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Rabbit Bonding Problems – Brando and Casey

By:  Wendy Duffus

I have had the pleasure of living with rabbits since April, 1999. I came home with my first bun, Bunny, when all I had gone to the pet store for was bird seed, cat treats and fish food.

Over the years, I acquired a few more rabbits and at one point had 4, all bonded to each other. This made living with them all very easy as they were free-range, only being confined to one room at night – the room where their litter boxes, kibble and water dishes, hay rack and toys were all located. In 2010, I lost two of my buns, Blackie and Rex, to illness, 2 months apart. Anyone who has experienced loss of a dear pet knows the heart wrenching pain associated with their death. I thought I would never recover.

Seven months later I decided to adopt a bun from a shelter. Having successfully bonded my other rabbits, I figured “No problem!” This was a grave mistake on my part and for anybody who thinks they can force rabbits to live harmoniously, better give it another think! Anyhow, I digress.

We picked up Brando, a 3 month old male Dutch. He had had his neuter only 3 days before we brought him home. Big mistake. It takes a good 4 weeks for the hormone levels to drop to a non-irksome (to other buns) level and we only had 3 days. Our two remaining buns, Scooter, a sweet 6 year old doe and Casey, a 4 year old Silver Marten boy, were curious about the new arrival that was in the 4×4 pen. Unfortunately, the new boy still had hormones and there was much posturing and charging on both sides of the fence.

Unbeknownst to me, Scooter was very ill. She hid it well. I’m guessing Casey knew she was sick. And we had brought Brando home. Not knowing Scooter was sick, I started with my bonding process. In the past, it had taken only 2 weeks to bond the new one with everybody else. I figured it would take a bit longer since Brando had just been neutered. I was OK with that. Two weeks after Brando came home, Scooter began to show signs of illness. I had seen this same sickness before with one of my other rabbits and the prognosis is bad. To save her unnecessary discomfort, the tearful decision was made to let her go.

With Scooter gone, Casey was lost. He had always been “high maintenance” in that he was the youngest and doted on by Scooter. He did not take kindly to Brando. Brando, picking up on Casey’s attitude, returned the feeling. I knew then that it was definitely going to take more than 14 days to bond these two. For the rest of March and all of April I worked hard with them but each time they were given access to each other, the outing turned into a free-for-all fight. For those that believe elephants never forget, rabbits are ten times worse.

Now we were into May. Our family usually goes on a volunteer work camp the first week of May. I stayed back because I didn’t want to lose whatever ground I had gained in the bonding process. June, July, August. September, October, November. Still not getting along. Brando has finally acquiesced to Casey’s request to have his face washed (through the fence) and I was elated, and fooled. Ah, finally!, I thought. Wrong. I let them out and a fight ensued. December.

Now we are into January. Ten months and they are still not safe to let out together. They live side by side at night in their pens. During the day, one is let out into the main part of the house while the other is confined to my bedroom and the office. Half way through the day they are rotated. Fortunately I am retired and have the time to work with them still. When separated for the day, they quite often go to the separating fence and just hang within sight of each other even though they can take off to other parts of the house. So, I am still optimistic that one day I will take down the fence and there will be no fighting.

The points I am trying to make are these:

1. You don’t know as much as you thought you did.

2. Pets are for life and just because things don’t work out as planned you never give up on them.

3. Their unconditional love is worth all the work involved in providing good quality of life for them.

4. You don’t know as much as you thought you did.

5. There is always hope that they will get along, eventually. And finally

6. You don’t know as much as you thought you did! 🙂

 

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I am 59 years old and live in Ontario, Canada. I believe in mentoring/educating on the proper care of house rabbits when the opportunity presents itself, especially in the months leading up to Easter.

  1. kim kim

    Way to go Wendy! this is a great artical 🙂

    • wendy duffus wendy duffus

      Thank you, Kim, for your kind words!

  2. We have two girls that are apparently sisters but I don't believe it! We got them together, they got on great and then puberty hit! Oh it was messy! One of them had their eyelid reconstructed! and we couldn't get them done for a few months yet! So we got a second cage and rotated who was out. 
    Got them neutered and carried on like that for a few weeks before supervised play outside, we started to realise that they only fight in the morning cause Gráinne is not a morning bunny (she huffs at us all morning) so we have them sleep in seperate cages every night and they get on great now all day, they groom eachother and lie on top of eachother but sometimes they just wander away to opposite sides of the room to chill. It's working so far, touch wood! 

    • Thanks for sharing your experience of two female rabbits.  I have two young females who are soon to be spayed.  They came together but unfortunately one was poorly so had a couple of weeks away and in that time they forgot eachother and as they reached adulthood the problems really started with major fights if they got together whilst out in the garden.
      I currently have them housed separately outside in hutches with runs attached, they see each other every day, smell and sniff each other through the runs each day. 
      Once they have been spayed and their hormes die down I am going to have the in a childrens playhouse (with a large run attached once bonded) as a neutral space and hopefully as they aren't complete strangers I am hopeful that they will be ok, fingers crossed x

  3. Amy McCarthy Amy McCarthy

    Thank you for sharing your story Wendy.  I've had similar problems with the bunnies I've had to. 
    I originally had one boy and when I met my now hubby he wanted his own – ended up with a new girl and a new boy. Newbies got along great for about a month. Then new boy decided he wanted to be the dominant bunny. And chased poor Snuggles all over their house – she would end up shaking and frozen in fear so we tried her with the 4 yr old boy who'd never lived with another animal. Live at first sight. 
    Later we rescued another girl – same result with new boy. But with our older boy and Snuggles it was perfect again. 
    We ended up finding new boy Cuddles perfect match with a bunny we found as a 4 week old baby. 
    I think some buns just are picky while others are fairly happy as long as they have some company and love. 

  4. Michelle Michelle

    I've been having the same problem for two years now! I can't say I've been as consistent about the bonding effort as Wendy, though. I try really hard for weeks on end but then give them a break because it's not working. In fact, just two weeks ago I discovered my female bun had an infected wound on her upper lip from my aggressive male bun biting her through the cage wire when she must have been next to it! She is getting better really quickly thanks to our awesome vet, but it convinces me even more than they cannot be out together. 
    Amy is causing me to pause and think, however. Would adding a third bun to the mix that they both have a good first date with possibly be a cure? Not sure how i would convince my SO on adopting another one though…

  5. Kimberly Kimberly

    Wow! Are there any success stories about bunny bonding? I’ve almost finished my degree and was thinking about getting Foofers (short for Bunny Foo-foo), a friend so she wouldnt be lonely during the day. She’s a 2-year old spayed female who we’ve had for a year.’ She is a rescue rabbit from some jerk who moved and left his rabbits in an outdoor hutch!

    She will struggle if you pick her up, but has never bitten anyone. She asks for attention and likes to be pet. If we decide to try bringing her a friend, any ideas on what sex, age?

    • amba bam amba bam

      Hi I found when trying to bond rabbits it is best to go to a shelter like the RSPCA as they will find the perfect match for your bunny and help with bonding them to 
      hope this helps 

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