Rabbits were always meant to live in groups. Bonding your rabbit with a partner will greatly increase its quality of life, but there are benefits for you as its owner too. Once you have witnessed your bonded rabbits grooming each other, eating with each other and lying down together, it is unlikely you will want to return to keeping a solitary rabbit.
Introducing rabbits to one another for the first time needs to be done carefully. Rabbits are sociable animals but they are also territorial. Your resident rabbit will be very wary of a new companion being brought into its home.
Some rabbits will develop an instant bond. This is easily recognisable by an initial lack of interest followed by individual grooming. This will soon progress to mutual grooming and the pair sitting together. Keep an eye on a “Love at first sight” couple for signs of possible aggression.
Two baby rabbits under 12 weeks of age and a “Love at first sight” pair can live with each other immediately. All other combinations will need to be gradually introduced. Firstly, both rabbits need to be neutered as soon as they’re old enough. Put the rabbits in cages that are very close to each other as they need to pick up each other’s scents. Once the rabbits are used to the sight and smell of each other, start putting them together for short periods of time. If there are signs of tension then separate the pair and try again the next day and gradually increase the time they spend together. Repeat this process until the rabbits are completely relaxed with one another. Provide them with food and boxes for hidey holes so they don’t have to sit and stare at each other. When the rabbits are happy to groom each other and lie down together, they can then be left unsupervised.
This process can take anything from a few hours to a few months. The better the rabbits get on at their first meeting, the quicker the bonding process will take. If you are able to put the rabbits together for brief periods many times a day, then they will get used to each other more quickly than if you do so once a day.
Why Domestic Rabbits Need A Friend
In the winter, rabbits share their body heat with one another to fend off the cold
Rabbits are hard-wired to be sociable, and when they are kept in pairs, they will spend most of their time together.
Mutual grooming is a joy to watch, and it is vital natural behaviour for rabbits.
Rabbits kept in pairs are often healthier than rabbits that are kept on their own. Rabbits do a great job of grooming themselves, but a companion will be able to get to the parts that they cannot reach by themselves. Rabbits eyes for example. Some owners have stated that when one of their rabbits dies, the other begins to suffer from eye infections as their partner is no longer around to keep their eyes clean.
Particularly in times of stress, rabbits rely on each other for emotional support. They should not be deprived of a companion to turn to and share their lives with. Depression type behaviour has been observed in widowed rabbits. This behaviour improves when a new companion is introduced. Wild rabbits rely on each other for “safety in numbers” and that instinct is still present in domestic rabbits. They will feel more confident if they are living with other rabbits.