I will start this post with the same caveat that all rabbits (and humans) are different, and so this isn’t a guarantee of any type. This is a personal experience, so take from it what you will.
My husband and I fell in love with our first female rabbit, Coffey, on a snowy afternoon at a local pet store. After having her for a month, we were fairly comfortable as bunny parents and Coffey seemed to enjoy ruling the house. Coffey was 6 months old when we got her and had an endearing need to lick people’s hands and feet when she was happy with you. As new bunny parents, we couldn’t get enough of everything bunny…nor apparently, could we get enough bunnies! Just over a month after we got Coffey, we fell in love with Mocha, a Mini Rex who looked similar to our girl and had an earnest face. We couldn’t risk someone else taking her home so we bought her and set about figuring out how to introduce the two.
First, we found online that we’d made the fatal mistake…we had purchased two female bunnies, and we were introducing one into an established home for another. Suffice it to say, Coffey was not impressed. We separated her room into two, and set about introducing them in ‘neutral territory’. This consisted of Coffey chasing Mocha around our small bathroom, both slipping into the wall as they sought purchase on the linoleum. Coffey was a decidedly dominant bunny, and fortunately, Mocha had no problem being submissive. The small bathroom really didn’t seem to work very well, especially when they found they could elude us behind the toilet, so we decided to move the introductions to our unfinished basement.
Basement adventures consisted of Coffey chasing Mocha then taking breaks to try to eat the flooring we had put down so they wouldn’t get too cold. We tried this for weeks but it didn’t seem to progress very quickly. In the meantime, both Coffey and Mocha were spayed (don’t let the Vet tell you not to feed the rabbit the night before, it just slows down the healing process) and we thought perhaps that would make a difference. They were kept separate until they were fully healed, and we found the spaying didn’t do much to tame Coffey’s need to show Mocha who was boss. We researched everything we could online, trying everything like car rides, which did seem to bring them closer briefly, and also ended up with both bunnies being covered in each other’s pee.
We had both bunnies living side by side with a metal gate between the two of them preventing any aggression. Both bunnies seemed to not mind each other when they were in their own cages, though Coffey did like to nip Mocha’s bum when it got too close to the fence, but it was a different story whenever the two of them were in the room together. Each night we would take each bunny out for some time with the humans on their own, with the occasional escape from one into the room while the other was there and resulting chase and humans shouting “Coffey, NO!!”.
After a while we decided that perhaps our two bunnies would always have to be separate and that it would be a fact of life that we couldn’t allow them out around each other. Things grew into a rhythm and we were happy. That was, until we met Tesla.
My husband fell in love with Tesla, and I couldn’t say no, as I had chosen both other bunnies and he had gone along with it, despite the fact that he’s definitely the primary bunny parent in the house. When he fell in love with Tesla, I figured that one more bunny really wouldn’t make much difference at this point. I was completely wrong. To this day, we are not sure if Tesla was a boy or girl but we had figured she was a girl. We decided to introduce the three at the pet store and all seemed to go fine.
Once we got them home, it was a complete disaster. Tesla was also a dominant bunny who didn’t particularly care for Coffey’s need to rule the roost. They fought every time they met and Mocha tried desperately hard to disappear into the wall. White and brown fur was everywhere. We thought that perhaps over time they would get used to each other but on one fateful night, Mocha escaped into the room while Tesla was free (at 1am) and proceeded to fight with Tesla and chomp out a piece of her ear. We hadn’t expected this out of the submissive bunny and were heart broken.
We tried one more time to let the three be together, which resulted in my husband needing some bandages, and decided that Tesla wouldn’t work out. We took her back to the store and told them honestly that we thought if we kept Tesla, she would be killed.
This doesn’t have the sad ending you might expect. Tesla was adopted by another family where she is the only rabbit, and Coffey and Mocha actually bonded with each other through the experience. Known affectionately as the Bunny Twins everywhere we go (even though they are different breeds and we can easily tell the difference), our girls sleep side by side, groom each other, try to eat each other’s food and snacks but love each other like real sisters. Females can be bonded, it just takes time and the right bunnies, so don’t lose hope.
On the flip side, if you know it’s not going to work, don’t torture your rabbits. You’ll know the difference between bunnies that aren’t real fond of each other, and bunnies that really want to kill each other. Some rabbits will never bond, but it’s worth at least trying. Having a bonded pair is wonderful.
About Elise Sommer: I am Elise, proud bunny Mom to Coffey (2 year old female Netherland Dwarf) and Mocha (1.5 year old female Mini Rex)
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