- MIXING AND INTRODUCING
RABBITS JSPCA FACT SHEET
Rabbits need company
Rabbits are social animals and need company.
Therefore, the best option is to keep a compatible pair of rabbits,
although it is possible to keep just one rabbit if your rabbit lives
indoors, as a house rabbit, as part of the family, with plenty of human
Before introducing two rabbits, it is advisable to
have them neutered to reduce fighting and aggressive behaviour and to, of
course, prevent unwanted litters. Introductions
can be tricky and must be done gradually and on neutral territory. Introduce rabbits, where neither rabbit has been before.
Rabbits may be sociable creatures, but they are also quite
The easiest introductions are between a mixed pair (neutered of course) and two spayed females, but the most stable pairing is a neutral buck (male) and a neutered doe (female). It is possible to keep two males and two females together if they have grown up together. Therefore, two brothers and two sisters, if housed together from birth, can be kept as pairs from that point, or it may be possible to keep two same sex rabbits from different litters if they are both between 8 and 10 weeks of age when they are obtained and introduced. Once introduced and bonded, same sex pairs must never be separated, even for short periods of time. Introducing same sex rabbits over 4 months of age should only be undertaken with great caution and following expert advice; there is a lot more potential for serious fighting than when introducing neutered adult opposite sex pairs.
Acquiring a rabbit companion for your existing rabbit
There are often many domestic pet rabbits in rescue
centres awaiting new homes. Therefore,
if you are considering obtaining another rabbit, why not adopt a rescue
rabbit. The JSPCA Animals’
Shelter usually has many rabbits available for re-homing, all of which have
been micro-chipped, vaccinated and neutered.
rescue centres, including the JSPCA Animals’ Shelter, have experience in
pairing up rabbits and will allow you to bring your own rabbit along to the
shelter to meet potential partners on neutral territory.
Alternatively, if you are thinking about obtaining your first
rabbit, do consider adopting from a rescue centre a pair of rabbits that
have already bonded.
Introducing two rabbits
Two baby rabbits (under 10 - 12 weeks of age) can live
with each other immediately. All other age combinations of rabbits will
need to be introduced gradually. There
are many different ways to introduce two rabbits:
o Both rabbits need to be neutered, if they’re old enough, to reduce
the risk of fighting. (Remember,
male rabbits can remain fertile for up to four weeks after castration and
females must be kept away from males for approximately 14 days after being
o Put the rabbits in nearby cages, where they can see
and smell each other through the wire.
If your existing rabbit is a house rabbit or is ‘free-range’,
put the new rabbit in a cage inside this area.
This will allow the rabbits to become accustomed to each other’s
o Once the rabbits are used to the sight and smell of
each other, start putting them together for very short periods of time in
strictly neutral territory (where neither rabbit has been before). If a fight occurs on introduction, separate them immediately
and try again an hour or so later. Each
day, let them meet on the neutral territory, building up the time you leave
them together. Eventually,
hopefully, they will get used to and accept one another leading to eventual
o Alternatively, it may be possible to put the two rabbits together in a
travelling box and take them for very short quiet rides in the car.
Car journeys are strange events for rabbits and with this unnerving
situation that the rabbits find themselves in, the rabbits often will show
their natural instinct to ‘stick together’ and show a united front,
with any thoughts of fighting disappearing.
However, at the slightest sign of tension, separate the rabbits.
o Each day, gradually increase the time the rabbits
spend together, on neutral territory, until the rabbits appear relaxed
together. You can assist this
process by feeding the rabbits together, and providing lots of cardboard
boxes and escape holes.
o When the rabbits are happy to groom each other and lie together, they can be left together unsupervised. The whole process can take anything from a couple of hours to a couple of months. Generally, the better the rabbits get on at their first meeting, the quicker they will bond and if you are able to put the rabbits together for very brief periods, many times a day, they’ll get used to each other far more quickly than if you can only do so once per day.
Some rabbits will establish an instant bond. You can recognise this by an initial lack of interest in each
other when they are first introduced, followed by individual grooming.
This will soon progress to mutual grooming, with the rabbits sitting
and lying together. However,
do keep a watchful eye for any possible aggression during the initial phase
of the introduction process.
Guinea pigs and rabbits
It is not recommended that rabbits be kept with guinea
pigs, as bullying by both species, but especially by the rabbit, can occur.
Although some rabbit and guinea pig pairs get on well together
without any problems, the majority of these relationships can result in
injuries to one or both of the animals.
If you already have a rabbit and a guinea pig that live together, let them stay together but it would be recommended to neuter the rabbit so as to avoid the rabbit harassing the guinea pig. Male guinea pigs can also be castrated. Remember to ensure that both the rabbit and the guinea pig’s dietary needs are met; guinea pigs need vitamin C in their diet on a daily basis, whereas rabbits do not, which is why it is important to make sure that the guinea pig has access to good quality commercial guinea pig foods. Also, it is recommended that a ‘bolt hole’ is provided, so that the guinea pig can escape from the rabbit if necessary.
“prevent cruelty, promote
knowledge, provide for aged, sick, lost and unwanted animals.”
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Inc.)
1868 – Incorporated 1936
St Saviour’s Road, St Helier, Jersey JE2 4GJ
Fax: 01534 871797
References and further reading: