Brownie. I was never able to capture the entire foursome and while they lived together, everyone lived by the rule "good fences make good neighbors". Cocoa ran off before I could get the camera ready, and ran into a hidey box to destroy it from the inside out (he favorite pastime)
When Tamari left, I let Noffy and the twins bond at their own pace. This shows Noffy hanging out in his haybox and Brownie sitting on the other side (I'm not sure where Cocoa is, but my bunnies always liked their hiding boxes, so I'm sure she's just off-camera).
Noffy originally wanted nothing to do with the twins, despite living in an x-pen adjacent to theirs for a while. His heart was broken and he wanted me as his surrogate mate for a while. Eventually, though, he started visiting the twins and the fur lining the x-pen fence was a sure sign of grooming each other. I set up litterboxes and food/water bowls on either side of the fence to let them spend as much time together as they wanted, and eventually they became a trio.
Once I was sure the twins accepted Noffy into their fold, I allowed everyone to share the same living space and food. Although the twins shared a bond that couldn't be broken or impacted, they were still happy to have a male in their group. After all, every now and then a human would want to snuggle with a bunny, and sometimes the male would "take one for the team" and submit to snuggling. Other times, one of the twins would have to endure the "indiggity" of being held and cuddled (and checked over for any health issues, hidden pockets, contraband, things like that).
Long Island Rabbit Rescue Group's page on bonding rabbits
The Sacramento House Rabbit Society's recommendations on how to bond rabbits
The House Rabbit Society's page on repairing a broken bond between bunnies
Summary page of bonding tips
Another summary page of bonding tips
Miriam's Bunnies page on bonding bunnies
The House Rabbit Network's page on bonding
Fuzzy-Rabbit's guide to bonding
The House Rabbit Society's FAQ on adding another bunny
The House Rabbit Society's guide to bonding
eHow's guide to finding a mate for your rabbit
RabbitRehome's guide to finding a mate for your rabbit
Zooh Corner's guide to bonding
Morfz's index on bonding
Minnesota Companion Rabbit Society's guide to bonding
The House Rabbit Society's page on bonding rabbits and dogs
The House Rabbit Society's page on bonding rabbits and cats
The Singapore House Rabbit Society's page on bonding
Rabbit Haven's guide to bonding