Bunnies love to interact with their humans. They love playing and snuggling their fellow bunnies even more. Being highly social animals, bunnies should be kept in pairs. However, having one bunny is possible if you work from home or spend the majority of your day at home to be a partner for your bunny.
Bunny bonding is like dating. They need to learn to trust each other so they can live, eat, and sleep together without territorial fighting. A bonded bunny pair will play together and will support each other for life.
While bonding has been compared to dating, they may not get along straight away. Just like humans, it takes time for them to fall in love with their companion. Introducing bunnies should be done carefully as bunnies are territorial, which can lead to aggressive behaviour and fighting on the first date.
What To Know Before Bonding Your Bunnies
The first thing you should consider is if you can support more than one bunny financially. Food and shelter basics are generally small costs for a bunny. However, veterinarian visits can give you a big hit to the wallet especially if there are unforeseen complications with a bunny’s health.
Your bunny and bunny friend must be fixed. It is much easier for them to bond if they have been spayed and neutered as it reduces the territorial behaviour and aggression that is often present before fixing with all the hormones.
It also prevents any unwanted baby bunnies if you are pairing a male and female. If your bunny isn’t old enough to get neutered or spayed, do not get another intact bunny to bond for this reason.
Wait at least a month before trying to bond with another bunny if your bunny has been recently fixed. For females, they need longer to recover from the surgery than males.
This gives her time to feel comfortable and not fight off a male companion due to feeling uncomfortable from surgery. It also allows any hormones to dissipate. For males, they stay fertile for several weeks after their surgery so can still get a female pregnant.
Make sure your home is prepared for an extra bunny. One bunny is “easy” to handle. Two bunnies are going to require larger enclosures, litter boxes, and extra bowls.
Sadly, you won’t be able to place a new bunny in the same enclosure as your current bunny in the beginning so you will need something to create two separate enclosures that are next to each other.
If your existing bunny is a free-range bunny, then you will need something to corner off an area of the room for the new bunny friend.
Finally, consider your bunny’s personality before choosing a bunny friend. Is your bunny friendly, loves company, calm, and approachable? Or are they aggressive? Or perhaps shy, gets scared easily, and doesn’t like contact?
Finding a calm, friendly bunny will make it a very easy process to bond with your friendly bunny. However, it may take much longer to bond if your bunny is on the aggressive or timid side.
Considerations For Finding A Bunny Friend
When finding a friend for your bunny, you need to consider what sex the bunny will be. Here are some general guidelines:
- Male and female – this is the recommended pairing as they are the easiest to pair out of sex pairing combinations. They have been shown to be the most stable and can often fall in love at first sight.
- Female and female – often leads to fighting but can sometimes be easy.
- Male and male – usually fighting. It can be easy or difficult depending on the bunnies.
- Two babies – very easy.
- Multiple bunnies – depends on many different factors from sex, personalities and if two bunnies are already bonded.
- Bringing home a bunny to an existing bunny – bringing a female home to a male is much smoother than vice versa.
- Bringing two bunnies’ home at the same time – generally easy regardless of sex.
If you want to find the perfect match for your bunny, there is actually a service called bunny dating. A bunny expert examines the personality of your bunny and picks potential partners that they think will be their best match. It’s like speed dating for humans.
This is often done at a rescue shelter so getting your bunny friend there also gives you direct contact with them if you are having any relationship problems with your bunnies.
Search Google to see if anyone offers this service in your area. Then you will know exactly if your bunnies are compatible before taking your bunny friend home.
When Should You Bond Your Bunnies?
The colder months of winter is the optimal time to bond your bunny as hormones play less of a factor. Most of a bunny’s hormones are produced during the spring and summertime.
However, this should stop you from getting your bunny a friend especially if you can’t spend adequate time with your bunny. In the warmer months, it may just take a little longer for them to bond.
How To Prepare For A Bonding Session?
Start by preparing an area where they can be housed side by side. You want them in the same room so they can communicate with each other. There should be about a 1-inch gap between their enclosures so they can’t nip each other.
The bunnies may seem irritated at the beginning which could last a few days but this is normal behaviour. They are getting used to their new environment and companion.
If your existing bunny is a free-range bunny, then corner off a section for the new bunny friend rather than putting them both in separate enclosures.
Place their food on the side of the enclosure closest to the other bunny. Feeding is part of their social time which will force them to be doing something together.
Regularly switch their toys and litter boxes to get them used to sharing each other’s items. You can even rub a cloth or soft toys over one bunny and then the other to get the bunnies used to each other’s scent.
If you leave the soft toy in their area with the other bunny’s scent and they don’t nip, pee, or show aggressive behaviour towards the soft toy, you have a much better chance of having a less aggressive encounter during the first bonding session.
Another way to see if each bunny is starting to react positively to each other is to pick up one bunny and hold them against your shirt. Place that shirt over the other bunny’s enclosure.
If that is fine, move the shirt onto the floor inside their enclosure and place the bunny on top. If your bunny shows a positive reaction by grooming and licking the shirt, you will likely have a positive interaction between your bunnies during their first date!
If your bunny starts showing aggressive behaviour towards the shirt, they may need some more time to become acquainted.
For your first, true face to face bunny date, the most important part is to remove the possibility of territorial behaviour by setting up a bonding space in a neutral area.
A neutral area is an area that neither bunny has been before.
If you have a free-roaming bunny, it can be hard to find a place in the house that your bunny hasn’t been! In this case, using the bathtub or shower (no water!) can make a safe, neutral space.
Make sure you place a mat on the bottom of the bath or shower if you do use that area. The slippery surface will cause your bunny to freak out a little.
The size of the neutral space can be small or large. The most important thing is to minimise the fighting and injuries.
Fill the neutral space with plenty of cardboard boxes, toys, and other things to distract the bunnies and give them space to run away from each other. You can even put out a plate of veggies for them to share food together.
What Could Happen During The First Bonding Session?
Bunny bonding sessions must always start and end on a positive note. Never end a bonding session after a fight or aggressive behaviour. Bunnies should never be left on their own to bond as serious injury could occur.
Related: Understanding Your Bunny’s Behaviour
All bunny dates must be supervised and you must be ready to react to any unwanted behaviours. It’s important to know what to do during different scenarios that your bunnies could throw at you.
Here are some possible scenarios that could occur on their first date:
- Love at first sight – this is every bunny parents dream first date. If this happens, you’ll see them grooming each other. Try to move them out of the neutral space and into where they will be living. If they are still happy, then your job is done.
- Tentative friendship – they aren’t quite sure about each other yet. Watch them when they are together and keep them separated when you’re not around. They will eventually become friends if there is no fighting between them.
- “Romantic” behaviour – if the male bunny mounts the female and she doesn’t mind, then this is a good sign for the relationship going forward. If she runs, this usually isn’t a problem either. It only becomes problematic if she becomes aggressive towards him as the bonding period will likely take much longer.
- Chasing – need to make sure that the bunny being chased doesn’t fight back and doesn’t get hurt. If neither of these things happens, then you just need to watch. If either gets hurt or fights back, separate them.
Here are some behaviours that can occur during their first date and how you should handle them:
- Biting – it’s okay if they nip at the fur. It’s not okay if they bite hard enough to break the skin. This should be stopped immediately when it happens by either startling the bunny with a loud noise like a clap or stomp, or with a broom or plate to separate them. You can use your hands but you MUST have gloves otherwise the bunny could rip your skin.
- You can also have a water bottle nearby to spray the naughty bunny with water immediately before separating about 2 feet apart.
- Chasing – a little bit of chasing is fine. If it goes longer than a few seconds, stop it by using your broom or plate to separate them. Be on the lookout for circling behaviour as that will likely lead to a fight.
- Consider making the neutral bonding area smaller so they don’t have the room to chase each other.
- Grunting, thumping, unhappy posturing – you can leave them alone with these behaviours unless they look like they are going to hurt each other. Let them work it out on their own.
- Humping – if the male mounts the female over her head, push the bunny off and remount at the back. The male can be severely injured with the female decides to bite back. Let the male hump for 5-10 seconds before pushing him off.
- If the female looks like she wants to fight back, stop the humping immediately.
If your bunnies are showing negative behaviour at the end of their session, smush them together and pet both of them for several minutes. Then put them back in their respective enclosures as to end the session on a positive note.
During the bonding process, use your voice to reinforce good behaviour. It can help calm them and the tone of your voice will let them know if they are doing something wrong or right.
Bunnies must learn to trust each other. The reason we don’t want them to fight other than serious injury is that fighting works against building trust. The more they fight, the longer it will take them to build trust with each other.
A good starting point for the duration of their first date is around 15-30 minutes. If it is going really well, then you can go for 30 minutes. If you are quite busy during the week, then have bunny dates just once a day.
If you have free days or weekends, then you should try 2-3 dates a day about 6-8 hours apart. Gradually increase the time they spend together as they get comfortable with each other.
If you are struggling for days with your bunnies bonding, try changing the environment. This could be taking them to a friend’s place or having your next bunny date on a different floor or room in your house they have never been to.
What Are Some Signs of Progress?
Bunnies will start at different stages in their bonding process. If you are lucky, they will love each other instantly. However, this is not always the case. If your bunnies started off fighting, and now not showing much interest, that is considered progress. If they weren’t showing much interest and are now becoming interested in each other, that is also progress.
If your bunny is starting to act normally, hopping around, grooming themselves, then they don’t see the other bunny as a threat anymore.
As they become more curious about each other, one bunny may approach the other and bow their head asking for head licks. This is an excellent sign of progress as your bunnies are becoming comfortable enough around each other to give each other kisses and grooming.
The first grooming session may seem a little rough with gentle hair nips but as they warm up more and become more relaxed, this will turn into gentler grooming sessions.
Once you notice these signs of affection, gradually increase their time together from 1-3 hours. When they can spend hours together, you can move them to a larger room where they can play together. Now is a great time to start feeding them together and having them share a litter box.
As you feel more comfortable with your bunnies being together, you can leave them on their own for longer spurts of time. Eventually, you won’t need to be with them at all when they are together.
This isn’t a linear process and often you’ll experience steps backward throughout the process. This is normal and as long as the overall progress is trending forward, continue on with the bunny dating.
This process may take a couple of days to a week depending on how often you can get them together for dates and their personalities.
Bonding is about trust. Stress bonding can accelerate that trust-building process. Shared stress forms strong bonds. Putting them in a stressful situation together should make them cuddle together to comfort each other.
Consequently, they will learn they can trust each other and become friends. This isn’t a 100% foolproof method and should only be used after traditional bonding sessions if things aren’t going so well.
Some bunnies will react well and become friends quickly while others may become more aggressive to each other. It’s even more important to be close by and ready to react in these situations.
Here are some common stress bonding techniques:
- Placing the bunnies together in a large box or basket
- Take them for a rough car ride together – as we all know from when we take our bunnies to the vet.
- Have a vacuum run around them.
- Place them on top of a running washing machine,
- Use the bathtub as a neutral space without the mat.
- The slippery surface is enough to cause stress and makes it very difficult for them to fight with each other.
- Put smushed banana or honey on each bunnies nose.
- The other bunny may help lick it off which is indirect grooming.
- It will also throw off their sense of smell so the scent of the other bunny won’t throw them off.
- You can also use vanilla extract to through off the smell without the mess.
- They will be less likely to fight because they will be too busy grooming themselves to get the substance off.
- Fill their litter tray with an inch of warm water.
- Remove the contents and fill with an inch of warm water.
- Place the bunnies in there and let them struggle for a bit (approx. 15 minutes). It won’t hurt them but they will hate it.
- Set each one of them on a towel next to each other in the tub. They should calm down here.
- After 15 minutes on the towel, drain the water.
- They’ll start cleaning themselves eventually. Leave them to do so for 15-30 minutes.
- Remove from the tub and try your bunnies. Keep them together for a while.
What To Do Once Your Bunnies Are Paired?
It’s important once your bunnies are a bonded pair, never separate them. That means if one bunny needs to go to the vet, then take them both. They will comfort and support each other through stressful experiences.
How To Bond Multiple Bunnies?
The same rules apply to bond more than two bunnies as it does to bonding a pair. However, the time frame it will take to bond them is longer for each extra bunny you add. This is because it there are more hierarchy options with additional bunnies they have to work out.
If you’re bonding a trio, you may be starting with three singles or adding one bunny to the existing pair. Adding another bunny to an existing pair is the most common practise.
However, caution should be taken when doing this and this should only be done for a very good reason. Potentially, bonding can get out of control and you can be left with three single bunnies with their existing pairs bond broken.
It could also lead to the existing paired bunny bonding with the new bunny and shunning the previously paired bunny which is not fair on them. It’s also not fair to split up this new pairing.
Starting with three singles is likely easier but potentially more stressful. You don’t have to worry about breaking existing bonds, but rather you need to worry about two bunnies finding a pair within the trio and leaving the other bunny out. You may have success right off the bat and all three bunnies loving each other.
If you are bonding more than three bunnies, you will have different group dynamics. Some bunnies will be friends, others will be indifferent to some and some will hate each other. This is all fine. As long as the group is large enough and is in a large enough space, then they will sort themselves out.
If you aren’t able to spend significant time with your one bunny, introducing a bunny friend is the fair thing to do so they don’t become lonely and depressed.
Bunnies are social animals and love the interaction. Bonding may not be a smooth process, but using rescue shelter services such as “speed dating” will make the bonding process much easier for you.