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Forum BONDING Newly adopted pair had a fight, so need help

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    • KaterH
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      Hey all,

      So my husband and I adopted a bonded pair of neutered rabbits from a rescue, two males who have been living together for at least six months. While the foster said they’d occasionally have tiffs, she said she’d never had to separate them or seen a big fight.

      Well, last night, they got into it. I’d noticed the more submissive one grunting a couple times since we got them on Saturday, and the dominant one had nipped just a tiny bit as a warning a few times — but they had been eating, sleeping, grooming and playing together just fine. They started in a 7×5 x-pen for a couple days, and then we gave them our kitchen for a total of 13×5 for living (they’d been free-roam in the previous home, but we were starting them slow and also have to make sure our two small dogs are calm with them; no prey drive and have lived with rabbits before). The rabbits have two bowls but were eating out of one and one very large litter, and lots of hay sources/toys.

      So, what might have caused the chasing and biting? It seemed quite aggressive and lasted too long, and there were multiple hair clumps (no real injuries that I can tell, though they’re still timid with us).

      We only had one rabbit previously, so I’m not used to this, and could use tips on preserving their bond. I’ve read a lot and was keeping an eye on them, but decided last night to put up an x-pen barrier after things escalated. They can see and smell one another through a doorway, and I fed them next to one another this morning, but I’m not sure how soon is best for trying a bathroom test session? I’m too scared to just take away the barrier, should injuries occur or worse fights make things worse.

      Thanks in advance for any help!


    • DanaNM
      Moderator
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      Did you notice a trigger around the fight? Like food aggression or a litter box dispute? It sounds like they had a somewhat tenuous bond to begin with.

      Did things resolve on their own or did you break them up?

      Sometimes moving to a new location can cause issues in bonded pairs, but things usually do resolve with some supervision (as long as the fighting isn’t too bad).

      Since this happened so soon after adopting them, I would contact the rescue, they may be able to help with re-bonding (and assessing whether they should be rebonded).

      I think it would be OK to try them together in a new neutral space soon and see how it goes. If you are able to supervise them, I would keep them in that space for 24 hours at least. if all goes well, I’d go back to the smaller pen in the kitchen where they did well and see if they still do OK.

      If things don’t go well in neutral, then I would for sure talk to the rescue, because it indicates that a longer re-bonding process might be needed. I do think it was a good call to put up the barrier for when they are unsupervised.

      . . . 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.  


      • KaterH
        Participant
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        Thanks so much for the reply and answer.

        I have to admit that I thought the same when the foster called one of them a “bully” but she said she was really joking, and we had already gone through the adoption process at that point. They really did seem to be doing well for several days, so I put it out of my mind.

        They seemed to be fine in the litter, using it together and generally just switching off. And there was no obvious food aggression that I could tell.

        I did have to move one toy on Sunday cause it was in a corner and both wanted it, but no fights or anything.

        The only thing I can think of is I opened up a small part of our entryway for them because they had so much energy last night. But they fought in their main space shortly after, so maybe that was the mistake? I did try to distract them and ultimately intervened, putting up the barrier, so it didn’t firmly resolve, I don’t think.

        Anyway, I have contacted the rescue and I know they’ll try to help. But I appreciate you all helping in the meantime.


    • Wick & Fable
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      Do you happen to know the timeline of them being neutered and living together for 6 months? I wonder if it’s the case where a lot of that time was them getting along with a superficial, baby bond, and they were only neutered recently so they may not have an actual formal bond between two fixed adult rabbits. Long shot, but wondering. If it is the case, then starting at the beginning with bonding is recommended.

      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.


      • KaterH
        Participant
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        Oh right, yes. They’re 1.5 years and were neutered a while back, I was told. So they were bonded long after being neutered and had been living together in the same home ever since. I’ve read a lot about baby bonds, but they were already around one when put together. I can of course confirm that, and just hope I didn’t step in too early.

        It just seemed to be getting out of hand when they were tussling in the house, which is large and has two exits.


    • DanaNM
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      6531 posts Send Private Message

      I do know of some cases where scuffles have occurred in hidey-houses (but usually during bonding sessions). Moving in general can cause issues in bonded pairs (not usually, but it is a common reason cited as to why a bond broke), so hopefully the rescue has some more insight and even help re-bond them.

      . . . 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.  


    • KaterH
      Participant
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      For those who have commented or who also have issues with new, bonded pairs, we had some success tonight with a neutral-space session. After speaking with their foster (who didn’t initially bond them but assisted) and getting tips on how she transitioned them to her home, I decided to use our hallway and an x-pen, plus some goodies to distract them (as there’s no obvious food aggression, and they’ve continued to eat “together” just fine through the x-pen and side by side).

      We were able to spend 40 min hanging out, with no interventions needed. A bit of shared eating, just a few grunts, nips and stand-offs that didn’t escalate, and a mini cuddle.

      I put them back in their own areas when it seemed like they were getting a bit over it/stressed, and I still want to keep them apart while unsupervised/until we try a couple more tests.

      The foster suggested that I de-clutter their space a little and provide a larger free-roamish area at night for a couple hours once they’re back together (vs. taking it slow as I was) as she found their initial disagreements at her place came from their nighttime energy and that they just needed more areas to get away at those times vs. toys. Since we have our dogs, I just need to keep some areas closed at least until they’re all cool for supervised-only joint access.

      Anyway, I’m not sure if that helps anyone or if ppl were interested in the follow-up, but so far, so good. The upside, I guess, is learning so much about rabbit pair language.


    • Wick & Fable
      Moderator
      5127 posts Send Private Message

      We are always very appreciative of follow-up! These experiences are helpful for those following your topic, as well as though who may visit it in the future. Thank you for the update, and so happy that things are progressing! It is great that the foster was able to provide some insight/guidance.

      Learning about rabbit body language is so important and an interesting experience, for sure.

      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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      That sounds like progress and good info from the foster! And I 100% agree about providing more space but less clutter, we’ve noticed that as well with rabbits at the rescue I volunteer at.

      Some pairs do seem to bicker more than others, so finding out what triggers your boys will help in the future.

      . . . 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.  


    • KaterH
      Participant
      26 posts Send Private Message

      Hey 😊 Glad to hear that it sounds like progress to you all as well. I was definitely encouraged when there were no real scuffles, and I’m planning on trying it again this evening.

      For now, I’m just encouraging them eating by the gate, so they’re artificially “together” and am swapping blankets, space and litter boxes back and forth.

      Fingers crossed it’s a smooth transition back to happy living!


    • KaterH
      Participant
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      Awesome update from this evening ☺️ Bonding session two has been very productive.

      We started them both in the neutral space, with a big heap of hay and veggies. There was shared eating and only a few grunts, and then multiple cuddle/grooming sessions.

      After two hours, I opened up their reorganized shared kitchen space, offering no obstacles, their large litter and some shared treats again. Ditto on the lack of aggression, and two big grooming sessions.

      It’s now been nearly four hours and I opened up the other half of their space. Lots of hay and treats again, and there has been another cute cuddle session. And so many binkys!

      All in all, just a handful of very minor poking at one another moments, plus one chase that ended fast. I’m really considering just leaving them now. I don’t want to set their adjustment back at all/have one of them get territorial overnight of one of the halves if there’s no real danger.


    • DanaNM
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      That sounds so great!

      I think it’s good to take things slowly given their history, so i would keep separating them whenever you can’t supervise for now. But that is all so great to hear 🙂

      . . . 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.  


      • KaterH
        Participant
        26 posts Send Private Message

        Thanks for the reply!

        Based on your experience, what signs mean it’s okay to finally leave them? They’re eating together, grooming one another and have shown no further signs of annoyance at all today that I can tell. And they’ve been cuddling for nearly half of the day. Basically, no nipping or chasing or anything, and they’re both using the same litter.

        Just curious how I’ll know it’s time 🙂


    • DanaNM
      Moderator
      6531 posts Send Private Message

      That sounds great!

      My rule of thumb for bonding is that they’ve been together 48 hours with plenty of positive behaviors and no negative behaviors (a little nip is OK, but no serious chasing or fur pulling), and I restart that clock any time I move them into a new location. You also may get a sense that they are fine during the day, but overnight have more problems, so you could leave them a little during the day but supervise them at night.

      There’s also this sense of things “clicking”, where they just seem super relaxed around each other. Once I notice that phase, I usually give it a bit more time than I think they probably need, just to make sure things are really “cemented”.

      . . . 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.  


      • KaterH
        Participant
        26 posts Send Private Message

        Awesome, thanks. All makes sense to me.

        At this point, they’ve been together nearly 48 hours straight with only a few minor moments I took note of (I’ve slept right near them both nights + had my husband’s help for supervising). Outside of one five-second chase that almost seemed like playing (no hair pulling) and one non-dramatic grooming rebuff from the submissive bun, they’ve been great. They’re even sleeping side by side right now.

        I do get the sense that late at night is when they’re grumpier, so to speak, so we’ve been trying to give them ample exercise at night with added space. And the signs have been good for sure.

        Thanks for all the help! By the the of the weekend, I think we’ll feel a lot more confident, plus I’ll be able to get more sleep lolol


    • DanaNM
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      That all sounds very positive! Great job with them!

      . . . 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.  


      • KaterH
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        26 posts Send Private Message

        Thanks! ☺️🐰

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Forum BONDING Newly adopted pair had a fight, so need help