The beginning of a beautiful friendship
Rabbits live together in large groups in their natural habitat, which is why pet rabbits definitely require the company of members of their own species too. Getting rabbits used to each other does not always go according plan, because the animals can be very picky. The vets from Maxi Zoo explain why a partner is so important and the best way of putting the animals together.
Rabbits can only behave according to their natural instincts when they have other rabbits around them. Neither a human nor another small animal, such as a guinea pig, can replace this social grouping. Rabbits display a distinctive pattern of social behaviour; they sniff each other and even preen each other’s fur. If rabbits are lonely they can often develop behavioural problems, which can frequently result in them being aggressive towards people.
The simplest way to get rabbits accustomed to each other is if you take two or more babies from the same litter. Rabbits from different litters can also usually manage to get accustomed to each other during the first twelve weeks after birth. Adult animals find socialisation more difficult than young animals. You are recommended to take on animals that are already used to each other; a pair of rabbits from an animal shelter, for example.
Probably the most problematic combination, but equally a very frequent occurrence, is putting a new arrival together with a rabbit that has been there for a while. This may happen if an animal dies and you want a new partner for the one left behind or if you take on a rabbit in need and would like a friend for it. Patience and calm are very important when socialising rabbits and the process may take several months. The two animals should only be able to see each other at first, whilst keeping an appropriate distance between them. After approximately one week you can place the two cages with the bars next to each other so that the rabbits can sniff each other. At this stage you might want to keep swapping the cages over so that the animals become even more used to the scent of the other.
When letting the animals have a free run, you have two options: if you have a large outdoor run, you can use bars to separate two areas and let both rabbits hop around. If the rabbits are allowed to run indoors, only let one rabbit out, whilst the other stays in its cage. This allows the rabbit to get to know its future partner without the other having to leave the safety of its own space. Once the rabbits start to greet and sniff each other through the bars of the cage, you can attempt putting them together – this must take place on neutral ground (do not simply place one rabbit in the other cage) and under supervision. If it does end in a scuffle, you can quickly intervene.
Sometimes the rabbits simply cannot stand each other, even after your patient attempts to socialise them. You should accept this and try to find a harmonious solution in your own interest and in the interest of the rabbits. Just like humans, a mutual liking is crucial for the start of any friendship and that cannot be forced.
Call into your local store today to discuss your small animals personal needs with our Maxi Zoo Pet Experts