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Home Forums BONDING Lilo and Pepper’s Bonding Journey

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    Wascally Wabbits

    Hi all,

    I adopted Pepper last Saturday 01/07/17. She is 8 months old and a 3 pound dwarf-english spot mix. I have had Lilo for 5.5 years, he’s 5 years 8 months old and a lionhead mix.

    Personality wise: Lilo is very bratty and was top bun with his previous bonded partner. He’s outgoing and love cuddling with strangers, though he will nip if he doesn’t like you. So far Pepper is very shy and skittish. She is coming out of a shell a little bit and started to show me not to pet her in certain areas by nudging and nipping.

    Their bunny date went as follows: Lilo hyperly hopping everywhere attempting to sniff Pepper’s butt and face. Pepper standing there not reacting or moving. Then 5 min later, Lilo groomed Pepper, then offered Pepper his head for grooming. Pepper declined. Lilo hopped around and sniffed her some more. She then moved for the first time in 10 min, and groomed herself. We thought this is good enough and adopted her.

    They are housed in separate rooms right now pending a vet visit for Pepper (in 2 days). However, yesterday, Lilo hopped the fence! Got into the kitchen where her pen is. He sniffed her a lot through the fence. I found him but stood back to see what she’s going to do. She pushed her head under his through the fence. He didn’t groom. She then pushed her nose at his nose. He then jumped back and looked pretty upset. I can’t tell if she nipped him (couldn’t find any evidence of a nip, I noticed she does this thing where she puts her teeth to your skin but not bite down). I think this is what she did, and Lilo is being his dramatic self.

    Anyways this is their interactions so far. Everytime he sees her through the double fence (her pen being 6 feet away from the gate), he’d watch her very intently, then binky. She just stands very still every time they make eye contact.

    I switched their blankies last night. Both sniffed the blankies, no thumping or humping the blankies. Do you guys have any pre-bonding advice? I plan on starting their first session Friday night.

    Wascally Wabbits

    Update: I attempted a supervised through-the-gate visit yesterday. Only problem is Pepper doesn’t know her paws still work on tiles! She spent the whole time trying to not slip instead of noticing Lilo. So that only lasted a couple minutes before I felt really bad and brought her back to her pen. Also since Pepper may-or-may-not-have nipped Lilo on the nose, Lilo is not as interested in interacting with her.

    Vet appointment is today. Depends on if Pepper is still stressed out, I might try one short bath-tub session (10 min) tonight.

    Wascally Wabbits


    Bonding session #1: 20 minutes (should have stopped it at 15)

    I set up the bath tub blocking off half. Put in some hay, nothing else. I put Pepper in first. Then grabbed Lilo. 15 seconds later. Lilo nudged Pepper’s side and she went CRAZY on him. Yanked off a bunch of fur and they were both fighting. I managed to separate them and put them side by side and pet them down. 5 min of petting. Then I stopped. They stayed in the same frozen position for 5 min. Then Pepper got up and ate some hay. The next 3-4 min (felt like an hour) was Lilo following Pepper around putting his head under her demanding grooms. She finally gave him a half lick half nip. He wasn’t satisfied and pushed his head under her again. (I should have stopped at this point bc this was their ONLY positive interaction). She refused. He nipped her side. Next thing I know they’re biting and kicking each other like mad rabbits. I stopped them and attempted another side by side petting so we can end on a good note. Lilo bit her cheek. So I just took him out.

    When do I start intervening?? I feel like I intervened too late but they went from normal to crazy in 2 seconds! Their date at the shelter went very well, not any of this crazy fighting stuff. There was a good handful of fur yanked out on either side. No open wounds thankfully.


    I’m currently bonding my rabbits now.

    I think you should start intervening when you notice that your bun is going to attack (e.g ears back, third eyelid out, getting ready to pounce). Distract them by petting them on the head to calm them down. Don’t want a negative interaction to set back bonding.


    Maybe you should try even shorter sessions but more frequently. 

    Like 10 minutes sessions 3 times daily and then increase the time when you notice they are more comfortable. 

    And def end the session earlier than than later. Always want to end on a good note.

    Wascally Wabbits

    I will keep an eye for the ears back thing and shorter just petting no actual interaction for the next two sessions. I tried to watch their tiny tails which was near impossible to spot. I think my biggest mistake this time is I assumed there would be some grooming bc their date went so well. So I forced them to be together waiting for that grooming, but instead they just got fed up with each other.

    Gonna take a break for a few days to let them forget the fight. I’m moving Pepper’s pen into the same room as Lilo’s pen today. So they can see each other every time I feed them, and endure vacuum and cooking noises together.

    When I attempt another reintroduction, do you guys recommend trying a smaller area like a box? The half bathtub was still enough room for them to circle each other and lunge at each other.


    Cute buns! Moving them near each other will def help. It lets them get used to each other’s smell and presence.

    Let the buns do their thing. Forcing them into any interactions may stress the buns out which may lead to them fighting. It may take a while before you see any grooming at all.

    Some people had success with a small box, but some people said it made the fighting worse. Give it a try, but be ready to separate them. I use an xpen. If they’re really not showing any interest or is too interested in the surroundings I move the xpen so the area is smaller.


    WW – sorry I didn’t see this thread beforehand

    if you read my bonding thread (or fast read it – lol – sorry its long) you’ll see that giving them space to “flee” rather than “fight” is a better option to start with.
    They don’t know each other really at all… you’d prob fight with someone you don’t know in a small space.

    You’ll see I did the bathtub thing to nightmare conséquences;

    Give them space to chase and be chased as they would do in nature.
    They won’t fight as much because the fight reaction in the bathub is because there isn”t a “flight” option.

    They’ll wear down (physically) running and chasing and running and nipping and they’ll work it out.

    Intervene only if it gets aggressive (rather than dominating) – it’s much easier to judge this when at a distance (ie in a space) rather than in a tight bathtub.

    The bathtub can be used when they are not fighting anymore but maybe need a nudge to lick each other and go that extra step further to a real bond….

    Don’t force anything, go at their own pace.

    Wascally Wabbits

    I am putting a hold on their bonding for another 3-4 days since Lilo is having stomach issues (vet appt in 1h). I’m not sure if I’m imagining this but since Lilo started getting gas and runny poo this morning, Pepper has been diligently lying down as close to Lilo’s pen as possible and kept looking at him. I will bring Pepper in a separate carrier to the vet with Lilo so they can sniff each other in the car and at the vet.

    For the next sessions I’ll do the bonding in a 4×3 area (blocked off hallway). Lilo isn’t afraid of the vacuum at all or being sprayed with water, what other scary things can I do to stop an impending fight?

    I attached a pic of their previous bonding (after the session as evident by fur)


    Posted By Wascally Wabbits on 1/16/2017 5:53 PM

    I am putting a hold on their bonding for another 3-4 days since Lilo is having stomach issues (vet appt in 1h). I’m not sure if I’m imagining this but since Lilo started getting gas and runny poo this morning, Pepper has been diligently lying down as close to Lilo’s pen as possible and kept looking at him. I will bring Pepper in a separate carrier to the vet with Lilo so they can sniff each other in the car and at the vet.

    For the next sessions I’ll do the bonding in a 4×3 area (blocked off hallway). Lilo isn’t afraid of the vacuum at all or being sprayed with water, what other scary things can I do to stop an impending fight?

    I attached a pic of their previous bonding (after the session as evident by fur)

    I think that’s wise – I hope everything is okay with Lilo! 

    If the hoover won’t work you could try banging to pots/pans together. Or a hair dryer?

    Wascally Wabbits

    Lilo is still having poopy butt issues, thanks for the well wishes Sarah ?

    I have paused bonding for now. Question though. Since Pepper was moved into Lilo’s room (Lilo is also in a pen, he still thinks that whole room is his though). I let her out to play in that room while Lilo is in living room. I think she’s starting to think it’s her room. Every day I wake up to a row (VERY neatly aligned, looks like we have an architect bunny lady) of poop on the side of her pen that faces Lilo’s pen. But she also likes to lie down the most near his pen. Whenever Lilo gets a gas rumble that kind hurts she’d hop over and sit as close to him as she can. Yesterday, Lilo ran up to her pen as I was herding him back into his. And she gave him one lick on the nose through the pen. Today, Lilo escaped (I was trying to clean his messy poo situation) and I don’t know who nipped who but by the time I turned around they were both bouncing back from the fence as if they both got attacked by the other.

    Should I allow Lilo to say hi through the pen like this? Also anyone who speaks bunny better than me, what does Pepper want? ? I can’t tell if she’s sitting near him to comfort him or waiting for him to die so she can have the whole room.

    Once Lilo feels better I’ll swap them to each other cages.


    The pooping is marking each other’s territory. I’m afraid once the bonding process happens and they are in the same room you’ll have to get used to this.
    do not let them fight through the cages. do not. it will undo any good you’ve done and the one in the cage has to fight back because he has nowhere to run.
    The idea of giving them a big space to bond in is that they can chase each other and the one being chased can run and run and not have to fight. So they must be able to nip and pull each other’s fur to begin with. you don’t need a hoover or a pan to bang to frighten them. if one gets too aggressive remove one from the fight by lifting him/her up. do it so quickly they don’t know it’s happening and you won’t get hurt. Pick them up and put them down further away. Use soothing voice to reward or a NO when necessary. They are intelligent and learn quickly.

    Wascally Wabbits

    The biggest neutral area I have is only 3×5 (small walk-in closet). They only weigh 3-4 pounds each though. I see how the large area would definitely applies to mine since they’re both out to chomp each other. Smaller areas would be more applicable for rabbits who arent interacting at all. I’ll try it in the only neutral section I have first. If it doesn’t work I’ll just wipe a semi neutral area with vinegar and fence off a 5×6 section. Thanks for the advice Vienna. They’re SO fast. This is quickly training me to have faster reflexes.

    Wascally Wabbits

    I just swapped them into each other’s cages 30 min ago.

    Pepper is running around in Lilo’s area pooping quite a bit, but shes exploring and binkied a couple times. She only showed interest in him being in her pen when he was sitting in her bed.

    Lilo on the other hand, oh boy. He is not pooping in her pen (in fact refuses to hop into her litter box), but peed on her bed and fleece blankie. He has tried unsuccessfully to jump out of her fence back into his pen (fell both times). And the repeatedly running at the fence or yanking it. How do I know when it’s ok to even let them meet? I’m 100% certain right now Lilo would try to kill her.


    Pepper has not been around for long at all, so keep swapping them for the minute so they get used to each other. Yes your reflexes will get honed !!! LOL

    I’m 100% certain right now Lilo would try to kill her

    Hence the bigger the space the better for the moment. The more room they have to run and be chased, the quicker they’ll get tired.

    Dont forget to put lots of objects, food, obstacles, cardboard boxes for them to concentrate on and hide behind….

    Wascally Wabbits


    I have been swapping them for just one hour twice a day (Lilo isn’t used to the smaller pen I’m using to potty train Pepper so he gets restless being in there for too long, don’t worry it’s still 3.5×5.5, his is just 5×7). The last time I swapped them Lilo was relaxed enough to take a nap. Pepper loved Lilo’s pen from the start. I have also started allowing her to go into his pen when he’s in the living room. He seems fine with it now that he’s getting a little more used to it.

    We just did one session lasting almost 20 min. No fights!! Whew! But I was limiting their interactions quite a bit. They were not interested in any of the new cardboard stuff I put on the floor. Just wanted to sniff each other out. I know Pepper is easily startled and bites when startled so I did not allow Lilo to come up to her from behind. I allowed him to approach her if they’re face to face which he did a couple times. She actually approached him this time! This is new, last session she tried to get away from him. Anyways, he pushed his head down asking for grooms. She lowered her head and rest her nose on top of his head… And did not groom. They stayed in this position for 20 seconds. I can feel both tensing up by the second so I petted both and nudged them away from each other. They then ate hay about a foot away from each other. This happened once more time, this time I put a piece of hay on top of Lilo’s head, and Pepper ate it off his head, then they resumed checking out the baseboards. I ended the session by sprinkling some pellets on the floor. They both ate the pellets with noses touching. I petted both of them and ended the session. 

    Should I allow them to interact more or is the wait 20 seconds during a face off a good margin to allow interaction? Last time they fought pretty hard so I’m very nervous. 

    Wascally Wabbits

    Update: no pics this time because it’s the same type of pics. 15 min quicky after play time right before bed time. This time Lilo approached Pepper a lot. He nipped/nudged her twice and she scooted back/ran away, I stopped it from escalating further knowing her history and since it’s so early on. Lilo demanded grooms from Pepper several times. Every time the same thing she put her nose on top of his and stopped (probably haven’t decided if she wants to bite or groom). I wait 15-20 seconds then pet them both and entice them with hay. They ate hay side by side twice. Ended it on a good note sharing some pellets on the floor with noses touching neither rabbit tried to nip.

    I feel like I noticed a shift. Pepper never really backed down from being nipped before and also something about her stance and fleeing right away is different from their previous interactions. Hoping I’m not overanalyzing. Very excited for two sessions and no fights!!!


    It’s sounding good – there will most likely somewhere along the line be a chasing and nipping game…. they will probably have to do it to establish who is who – but both eating in each other’s company is good

    But cardboard boxes and such are a distraction and provide hidey places…. a rabbit’s natural defence system (to run and hide), so don’t hesitate to put one or two in there.

    And again – what lovely thick green hay you have for them!!

    Wascally Wabbits


    Only one bonding session today because I was at work for 12h. 30 min. One scuffle: Lilo nipped, Pepper yanked fur off his face (no bleeding). They were kind of chasing each other around, Lilo approached Pepper chased her a couple hops she’d turn around they’d almost touch noses then both backed off. A min later Pepper comes to Lilo, same thing again. This happened a couple times. Then the scuffle happens. Then more of the mutual chasing a few more times. 

    Pepper was mostly staying on the same side of the area. She she was frozen in a corner for a bit. Lilo flopped next to my foot and stayed there. A couple min later, Pepper lay down. They stayed there for a few min. Then Lilo approached Pepper who sprung up and Lilo backed off. I ended it with pellets sprinkled on the floor they ate it up with noses touching (even reaching under each other to get a pellet with no fighting). 

    I was a lot less involved this time. I was standing up holding a pan lid ready to make some noise if they start circling. Only had to use it a couple times. Hopefully they continue to try to sort it out!


    Good, good good, all good…. it seems an age – but these things take time….. but it is SO worth it in the end…

    Wascally Wabbits

    Bonding session #4: Same set up, 45 min.

    Same if the back and forth slight chasing. Again they got into a scuffle at around the 15 min mark. I stopped them after it got to sideways kicking each other. Then both lay down about 2 feet apart from each other to breath. Lilo got up Pepper immediately got up. They ate some hay and just hopped around. Approached each other a few more times without making physical contact. At around the 40 min mark, Pepper hopped into the cardboard box I had in there for them. Lilo hopped up to her. She didn’t have a way to get out without passing him, so they got into scuffle #2. I stopped them again. Both are hay, hopped around. I then ended it on a good note with shared pellets.

    I will make a tunnel tomorrow so there isnt something that one rabbit can get cornered into. Neither scuffles resulted in fur being pulled. Just kicking each other.


    Any chance of having access to a bigger area…? Chasing back and forth, they aren’t able to get away from each other, into their own space….

    Wascally Wabbits

    Update: session #5. I expanded their area, took away the box, replaced with a tunnel I made out of another box. Put more new toys not the ground. They chased each other around. No one is yielding. Both back down whenever the other stops running and turn around. I don’t know exactly what happened but when they’re in the small tunnel someone started something. Bc the next thing that happened was both ran out of the tunnel opposite ends of each other then both made a u turn and went at it. Pepper is SO quick to bite, she doesn’t have any warning signs, her ears were up the whole time, no third eyelid, and yanked out a couple mouthful of Lilo’s fur.

    I obviously ran to them to stop it bc the pan lid noise wasn’t enough. Lilo had his third eyelid out and was biting me viciouslu when I picked him up. Pepper had no injuries (she’s a freaking ninja), but Lilo has two bald spots and one of them has a 1 mm tear (when he saw the vet a couple weeks ago vet sair small injuries like this is ok, just keep an eye out and don’t let them get into another fight until it scabs over and the scab falls off).

    So I will again go on another bonding break. Pepper has a very rough history, I realized today she does not trust me. After I put Lilo back into his pen, I went for her and she was shaking in fear when I reached down. Also I don’t think she bites to attack, she seems to bite when startled. I accidently petted her too quickly on her side yesterday and she with her ninja reflexes chomped down on my hand before she even realized it was me. I usually try to move very slowly around her and let her see what I’m about to do every time I come near her. So maybe the problem is every bonding session she’s not just viewing Lilo as a threat but me also. I will work on forming a stronger bond with her during this break.

    This is stressing me out so much. I am in southern California so if any one knows of professional bonding help here, please let me know.

    Wascally Wabbits

    This was from last night session (#4) but it’s pretty much how Pepper is every time we do a session. In a corner looking terrified. 


    Sorry to hear the last session didn’t go well BY no means am I an expert so take my advice lightly but maybe a more extended time seeing and smelling each other and getting use to each other could be helpful. I would maybe try that and after awhile, like a week or two, try moving pens closer and once they can do that without aggressive behavior then try the sessions again. Pepper sounds like she needs to go slow to me. I know you stated you are giving them time in each other’s pens but how about switching litter boxes? Also have you thought about doing the car ride stress exercise?

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