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Forum BONDING Help/Advice – Male + two fighting females

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    • swill
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      Hi. I have a bit of a unique situation that I’m not 100% sure on how to handle and want to make sure I’m doing the best thing for the rabbits and myself.
      We have had a spayed female house rabbit for 18 months. We got a second rabbit around Christmas (also spayed female) in the hope of giving her some companionship – we were aware that it would be harder to bond two rabbits of the same sex, but not impossible. Unfortunately, they fought right off the bat and any time they came across one another even through cages, there would be fighting.
      Recently, we fostered a neutered male rabbit who was abandoned, he came and lived indoors with us for a while and our 18 months old was curious and eventually, we thought this could be the friend she was after, so we put them together and they bonded.
      Every so often he would play outside and got to know our second rabbit over time and they would be obviously excited to see one another so occasionally we would put them together so she also had a little bit of companionship, there would be grooming and playing and so those two got along as well.
      We are now in a scenario where the male bunny can no longer stay indoors. This is what I’m struggling with. Our original bunny is definitely an indoor rabbit, so him needing to be outdoors essentially un-bonds them. He gets along with the other female so we can put him with her outside and they would have companionship, but I’d be worried about the effect that would have on our original girl.
      So we now have one male who is essentially bonded with two females who can’t be near each other. Is it better to commit to putting him outside and over time our original girl will be ok? Should we ensure they completely cut all ties or put him outside and let him see our original girl occasionally? We have trialled him being outside just for today and the original bunny does seem to miss him, she is always around our feet and sniffing for him and earlier did lunge at our feet when walking.
      I can’t find any advice on this online, it’s always about successfully bonding three. So I’d appreciate any help.
      Thanks for reading and for any advice or suggestions.


    • DanaNM
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      Just to clarify, is your male bonded and living with one of the females 24/7? If so, then you should not separate him from the bunny he’s bonded with. That would make both bunnies very depressed, especially if one would be going to live alone outdoors.

      Or are you mostly concerned with the solo bunny who is not bonded? Sorry if I’m misunderstanding things!

      Why is he being moved outside? There is really no such thing as an “indoor” and “outdoor” rabbit, although some bunnies do enjoy time outside more than others.

      In an ideal world, you could have a set-up where your pair lives as a neighbor to the solo bun, so the solo bun would benefit from having them as a companion. Or alternately, find a match for your solo bun and have two pairs.

      In any case, if your male is fully bonded with one of the females, they should stay together, regardless of where they end up housed.

      . . . 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.  


      • swill
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        Hi,

        Thanks for the reply. For the last month, the male has been living indoors with our original female, 24/7. He wouldn’t be going to live alone outdoors, he would be going in with our (currently solo) female outdoors. It’s our original female I’d be worried about because although she was alone for 18 months and does get lots of attention from us (full-time work from home, before the pandemic), they were still bonded even for that short time.

        The decision to move him outside is purely down to the damage he’s causing inside. We are in a relatively new house and wherever he is in the house, he’s eating skirting boards, tearing and ripping carpet etc. We have tried the usual preventative measures with not much success. Aside from removing all carpet and skirting from the house, or limiting him to only one room (which would then mean limiting our original girl with him, who has had the run of the entire house for 18 months), we don’t know what else to do.

        The original arrangement we had was the two bonded bunnies living inside with the other female inside. But she was limited to a run so, in order to give her the best life, we upgraded her to a much larger outdoor run and coop, so she wasn’t stuck in a pen in the corner of a room forever.

        It was more to gain an understanding of what would be best. We want the best for all rabbits but also in a way that means we aren’t completely destroying our home. We thought the solution of him moving outside to live with the other female was ‘best’, as our original bunny was alone for 18 months, she gets a lot of attention from us and we assumed that eventually, any sadness would be short-lived (what do bonded rabbits do when the other one crosses the rainbow bridge?).

        Hope that all makes sense.

         


    • DanaNM
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      Separating a bonded pair of rabbits is not the same as when one rabbit passes away. When one rabbit dies in a pair, the other understands what has happened as they usually spend time with the body and know the other rabbit was sick. And even this can cause depression in the widowed rabbit. But when they are separated for other reasons, they will look for each other and become very stressed, often sinking into deep depression and even stasis. I would be especially worried about the female bunny left single in that situation.

      So, I have to urge you not to separate the currently bonded pair, even if the male gets along with both females. It would be better to keep the female in a smaller, well-bunny proofed area with him, than to separate them. Many bunnies live in a “bunny room”, or people with apartments have basically one room’s worth of space for their bunnies, and they are very happy.

      Since this is really an issue with bunny proofing, I think a better solution is to improve your bunny proofing. Have you checked out these tips? https://binkybunny.com/infocategory/bunny-proofing/

      If you search the forum for bunny proofing and other specific terms (such as “bunny tearing carpet”) you will get lots of other suggestions.

      There are lots of suggestions for protecting baseboards and carpeting, and it is important to provide alternative things to chew. My young bunny Cooper is very destructive but we keep him occupied with palm plates and snak shacks (a chew toy), and it keeps him away from the baseboards. I use heavy ceramic tiles to protect the carpet in “hot spots”. Cardboard cat scratchers are also great for carpet digging buns.

      I think bunnies do better with more interaction, even if it means less space indoors. Outdoor bunnies tend to be somewhat forgotten about, and often medical issues aren’t noticed until it is too late.

      . . . 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.  


      • swill
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        Hi,

        Thanks for getting back to me, very good to know about the passing away. I think you’re right. The initial intention of getting a second bunny in the first instance was so our original girl would have a playmate, so I think we will just have to keep working on ways to limit the destruction and if needs be, as you suggest, we reduce the two of them down to one room (even though we will feel terribly guilty, I suppose it’s better than separating them. I just hope our outdoor female isn’t too upset now, they seem to get on great when he’s running around outside with her, she was probably excited to have a new lodger.

        Thanks for reaffirming everything.

         

         


    • DanaNM
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      You’re welcome! I’m glad to hear you will try to make it work inside. I think you will find bunnies are very adaptable to changes in their housing arrangements. In the process of moving cross country with our 4 bunnies we ended up staying with my in-laws for a bit, and had to have the bunnies confined to a room, split down the middle so one pair got each half. I was worried they would be unhappy, but honestly they all seemed fine with it! Cooper tried to hop the fence a few times, but it was more to get to the other bunnies, and less about space (we’re currently in a much larger home, and he still obsesses over the barrier). As long as they have enough space to do their zoomies and binkies, anything extra is a bonus. 🙂

       

      . . . 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.  


      • swill
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        Thanks, I think you’re correct, it’s the right decision. We’ve had bunnies for years however this new male is really destroying things, despite our usual techniques with the existing bun. so we were hoping for a happy medium (it may be due to previous owners, as he’s a rescue we took in due to being left abandoned in an apartment… I’ll never understand how people can do that).

        I’ll get reading through those bunny-proofing posts asap.

        Thanks again


      • Wick & Fable
        Moderator
        4958 posts Send Private Message

        Speaking as someone with a ‘destructive’ rabbit, I’ve found toys that are anchored to be most successful. I attach cat scratching boards on the sides of her pen, tie fleece blankets against things mounted to walls, and have larger sea grass mats lining the bottom of willow tents and such. These have been successful in saving my floorboards, walls, and carpets— not without a long trial period though of both of us learning about each other’s preferences! There is definitely irreparable damage done, but it has stopped as I negotiated and tried new things.

        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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      It can be tough when a new bun throws a wrench in the works! My first house bun (Bunston) was super destructive and I had no idea what I was doing with bunny proofing. He even taught our other bunny that chewing the carpet was the best thing ever. Many holes in the carpet later we sort of got a system down (heavy tiles + cat scratchers).

      Then our more recent buns were all little angels who didn’t chew anything! Then Cooper came a long.. and reminded me what it was like to have a young bunny around with a LOT of energy to get into trouble!  He has more obsessive energy, so once I get him going on a project he’s fine, but when he’s done with that I have to keep a close eye on him so he doesn’t get invested in eating the baseboards!  I definitely agree that it may take some experimenting with dif chew toys to find one he loves more than he loves your baseboards.

      They aren’t the most “natural” of toy, but those “snak shak” logs have really saved my furniture (they are kind of like edible particle board for bunnies), he tends to go through about 1 every 2 months.  Compressed hay cubes are also a big hit.

      With Bunston his urge to dig carpet was linked to an urge to tunnel, so I also would get those cardboard concrete building forms from the hardware store, then stuff them with paper for him to tunnel through.

       

      . . . 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.  


      • swill
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        Thanks to everyone for their responses.

        This is precisely it. Our first rabbit (Toast) was a bit cheeky originally, but we managed to train that out of her and for the last 18 months she’s been the perfect house rabbit. Roams wherever she wants, could be completely safe knowing she’s in any room of the house. However, our new male seems to find things to destroy that we didn’t even anticipate.

        I went out yesterday and picked up loads more toys for them. Chewable logs, digging mats, a cat tree etc. They seem to be happy, although I woke up this morning and there was a nice hole in the carpet where they had managed to navigate my floor barrier…. will have to re-think.

        The sad part is, if we do restrict them to one room, we lose that lovely relationship with Toast, where we could be sat in the living room and she would wander in randomly and hop onto the sofa. It’s a little sad.

         

         

         

         


    • DanaNM
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      That’s tough. I do wonder if perhaps they could just be restricted while unsupervised, then while supervised they could free-roam a larger area and you could still spend time with them on the sofa? My Cooper (and my bridge bunnies Bunston and Bertha) could not have unsupervised free-roam because they were just too destructive. So they live in a large cube condo when unsupervised, and get supervised free-roam time (ends up being 6-8 hrs a day on avg). You might even build them a cube condo in the main room, so they would have more interaction that way. Many bunnies are just not good candidates for free-roaming, but can be very happy with good set-ups and appropriate exercise time.

      I think sometimes it’s also important to break the cycle of a bun obsessing over something, because they get involved with their “projects”. Sometimes some time away from an area will help them forget about it.

      . . . 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 Help/Advice – Male + two fighting females