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Home Forums BONDING Bonding not going well

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    I’m hoping for some advice, I’m a rabbit novice and in over my head here. 

    I have two spayed female rabbits, Marshmallow and Coco, who hate each other. Before Marshmallow was spayed I’d bonded her to another unspayed female rabbit, Pancakes. That went pretty smoothly, I’d put them together in a neutral space for about a half hour every day and if they fought squirt them in the face with a water gun and they’d knock it off. After a week and a half of that they started grooming each other, and soon they would spend hours a day together licking each other and were so sweet together. Unfortunately after only a few months Pancakes became sick and died, I was never really sure what exactly happened. After a few months I decided to get another companion for Marshmallow. 

    Coco was spayed already by her previous owner, and when I put her and Marshmallow together they fought like crazy, it was nothing like with Marshmallow and Pancakes and the water gun did nothing. I decided to get Marshmallow spayed. 3 weeks after she was spayed I tried putting them together in a neutral space again, they fought like crazy again, there was fur everywhere, one of them screamed, it was awful. I decided I hadn’t waited long enough after the spay and I would hold off on putting them together again. Now it’s been two months since the spay, they have cages next to each other, they swap cages every night. The other day I put them together again, this time armed with a rake to separate them if I need, and they fought like crazy again. So much fur everywhere. The water gun again did nothing, I’d use the rake to separate them, wait for them to calm down for a minute or two, lift the rake up, and they’d be right back at it again. After 15 minutes there was no improvement so I put them back in their cages. 

    I don’t know what to do now. None of them has actually been hurt besides fur getting ripped out, but I feel like one of them easily could be. I want them to get along, before I had the one rabbit cage door open all the time with a dog pen clipped to the outside of it so Marshmallow could have some space all the time to roam (she didn’t make a good free roaming rabbit, too much cord chewing and pooping behind the couch), but I don’t have enough room to do that with two cages so now they’re both shut in their cage all day unless we’re there to supervise and let one out at a time. But I’m kind of afraid to put them together again in case they do hurt each other. I’m hoping for any advice you could give. 


    Hi Anika,

    A couple things might help.

    Since they have been fighting, I think you should take a wee break (no pre-bonding, cages separate) for a few weeks and let them calm down.

    After that go back to pre-bonding. When you were doing cage swaps, how do they behave? Do they mark everywhere, run the fence, try to “get” at each other? Or are they chill with each other in their respective areas? You should aim to pre-bond until they chill out.

    Next, I think you start with some stress sessions once you start bonding sessions again. I’ve found these to be really helpful for tough bonds. Get a helper to drive. Have the car running. Pop the bunnies in a bin, then sit in the back seat with them. Wear leather gloves so you can separate them if they start scrapping. Drive them around for 10 minutes or so, then end the date. Repeat this several days in a row (OK to take a day off if they are getting too stressed).

    Next graduate to a 10 minute stress session, followed by a few minutes in neutral, but not stressful space. I would use an entirely new neutral space if you can. You want the buns to explore the area for a few minutes, then end the date. Start with short time goals (like 2 minutes.. then 3… then 5… etc.).

    It is very very important that you do not let them fight at all. When they approach each other, pet them both to calm them and swap scents. Keep petting and pressing them into the ground. Always end the date on a calm note, even if that means you petting them a lot. Your work now is to build trust and positive associations between them.

    Larger more complex neutral space can also be really helpful with aggressive buns. Obstacles and ways for them to get away from each other. So once you move on from stress sessions, go for a very large space if you can.


    Dana, Thanks for your detailed response. 

    When they are in their cages they ignore each other, I’ve only seen them go at each other in the cage once or twice for the few months we’ve had them next to each other. They don’t mark at all around each other anymore, even when I put them together and they fought. If I let one of it’s cage to run around they will sometimes run to the other bunny’s cage to fight, Marshmallow especially so she doesn’t get let out as often anymore. Although at least with the cage between them the water gun breaks it up easily enough. 

    I can try out the stress sessions, although the car sounds a little stressful for me too. I read about doing that but have a fear of them fighting, overturning the bin, bunnies running around the car… do you think I could do a stress session where they’re inside and I vacuum around them? 

    I can separate them, we have two enclosed porches and after a few more days the temps should no longer dip below freezing at night anymore. I can move one to the smaller enclosed porch for now to separate them. The other larger one is what I was using as a neutral space and hopefully can continue to do so, I’m trying to avoid using the rooms in the house they haven’t been in because I don’t want them getting under a couch or something together and fighting there where I can’t get to them.  


    For the car ride, I definitely recommend a helper at first (so you can be sitting right next to the bin in the back seat).

    You’ll probably know right away if the car ride is going to be helpful. I usually have a helper for the first two rides, but then once I know they don’t fight in the car, I have just done them alone. I usually bring an extra carrier just in case I do need to separate them though.

    If that’s not possible, setting the bin on top of the washing machine while its running also works!

    Vacuuming can work…. but I’ve found it doesn’t work quite as well if they are really aggressive towards each other (I have used the vacuum noise to stop minor scuffles though). I think something about being in a moving vehicle really makes them re-assess their priorities!


    also try getting a stuffed toy of some sort and putting some of the opposite rabbits fur on it and in it. leave in same fur bunny’s pen for two days then swap…there will be some fighting /humping on first day…


    just look up bunny stunt double…

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