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Hi everyone, I’d really appreciate some advice / encouragement…Sorry its long, but I wanted to give as much detail as possible.
I’ve just started bonding 2 rabbits. The female (a) is new, I’ve had her a couple of months. She is lovely, very friendly and docile, and settled into neutral territory really quickly. The male (b), I’ve had a few years. I rescued him from a hutch in someone’s back yard I had him neutered about 18 months ago when I first though of getting him a companion. I reckon he’s about 5, and has been a solitary rabbit all his life. He’s very loving to me and people he knows, and is very bold. He is aggressive to people he doesn’t know if they go in for a stroke.
Anyway, I’ve been prebonding for a good month. Swapping litter, toys etc at first, then the past 2 weeks swapping territories. When they swap, both rabbits are relaxed. I have a divider between the 2 rooms they live in, and I’ll often feed them together. There is no aggression at all, they often bump noses or lie near each other through the partition.
Due to the nature of my flat, I’m bonding in the living room, in a small xpen, and I am in there with them (armed with thick gloves and a dustpan!).
Sessions 1 – 4.
The first session, b endlessly humped a. She took if for a while, then understandably got annoyed with it, and I had to break up the scuffle. The first few sessions lasted 10 minutes, in small neutral areas, with quite a bit of fur flying, but me breaking it up very quickly. There was also a few minutes of ignoring and self-grooming, which is why I carried on with the sessions. I thought the fighting would be really bad for their relationship, but in their adjoined rooms, they were still touching noses etc through the partitions though, b frequently hung out near the bars, and a even flopped right next to them. But face to face I had to really watch them when they were near each other, and there was a good scuffle every session. It was really disheartening. After each scuffle I’d force cuddle. Still friendly through the partition though.
I decided to take a different approach. I did a longer session (1 hour) in a larger area, with loads of forced cuddles, and holding one while the other is free to investigate the other. This was really successful, and I eventually let them both free. There was lots of ignoring / self grooming, eating hay, and whenever they approached each other I soothed them both. I pre-empted any scuffles and both rabbits were really chilled out It was really positive, a real break through.
I decided to stay with the longer sessions and the soothing. This session was an hour, with only a brief scuffle. It was really successful, and I even left the pen to go to the bathroom. B is however really dominant. He chins everything, including her, and has sprayed a few times. a generally keeps out of bs way, but there was a fair amount of very tentative interaction. A grooms b when I do forced cuddles. When they interact more than a nose touch, b chins her and looks like he is nibbling her, or maybe even grooming. A lies very flat on the ground. I soothe them both during any close up interaction.
Sessions 7 and 8 were 2 hours. Really successful. I left the pen a few times, it was quite frankly boring. They were ignoring each other, grooming them selves, snoozing, eating hay, tentative noses to each other. A very brief scuffle when a was snoozing and b tried to follow me out of the pen and ran over the top of her. Another scuffle when b got too chinny on a, but a ran off and I soothed both until they were calm and they ignored each other again. All really positive. I’d frequently find them flopped near each other when in their territories.
Which brings me to today.
We did another 2 hour session, as the longer sessions seemed to give them the change to have a good ignore and relax. I was all set with netflix, and basically it was really dull. Until the end of the session, when b got super dominant. He chinned a repeatedly, then humped her and she ran off, he followed and I had to break them up. Forced cuddle, and a groomed him. Fine. But each time I let go of them, b followed her, and just wanted to chin her / hump her repeatedly, until she got really annoyed and they scuffled, loads of fur flying. I repeated the forced cuddles until both were calm, but he kept following her. So I soothed him, let her free and finished the session when he ignored her for a couple of minutes. Again, relaxed and friendly through the bars with each other, and laying near the bars near each other.
Today’s session was really disheartening after all the positive ignoring! It really felt like a step backwards. Is it normal for one bunny to be so dominant? Is A not yet accepting his dominance, is that what he is waiting for? She does groom him and let him chin her. Or is b being too dominant? Will he tone down with the aggressive chinning / humping?
Tomorrow I’ll do another supervised soothing session, but it really worries me how b constantly wants to dominate her, and the fights that break out when he does. Do you think this bonding will ever work???
This doesn’t sound overly negative to me!
First thing, is the female spayed? I didn’t see it mentioned, but the following advice assumes that she is. If she isn’t, stop bonding until she is.
I know when you’re bonding it feels like it’s taking over your whole life, but you are still quite early on in the process. From this forum, I’d say it takes on average a month to bond bunnies, sometimes far longer. So, don’t feel disheartened yet.
It sounds like they’re largely doing pretty well. I would work on stopping his negative behaviour before it escalates to build trust between them. You can either carry on with the soothing, or introduce some snacks for them to share as a distraction.
He will calm down in time, it’s all still pretty new and he’s just trying to make sure she knows he’s boss! You can always try different spaces if you feel like you’ve come to a standstill
Yes, she is spayed.
You are so right, it really does feel like it takes over your whole life with the extra room and equipment and time needed. I definitely underestimated quite how messy my home would become, and it was already pretty messy!
Thanks for your advice, so reassuring to know it isn’t overly negative! I’ll keep supervising them, and keep the sessions to an hour, not longer, to keep it manageable for me. They happily share snacks on their dates, so I’ll work on the soothing b. Really glad to hear that he will calm down in time and his behaviour is within the realms of normal and bondable. I’ll also try to remember where I started from, and the enormous progress they have made.
Thought I’d update with today’s session, which felt pretty positive.
After initial tentative hellos, b appears nervous of a, and foot thumps a few times. She is very chilled for the entire session and spends most of her time eating hay. B is less chilled, and keeps an eye on her for a lot of the session. There is lots of ignoring, but hopping past each other quite a lot.
The main interactions were:
At one point, She approached him and nipped him on the bum, he didn’t like this so I soothed him and it was all ok.
B presented himself for a groom and she ignored him.
Later on, B starts chinning her, A is chilled, but I soothe him and he stops.
They ate their greens side by side.
At one point they even sat with heads together, B starts to chin her, I soothe him and he settles.
Later, B nipped his bum and she was not happy with that, I had to separate them, but no scuffles.
Then forced cuddles at the end and a grooms b. She hopped off, came back and groomed him again!
So it seems that (for now) b is the dominant one, but a doesn’t want him to be so full on? I thought she might be playing the long game and be in for dominance too, but I’m not sure after her grooming him again. I’m going to continue soothing b. A seems totally chilled with it all!
Hi there! So far things sound good to me! It sounds like you have a pretty good match.
When I was bonding mine, my buck didn’t hump like yours but he definitely chased a lot. I was lucky that my doe ran away from him because it helped immensely that she never retaliated. Interestingly, I thought my buck was going to be clearly the dominant one but once they bonded it seemed that the dominant one was actually my doe. I am pretty sure my buck was being aggressive out of insecurity and it was his way to deal with the fear. I just thought I would mention this so you aren’t surprised if things all of a sudden change. My doe has always been the more confident of the two and is also more chill. I think she just didn’t feel the need to fight for dominance and was just giving my buck time to figure it out. Right now I have no clue which is the dominant one and I am about 2 months in to them being bonded.
I would continue to do what you are doing to relax him before a scuffle breaks out. The one time I had a somewhat bad session I put mine in a NIC cube and walked around with them mid session. I then popped them back into the bonding area and the session went better. Don’t be afraid to mix in a stress session, like a cube walk or car ride, when you feel it might be needed.
Great job and good luck with them!!
A further update.
Me sitting in the neutral pen and soothing b whenever he gets over excited chinning a has been really successful. Today I left them in there for an hour and a half while I was nearby. There was a fair amount of interaction, sharing hay, lazing about etc and no potential scuffles! When he got a bit over bearing with chinning, a just hopped off. It was great to see. I even left the room a couple of times to sort other things out. I even think that his chinning is turning into grooming. That, or nibbling, I’m not 100% sure…
At the end, I put them both in the pet carrier to take them back to their shared territory pens, and let them both out in one of the pens so I could separate them. I ended up experimentally leaving them (highly supervised) in one pen for 20 minutes and it was fine.
I have 2 shared territories – both used to be b’s territory. 1 is the adjoining bathroom, and the other is my bedroom. I put one of them in a pen in my bedroom while the other hops about in the rest of the room, then let that one free roam in the whole room when I put the other one in the bathroom. I swap them daily between territories. There is no fuss when I swap their territories, both prefer the bedroom to the bathroom (bigger, and carpeted) but that’s it.
My plan is to continue the hour long less-supervised sessions on neutral territory, with short supervised sessions (me in the pen) in shared territory. Do you think that’s ok? I don’t want to go too fast for them, but for now they seem to be understanding each other loads better.
What do you recommend should be their next steps for bonding? I can’t really give them a bigger territory downstairs on neutral territory. I can leave them for longer, or push on with the shared territory…
Buns are called April and Bundy btw, just couldn’t be bothered to type their full names each time!
Bonding in neutral territory was going really well, 2 hours with head cuddles, food sharing, dozing etc, with me in earshot but not necessarily nearby. As they were doing so well, I thought I’d do another short session in their shared territory.
So, yesterday evening I put them in their shared pen with loads of boxes, hay etc to keep them amused. I lay in bed reading while keeping an eye on them. Then I feel asleep. Woke up a few hours later in a panic and they were dozing (in different areas) so I left them! Woke up early to 2 buns noisily eating the bars of the pen trying to get out ??
They’re seems no point in separating them now so I’ve extended the shared territory, and they hop about together, groom each other (even b grooming a), eat, doze, destroy boxes, all the happy bunny things! I was worried about going too fast but they seem very content with each other.
I’ve planned to spend the day indoors so I can do jobs (like clean the neutral territory!) and keep an ear out. But they seem happy ?
2 weeks ago (even a week ago) this seemed so far away! I don’t yet trust them entirely together, but the more time they spend together cementing the bond, the happier we will all be
From a few days ago, dozing head to head ?
Yay! Sounds like it’s gone really well. Have they been together since your last post?
Yeah ?They’ve been together since Friday eve now so that’s 3 full days and nights!
I Left them alone while I was at work today, so I popped home to check them at lunch, and they were both dozing in the same box.
Tonight I’m giving them the whole shared territory, which means I’m going to be getting followed everywhere I go in my room and bathroom…
I can’t believe how quickly it they got over their issues, with the support from me. Once they were over the hump (literally) they just got on with each other. I guess in the end i was more stubborn than they were!
I did work out it took about 18 hours of bonding sessions over 2 weeks, which is pretty quick. So I’m very aware it’s still early days, but it’s all positive so far and they both seem happy.
Is so lovely seeing them following each other and eating together and dozing together. And following me to the toilet of course. ??
That sounds great Congratulations on your bonded bunnies!