Rabbit introductions must be done slowly and carefully. There is a whole bonding process to follow as both bunnies must learn to love each other. As an owner, it is down to us to ensure this is done safely otherwise there is a very high chance they will fight and do some serious damage.
The first step is to make sure your set up is suitable for 2 rabbits. See our Housing page for some advice.
Once you have a suitable set up, you can then look at finding your rabbit a friend. Even better, if you are a new bunny owner, consider adopting a ready bonded pair from a local rescue. There are so many deserving duos that are looking for homes.
We would always recommend a female/male pairing.
It is important both bunnies should be neutered and fully recovered. We always recommend waiting a minimum of 6-8 weeks post neutering to ensure their hormones have settled down completely. We will refuse to bond unless this requirement is met.
It is important to note that if you get 2 baby rabbits, this does not mean their bond will stick. The bond they will have as Kits is a baby bond.
Once their hormones start kicking in, there is a very high chance you will need to separate them, neuter and wait 6-8 weeks before starting from scratch
Personally I would recommend keeping the babies separate until they have been neutered to ensure there aren't any issues, fights or accidental litters.
Rabbits are very territorial. When it comes to bonding, it is important that this is done in a completely neutral space.
If both rabbits are going into a completely new place, it is easier for the bond to thrive rather than if one of the rabbits has already claimed the area as it's own.
If you are taking in a new rabbit to bond with your existing rabbit, it is important to completely neutralise the area.
We would recommend using diluted White Wine Vinegar solution to completely de-odorise everything.
Hutches/Cages – Make sure these are fully rinsed after being cleaned. This should be done sooner rather than later to give it time to dry fully before the bunnies return home.
Toys/Bowls – These must be thoroughly cleaned
Any items previously owned by any rabbit needs to be completely removed. This includes chewed/damaged toys, marked litter trays, bedding and anything made from fabric like teddies.
Starting the Process
Once you have sorted your neutral space, you can start introducing your rabbits.
There are many bonding methods however its important to stick to the safest method for your rabbits. We would recommend the following method:
Put the rabbits in nearby enclosures, where they can sniff each other through wire.
2. If your existing rabbit is free-range, put the new rabbit in a cordoned-off section of this area. The rabbits will start to get used to each other’s scent. To help this you can also swap their litter trays over or rub a cloth over one bunny and then the other.
3. Once the rabbits are used to the sight and smell of each other, start putting them together for very short periods of time in strictly neutral territory where neither has been before – try the bathroom, but not the actual bath! Make sure you put lots of distractions in with them, so three piles of hay, three piles of herbs, and a tunnel for example. Make sure there is nowhere that one rabbit can get backed into and trapped. It is also important to make sure there is nothing on which they can injure themselves. You will need to be in this area with them. Make sure you are wearing sturdy shoes (no open toed sandals!) and have a towel with you in case you need to intervene and separate them. At the slightest sign of tension, separate the rabbits. Try again next day, gradually increasing the time the rabbits spend together. A little bit of chasing and nipping is normal, but it is better to separate the rabbits too soon than risk an all-out fight.
4. Repeat this until the bunnies are relaxed in each other’s company. You can assist this process by feeding the rabbits together and providing lots of cardboard boxes and hidey holes so that they do not have to stare at each other. Rabbits are very territorial and any competition for resources might cause tension so to ensure you have at least two of everything – feeding station, water bowl, hidey hole – one for each rabbit.
5. When the rabbits are happy to groom each other and lie together, they can be left together unsupervised. The whole process can take anything from a couple of hours to a couple of months. The better the rabbits get on at their first meeting, the quicker they will bond. And if you can put the rabbits together for very brief periods every day, they will get used to each other far more quickly than if you do it less often.
6. It is completely natural that one rabbit will be dominant over the other. It should not be in any way aggressive though. There may be mounting, but it should be accepted by the less dominant rabbit. The subordinate rabbit shows its acceptance of the other’s dominance by licking it. The rabbit that puts its head down to be licked is claiming top spot, and by licking it, the partner is accepting that the other rabbit is boss. If they do have a proper fight at any point, do not try to introduce them again. If this happens get in touch with an expert for advice, but it might be that they will not be able to bond. The same is true for same sex pairs that have previously lived together. We are often told about same sex siblings that have started to fight when they have reached sexual maturity. The owners will at that point have separated them and have them neutered. Sadly, by this point it is unlikely that they will ever be able to live together again.
Stuck like Glue
Once your bunnies are bonded, it is important to NEVER separate them unless there is a risk of injury
If you need to take one of your rabbits to the vets, both need to go.
If you want to bring one in for a cuddle or for grooming, the bonded friend needs to be there to.
Even if your rabbit needs to stay overnight at the vets, the vets should allow both to stay!
This goes for if you have a bonded group of more than 2 rabbits!
Any changes to location or smell can put a bond back!
Take your time!! DO NOT RUSH ANYTHING. If anything is rushed, you can completely ruin the bond.
Respect and trust the process!!