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Forum BONDING Bonding need help outta ideas

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    • jjwoosh
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      Back story: We’ve had our two bunnies for 6 months now and have been trying to bond them. Kate the black havanna is a little older, more friendly, and used to be a therapy rabbit (had her for 18 months). The other Bruce is younger we think, was found outside, and is kinda timid. He hangs out most of the day in his box.

      Bonding:

      1.We have been trying to bond them for so long, we just can’t get over the last hump. At a loss. We did gentle bonding, 15 min to an hour in a neutral area for a while. We watched them grow and get used to eachother. Never any mounting, but circles, tufts, and chasing, boxing occasionally. They could be fine for 4 hours and then randomly start circling and go at it.Never any injuries, but definitely fluff flows if we don’t intervene enough.  Bruce growls/grunts/lunges and Kate usually nips to agravate things.

      2.Grooming, Kate grooms bruce on the reg. She does 80% of the grooming She loves his ears, it’s really cute. Sometimes she’ll gallop up to him, thump and then start grooming. Bruce grooms occasionally, he will groom for 30 seconds to a minute. They will similarly cuddle occasionally, but seem to lay down 1-2 feet apart more often than not. They have flopped back 2 back a couple times.  (ALL of this makes me think they’re bonding(ed))

      3. When they are together not grooming or fighting they usually ignore eachother. He chills in his protective box, she acts like nothings different (munches poops lays down) I’ve tried smaller spaces 4×4 and it seems to help spur grooms and cuddles but I want to give them enough space to run around. They can go 4 hours without any interaction sometimes.

      4. Overnights: they’ve made it through 3 overnights, but I haven’t got much sleep. I just marathoned them for 48 hrs last week. Too often they’ll have a spat every 1ish hours over hay or the litter box or something else.  I will wake up and bruce will be protecting his food (haY). He’ll grunt lunge and claw at kate. She sometimes will retaliate and a fight will ensue. This is where were at. If I give them only 3×3 area there are little to no fights

      Summary

      After 6 months our bunnies groom occasionally, cuddle, but have tifts that still go into full fights if not broken up. They are soo much worse at night, but when broken up usually resolve without grudges. We are so scared to leave them alone yet, even though they do all the things bonded bunnies do. What’s next? We’ve tried new areas, new litter, less hay, more hay, more space, less space. I just don’t know what to do. How do we move forward? How will we know they are ever bonded?


    • Wick & Fable
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      Yes, they are doing some things that bonded rabbits do, but they are also doing things non-bonded rabbits do too. Take it as promising that you see grooming and can go some hours without a dispute while still having proximity, but this a part of the process. A true bond will not be unstable like this, so they are not bonded.

      It would be helpful to get some other information, including if they are both fixed (spayed/neutered), for how long, and also what kind of space you have been working with (i.e. How much is/was Kate’s, how much is neutral, how much has Bruce been exposed to, what areas have both been exposed to). There is a bonding template to fill out some information here: https://binkybunny.com/forums/topic/bonding-template-read-me-for-bonding-help/

      Something that stands out to me is that there are hidey hole(s) and litterboxes in date areas. In my opinion, while keeping a distance and ignoring is good, it is not so good if it is because one rabbit has successfully “claimed” that space, while the other either ignores it or doesn’t challenge it to keep the peace. Bonded rabbits should feel comfortable sharing everything, so dates where possession is happening/encouraged may be perpetuating them not working out things to bond. Again, this is my opinion. I would suggest not having a litterbox in sessions for a while, as they seem to bring up tension that they may not be ready to work out yet.

      The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.


    • DanaNM
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      I agree with Wick, I usually don’t have litter trays or hide outs in the bonding area until they are acting pretty much bonded.

      The other thing to try is possible a brand new area if you’ve got one (such as a friend’s house or another room). When bonding goes on a long time, the neutral spaces can become less neutral.

      If the small space goes well, I would stick with that for longer. Or, try a much much larger space, like 2 or 3 x-pens linked up if you can. I have usually had better luck with really large spaces (intermediate sizes haven’t worked for me).

      Also, have you done any stressing? Maybe a car ride together before the next session could help them get over this hump?

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


    • jjwoosh
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      Thank you both. I’ll add more detail. I really appreciate it.
      We are doing dates in the bathroom for now. We have tried all throughout the upstairs and have an unfinished super neutral basement in the back pocket, I am willing to move them to when needed.

      Do some stress bonding when dates don’t go well/have a fight but rarely as part of the routine

      Some questions:
      We took away the litter box and they pee/poop on the floor. Are there any suggestions on how often to wash/clean their area. (daily, every date, during dates??)

      I don’t either of the buns is super teritorial about their litter box. They will both use it, (usually they switch off peacefully back and forth). It’s just sometimes one will be eating in the litterbox/on a pile of hay and the other will try to eat and a  tiff will break out. Similarly they share their hiding box as needed/but bruce could stay there all day. He lets kate in. Shes let him in, but it’s usually bruce only in there.

      Kate is much more active.He’s so quiet and timid. Usually he lays down/sleeps 85% of the day whether he’s on a date or not. He’s really only currious ready to explore/active at from 8pm-3am. When I give a ton of room, she will binky up to him zoom up to him and he seems a little confused/agitated, because he’s always so sedentary(he’s healthy tho). The chasing is so much of him walking around for the first time in a few hours and Kate getting way too excited about it. (we think he may have been abused in the past and has trouble trusting).

      PICTURE of our bathroom date setup Picture of the setup

      KATE IS BLACK< BRUCE IS WHITE.

      If other pic doesn’t work here is a linked picture

      Spay/Neuter
      Are your bunnies spayed/neutered? Y
      If so, for how long (for each)? (9 months Bruce) (3 years at least kate)

      Housing
      Please describe your bunnies’ current housing set-up (living together, as neighbors, etc.).

      Live in living room divided in half by x pen. *neighbors. We switch daily or when we remember. They are to planning move in another room, where they used to live but haven’t for 4 months (trying to make reneutral).

      They used to do dates in the kitchen 5 feet from the living room (large 2x-3x pen size). Were very weary of eachother

      Now housed/dates in bathroom, size of 3/4 of an expen.  This seems to be more neutral the whole time.

      Bonding background
      Did you allow the bunnies to “settle-in”? yes
      How would you describe your bunnies reactions towards each other (answer for each bunny): shy, scared, curious, calm, aggressive, excited, affectionate, etc.?

      Bruce: Cautious, runs away when kate comes close. But also runs to her when scared to cuddle. Asks and accepts grooms. Protects food, (some times aggressive). Does not groom on every date, but does often. He flops on dates as often as flops not on dates. Very floppy

      Kate: More excited sometimes goes up to bruce. Nips butt for attention/ thumps for attention. Will groom always. Eventually will leave bruce alone and sleep elsewhere if he is not into cuddling. Very currious sometimes will wake up a flopped boy with a boop/bonk.

      Have you done any “pre-bonding” We did this the first few dates when they were more agressive initially. We stopped doing dates and swapped only for a few weeks.

      Have you started sessions yet? 6 months
      How long have you been working on bonding your bunnies? 6 months
      How frequently do you have bonding sessions, and how long are they? almost daily, usually 2-3 hours, sometimes longer did the 48 hour marathon recently.

      Have you tried any stressing techniques? They share a carrier fine, Driven around in a carrier. Done bunny magic on a table in a litter.
      * don’t want to do bathtub bonding because Kate is deathly afraid of any slippery object.


    • DanaNM
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      6021 posts Send Private Message

      I usually use puppy pee pads all over the floor for dates. You can layer them so it’s easy to just peel one off when it gets too wet.

      My set up is usually a massive pile of hay in the middle of the space, so it’s big enough that one can’t claim it. I also will scatter feed veggies and pellets during bonding sessions to help prevent food aggression.

      When the litter box is in the pen, do they ever sit in it together?

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


    • jjwoosh
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      Thanks for the tip on hay/pee pads. We are trying our hay tower as seen in the photo and it seems to be going ok. One nudge out of the way/grumble that they resolved themselves.  Otherwise a ton of side by side eating. I measured there area and it’s around 17ft, which isn’t nearly as small as I thought.

      I also just tried pellets in their pen, which I’ve been super hesitant about given their love of them and it went ok. Both of them shoved their heads under eachother’s necks (almost like asking for grooms), but instead trying to steal the foraged pellets, BUT NO NIPPING OR GRUNTING. Yay…. After they were gone bruce ate some hay and plopped down right next to kate cheek to cheek. It was one of the first time he’s sought her out.

      Took away the litter box, but as far as sharing a litter box, it’s very hit and miss.  They rarely sit together, but when they do it’s usually when there’s newer hay near it. They eat and sit together until one gets bored or one tries to eat out of the others mouth causing a food tiff and possible fight.

      So far the advice has helped. thanks all

       


    • DanaNM
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      Sharing pellets sounds like progress! And the shoving faces to get at the food is def something bonded pairs do, so it’s great it didn’t lead to a fight.

       

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


    • jjwoosh
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      Update: Tuesday.

      So I bought puppy pads and tried them out with a pile of hay. They got along perfectly (no nips, grumbles, circles, etc) all day from 10 am to midnight when I laid down next to them.  There were some groomies and snuggles but not a ton, they seemed bonded until all the lights went off. Later I may have caught a small fight they resolved themselves at 2, but then at 4 am last night I had to break up a lunging circle. No fur was pulled but they definitely wouldn’t resolve it on their own. I put them in the bathtub in a litter box for some stressing and when they got out she immediately started grooming him. I then put them back in their x-pens side by side and they were butt to butt as close as they could be.  Again bonding…

      Questions:
      1. How do I stop them from fighting at night. They are seemingly bonded all day (14 uneventful hours). I can keep doing all day dates, but it seems like diminishing returns kinda, they are so good until the lights go off. I just don’t get it. Any ideas appreciated. Should I try small area/ big area/ new area for just the overnight part. Maybe put them in a dark closet during the day so I can watch them more closely in the dark. I use a small nightlight so I can see them but that’s it.

      2. Even though they ate they barely pooped and peed on the pads all day ( i replaced 1 pad), but then it was a free for all when the lights went off. A whole days worth of poop and pee was all over the floor when I broke up the tiff. Maybe this is what’s causing the late night fights, they are smelling each-other’s bathroom habits more? This would explain the litter box fights previously. Any ideas? I cleaned as I went all day, but again the floodgates opened around 2am for bathroom time.

      3. Most importantly our black bun Kate’s tummy was all wet from pee at the end of the night. She either was laying on pee pads or got soaked in the fight I don’t know. Is this normal?  She seems fine now, but I worry about an infection. She had a similar thing happen with paper litter last week, but again seemed fine afterward.

      Any advice helps?


    • DanaNM
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      Oooh I know this pattern well. It is so frustrating! I went through something really similar with Bun Jovi and Bertha. All good during the day and first part of the evening, then every night around 4 or 5 am a fight would break out. This went on for like 5 days and then I decided to reassess.

      I think these things happen because bunnies are generally just very active at that time of day. Do you tend to end the date soon after these fights happen? It would also be helpful to try to see what causes the fight. In my case, BunJovi would start trying to mount around that time every night/morning, which triggered the issues. He still tries to mount but it doesn’t lead to fighting.

      What finally worked for me was to move them to an entirely new space (at a friend’s house in their garage) and do the marathon there. Giving mine , a brand new and unfamiliar space, and more space to run helped them resolve things. The first night was already different, so I knew I was on the right track. I gave them tons of space (like 3 x-pens linked up) and allowed a bit of chasing to happen. You could also try a smaller space in a brand new place if you know yours tend to do better in smaller areas (every pair is different).

      If that isn’t an option for you, perhaps you could try to anticipate these issues and do something to prevent them from happening. So maybe you set an alarm for 3 am and put them back in the bathtub for a bit during the hours they normally have issues (or another new area), or do some stressing during that time, or give them a bunch of new chew toys and treats so they are distracted, or all of the above.

       

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  

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Forum BONDING Bonding need help outta ideas