Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bonding: Introductions.

Rabbits are social animals. There are exceptions to any rule, but most rabbits want to be with another rabbit. Bonding rabbits can be a tricky business. The caregiver loves their resident and wants what is best for them, so very lucky rabbits will live in pairs, trios or more. I’m going to go over some bunny bonding basics with you. From what to expect, to what can go wrong and what has worked best for me in the past.

When choosing a companion for your rabbit. Please realize YOU don’t choose a companion for your rabbit. You can pick out individuals to introduce your rabbit to, but the rabbits are the ones who choose their companion. This is just how it works. The first thing to realize is that rabbits are very emotional. They love deeply and they hate deeply. They are very suspicious of strangers and can be lethally territorial. If you go about introductions wrong, injuries can result that require emergency veterinary care. So, only adopt a companion rabbit from an organization that understands that the rabbit chooses, and allows you to bring your companion rabbit with you for introductions.

A few do’s and don’ts:

DO go with an open mind. Have a list of rabbits that are being fostered communicated to the organization in the order that you would like to make introductions. The one you hope for should be #1.

DON’T expect your rabbit to know who is on the link or give a fig about the one YOU hope for.

DO leave your emotions at the door. Your resident rabbit may be the submissive partner. He may be mounted and he may get chased. It is ok. This is normal.

DON’T interfere with the bonding process by touching your rabbit or “comforting” him during introductions. Every time you interfere, the rabbits have to start over and you risk ruining the bond.

DO watch body language. Rabbits will clearly tell you how things are going.

What you WANT to see with an introduction:
  • Rabbits ignore each other. Good.
  • One rabbit mounts the other. Bottom rabbit lays submissively and allows it to happen. Good.
  • Rabbits eat in front of each other. Good.
  • Rabbits groom themselves in sight of the other rabbit. Good.
  • Rabbits voluntarily sit near each other. Great.
  • Rabbits groom each other. Holy Grail. Hardly ever happens, but is the best possible meeting.
What you DON’T want to see in an introduction:
  • Biting.
  • Aggressive chasing with fur plucking.
  • Excessive mounting with bottom rabbit struggling to get loose.
  • Immediate attacks.
  • Defensive stances.
  • Growling.
  • Any sort of bloodletting.
Once your rabbit has chosen, the actual bonding process has begun. Please realize that rabbits are emotional (Yes I said it before, but it bears repeating). They feel things deeply. Your responsibility as the bunny parent is to be a good in law. This means don’t over protect your resident rabbit, but also don’t ignore him. The relationship that is forming between the rabbits is very fragile at the beginning. The rabbits are starting a friendship.

Just like with humans the rabbit friendships start with some attraction. “That person/rabbit looks fun to hang around. I think I’d like to get to know them better.” This can quickly escalate to “What a JERK. I hate them.” If the bonding isn’t handled properly.  The responsibility of the human is to make sure that the rabbits interactions build on positive feelings. Just like human relationships, rabbits want to be with other rabbits that good things happen with and who have shared memories of good things. The human orchestrates the meetings and “dates”.  But, that is information that we will go over in our next blog. Until Next time…binky on.

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