Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Question from the Audience: Sibling Rivalry

Question from Sean T. in Belmont, CA:
Q: I bought two very young bunnies 10 months ago. They were two males (brothers). After they became mature, they started fighting violently, so I had them both neutered and they were great friends again.
Since then, every few weeks they attack each other and then I separate them. A few days later they are friends again. This up and down cycle has been going on for 8 months. This time is different and they have not been friends in over a month. Is there anything I can do so they get along again? I don't like to see them separated.

A: After a rabbit gets neutered, his smell gradually changes as the hormones slowly filter out of his body. Therefore, it's no surprise that relations between them changed—they were actually new to each other. It's possible that the two brothers were not properly reintroduced after the surgeries; that is, introduced as if they were complete strangers (in neutral territory, with constant supervision, etc.). You could still try reintroducing them this way. Another commonly suggested method involves taking them for a car ride together. The overt stress of the transport forces the bunnies to bond together for safety and protection. You could also put their cages next to each other in your house and let them get used to each others' new scents.

It's interesting to note that rabbits, like humans, sometimes hold grudges. The cause for this new extended period of hostility may exist because they have associated the violent memories of fighting with each other. If you want to try to bond them again, you'll have to be extra patient, and you should know that there's a possibility you will have to house them separately for the rest of their lives.

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