Be sure they are in a SMALL, neutral area such as a bathroom or penned area. Stop the chasing. Place them side by side. Try feeding them treats together. Try car rides in a box together. Sometimes loud noises or being sprayed with a water bottle are enough to make the chasing stop. A little dab of peanut butter on each others head may instigate grooming.
Separate buns and try again later. Try taking them for a car ride together in a box and back to a neutral place. Supervise closely. Check for wounds. Try another rabbit if this aggressive fighting persists. Call an HRS volunteer.
As long as they are not fighting, this is a good thing! If they are coexisting in their neutral space, this is typical and a good start. They will begin to sit closer, sleep near each other and eat together shortly. Leave them in a small neutral space a bit longer. Try to wait for a little grooming.
This is GREAT! Their relationship will probably continue to blossom from this point. Leave them in a neutral place for a few more days to continue the bonding, then SLOWLY introduce them to freedom in the house together. DO NOT SEPARATE THEM ONCE THEY ARE BONDED UNLESS THEY ARE FIGHTING.. REMEMBER: HRS volunteers can help you through the tough times. Call our hotline and ask to speak with someone experienced with bonding rabbits. 916-863-9690.
Like any relationship, a new pairing of rabbits can be slow to develop or be love at first sight. Almost all rabbits can work out their differences and enjoy the companionship of another rabbit. Still, the process of bonding two rabbits will take time, patience, commitment and a little work on your part. The following tips are from HRS volunteers who have matched up many, many rabbits over the years.
Take a deep breath and relax. If you are a nervous wreck, the rabbits will be, too.
We seem to have the best luck in pairing neutered males with spayed females. Usually the males appear to be dominant at first with their excessive mounting. The female will put up with this for a short while, but will usually assert her dominance by mounting the male or nipping him to show she is the one in charge. At this point, the male usually backs down and they start on the road to friendship. Same-sex pairing is not out of the question, but requires at least one submissive rabbit in the group and a little more patience on your part.
It is considerably easier if BOTH rabbits in the pairing have been fixed. In fact, you may not be successful with the match if they are not. Once fixed, you are working with temperaments and personalities, not hormones and uncontrolled desires! If the rabbits are newly altered, (6 months or less) they may still be quite amorous towards each other. This behavior should dissipate the longer they are fixed. Please see our handout "Altering your Rabbit's Future" for more reasons to alter your companion rabbit and for our list of recommended veterinarians.
Although the average length of time until most rabbits are pretty well bonded is about one week, we have seen rabbits take as little as one afternoon or as long as many months to become friends. Neutral territory is imperative. Put the rabbits in a small, neutral area for about one week. Beginning the bonding in a small, neutral territory is vital to this relationship working out. A kitchen, bathroom, or portable exercise pen all work well. Begin with a smaller common area. Gradually increase the time they have together and give them breaks or time outs from each other if they appear nervous, antsy, or irritable.
When they are more trustworthy, they you can give them a larger area after they have demonstrated familiarity with each other. Often if you give them too much space at once when the relationship is new, they forget how to relate to each other and may act unpredictably when they encounter each other. They are usually on better behavior in a smaller space than a wide open one.
DO NOT put them in a cage together until they have been getting along perfectly for several days. If a serious fight breaks out in a cage, it is generally difficult to separate them. If possible have them live in the new rabbit's territory.
Although these behaviors may look similar to you, they are all very different and it is important to recognize the different ways rabbits speak. Fighting is usually an instantly, purposely vicious attack. Rabbits sometimes attack the other rabbit's face, underside or genital area. Do not separate the rabbits unless they are truly fighting and may injure each other. Every time you separate the rabbits, you will have to re-introduce them, making this process take even longer.
If you separate them, keep them in sight and smell of each other to help them get used to each other. If they are very hostile and aggressive you might have to remove them from each other's presence. If they are hostile, be sure they cannot get to each other for an attack.
Nipping at each other in a playful manner is not usually serious and is done for several reasons. Remember, rabbits sometimes communicate by nipping and this could be done to say "Hey, pay attention to me" or "Who are you?" and "Get out of my litterbox!" This too should dissipate as they learn how to approach and communicate with their new partner.
Often rabbits might startle each other and jump back and this looks like a nip, but carefully observe if this is the is a bit or just a reaction or overreaction..
Both sexes may mount each other. Although mounting can escalate into circling, which could develop into a little fight, mounting usually dissipates after the first week and is only for the sake of asserting dominance. It is important to allow the rabbits this very important part of their courtship. Be watchful of backwards mounting, though. We have had a couple of serious nips in one's most vital areas! If your rabbits are mounting each other a lot, instigating fights, stop them, place them side by side. Pet them together and talk to them quietly. Do not let much chasing ensue.
If they are persistently aggressive, separate them to prevent injuries. They may need more familiarity time living next to each other.
Feel free to bring your rabbits to an adoption day for advice & let us observe them. Call or email our helpline for tips.
Check your rabbits for injuries each day even if they appear to be getting along well.
Occasionally a rabbit bond may break; they may have been separated for vet treatment, or one might smell differently. Or for whatever reason, they decide not to be friends anymore. You will need to restart the introduction process over again to be sure they get reacquainted in structured method.