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Forum BONDING Re-bonding: Is it possible with aggressive behavior in one?

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    • Persephone
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      Spay/Neuter
      Are your bunnies spayed/neutered? Yes
      If so, for how long (for each)? 3 years (been bonded for 5 years previously)

      Housing
      Please describe your bunnies’ current housing set-up (living together, as neighbors, etc.).

      They are split up on opposite sides of my apartment. They have an x-pen and daily exercise time in an area enclosed for just them. They haven’t been able to see each other for about 2 months.

      Bonding background
      Did you allow the bunnies to “settle-in”?
      No, they lived together prior to de-bonding (vet visit likely cause).
      How would you describe your bunnies reactions towards each other (answer for each bunny): shy, scared, curious, calm, aggressive, excited, affectionate, etc.?

      One (A for short) has always been dominant but has to be defensive to the other. The other (O for short) has become increasingly aggressive, constantly seeking A out to attack and has been aggressive even with me (biting, grunting, clawing, etc)
      Have you done any “pre-bonding” (cage or litter box swaps, etc.)? Yes

      If so, for how long? I try to switch every week for a month but they don’t seem affected by it.
      Have you started sessions yet? I attempted two before but they ended with really serious hair loss and anxiety.
      How long have you been working on bonding your bunnies? 2 months
      How frequently do you have bonding sessions, and how long are they? No bonding sessions in two months to allow them to cool off.
      Have you tried any stressing techniques? No

       

      One (O for short) is becoming really aggressive. I feel like she has always wanted to be the dominant one and they would occasionally have spats when A would mount, but it would resolve. However, when A got sick, O saw the opportunity to be dominant and I’m not sure if she will want to give it up at all. Attempting any bonding sessions gives me extreme anxiety because of how close my rabbits got to injury last time and I have no network to assist me with it. I’m not sure what to do, but keeping them totally separate for the rest of their lives doesn’t feel like a solution at all. Please help


    • Wick & Fable
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      Bonding can definitely be anxiety producing, and one or both rabbits being aggressive is pretty much the primary reason why it can be an arduous task for many owners– you are not alone, and it’s not necessarily impossible, especially if they were bonded before.

      From what you provided, I do not see mention of having them share a space separated by an x-pen wall. Have you tried this? I have a ~sorta~ bonded pair, and the aggressor had broken a finger back in April. There have been on and off pen restriction in a separate room for recovery, so their bond was lost. I found an x-pen barrier was a nice way to allow more direct interaction, but more safety from fights breaking out. Initially, the aggressor did lunge and nip for a bit, but stopped after a day or so.

      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’s a really tough situation. 🙁

      I agree with Wick that maybe a housing set up change would help things a bit (and may also make the situation less stressful for you). Not sure what type of pen set up you have, but I usually like to use NIC cubes to make side-by-side condos for pre-bonding. You can either leave a 4-6 inch gap so they can’t nip each other through the walls, or use “nose guards” to make walls they can’t nip through. I think the side-by-side housing works best for bonding, because they have to spend all of their time really close to the other rabbit. You can still do alternate exercise time, but when they aren’t exercising they would still be able to see and smell each other. I’m interested to see how they react to that change during pre-bonding.

      I’m wondering if maybe there is a rescue or other rabbit group in your area that might be able to help you? Or at least assess them to see if they think they can be rebonded?

      With my toughest bond (my first one), the buns would fight almost immediately. The only thing that got us past that phase was car rides. Stressing can be stressful for humans too, but it might be worth trying if things don’t calm down with the change in their housing.

      I also would be interested to see how they behave in neutral territory. Sometimes buns will be super aggressive towards each other when near their home turf, but in a brand new space they are much more mellow. Do you have a super neutral area to work with them in? Even better if it’s slightly stressful (like a pen in a backyard).

      . . . 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.  


    • Persephone
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      Wick and Dana,

      Thank you both for your suggestions! I immediately bought some nose guard grids and set their cages up right by each other and so far they haven’t seem to hurt each other as a result (today is the first day).

      It’s difficult to gauge their reactions to each other. It seems like O (the main aggressor) is hyper aware of everything A does and will immediately run to the edge of the pen to try to make contact. A is totally unaware most of the time but is extremely keen to scoping out everywhere that O was staying at like her pen and rug.

      Im also going to switch their pens when they have their separate exercise times. When I did so today (O into A’s pen while A explored the room), O was thumping. Is this a sign that she is still upset and once she stops when in her territory might begin making amends?

      Once this pre-bonding seems to be making progress for them both, I will attempt to rebond them at my in-laws house (totally neutral territory, but has other animals living there. Will that be an issue?)

      Thank you again for the help!!


    • DanaNM
      Moderator
      6049 posts Send Private Message

      That sounds like a good plan! And yes the thumping etc. is all because she’s upset that her territory has been invaded, but should start to ease with time. I feel like on average I’ve started to see improvements after about a week, and then after a few weeks they seem very relaxed around each other.

      I think once pre-bonding is going well, your in-laws house sounds like a great location. Other animals are no issue. 🙂

      . . . 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.  


    • Persephone
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      Quick update! The first night, they already began lying by each other and trying to stay close to each other. We’re also working on associating them being nice and close with treats. Fingers crossed for more improvements soon 😁


    • Wick & Fable
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      4958 posts Send Private Message

      That’s so wonderful to hear! Thanks for the update. Wishing you more improvements and progress in the future for you and your buns!

      By them lying by each other, is this on separate sides of a divided pen, or during a date?

      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.


    • Persephone
      Participant
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      It is when they’re on separate sides of the pen. Since it’s only Day 2, more time like this would be better right? Or do you think beginning some short dates would be helpful?

      I have a family member bun-sitting for a day the first week of August so I’m thinking I’ll keep them in pre-bond until afterwards so the change in environment doesn’t cause a fight when I’m not around to help.


    • DanaNM
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      6049 posts Send Private Message

      That sounds great! I would wait to do sessions just till after the bunny sitter comes. Once you start sessions it’s good to be consistent, so if you have to take a break from them anyway might as well wait.  🙂

      . . . 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 Re-bonding: Is it possible with aggressive behavior in one?