COMPANIONSHIP - 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 company.

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 territorial.

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.

Many 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 spayed.)

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 different smells. 

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 friendship. 

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.

 

 

JSPCA working to

prevent cruelty, promote knowledge, provide for aged, sick, lost and unwanted animals.

 

Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Inc.)

Founded 1868 – Incorporated 1936

89 St Saviour’s Road, St Helier, Jersey JE2 4GJ         

Tel: 01534 724331          Fax: 01534 871797

E-mail: info@jspca.org.je          Website: www.jspca.org.je

 

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