Bonding Behaviors

• Rabbits will first explore the environment and then confront one another
• Will sniff each other and may start chasing and biting
• Owner must stay calm
• If become locked in a ball together, will normally release after a few seconds – if not owner must separate the ball and keep observing
• Never separate rabbits once bonding has begun or throughout the course of bonding – should always be kept together after initial introduction – unless seriously injured
• May be weeks to months until rabbits become friends
• Give rabbits time and space
• Some minor disputes may occur after bonded rabbits introduced into permanent site

There are different behaviors while bonding. It is rare that they approach one another immediately at the beginning. This often happens after the initial moments, as they must first explore the environment around themselves to understand what is happening.

Stay calm if they raise their ears and raise their scut and stare at the other rabbit. They will slowly approach each other and start sniffing one another and then start biting or chasing each other. This is normal behavior, so it is very important to stay calm. Often it looks more serious than it is. As long as there is only some fur flying around and no blood you must not intervene. If they become locked together in a ball while biting each other, normally they will release after a few seconds. If not you must intervene and keep observing. A separation should only occur when they have larger injuries. Often bonding does not mean there will be large injuries. You should never separate them or keep them separate while bonding. This means that after the introduction they should always be kept together except for when seriously injured. You should not have them in separate rooms, even if for a short time or overnight. A separation such as this will make every new reintroduction worse and make the rabbits then more aggressive.

Be aware that bonding process is often more stressful for the keeper than for the rabbits. Always stay calm and wait and do not get involved between the rabbits if they are only losing some fur. This is a normal behavior to determine the hierarchy in the group. Stay hopeful, sometimes even after a few weeks have passed, the rabbits may not cuddle and may still sometimes chase one another. Sometimes it takes months until they become real friends. Give your rabbits the time they need and do not stop the bonding too early. If you are unsure, get some advice from experienced rabbit keepers. You will see that your patience will be rewarded and your rabbits will be very thankful.

Bonding is not always harmonic. Peaceful animals can also start to growl and bite. This is normal however. After the hierarchy is established, this behavior stops. It is also normal that litter trained rabbits will stop being litter trained to mark their territory during bonding. This behavior stops when bonding successful. The animals should be placed back in their old territory after the bonding is successful; when they harmonize with one another and they at least eat together. While removing them into their fixed designated living arrangement, they can also have some disputes, however these will be cleared after a short time. While bonding there can be the impression the rabbits do not want a partner, and they attack the other rabbit. This behavior is natural and only occurs because rabbits have a highly developed way of communicating with their body language to establish their hierarchy. After the hierarchy is established and accepted by the rabbits, these disputes are no longer necessary, because the rabbits now have an understanding with one another. After they start cuddling with each other, you will see why everything was worth it.

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