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So today I did my first bonding session. I have a male rabbit who is a rex and a female rabbit. His name is Bun Bun and her name is Bunnie. I started the session off by putting them together into a cuddle. I had control of there heads until I felt comfortable enough to give them some control. He moved his head under her head and she moved her head more onto his. They were very relaxed, and even closed their eyes a bit. After 3 minutes of this I moved him to one side of the bonding space and moved her to the other side.
They both just sat on there sides for a bit, until Bun Bun starting moving. He moved around a bit then stopped and started grooming himself. He groomed him self twice during this session. She didn’t moved until he started moving again. She kept wanting to sniff his nose, but I was very scared to let her get to close so I started to pet them a lot anytime they got close. There seem to be no signs of aggression but I seem to get a little freak any time they get close because like I said im still pretty freaked about the first time they ever met.
I ended the session with him grooming himself and her laying next to me (not flopped).
Any tips will be very useful, and please let me know if I’m doing right by not letting them get to close yet, or if I need to let them get close. Also should I have hay laying around for them? Thank you!
While I wait for people to respond I’ll post day two session. I decided to let them get near each other more today, but heavily petted them.
–Started session by force cuddles, he instantly placed his head under her and she placed her head on top of him.
—He sat in place didn’t move much, he hates tile so he refused to move around the whole session.
—She explored the bonding area, and ignore him, until she decided to get near him and nip his side. Blocked her with a dust pan after that and she walked off.
-he started to groom himself while she ignore him and continue to explore
—she groomed herself and he was still grooming
-he laid down, not flopped on his side, but legs extended back.
—she moved over towards him, her head by his side (he was still laying down) I petted her a lot during this time to keep her from nipping, she ended up moving away after a while, no nip happened.
—she went back to ignoring him and then groomed herself
I ended the session with her grooming herself and him laying down still.
Questions: he is a Rex and hates tile, he refused to move around on tile, she has a lot of fur on her feet so she can move easily on tile, can I just place a towel down since she doesn’t seem to be slipping on tile, and he seems to be scared on the tile?
Also, I would really like to know your thoughts on how it is going so far, tips will be appreciated.
Hey! I’m no bonding expert – I’ve just finally bonded my two – but I would say that I think things are going well – nips at the start to communicate aren’t a bad thing – as long as they don’t escalate obviously – and ignoring is also a neutral sign (more good than bad) the fact that they are self grooming so soon is a good sign and that he was relaxed enough to put his back lets out is also good.
Its good that you are starting on a good note. You are ending on a semi-good note in that they are both relaxed. Maybe try ending it with them smooshed together and petting them both too.
I do think you need to figure out the floor thing as you can’t get a true test of how he is going to be with her once he can move around. The towel can still be slippy on the tile, plus its not a lot of room for him to move around and feel comfortable and confident. Could you buy a cheap carpet from Walmart? I bought one for $10 in the clearance section that was 4 foot by 6 foot.
You just dont’ want to think things are going well and then have a surprise when you put them somewhere where he can get his footing and then find out he actually wants to be more of the alpha and you are back at square one because she’s confused and fights to try to re-assert her dominance.
(does that makes sense? Its hard to write it out so that it makes sense lol)
It sounds good so far I’d definitely put something down on the floor, a towel or a blanket. Bombur was very fussy about being on the hardwood, so I brought out a blanket and it went much better. Just make sure it’s a neutral blanket, so basically neither bun can get territorial over it. I wouldn’t immediately put the dustpan between them when she nips. Nipping is how bunnies communicate. It’s when that nipping becomes overtly aggressive, when you want to intervene. A lot of bunnies groom on the forehead/nose area, so don’t be scared if she approaches. My boys were very nipping when I started sessions, and Asriel was a nose nipper, but it never escalated. So the main thing with the nipping is just be alert when it happens and watch the nipped bunny’s reaction, and the reaction of the nipper. If neither get extremely tensed, don’t worry about it. There’s going to be a slight degree of nipping. But overall it sounds pretty positive
I have a lot of towels that I will place down today for him. I also have blankets that I can place down, so I’ll test to see which one works better. So glad that both of you agree it’s going well so far. I thought the same, but I needed to hear it from someone else as well! Lol. Everything you said made sense! I plan on doing my third session today, so I’ll post on how it goes!
Thank you! I’ll try not to put the dustpan between them today, she didn’t nip him hard, he did jump a bit, but didn’t seem to go for any attack. I honestly knew she was going to be the nipper. She nips me when I’m in her way when she running around my room! I will be doing their third session soon, so I’ll post what happens later tonight. Thank you again!
So I took a step back today. Adding the towel was a mistake, she got a bit territorial about it.
— session was 20 minutes, (was supposed to be 10 but forgot to set my timer)
— started session off with force cuddles. She wasn’t the happiest about this because today, he decided he was going to have his head on top, so she reacted by moving her head and shoving it under his stomach area. She then nip him, but he had no reaction so I let her stay there for another minute. She didn’t nip after that.
— I then moved them to separate sides of the bonding area, and they both started scratching at the towel and nipping at it. He got over it after a minute then proceeded to go a sniff her, well she was still mad at the towel and decided to make a sound and bite him. It wasn’t a hard bite, to be honest it looked like a nip, but it did have a sound so I decided to block her and pet her while I removed the towel.
—after removing the towel she ignored him for the rest of the session and he ignored her. No grooming, and no laying down, but they both were pretty relaxed.
— I ended the session with force cuddles, which once again he wanted his head on top, she kept her head under him this time. I treated them after this as well.
So tips on what I should do? The towel was neutral so I’m confused on why they were mad at the towel.
Why do you keep separating them? You don’t need to put them on opposite sides of the pen unless there’s an issue. You really need them to be sorting things out and exploring each other, and separating them is interfering. You only need to separate them if there’s something aggressive going on. What they’re doing with the towel is normal. My boys do that with the towels in the their cages never mind the out towels. Bunnies like to burrow, and putting a towel in kinda of engages that side of them. I’d keep the towel in, especially because I don’t think your boy is going to feel comfortable without it.
It wasn’t a step back at all. It was still good. My only recommendation is to not separate them mid session anymore. Just let them do their own thing. Nothing about them seems aggressive at all to me. Just monitor them and be ready to intervene at all times.
So even if she makes a sound like that, I need to leave it alone? And after force cuddles, I shouldn’t move them? I should leave them where they are at and see wher it goes? The only reason why I move them to opposite sides of the bonding area after force cuddles, is because of other bonding articles that have said to. But I’m more then willing to not do that anymore. I’m fairly new to all of this, and am still leaning. Which is why I created the journal to get input.
As far as the sound, it wasn’t loud but it was a honk/grunt sound she made. I only moved her then because I thought it would lead to a fight.
“started session off with force cuddles. She wasn’t the happiest about this because today, he decided he was going to have his head on top, so she reacted by moving her head and shoving it under his stomach area. She then nip him, but he had no reaction so I let her stay there for another minute. She didn’t nip after that.
— I then moved them to separate sides of the bonding area, and they both started scratching at the towel and nipping at it. He got over it after a minute then proceeded to go a sniff her, well she was still mad at the towel and decided to make a sound and bite him. It wasn’t a hard bite, to be honest it looked like a nip, but it did have a sound so I decided to block her and pet her while I removed the towel. ”
Like there. After that just let them be and see where it goes. They’re never going to be able to get used to each other and explore each other if they get separated after them being in close proximity. A lot of times bunnies will feel comfortable grooming each other after a smoosh session.
Grunts can be normal at this stage. Did she lunge or just nip? If it was an actual bite your boy probably would’ve had something to say about it. So in that case I’d stay pretty close to them with a gloved hand (always use garden or thick gloves) and be ready to separate if she was actually about to get violent. But honestly, she seems pretty normal at the moment, and actually not as aggressive as a lot of other females can be.
Alright I will leave them alone today after the cuddle session. She didn’t lunge, he was already near her, she just more turn her head quickly and nip him on the butt, while making that sound. I have gloves that I been using. Today I plan on not intervening. I think a lot of my intervening comes from there first mistake meeting, and also I love both of them very much and I dont want to see any of them get hurt badly. Thank you for replying and helping me through this. I appreciate it! I will not intervene today and post what happens later.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s the beginning, but I do think it’s all positive at the moment
When my boys were little I never knew about separating them and proper bonding. Bombur was always quite humpy. One day he humped a little too much and next thing you knew there was a flurry of them flipping on their sides just kicking each other. And now Asriel just wants to shower Bombur with love xD. Unfortunately due to Bombur’s issues, bonding doesn’t seem to be in the cards for them, so he just gets grooms through the cage bars xD
Trying not to be. Just want this to go well and not down a bad path I can’t get out of lol.
So shorty after me posting earlier, my boy bunny was running around getting excercise, while I was cleaning a area of my room. Well, Bunnie, my female bunny, decided she was going to escape her cage. I guess she climbed the cage bars, (I have seen her do this before) and jumped out the cage. I didn’t know she was climbing the cage, I thought it was just her normal nosiy self(my bad). My boy bunny was not happy about this and they got into it. She however did not harm him, she didn’t even pull fur out. As far as him, he pulled a lot of her fur out. I didn’t even know this was going on until I started hearing what sounded like paper crumbling. (They were fighting on paper). They made no sounds what so ever. I quickly rushed over and picked him up, he was laying down, and she was sitting away from him. It seemed like a short fight. No one was injured, but she had a lot of fur pulled out.
I placed them back into their cages after checking them, and they both went up to the gate between them and groomed themselves then flopped.
So question is, do I bond them today? I added more security to her cage, so if she finds a way to escape I’ll be shock. (This isn’t the first time she has escape
Her cage, but the last time she escape he was in his cage.)
I might wait until tomorrow? Or maybe even the later end of the day today? Just in case they’re worked up from it the space might be good.
I’ll try it at the end of the day today, I’ll start with force cuddles and if they are having issues with that then I’ll end it on a good note and end the session. If they seem to be okay and acting like usual then I’ll continue with the session. I was so upset when I saw she had gotten out. So thankful there wasn’t any blood drawn.
Deep breath’s BunBun260 – I also had my boy hope out and hand an accidental first encounter. Things happen. I’m just happy nothing too bad happened. So that’s still ok.
I found with my two they started to make the most progress when I took deep breaths and back off a bit – like A&B is suggesting above.
Hope yesterday went better!!
I wasn’t able to do a session yesterday. I had it all set up to do a session, and when I picked Bun Bun up I noticed he had something by his front leg. Bunnie had bit him so hard she broke skin. Thank goodness it had scabbed up, because I didn’t even know he had it. (It was in a leg fold, his leg has to be extended to even feel it).
After seeing this I figured it was best to pause sessions. I went back and double checked her, she was completely fine. Just a little redness from all the fur he had pulled out. They both have a vet visit tomorrow, it’s a wellness checkup but I called and told them what happened so they can check them both out and make sure Bun Bun (my male rabbit) is okay.
I plan on asking the vet about where to go from this point. I also plan on asking if he knows anyone who can bond them for me. If not I plan on bonding them still, as it doesn’t seem like they hate each other, I think Bunnie just got territorial about where he was at. He was by her cage when she escaped, and that was where the fight happened.
Thank you for all of your help so far.
Thursday they both went to the vet and got their checkups. Both healthy. He checked their wounds and was not concerned at all. In fact he said they were already healed. He showed me both their wounds (she had one too by her ear) and there was literally almost nothing there but a tiny scab now. So good thing about that, they weren’t trying to hurt each other that badly. He told me it was okay to continue bonding, he doesn’t think they will hold any grudges over this. They been flopping by the gate between them still, and acting normal so no aggression through cages. I switched their cages last night for hours, in hope to break some of her territorial behaviors.
I want some of you guys thoughts tho, do you think it’s okay to continue bonding right now? They took about 4 days off since the fight. Also how long do you think the session should last for?
Hi BunBun, just catching up on this, so sorry if I missed something that was already covered.
Knowing when to intervene is probably THE hardest thing about bonding, especially your first time bonding. Over time you will start to learn what types of behaviors with your two tend to escalate (to tight circling, fur flying, bunny tornado), and which ones don’t.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet
Territorial behaviors to allow (this is all part of them communicating with each other):
light nipping, especially on the bum (people differ on how much fur pulling to allow, so go with what you’re comfortable with)
mounting (as long as not on the head)
pouncing (where one bun “bops” the other on the head with it’s paws… it’s actually pretty funny to see)
if you are in a large space, a brief 1-3 second chase is usually good to allow, just to see if it resolves on it’s own. If in a small space though, stop right away
Things to stop or modify:
full on fighting (duh)
I didn’t see what lead to the bites in the thread, but you will start to get a sense as to what behaviors escalate, and which ones are OK to wait and see. Rather than physically separating them, try to stop the behavior another way, either through petting them both, pressing them into the ground, making a loud noise (like with a vacuum cleaner), or squirting them with water.
I didn’t see what kind of space you are using, can you describe it? Sometimes a larger or smaller, or more stressful space, can be helpful.
Don’t be too hard on yourself about a rocky start. My first bond I had NO clue what I was doing, made tons of early mistakes, and still ended up with a very tightly bonded pair. So all is not lost.
Regarding smoosh petting and forced cuddles. I think this is a great technique, but I modify a little. I place both buns in the space, and wait for them to come together naturally as they explore the area. Then pet pet pet pet and swap scents. Pause for a few seconds (don’t separate them though) and see what happens. If they seem tense, pet some more. If they move away from each other, allow them to. If one puts their head down to “ask” for grooms, definitely keep petting them both. This will help build a positive association and trust with the other bunny. As they get more relaxed around each other (and your confidence builds) ease off on how much you pet.
I don’t really know what causes the nips. He will be just sitting and she kinda walks over and nips him. So far it hasn’t been anything to hard.
The space I am using is a walk in shower. They have a medium size space. When I tried a smaller space they didn’t seem to care for it. I just realized I never mention anything about the space. lol that would have probably helped. My boy bun hates the tile, but she has so much fur on the bottom of her feet, she can walk on tile with no problems. I am currently sitting in the bonding space with them. Which I have read that you’re not really supposed to. I’m currently only doing it until I get my cube wire storage gets in. Once I get that it, I plan on making a box in front the toilet (blocking the side of the toilet so they don’t go behind it) and sitting on the toilet.
I really do think they want to be bonded. He seems to really like her, and she honestly seems to like him a bit too. She gets stress easily and I noticed anytime I do force snuggles, she calms down right away.
I’ll try that idea of force cuddles, I will try it next bonding session.
Do you think it is okay to start bonding sessions again? I know my vet said it was, but I guess I want another opinion. Their fight happened on non-neutral area (it was in my bedroom where they both live, so I guess it might be semi-neutral). He has more wounds then her, in fact she only has one. But none of them broke the skin enough where it drew blood, just enough to break the skin a bit where it scabbed. Both of their wounds have healed.
Trying not to be to hard on myself, but it is stressful. I love them both and seeing them get hurt, or that fear of them not getting along at the end freaks me out. (Getting three cats to like each other was way much easier lol!)
So, in terms of continuing bonding sessions, I would probably see how they do. If they immediately seem more aggressive than before in the neutral space, then given them a break to cool off.
If they seem the same as before, you can continue on.
Another thing that can be helpful is a different neutral space, and I’ve always had more luck with larger spaces (like, 2 x-pens linked up). I would always be in the area with them in the early stages unless the space was small. I would consider the shower to be small-ish, but prob depends on how big your bunnies are and how big your shower is. So, if after a few more sessions, you seem to be stuck in a rut with your current area, don’t be afraid to try to change things up.
Thank you so much!!!! I plan on doing a session today, going to try to keep it very positive session no matter what. My bunnies are both small, and the shower is big (but medium size with me sitting in it lol). There is an area in the neutral room that I used when I was introducing my cats. It’s a big area between the closet and door (the closet sticks out a bit so it creates a side wall. If that makes sense) I was thinking that would be a good space to try out as well, as it provides easy access to me, and a good amount of room for them. I would also be able to use less fence pieces because of the surrounding walls.
It would be carpet, do you think that would be fine? I think it would be pretty much the same as a towel right?
Yep, carpet is fine, but you might want to put something down in case they pee (which they might). Puppy pee pads are nice to have around for bonding.
In a big space, you can also experiment with adding in tunnels and hidey boxes (all new/neutral, with at least 2 exits so no bun gets cornered). Sometimes they help them feel less scared and more relaxed, sometimes they make them more territorial (one bun will claim a box and defend it).
So I wasn’t able to do a session yesterday, but I was able to do one today. And let me just tell you how great the session went and how much more comfortable I feel about it now.
-started session off with force cuddles. It went well although she did not want to sit still so she hopped off.
— she seemed tensed at first so I decided to pet her to calm her down. Bun bun was grooming himself during this, he was maybe 5 inches away from her.
— after three minutes in, she got more comfortable and started to move again.
— bun bun moved towards me and she followed him. She then moved her head right up to his cheek and just sAt there. I petted them heavily during this, also gave them a few second without petting to see what would happened. Well I started to see her tounge come out. I have no idea if she actually groomed him or not, as I only saw it come out three times and nothing else after that.
— after that I gave them a treat. They were maybe three inches away from each other at this point.
— after eating the treat she went right back to putting her head by his cheek. I ended the session like this a minute later.
The session was 10 mintues long
That’s wonderful! Way to go!