Find me a mate!! Your guide to rabbit bonding

Find me a mate!! Your guide to rabbit bonding

Find me a mate!  

Last time, we discussed a paper by Dr Charlotte Burn from the Royal Veterinary College. Check out part one of our Easter rabbit series HERE. Now that we can see the evidence, let's put this research into practice.

One of the biggest things to consider when keeping rabbits in pairs is their compatibility. Aggression was not observed between paired rabbits during Dr Burn's study, but there are steps you should still take to minimise the risk. The addition of enrichment items assist in keeping your pets entertained and can be especially beneficial to maintain good dental hygiene with items such as wood blocks and chew toys. I spoke to rescue manager, Lea Facey, to learn about rabbit bonding and she offered the following tips:

A guide to bunny buddies:  

1. A compatible character is more important than breed, age or size.   

As an owner, you may need to accept that there is a chance that the two rabbits you would like to be companions for each other will not bond.  

2. A neutered buck and doe pair often work best, but that’s not to say same-sex pairs won’t work.   

Trio and group bonds are more complex and there’s a greater risk of the rabbits falling out at a later stage, so consider carefully if you have the resources to cope with this before you attempt a group bond.   

3. Most reputable rescues offer a bonding service.  

Bonding can be a stressful process for owners as well as rabbits. Owners can meet all suitable rabbit’s available for adoption and select their preferred choices. The rescue will then do the bond for them, ensuring the rabbit is happy with their choice of partner.  

Top tips for successful bonds:  

  1. Leave at least 4-6 weeks post neutering before attempting to bond.  
  2. Ensure that you are aware of what different behaviours you may see from your rabbits during bonding and at what point you should intervene should things get out of hand.   
  3. Ensure you have the time and a neutral area to start with and gradually increase space and enrichment items once positive behaviours are established.  

For more information and advice, check out the RWAF guide to rabbit bonding or speak to an expert.   


Take home message  

Burn’s research has provided sound evidence to highly recommend social housing for rabbits. Human companionship cannot provide the same positive welfare as rabbit pairs with regards to thermoregulation and constant security. So here is Burn’s take-home message:  

“Rabbits really do need a rabbit friend, if at all possible. Sometimes we think rabbits are ok on their own, but when we look a little deeper, we can find that being alone affects them more than we realised. It might not be obvious that a rabbit is cold without anyone to huddle with, or that it would stop biting the bars of their cage if only it had a companion to play with, but the research suggests that this can be true for many bunnies.”  

Finally, if you are looking to bring home a couple of new friends, or find a buddy for an existing pet, please consider offering one of the many thousands of rabbits in rescue a home. We all need a mate sometimes!