BEHAVIOUR CARE

Should Rabbits Be Kept In Pairs?

rabbit pairs

Rabbits are extremely sociable creatures. They like to have company with them, as though they have a friend to talk to and someone to play with. They are like human kids and get bored if they are all alone with no one to play with them.

When it comes to rabbits, it is advisable that if you can find two rabbits that are already bonded, they would be a perfect pair to add to your family.

Lonely

When a rabbit is kept as a solitary pet, you will find that the rabbit is lonely. This can not be helped if you have school or a job that keeps you away for part of the day. However, if a rabbit gets too lonely, this can cause other health issues for your rabbit. Depression can set in and it may not be an easy task to get him or her to bounce back.

What usually works best is if you have two rabbits that were born together. Rabbits under 12 weeks old do unusually well living together. As they get older though, it is always best to have a neutered male with a spayed female. The same works if it is two brother rabbits, or two sister rabbits. They should both be fixed to prevent any problems once puberty has passed.

Adult Rabbits

You can still try to pair two adult rabbits together once they are adults. They both still need to have undergone spaying and neutering to prevent issues. A neutered male can be placed in with a non fixed female, however, you need to wait at least three weeks after his surgery has been completed. You should also avoid pairing during mating season. Especially if she is not fixed, her hormone levels will be increased which will possibly create issues.

Try to find two rabbits that are close in age and size to pair together. Personalities are also an important factor. You do not want two with the same domineering approach to life. The same high spirit and confidence in both rabbits is like putting two bodybuilders in the same room.

You will still need to take it slow when getting ready to introduce the two. Take turns stroking each rabbit and then immediately stroke the next rabbit. Make a good combination of items from both their hutches. Basically to mix the scents and allow them both to feel comfortable in the hutch. 

They will know each other slightly ahead of time by their scents. But, it is best to begin the process of pairing them in the same hutch in the morning. This will allow you to watch the interactions between the two all day. This ensures that you will be able to see if they get along or if there will be problems between the two.

Neutral Area

The first introductions should be kept to an area where neither have their own territory. Neutral ground puts them both on the same level. The neutral territory could be an outside safe run, One that is enclosed so as to not worry about predators. A room that is not too large would also be an acceptable place. One piece of advice is to provide many hiding spaces so they can stay away from each other when they feel the need to. If the space is large enough, you can place one rabbit at either end, this will allow them to meet each other when they are ready to.

There are numerous behaviors that will tell you if they are developing any bond. Things such as mutual grooming, mounting, chasing and circling is all normal behavior and is to be expected. If you can, scatter some foods such as hay, fruit and vegetables throughout the area.  This is not only helpful as a distraction, but they may also think of each other as being around when there are also pleasant things.

If they have seemed to bond pretty well throughout the first day, you can allow them to be caged overnight. If you have any doubts that they can get along overnight, wait for another day of attempted bonding.

It is easier to introduce the female to the male hutch than it is to put the male into the females. Ideally a very large hutch with privacy at both ends would be ideal. This way they would both have a place to go at night to sleep, to be away from the other if they are not ready yet.

If by the end of the second day you have seen no progress towards bonding, then you may want to make a different selection of rabbits. Using a run is one reason why it would likely work better. They come to each other when they are ready. They have places to hide throughout the run if needed and they have special food tossed throughout the run.

Choosing A Single Rabbit or Pairing

This is a tough decision for many people. However, a lot will depend on your availability also.  The biggest concern that you must consider is how much time will you have to dedicate one on one time with your new rabbit? They like to be social, and they like to play. If they are cooped up in the same area day in and day out, they will become bored and that leads to depression, which will ultimately lead to sickness. If you are a single person who does have plenty of time to play and spend with your rabbit, they will be quite content.

There is nothing quite the same as having another of your kind to talk to, play with and snuggle with. Especially for the type of social animal that rabbits are. Pairing up two rabbits, watching them fall in love and make a life together is like a fairy tale. You will know that you set them up on their first date, so to speak.

It is not going to make a difference what we do as human companions, there is nothing the same as having another rabbit there, if you are a rabbit. At the same time, having two rabbits is a good amount of responsibility. Twice the amount as one.

Passing On

The day will come when something happens and one rabbit passes away. The surviving rabbit will grieve, but at the same time, will not handle being single again. So the pairing process needs to begin again. Some rabbits may move on ready within days, some take a longer time. Just like people, rabbits have their own identity. It can be a challenge to know what to do in a case of death.

Double Everything

Obviously, the cost can be a factor in the decision. It will be twice as much food, twice as much for Vet costs, twice as much bedding, but also twice the love you get to give and get back. If we could read a rabbit’s dreams and wishes, living as a pair in a home as free range rabbits is likely the best life the two of them could possibly have.  The thought of twice as much expense may scare some people away, And if it is a concern for you, take the time to think about it even longer.

In the wild, rabbits usually live in large groups. It is a basic instinct for them to have another rabbit around them. It is a type of survival tactic in the wild. When there is a group, there are more ways to be warned of trouble or predators.

There are ways to tell if your rabbit is lonely. There will be much more hyperactivity, he or she will demand more attention, and you will notice some destructive behavior. If the rabbit is frustrated that she or he is alone, the rabbit will begin taking it out on furniture, your clothing or other items. The rabbit may become withdrawn when lonely. She will become depressed and likely lose interest in everything around.

This can lead to her or him, to stop eating, stop drinking, stop playing and not even responding when called. Being lonely leads to stress for rabbits. For a delicate creature like a rabbit, their hearts are as simple as their skeleton. They can break easily. This loneliness leads to acceleration of other health issues.

To not misunderstand what happens when one partner in the pair passes, seems to be confusing to humans. The surviving rabbit will appear happy in a way and do a little dance by hopping over the other rabbit. This dance is the surviving rabbit’s way of saying goodbye to her partner.

To reiterate, if you are a single person who works long hours and spends time with friends after work, then being a parent to a single rabbit should not be considered an option for you. If you love rabbits and still have a busy lifestyle, try to purchase a bonded pair already. It is better for them and for you.

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