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Forum BONDING *Please Help Us* – First Major Fight – (Two Males)

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    • mucivore
      Participant
      3 posts Send Private Message

      Hello forum members, my name is Mira. I will be filling out the bonding questions first and get into why I’ve reached out after that. Thank you.

       

      Spay/Neuter
      Are your bunnies spayed/neutered? Yes.

      If so, for how long (for each)? Willow was spayed at two years old. He is seven now. River was spayed June 10th, 2021.

      If not, why not?

      Are you aware of reproductive cancer risk in females? If not, please read about it here

      Housing
      Please describe your bunnies’ current housing set-up (living together, as neighbors, etc.). The two rabbits have been living in their own designated exercise pens that were bumped up right next to eachother, but as I am writing this they have been separated to entirely different  areas of the basement.

      Bonding background
      Did you allow the bunnies to “settle-in”? Not for long enough. River just arrived less than two weeks prior, so he is still getting used to the space and living with new sounds, sights, and smells, etc.

      How would you describe your bunnies reactions towards each other (answer for each bunny): shy, scared, curious, calm, aggressive, excited, affectionate, etc.? First meeting was at home in their own pens, spaced about three inches apart from eachother. Body language was positive, (ears perked forward, relaxed posture, sniffing through the bars of the pen) and they expressed mutual curiosity.

       

      Have you done any “pre-bonding” (cage or litter box swaps, etc.)? Yes. I swapped the litter boxes about a week into things, and started off swapping toys before that. This sparked interest between both rabbits. I originally had three, small stuffed rabbit plushies for Willow that I interchanged back and forth between the two. Even rubbed each rabbit with one of the plushies and handed it to the other to see what the response would be and both groomed them, which I thought was good.

      If so, for how long? It’s been just over a week.

      Have you started sessions yet? I spontaneously wanted to try getting them face to face for the first time seeing as things were seemingly going well – both rabbits were content, would sit by one another from inside their pens, or just ignore eachother entirely. I set up a neutral meeting in a bathtub upstairs, and once both rabbits were in there, it was obvious that River was stressed. Willow sat in one spot, minding his own business essentially, and River skated up towards him and immediately started to nip and a tuft of Willows hair went up into the air, and then a tuft of Rivers, and that’s when they were separated and put back into their pens. I haven’t deliberately tried any face to face interactions like that since.

      How long have you been working on bonding your bunnies? Almost two weeks.

      How frequently do you have bonding sessions, and how long are they? Just that one time, and the result of how it played out told me right away that it was a rushed and not well-thought out decision on my part, so I wasn’t planning on anything more for a while.

      Have you tried any stressing techniques? Besides the bathtub, no.

       

      ** Alright. Just to preface things, Willow has been my first and only rabbit up until River came into the picture just under two weeks ago as of tonight. (July 11th, 2021)

      ** Willow is a Netherland Dwarf, 7yrs.

      ** River is a Black Silver Marten, 7months

       

      * What happened this afternoon . .*

      I have been having one rabbit out at a time during the day for exercise and play-time with me since River came into the picture. The area that has been closed off for this purpose is also the same space that both the rabbits have their pens as well. This afternoon while River was out doing his run about the room, I was sitting cross-legged in front of Willows pen, with the door open. My hand was on Willow, and we were no more than a couple inches away from one another when River circled around the back of me and swiftly hopped into the pen . . .

      I held my breath for a moment when they met face to face and immediately squared up, sniffing at first, and then outright scrapping. Willow took the first nip and then before I knew it, they were both scrambling around Willows pen, Willows hair flying all over the place. Both rabbits were biting and scratching at eachother and before I could even react, Willow suddenly took hold of the blanket inside his bed and kicked at it frantically. That’s when I scooped River around and he hopped right out of the pen and darted for a hiding space across the room . . .

      Willow was dazed by the time he sat back up and looked at me. I scooped him up after giving him a once over and grabbed a pet brush on the way out with the intention of combing away any of the excess hair . . .

       

      **TW** **Talk of Blood/Gore**

      Once we were in a separate area and I had him down in a place where I could really get a good look at the damage, I saw his right shoulder blade area had been ripped open at about an inch deep, exposing the muscle uunderneath. After a vet emergency visit, he was sent home with me and some new stitches, a bandage vest that was protecting a tooth gash on his spine, and probably the smallest cone I’ve ever seen. He is doing ok, all things considered. River too.

       

      More than anything at this point I would just like some insight on the situation. This fight was not the result of a planned meeting gone wrong, but of a surprise one that I’m almost certain none of us expected. 

      I don’t want to give up River right away, because I still feel like neither of them have had an honest chance to settle or really get to know one another, but I also understand that this fight has just put a hault to any plans of bonding for the next couple of weeks while Willow takes the time to heal and recover from his injuries.

       

      Please, someone with experience or understanding of the situation tell me how to navigate here forward.


    • mucivore
      Participant
      3 posts Send Private Message

      ** Both males are neutered, not spayed. Just noticed that unfortunate error.


    • HipHopBunny
      Participant
      629 posts Send Private Message

      Ooh, I’m so sorry that happened! I’m glad that they’re both okay. Wishing swift recoveries!

      What it sounds like to me, is that River is still getting used to his new enivornment, and a little anxious about all the new surroundings. My guess, is that all of this anxiety from him led up to the first little tuffle in the tub, out of panic. When he hopped into Willow’s cage, though, that’s Willow’s turf, so it was really free game for whatever emotions Willow wanted to unleash.

      What I’d probably do, is give them a bit more distance between their enclosures for a little while, let them both heal up, and once they’re both fully recovered, then I’d do a month of pre-bonding. From what you reported from when you did that, it sounded like all the interactions there were positive. And, aside from the fight, it sounds like they’ll be a good match once they’ve both calmed down more. 🙂

      Wishing you all the best!


    • Susanne
      Participant
      159 posts Send Private Message

      Hi,  if I read this correctly the fight happened in Willow’s pen, so the core problem here is that it wasn’t in neutral territory. I made the same mistake when I first tried to bond my rabbit, and it does suck learning the hard way how important it is not to let them together on each other’s turf until they are bonded.  Fights escalate quickly! I don’t think it means it’s hopeless, and since it sounds like you have space to keep them separate for a while I wouldn’t give up! I think keeping them completely separate for now is best, then maybe a few weeks to a month put them back side by side and do a couple weeks pre bonding. After that, start their meetings again and make sure it’s a completely neutral area. It’s better to intervene more than necessary at first than a fight, and then you can start to ease up as you become more confident in them, but definitely be sure to stop any fights in the future, most will stop trying pretty quickly. I started in a ~5x 5 ft closet but bathtub seems to work as a starting point for others.  I believe the bonding steps are covered in some info pages here, but as you start again there are lots of people here who can answer questions if you’re feeling unsure in any step.


    • DanaNM
      Moderator
      6051 posts Send Private Message

      Ugh so stressful! I’m sorry this happened. I think you made the right call by separating them entirely for now. I would give them a good long while of full separation. So maybe a couple weeks for healing, plus another 3-4 on top of that for hurt feelings to subside.

      Then I would go back to pre-bonding for a few more weeks and see how they behave during that period.

      . . . 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.  


    • mucivore
      Participant
      3 posts Send Private Message

      Apologies for the delayed response everyone, but I wanted to thank you emensely for the feedback. It’s been a stressful couple of days for myself and my mom especially because we both love Willow so much, and to see him hurt in such a brutal way was jarring – traumatizing, to be frank. I’m feeling more alone than ever because I am the only one who seems to see things from the rabbits’ perspectives. River is not a “bad rabbit” by any means, and I hate the thought that this incident has painted him in that light to people who just don’t understand the situation…

       

      It’s really nothing like I’ve ever felt before, considering River hasn’t been around long enough to form a bond with me even, but I honestly feel like I would be giving up too soon if I turned him back into the shelter. He came from a home where he was a single rabbit with no other animals either, and his previous people gave him up because they “didn’t have the time” . . .

       

      I have time and I can muster all the patience that is required so that these two can have a honest chance at possibly bonding, even if it takes months and months and months. At the end of the day I know that ultimately I’m the only one capable of making the call on whether or not it’s going to work. I’ve read stories of other rabbits bonding over similar or sometimes worse circumstances, and that makes me hopeful.

       

      **Willow is doing well though. As of right now River is just getting used to being alone in the rumpus room, but I’m still doing my best to split my time and attention between the two nonetheless.


    • DanaNM
      Moderator
      6051 posts Send Private Message

      I will just add that there is nothing wrong with re-homing a bun if you make sure that he goes to a good home. And yes I don’t think that anything that happened is a reflection on his character as a rabbit or ability to bond in general, it was just an unfortunate accident. 🙁

      It is also a sad reminder to others who may find this thread that it is important to bond rabbits properly, because they can really hurt each other badly in a flash!

      . . . 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 *Please Help Us* – First Major Fight – (Two Males)