Do Rabbits Stay Bonded for Life?

do rabbits bond for life?

Many rabbits can and do form lifelong friendships with other rabbits, especially in domestic settings where two (or more) rabbits live together harmoniously. However, it’s also possible for a rabbit bond to break. Meaning two rabbits who previously got along just fine may suddenly start attacking each other.

When rabbits are bonded, they prefer to live together and enjoy activities such as eating together, grooming each other, and keeping each other warm. If a bonded rabbit loses their partner, they can exhibit signs of mourning or depression, indicating how strong rabbit bonds can be.

This is not the same thing as mating for life. While many rabbits develop friendships and partnerships that can last for the duration of their lives, it is important to distinguish this from mating. In settings where rabbits live in groups, they will mate with as many partners as they want even if their mates are not rabbits who they are particularly close to.

Rabbits can form lifelong friendships, but it’s not a given

As many bunny caretakers can attest to, rabbits are fully capable of forming strong lifelong bonds. The bond can look like a friendship, a sibling relationship, a partnership, or a hierarchy with one rabbit clearly more dominant, bossing the other around.

Most of the time the bonds between these rabbits will last their lifetime. This is true whether the rabbits live as a pair or a trio. Even in a larger group, most rabbits will have a couple best friends who they are more closely bonded to.

When a rabbit’s friend or bonded partner dies, they will often go through a grieving period, becoming sad and depressed because their friend is no longer there. 

Although rabbits can form lifelong friendships, it’s not guaranteed. Bonds may break due to changes in the environment, new stressors, or a change within the dynamics of the pair or group. 

Unfortunately, I have experienced this type of broken bond first hand. I have two rabbits right now who used to be bonded. But all of a sudden one day they started fighting and they haven’t been able to get along since. Likely this happened because my younger rabbit decided to challenge the dominance of my older rabbit, but it’s hard to say for sure. Sometimes a bond breaks and you don’t really know why.

Rabbits don’t mate for life with one partner

Although rabbits can bond for life and even grieve their partners when they die, this is absolutely not the same thing as mating for life. Given the choice, rabbits will mate with multiple partners. They will even have many partners within a single mating season, unlike many bird species, for example, who look for one mate every year.

The same can be said of domestic rabbits who live in colonies or farms together. Despite living in a controlled environment, domestic rabbits do not form monogamous relationships. Whether part of a large or small group, domestic rabbits can have multiple mating partners. This behavior isn’t an indication of disloyalty; rather, it’s a natural expression of their biology.

Rabbits are fully capable of forming deep and sustained friendships with other rabbits even within these scenarios. Rabbits will have multiple mating partners while they have sustained friendships with other rabbits. The decision to mate is based on instinctual behavior rather than the strength of any particular social bond.

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Amy Pratt

Amy Pratt is a lifelong rabbit owner who has been specializing with rabbits at the Humane Rescue Alliance. She helps to socialize the rabbits and educate volunteers on the care and behavior of these small mammals.

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