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Forum BONDING Male-Female Bonding

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    • miwilk339
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      About a month ago I adopted a female rabbit to try to bond to my male rabbit. They had a date and it went well so I took her home with me but after she got set up in her new area the process has come to a complete halt and I don’t know how to go about it. This is my first time trying to bond so I don’t really know what I’m doing and could use the advice. So first off both rabbits are fixed, my male rabbit Thor is 5 years old and the new female rabbit Snowball is 3 years old. After I brought her home I tried giving her time and space to get used to the place but I set her up near Thor so she could also get used to another rabbit being there but it seems she either still isn’t used to it or she just simply doesn’t like it. She used to growl at Thor quite a bit, it’s calmed down a great deal but I do still hear her growl at him from time to time, I’ve also been doing the pre-bonding where I switch them in eachothers pens so they can get used to eachothers scents and stuff but I haven’t been able to move past that due to the fact that Snowball bites at Thor if she’s able to get close enough and reach through the gate, she pulls his hair (which I am aware of being a sign of dominance) but I can’t even put the gates next to eachother because she keeps trying to bite at him which I was told by the organization that I got her from that I need them to be able to have the gates next to eachother and them being fine with eachother before I can even move on to bonding but no matter how much time I give her she just can’t accept Thor and tries to bite at him. Now keep in mind this whole time Thor has been an absolute sweetheart, I don’t think he’s doing anything that would really set her off, I mean at times he gets curious and will go over to the gate closest to her but he just sits there or will sniff through the bars but that’s it. When she growls at him she seems to spook him though because then he’s running all over the place by the gate which she then continues to growl and follows him which seems like chasing which I have read about as an aggressive behavior.

      I mainly just need advice on the best tactic to move forward because the pre-bonding doesn’t seem to help all that much but I also don’t trust her enough to put her in with Thor, he has a bit of a head tilt and is therefore at a slight disadvantage if it came to a fight so I want to avoid that as much as possible but she can’t even handle them being near eachother with a gate in the way so I can’t even imagine putting them in a space without one.


    • DanaNM
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      Hi there,

      Sorry you are having a tough go of it. Thanks for all the background, but I’m not sure of the timeline. How long did you allow Snowball to settle in before starting pre-bonding, and how long have you been working on pre-bonding? Also, how long has Snowball been spayed?

      For pre-bonding pen set-up, I usually like around 4-6 inches between the fences. 6 inches is usually enough to make sure they can’t reach each other through the fence (assuming it’s a typical x-pen or cube grid). If the mesh is smaller, you can go a bit closer. Sometimes I’ve had to put a block or something between so they can’t push them closer together.

      All of that said, sometimes it helps to start with a visual barrier between the pens, like a towel hanging up. Then they get used to the scents first, and you can slowly reduce how much fence is blocked.

      It does sound like you’ve made progress though, even though it can be slow. So more simply more time may be the answer, even though it’s not a super satisfying one.  Will she accept pets from you, or is she still too afraid? If she will, one thing you can do is to pet Thor to get his scent on your hands, and then pet her. This mingles scents and makes the bunny think the other rabbit is grooming them (on some level). Other things people have tried (but I haven’t done personally) is to put a stuffy/surrogate in with Thor, get his scent all over it, and then put it with Snowball. She can take any aggressions out on the stuffy and sometimes this seems to help, because the stuffy doesn’t fight back.

      Remember they did have a good first date, so I doubt they completely hate each other. Interactions near a bunnies home turf can be very different from interactions in a 100% neutral space. She is in a new home, so may feel extra territorial trying to defend her lovely new home.

       

      . . . 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.  


    • miwilk339
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      Thank you so much for the response and the suggestions, I’ll make sure to give them a try! To answer your questions, I have her about 2 to maybe 3 weeks to fully settle in and then I’ve been trying to stick to the pre-bonding every other day and have been doing that for maybe a month now, the people I adopted her from didn’t say when she got spayed, I’m not sure even they know, they’re a rescue group that takes in and fosters bunnies.

      For the enclosure they’re both in regular moveable pens but I’m slowly buying and putting together x-pens for each of their enclosures to make it easier because Snowball tends to move her gates around quite a bit, but usually away from Thor, I still have a barrier between though so she can’t move it towards him.

      Again, thank you for the suggestions, I was worried maybe it was going to be working out, I didn’t want to give up so easy, I just didn’t feel like too much progress was being made but I’m hopeful that the new ideas will help them get used to eachother and I’ll be able to start moving forward with their bonding!


    • DanaNM
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      Ok gotcha, so that is a pretty good amount of time for pre-bonding, but some bunnies do take a long time to settle in. I think since they are running the fence, restricting the area where they can actually see each other might help.

      Have you tried any actual sessions since their first date?

      I don’t want to go against what the rescue told you, but I don’t think it would be a terrible idea to try a short date in VERY neutral territory, just to see where they are at. If it goes very badly, then you know to do more pre-bonding and/or try a different type of session (like a stress session or a different space).

      . . . 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.  


    • miwilk339
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      I haven’t tried any other sessions, how the rescue did it for their date was basically the neutral area but there was still a gate separating them so I haven’t seen yet how they would react together without a gate, do you think I should do a session of my own in neutral territory with the gate between like what the rescue did or try it without?


    • DanaNM
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      It might be nice to try. You could start with a gate and see if their behavior is different than in their normal pens. If things look calm you can remove the gate.

       

      . . . 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.  


    • miwilk339
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      So I was finally able to do a neutral date again to see how they acted with a gate between them and it went pretty well so a few days ago they had their first date without a gate between them, I think it overall went well. They seem to be having dominance issues which I’m sure is very normal, Thor tries to mount Snowball and she proceeds to run away immediately and Snowball bows her head which Thor then proceeds to not groom her and instead try to mount her head which I then have to push him away. Today during their bonding session I’ve noticed Snowball laid down a few times which I thought was a good sign, even with her back to Thor, I also saw her laying down in the litter box and Thor laid down next to the litter box which I thought was cute and probably another good sign. I also noticed when Snowball runs away from Thor after he tries to mount her she does a sort of binky, I don’t know if that’s normal but I’m hoping it’s another good sign. Overall I think it’s going pretty well!! Thank you for the advice, I think it helped them and in turn definitely helped me out!


    • DanaNM
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      That all sounds very good and normal!

      I will add that I usually don’t include a litter box in bonding sessions until they are practically bonded. Sometimes they can get territorial over them, and you usually don’t really need one until the sessions get longer anyway. But that said it doesn’t sound like it caused a lot of problems, so that’s great!

      With head mounting, I will usually try to spin the mounting rabbit around so they are in the correct orientation (regular mounting should be allowed, it’s head mounting that you want to limit). If the mounted rabbit tries to move away, you can prevent them from chasing.

      . . . 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.  


    • miwilk339
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      Thank you for that advice, I’ve been making sure to spin him around as best as I can instead of just pushing him away. Since the last update Thor will occasionally groom Snowball, they’ll also lay down together sometimes, I’m not really sure when they’re considered bonded and to stop keeping them together for only a few hours and to instead move them in full time so if you know what I should be looking out for that’d be great too!! They don’t fight too much, sometimes Snowball will growl and Thor will just go away and that’s as far as that usually goes, other times she’ll growl and pull some hair so I imagine I still have a ways to go with the bonding, but thank you for all your advice from before, I think that really helped with getting them to this point where I can have these sessions together!


    • DanaNM
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      It sounds like you are making progress! They don’t sound bonded yet, but grooming and some cuddling is great. You’ll want to see all the aggression go away though. A little chase or nip is ok, but bonded pairs don’t usually growl or regularly pull fur.

      I would go for some long sessions before 24/7, unless you have several days where you can supervise them constantly. I usually like to do several 4-6 hour sessions before going for overnight or 24/7.  If you notice things tend to improve over the course of the longer sessions, then they are prob ready for 24/7 or overnight sessions. There is lots of variability in how people do these final phases, so you can figure out what works for your schedule and go from there. 🙂  A lot of people will do long sessions during the week (basically as long as you can manage), and then start marathoning on Friday night, so you have the full weekend to supervise.

      . . . 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.  


    • miwilk339
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      That’s a good idea!! I’ve gotten to about 4 hour sessions but I’ll make sure to have them stay together longer for the rest of the week and then hopefully I’ll be able to do the 24/7 soon


    • SeparateWay
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      I look forward to more updates as I’m going through a very similar experience. My 4 year old male Lupin had a date with a 6 month old female Luna at a rescue. His dating experience started off bad with a previous bunny that immediately bit his butt and pulled hair out. He was a little traumatized after that, but Luna was the only bunny who fell in love with him and he seemed to be comfortable around. First day at home was crazy as Luna was very relaxed, but Lupin wasn’t happy with a visitor in his territory. The second night was better as they spent some time in Luna’s enclosure and rested side by side. Neither of them have groomed each other, but both have had stand offs waiting for the other to make a move. Third night was the worst as they chased each other and some hair was pulled out. Both of them keep going for their butts and neither of them appreciate it. I’m hoping things get better. Both of them have been fixed, but Luna’s was more recent in April.


    • DanaNM
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      @SeparateWay , not sure of your full plan, but be sure that you are working with your bunnies in neutral territory. If they are interacting in your first bun’s “turf”, fights are a lot more likely and it can be much harder to bond properly. It’s also very important to prevent fighting.

      If you would like to post some more detailed info on what you’ve been doing with them so far, we are happy to help! Feel free to can start a new thread and fill out the “bonding template” to give us some background.

      . . . 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.  


    • miwilk339
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      Yesterday I think I may have had a breakthrough, I spent the whole day with them and there was next to no growling or hair pulling or any of that, mostly just laying near eachother, laying together, eating together and grooming eachother. Because of their progress I decided to try an overnight session, I don’t think it went poorly, they were definitely much more active, there was some growling and hair pulling but I didn’t let it escalate into anything further. In the morning they went back to being calm and nice to eachother so I don’t know if that’s semi normal to happen at night? I know that bunnies are most active at dusk and dawn and I’m running out of toys to keep them occupied so I don’t know if they could possibly be bored but I’m hoping for an improvement tonight since they’ve already spent over 24 hours together!!


      • DanaNM
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        That sounds really positive! It’s not normal for there to be that much aggression in a bonded pair but very normal to see that pattern in bonding sessions.  I’m interested to see how tonight goes! Fingers crossed for less fur pulling!

         

         

        . . . 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.  


    • miwilk339
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      Yeah I didn’t think there was either, most of the things I’m reading makes it sound fairly nice once you get to the 24 hour process. I’m not sure if they figured eachother out yet, they’re kinda confusing, Snowball grooms Thor a lot but is also always the one to growl or pull his fur, although she doesn’t do it as often, mostly just at night now and I also noticed she has urine stains on her back which I’m slightly confused about because Thor has been neutered for years and I read that that’s a dominance so I’m not sure they know who’s dominant but they also lay together and Thor will occasionally groom Snowball so I’m not exactly sure how they’re doing overall.


    • DanaNM
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      Each pair of bunnies can kind of go at their own pace, so there isn’t a firm rule that things should be great at 24 hours. You should see things generally improving though. If you aren’t (so every night they are fighting a bit), it can help to change up the space (either new, neutral location), make the space bigger, or make the space smaller.

      The fact that they are doing well during the day (cuddling and grooming) is a very good sign, so I’m interested to see how things go tonight.

      I wouldn’t worry about the urine stains, buns can often spray during bonding sessions, or one accidentally laid in some pee.

      . . . 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.  


    • miwilk339
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      Last night was a big improvement, there was still some aggression, not fighting or anything, just a little nipping from Snowball but I stopped her and then ever since morning they’ve been really good again!


    • DanaNM
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      That’s great!

      . . . 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 Male-Female Bonding