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Forum BONDING How likely are my boys to bond?

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    • attemptedquad
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      It’s been quite a while since I started bonding. 2 boys, brothers, neutered around 10 months ago. I’ve been bonding them almost daily since January.

      I try to follow the same routine usually. We start with a short session, take them for a car ride around the neighborhood, and then give them a couple of hours together. They bond in my kitchen, which is neutral territory as they both live downstairs side by side. I swap litter boxes and toys every night. During bonding, these behaviors are common:

      Positive:

      • flopping- usually not side by side. either a couple feet apart or one facing the other
      • loafing
      • grooming- almost always the same bunny grooming. usually begins after ive given them a few pets first.
      • mirroring- what they do the majority of the time
      • self- grooming
      • sharing hay

      Neutral:

      • ignore each other most of the time

      Negative:

      • head nipping- the bunny who never gets groomed does this (I think) to signal that he wants to be groomed back. Usually just a light nip that gets his attention
      • swatting (idk if this is the right term- basically shoving the front paws out to try and shove the other one away)

       

      Idk what this means, but often one bunny will dramatically reach over to the other and sniff the other one’s head. After sniffing, the bunny will go back and ignore the other one. Fights aren’t common but one happened the other day when I tried to do a bonding session outside for the first time. I thought it would be a mild stressor, but I think there was a smell that was setting them off.  Maybe every other day there will be some circling or boxing that I break up with a dustpan or let dissipate if they just separate afterwards.

      They’ll eat hay together usually in peace, but sometimes one will jump on the pile and try to claim it for himself and “swat” the other. I feel like the car ride is pretty necessary. If I don’t do one, they usually escalate a lot more during sessions, which is why I try to do a quick ride every time now. I try to leave them alone for the most part and watch them on cameras I set up.

      I just feel like they’ve kind of stagnated. Over a month ago, the grooming finally began and it seems like it’s been the same behaviors since and they haven’t really progressed. The beginning of bonding for the first couple of months was ROUGH. Fur pulling, bite marks, latching on, vet visits and antibiotic topicals. This did begin almost immediately when I put them outside the other day, but I’m really hoping they smelled the wild rabbits nest or something that triggered that. Any advice for how to continue? Do you think they’ll eventually get along?

      Including a picture of them right now and how they often look during sessions. They usually stick to this one area, even though they have quite a bit of room. Idk if that’s territorialness or something.

      View post on imgur.com


    • DanaNM
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      So, you’ve been at it a long time! But you do have a good amount of positive behaviors, so I think they are just being stubborn, as buns tend to do!

      At this point when there is some stagnation I think it can be helpful to push for some longer sessions, like 4-6 hours, or even 8. You may even wait until you have a few days you can take off work and try to marathon bond to get them the rest of the way there.

      If possible, have them in a brand new, neutral location. Sometimes after this long spaces tend to become less neutral. I used to do a lot of bonding in my friend’s garage when I lived in a small apartment, it really worked wonders.

      When I’ve gotten to similar points with my buns (months of bonding with a stalemate), I have done marathoning in a brand new neutral space with the intention that if they aren’t improving after 24 hours I will call it off.  Things can sometimes get tricky in the middle of the night, problems tend to pop up then. If the still aren’t doing well in the new location after this long, then it’s possible they just aren’t a good match.

      . . . 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.  


    • attemptedquad
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      Going to use this as a way to track progress while doing a 24/7 bond! I had other posts going back to probably December? but had a hard time making progress just doing the dates and didn’t have time off work. Now, I finally have the time off work, so I’m going to suck it up the next few days and try for the best. These two bonding has caught me a lot of anxiety (my pets tend to trigger it in general) so I’m really hoping for the best. If they do bond, they will get their own level of the house to free roam and I already have a lot of fun stuff I’ve ordered for them to enjoy. I really, really hate having single bunnies because I see how happy my other pair is in comparison.

      Background is they were adopted last February as babies from a hoarding situation, neutered last June, each had health issues pop up that stagnated bonding until about December. When I start consistently bonding in December, there were extreme aggression issues and Bodhi (white) would bite Salem to the point of vet visits. They started making a lot of progress March- April, but in April my dog tore her ACL and needed major orthopedic surgery, so everything was put on hold. They have been also showing much better signs through the bars than they used to, as they’ve been living side by side since they were babies. They used to nip, spray, poop, and chase each other up the bars and now they flop and sniff through the bars without aggression, so I’m hoping they’re ready! I’m probably going to update this a lot because I’m going to be really bored. I also hope this can help other people with difficult buns because I used to doom scroll a lot when they were fighting and it made me feel a lot worse when I saw buns that never ended up bonding.

      I have them starting in a 2×2 pen, based on a Facebook bonding group with pee pads, hay, and water.

      Here’s the first 2 hours so far: (I tried embedding but it wasn’t working)

      View post on imgur.com

      https://vimeo.com/714266385

      So far, just laying side by side, eating hay, and some grooming already from Bodhi in the video! Salem actually came close to grooming at one point but didn’t. Really no negative behaviors yet, although I know there probably will be soon.


    • DanaNM
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      Fingers crossed!

      Also, if things aren’t going well in that small space, I would try enlarging the space before giving up. I have never had good luck in small space bonding, so just my 2 cents!

      . . . 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.  


      • attemptedquad
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        Thank you! I had actually tried small spaces with them before and they were super aggressive, then switched to the big space, and now I’m trying the small space one more time. At about 7 hours now and no biting or chasing! This is by far, the longest they’ve been together without aggression while actually interacting with each other the whole time


    • Ellie from The Netherlands
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      Whoo, 7 hours is awesome! Fingers crossed for your buns, and all my sympathy to you! Bonding is immensely tiring work, and these stubborn little fluffbutts can keep you busy for a long time 😑


    • DanaNM
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      7 hours is great! keep it up!

      . . . 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.  


    • attemptedquad
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      They were amazing until 11 hours last night and then all hell suddenly broke loose after Salem started humping Bodhi. It’s been about 12 hours now of fighting with breaks of 1-2 hours in between if I’m lucky :(. They aren’t snuggling anymore and just ignoring each other when they aren’t biting. Both of them seem really tense.


    • Wick & Fable
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      While negative in terms of the relationship, this is the reason why these long sessions are needed to have an understanding if the current dynamic between them is stable. Though this may seem like a step back, I consider it a step forward in the communication of the relationship between them. Rabbits who just ignore each other during long dates make things difficult to gauge.

      If the aggression hasn’t backed down, I’d end on a forced positive note with food, and get them back into a pre bonding arrangement. Ideally things will calm down and you can go back to doing sessions when their body language is more settled. Think of it as a couple where one has finally expressed a gripe they’ve had. The argument has occurred, so now you need to facilitate and see if they can resolve 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.


      • attemptedquad
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        Thank you! I tried expanding the space and cleaning up and for now they are just ignoring each other and resting. They’re both usually VERY sleepy during the day, especially Bodhi- he goes into full REM, flops, and twitches while he sleeps lol, so I’m wondering if yesterday they were too tired to work out their issues and saved it all for night.


    • DanaNM
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      I think you should expand the space (to at least an x-pen, preferably 2 x-pens). Consistent fighting for that long means that something isn’t working.

      As an aside, small space methods like this are also known as “flooding”, which is now considered inhumane by many animal welfare groups. They sometimes work, but it’s because the animal becomes so overwhelmed that they just give up.

      The idea with larger space is that when one animal needs to get away from the other, they actually can, which is a form of communication. One animal consistently running from the other indicates submission. When they are trapped they often have no choice but to turn and 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.  


      • attemptedquad
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        I actually just expanded the pen after cleaning everything up. I agree I think they need the extra space too. It’s hard because all of the forums and pages I’ve looked at and probably 95% of them recommend using the small pen, so I keep thinking that’s the right way. Now, they’re relaxing and ignoring each other.


    • DanaNM
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      Glad they calmed down! I agree it’s so weird that soooo many places recommend small spaces. Small has never worked for my rabbits!

       

      . . . 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.  


    • attemptedquad
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      Update: I had to stop because they got to the point of non-stop fighting whenever I’d pull them apart. They both have small cuts on them, but it would have been much worse if I wasn’t constantly putting a shield between them to get Bodhi to let go. He was full on latching at any opportunity and Salem was becoming an anxious wreck, even if I was going to pet him, he would start panicking that it was Bodhi trying to bite him. I was also getting pretty sleep deprived and worried I wasn’t going to be able to separate them as quickly throughout the night. I think I’m going to have to throw in the towel on this one. I feel like I can finally say that I tried everything possible with these two. Dates, car rides, bathtub bonding, table bonding, 24/7, daytime bonding, scent swapping, cage swapping, switching the bonding location. I always made sure the bonding location was 100% neutral. I’ve tried things on and off since they were 1 month post neuter almost a year ago and we’re still here.

      I’m going to take a few weeks off and then I’ll attempt a trio bond with one of them and my current pair, Bear and Sage (F+M). At the very beginning of bonding, back last year, I had actually first tried with putting at 4 bunnies together. The two boys that I just separated were the only ones to fight, while the pair just huddled together and hid, so I ended up stopping it then because all the fighting was stressing the pair out. So, I’m hopeful it could work. Bear and Sage were also a VERY easy bond. Literally in the middle of the night one night, Bear jumped into Sage’s cage and they were instant friends. Bear is probably a senior (unknown age) and is medicated for pain (arthritis likely brought on by previous injuries at her old home), which is why I’ve been hesitant to try in the past. Bear also REALLY likes Salem- when they used to be housed next door to each other, they would flop and hang out between the bars, so I think the only difficult part will be Salem and Sage, if Sage doesn’t want another member of the group.  I think I will try, but obviously just keep a very close eye on Bear and make sure their bonding area is on a soft surface. She’s otherwise completely  healthy, but is on Metacam every day. Right now, I’m thinking Salem would be the best addition because Bodhi’s latching on behavior really worries me. And if that works, I can bring Bodhi upstairs with me and he can just be my buddy until I maybe try bunny dating with him later on.

      If I were to try this, would I need to try a brand new location than the ones I used with Bodhi and Salem? Because it wouldn’t necessarily be an area Salem was in by himself, but he would have already been in these areas with Bodhi before. I still have a couple locations I could use, they would just be a little more uncomfortable for me lol.


    • DanaNM
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      I think you made the right call. Some buns just aren’t a good match, unfortunately!

      I definitely agree with getting some rest before embarking on the trio, but hopefully that goes more smoothly!

      . . . 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.  


      • attemptedquad
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        Thank you so much for all of your help! It’s always hard for me to know if I’m making the right calls on things, so the reassurance and tips are really helpful. I’m definitely going to take a break to let everyone recover (myself included haha) for the next few weeks before I do anything. I teach and I’m on summer break right now, so maybe I’ll try again sometime in July.

        If the trio would work, I could rearrange the house in a way that would make all the buns more comfortable too. Right now the 2 singles are downstairs in separate big 8ftx10ft pens and the pair roams my small spare room upstairs. They haven’t been getting much free space since I got the boys because I’ve been bonding them in the kitchen upstairs and don’t want them to get stressed from the scent. If they became a trio, I could have the trio share the whole downstairs and the single boy gets the bedroom upstairs with free roam time and more time to spend with me. I’m usually against having single buns, but Bodhi comes off SO aggressive around other bunnies, he may just stay a single bun, at least for now. He’s by far the most people-friendly bunny I’ve ever met though. He climbs up on laps, loves to be carried around, snuggles, etc.


    • DanaNM
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      That sounds like a good plan! And since Bohdi is so friendly with people I’m sure he will be happy with your company for the time being. 🙂

      . . . 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 How likely are my boys to bond?