Thursday, October 23, 2008

Question from the Audience: Bunny Friends

A question from Greg S. in Boston, MA:

Q: I currently have a male lionhead rabbit, and he lives alone, is an indoor rabbit and gets a lot of time out of his cage. However, there are still a few hours he is home alone and I was considering getting a bonding candidate for him. I was wondering whether there is any sort of sign that finding a mate would be good? He has been introduced to another rabbit before and seemed very interested and gentle, the other rabbit on the other hand was not interested and too dominant. Do you think this submissiveness would be with all rabbits or was that an isolated example?

A: If you ever observed a bonded pair of rabbits, you immediately understand that rabbits are social creatures who love and enjoy each others' company. And if you didn't think there was anything cuter than your bunny flopping down next to you, you have to see two bunnies cuddling up with each other. The cuteness increases exponentially!

Exponential Cuteness

But before you do adopt, you should first have your rabbit fixed. Neutering eliminates numerous medical problems, halts unwanted behaviors, and also reduces aggression and tension between rabbit companions. Unneutered males can be quite aggressive, though females can be just as violent, and the only sure thing you can do to ease a transition to two bunnies is spay and neuter. Also be aware that it takes roughly six weeks for the hormones to filter out of the body, so you'll have to wait a month or two after the surgery before the introduction.
The best combination for a neutered male would be a spayed female, though it's not impossible for two neutered males to get along.

While dominance and submissiveness are relative qualities, they do tend to stay consistent in individuals and seem tied to personality. Since your rabbit reacted calmly and gently during a previous introduction, you can mostly expect he will behave similarly in the future. However, if the introduction with the "too-dominant" rabbit took place in a non-neutral territory, such as on the "too-dominant" bunny's home turf, the meeting was biased, and the circumstances would have affected their personalities. However, their reactions could still resonate in general terms.

The best way to determine how your bunny would react to others is to find out. Many shelters, such as the Boston MSPCA, allow potential adopters to bring in their current pets for a meet and greet. This is a good neutral ground for an introduction and a good way to see which rabbits your pet would get along well with.

While considering a second rabbit, don't forget that you will need a neutral space for them to have their first few interactions, a second cage, and a separate area for the second cage. It will reduce stress levels greatly if the rabbits can get used to each others' smells before the new one moves into your first bunny's territory.

All in all, since rabbits are social creatures, your bunny would most likely greatly enjoy having a pal to hang with. And with adopting another rabbit, you are saving an another life! What could be better than that?

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