Q: I have a pet rabbit who is spayed. Can I adopt a friend for her?
Hello again, this is Houdini, the current author of our advice column “Ask Usagi” on behalf of Eastern Shore Rabbit Rescue & Education Center (ESRREC). Sorry, it’s been quite a few years since I last wrote!
This is a great question. I am fortunate myself to have a companion, the lovely Domino. She was also an ESRREC rabbit, and we were introduced and bonded by ESRREC. I still love my human family, and on a regular basis I want to cuddle with them too.
Over the years I have seen ESRREC achieve many bondings successfully. It’s such a happy ending for the rabbits, who not only get adopted but have a BFF (best friend forever). The most recent one pictured above, the lionhead Harriet, was found as a stray earlier this year but she now has a “husbun!” The two make a pretty couple, don’t you think?
However, bondings are usually not a fairy tale. In fact, in most cases progress can be “one paw forward, two paws back.” One minute we are snuggling and grooming each other, next thing you know we are chasing each other with the fur flying, water and food bowls spilled everywhere!
During the bonding, even bunnies that are neutered might start humping the other rabbit, which can also end up with chaos and confusion, or maybe just cause the other rabbit to distance themselves.
When you think about it, sharing a litter box and all other aspects of life can be a big commitment. It takes time to adjust to the new arrangement. And it’s best to start the new pattern in a neutral location, otherwise territorial instincts can kick in.
That’s why ESRREC will only allow rabbit “companions” to be adopted if ESRREC does the bonding. There’s no extra charge, but they must stay with ESRREC for a week. Also the adopters have to bring the rabbit to our shelter on Main Street for a round of “speed dates” to find a compatible rabbit.
The rabbits are introduced slowly and carefully, for about five to ten minutes. If there is immediate fighting or other bellicose reactions, they don’t force it. Once in a blue moon, there is no rabbit in the shelter that is compatible with the adopter’s. You’d be surprised how picky rabbits can be! This is going to be a BFF, until death do us part, so it’s an important choice.
If there are no issues between the two rabbits, maybe even some sign of interest, they get put into a carrier together and the bonding begins. The most important rule of thumb is to keep them in a small space and under close observation for the first 24-48 hours. Then the space is gradually increased to ensure they can handle sharing wider territory. Even when the adopters come back a week later, the bondees still need to start with limited space in their new home or else a few squabbles might break out.
There’s so much more I can tell you about bonding techniques, but the main thing is, to answer the question, if you want to give it a try please feel free to reach out to ESRREC to schedule an appointment at firstname.lastname@example.org. If your rabbit can find the perfect match at ESRREC, it’s a win-win for everyone!