Bill Withers certainly had it right when he hit the music charts with his song, “Lean on Me”. One of the lines within the song states: ‘We all need someone to lean on.’ So the question is, are animals the same way as humans? Do they need a friend or two? We can only imagine switching places with them and being cooped up in a rabbit hutch. Being alone most of the time, unless our owner comes to feed us and maybe spend a little time talking with us or cuddling us.
Oh, The Life Of A Rabbit
It is humorous when you think of switching places with a rabbit. However, it may not be a funny matter to the rabbit who lives alone. For the rabbits that live in the wild, they are happiest being with friends, hopping around and having someone to play rabbit games with. At least that is how it appears when you get a chance to actually see them in action.
Like many other animals out in the wild, and even some domesticated, a rabbit will usually have at least one other rabbit that hangs around with him or her. These companions help keep each other clean, play with each other and obviously understand each other.
When a rabbit has become a domesticated rabbit, it is advised to keep rabbits in separate cages or hutches. They can tend to bully one another or fight. So how do you really tell if your domesticated rabbit is lonely?
Just like humans, a rabbit’s demeanor and behavior will change when they are upset, lonely, sad or any other emotion. Some behaviors that you need to watch for include:
Acting aggressive toward the human in their life
Tearing their own fur out, when not pregnant
Acting withdrawn, solitary, hiding in a corner
Destructive behavior of sorts in their hutch
If you notice any of these behaviors in your rabbit, it is time to take action. There are options you have. If your rabbit is spayed or neutered, get another rabbit. You can match up a fixed male with a spayed female. This may take time to get them to become friends. This means that you will need to slowly introduce them and interact with the both of them while they get to know each other. They can slowly be put together for short periods of time. Meantime, the hutch could have mesh wire between the two sides so that the pair can stare at each other, talk with each other in bunny talk. Just simply interact with each other.
Unless your regular veterinarian has advised against it, you should always have a pair, rabbits do get lonely and need companionship. If it is not possible to have two rabbits, then as the owner, you should be out spending time with your rabbit as often as possible.
If you are instructed to keep your rabbit in solitude, but yet spend time with him, you need to remember to approach slowly and get down to his or her level. If you ignore this aspect of being with your rabbit, you will find that he or she may begin to act violent towards you. Being on ground level will help remove the fear the rabbit may have when you enter.
Again, in the wild you will notice that rabbits stick together in pairs or large groups. Rabbits are very social creatures. This is done as a predatory prevention. They will be able to watch out for each other and in a sense, protect each other from predators and other dangers. They keep each other from being lonely and depressed.
Your domesticated rabbit may begin to stress quite a bit when left alone. She needs some socialization and interaction. She will engage with you if that is her only choice. She or he would prefer to be with their own kind. When your domesticated rabbit or even a rabbit in the wilderness becomes stressed, their health is greatly affected. Their systems are not as tough as we may think.
Just like their skeletal systems, their mental health and physical health is just as frail. When you are a rabbit owner, you must do everything in your power to keep your bunnies happy, and that includes letting them socialize with each other. It is no different if you have two bunnies and one gets sick and passes. The remaining bunny will only realize that her friend is gone and be thinking she could be next to vanish. Remember, rabbits are prey, they have that internal warning system that aids them in self protection.
However, losing a mate is just as hard on an animal as it is on a human. They will feel the loss and their health will be affected. They will begin to show the signs mentioned above. They may also just decide to give up. Be sure that if something happens to one of the two that you are with the living bunny and interacting and socializing with it. They need you to be strong for them at such a grievous time.
However, at the same time, if one rabbit does see the corpse of his or her partner, they will seem to begin the understanding process and not be traumatized. Their behavior may stun you when they realize the partner is gone. They will in essence dance around the body and also jump over the corpse a few times.
This is not happiness as it appears, it would be one friend saying that they will see each other again on the other side. Just as with humans, rabbits as well as other animals grieve differently. The process may seem long and drawn out. Put yourself in the rabbit’s place. How would you be reacting if your best friend passed away?
The time will come when you will need to get another rabbit. There may be rejection at first, she or he is having a hard time getting over her partner’s death. What you can do is initiate a friendship between the two slowly at first. Give them a little time in a double hutch, one where there are two sides with a mesh wire between. This will allow the two to smell each other, communicate if they choose and basically get to know each other.
Each day, you can put them together as long as you stay right there to comfort both of them. They will see your interaction and hopefully they may realize that this is a good thing and they can be friends. Be slow and do not force the issue with the two of them.
Rabbits can survive a solitary life, but only if they have interaction of some sort with you. If you work a long day, or if you have school and then a part time job after school, it is not advisable to keep only one rabbit. The solitary lifestyle is not good. Humans get depressed easily when they are alone too often, animals are just as likely to experience depression. The difference is, there is no medication other than the love of a human, interaction and socialization with other rabbits.
You will find that of both sexes of rabbits, the female will more easily survive a solitary life. The female tends to be more independent. Matter of fact, it may be difficult introducing a new friend to her. Rabbits are very territorial. Even with a double hutch, the one rabbit may become aggressive if a different rabbit is put into the other side, that is not the partner. Yes, they may still be grieving. If necessary, put up a block of some sort, such as a piece of wood that can be raised a little each day. This will give them the scent of the other rabbit, and may help them to gradually accept one another.
You may also find that if a friendship cannot be formed between the two, that you can introduce a different species of animal. There have been many times when two rabbits can not get along and bond, yet one rabbit will happily become friends with another. This too, needs to be done slowly. I would imagine that a kitten would be ideal for the rabbit. They are both furry, yet the older rabbit may take a protective stance over the kitten and become friends.
There have been many farms over time where rabbits and chickens have cohabitation in the same pen. They are both social animals and strangely enough will keep each other company. Ultimately, it is still the best idea to have two rabbits bond together. This could take time, Your veterinarian may have other ideas including spending short times together each day, growing that time a little longer with each passing day.
If none of the ideas work right away, prepare to be out with your rabbit playing, talking and interaction. The rabbits need to be social, they are just happier that way.