Just as with any family, disagreements happen. You will find that your rabbits will have an ‘argument’ once in a while. We see this in our homes between children all the time. Pets are really no different.
I am sure that you are thinking that your rabbits have never had an issue like this before. You may be right, however, the fighting may happen when you are not home. These fighting episodes may happen and only last a short time.
Most often, this fighting will begin out of the blue. There will seem to be no logical reason for the fighting.
There could be any number of reasons that a fight starts between your rabbits. These episodes could begin due to age, sex, stress or changes in their habitat area.
Another possibility is that some rabbits can be territorial. This is one of the reasons that the Professionals suggest that you pair two rabbits together as soon as possible. This may have to be done slowly at first. However, they will begin to like each other and get along without as many issues.
Not all reasons for fighting are negative. Many times you will see two rabbits biting, nipping or showing other signs of fighting. This is also done in mating rituals for many animals, rabbits being some of those.
Another possibility that could cause fighting between two paired and bonded rabbits is the habitat they are living in. Is the space large enough to hold both of them? Do they have a space where they can go when they want to be alone? Just like a human, rabbits need some space. There are times when they just want to be alone.
Are the pair you are trying to bond to the same breed? Most often you need to have the same type of rabbit breed in order to have a proper bonding.
It is possible that one of your pairs is not feeling good. They could be in pain, discomfort or feeling down. This could be enough reason for one to lash out at the other. In a show of dominance, the healthy rabbit is most likely going to be the one to show dominance over the other.
Be sure that you have enough food and water for both of the rabbits in the enclosure. There have been times when an owner does the bonding with the two rabbits and yet forgets to double the food in the cage. There should be a spot on each side of the cage where each one of the rabbits has a dish of food and a dish of water or water bottle. When food is not adequate for both rabbits, this can definitely be a cause for fighting.
This next reason is one that many new owners do not understand. When we talk about pairing, it means two. Having an odd number of rabbits in the same cage can become very problematic. The issue does not have to stem from three or more rabbits in the same cage, just bringing another rabbit into the vicinity is enough to set a rabbit off. The rabbit has a very keen sense of smell and smelling a stranger puts them on edge right away.
This is not to say that you can never have three or more rabbits in the home. This just means that proper and complete bonding must take place. Even if you have two rabbit hutches, and two separate pairs of rabbits, due to this keen sense of smell they will know there is another strange rabbit around and they act out.
Sometimes it may seem like it would be easier to just keep the rabbits separate. However, rabbits are sociable creatures. They like to be with others of their kind. When it is possible, you should have a pair of rabbits, at least.
The suggestion that makes this task easier is making sure that the rabbits have both been spayed or neutered. This prevents any issues from arising due to hormones. It is possible to have all females or all males together. This could lead to a dominance fight.
It takes time to properly bond a pair of rabbits. It is not as simple as just putting them in the same hutch and calling it done. The process is more drawn out than that. They need to be able to smell each other, see each other and ‘speak’ to each other. All this without being able to touch each other.
This can be done by putting a wire mesh up in the centre of a large hutch. This will allow them to see, smell and speak to each other without being able to throw punches or bite and nip at each other.
It is also easy to say that the pair of rabbits were properly bonded because there had been no fighting the whole time. This sudden fighting can start for no reason, at any point in time.
What To Do If There Is A Fight
Maybe it would be easier to say what not to do if there is a fight. For instance, do not put your hands into the cage. Although this seems to be an obvious statement, the first thing many of us try to do is break up the fight by physically sticking our hands in to stop them.
All this is going to accomplish is that one, if not both rabbits lash out and bite you. This is not going to help any of you. A simple piece of advice is to use something that is large enough to separate the two rabbits without the object being sharp or possibly dangerous.
It is a good idea to be prepared for this fighting by keeping a dustpan in close proximity to the rabbit cage. Utilizing a dustpan, this is enough size for the object that can be used as a temporary barrier that separates the rabbits.
If possible, having a second person with you can help you separate the two fighters and help calm the situation down.
A wise plan after a fight does break out is to separate the two for a day or two. Then try the bonding process from the beginning again. Use the wire mesh that separates the two sides of the hutch and allow them time to sniff, speak and get accustomed to each other again. It is possible that maybe there was not enough time spent when first trying to bond the pair.
Another way of separating the two when they are fighting is to make a loud noise, loud enough to startle them. This may stop the fighting long enough to be able to remove one from the vicinity and separate them.
Once you have managed to separate the two rabbits, they both need to be checked for any type of injury. With the fur, it may be difficult to tell if the skin on either rabbit has been broken. You must check the entirety of the rabbit looking for signs of injuries.
If there is a sign of injury, take the injured rabbit to the veterinarian and have the Vet examine the rabbit to determine the severity. It may also be a good idea to bring them both in and have them checked. The aggressor may have an issue such as not feeling well, being in discomfort or in pain from something that caused them to lash out like this.
Oftentimes, when two rabbits are playing, they may appear to be fighting. There are signs to watch for that will help you to decipher the difference between fighting in play and actually aggressively fighting. Look for the following signs to determine which type of fighting is taking place.
- Lunging at each other, then retreating
- Bumping noses
- Nipping at each other
- Following one another around the cage
- Non-aggressive mounting
- These are all signs of playing. They are harmless for the most part.
- Signs of actual fighting include the following:
- Grunting, this may be loud enough to actually hear
- Attacking the face or head of the other rabbit
- Biting to the point of tearing fur or skin out
- Constant and aggressive mounting
- Chasing one another in a circular pattern
Even if you believed that your rabbits were properly bonded, this is a process that must be started again, from the beginning. It may seem tedious, however, this is an action you must attempt to determine if the two rabbits can successfully be bonded together once again.
No matter the reason, the cause or when it happens, there is no safe assumption that the fighting is going to end on its own. Just as with humans, if one rabbit wins the bullying issue, this is going to continue and could even escalate into a worse situation.
There is no guarantee that two rabbits will successfully bond. It may be a wiser decision to try bonding each of them with another rabbit.
On the bright side, the two rabbits do actually apologize to each other. It is actually a very sweet action to witness. The two rabbits will actually touch heads together. Again this may take a few days, and it is best to keep them separated for at least a few days. Keep in mind, that rabbits can hold a grudge.