When to Give Up Bonding Rabbits

should you give up bonding your rabbits?

In almost all cases, any two rabbits who have been spayed or neutered can learn to live together. They only need enough time and patience. However, there are rare occasions when it might be necessary to give up on bonding a pair of rabbits.

In general, the only time you should give up on bonding rabbits is when they have injured each other. You should also reevaluate the bond if one rabbit is a bully, making the other rabbit anxious and afraid to eat, use the litter box, or even move around too much.

Sometimes it would be most prudent to completely give up on a pair. However, sometimes you can take a break instead. By giving your rabbits a couple of months away from each other, you can reset their relationship and have better chances of bonding them in the future.

When should you give up on bonding your rabbits?

Sometimes bonding rabbits can take a turn for the worst, or maybe it’s been going on for months with no progress. You will undoubtedly feel disheartened and stressed out, wondering if perhaps this bond won’t work out and it’s time to give up.

In most cases, trying something new or being a little more patient will help your rabbit push through their roadblock. However, there are specific scenarios where it really is best to give up, or at least take an extended break from bonding your rabbits.

1. When a rabbit gets hurt

We are all doing our best to prevent injury during the bonding process. Unfortunately, some rabbits are aggressive and sneaky. They’ll manage to attack each other the very second you look away, leaving one or both of your rabbits bitten or injured.

The rabbits are not likely to forget about an injury during bonding. Most of the time, this will lead to further aggressive behavior, making it almost impossible for the bond to progress. If this happens, you’ll need to take a lengthy break from the bonding process to give your rabbits time to get over their bad feelings toward each other. While you can always try again after a pause, sometimes the best thing to do in these scenarios is to give up on bonding these two rabbits.

2. When one rabbit is too anxious

In most rabbit relationships, there will be one rabbit who is dominant over the other. Most of the time, this kind of relationship works out well. Both rabbits can get along despite the hierarchical relationship. However, some rabbit pairs take this too far.

When the dominant rabbit acts like a bully, making the other rabbit scared and anxious around the dominant rabbit, then there’s a problem. No rabbit should be too afraid to eat, drink, use the litter box, or play with toys around their partner. The dominant rabbit will charge the other to chase them away from the food or chase them out of the litter box. Eventually, this behavior causes excessive stress and anxiety for the other rabbit, and they’ll preemptively run away or shake when the dominant one comes near.

If you notice this type of aggressive and anxious behavior between the pair, then bonding them will not make them happier. This isn’t a healthy dynamic for any relationship, even between rabbits. In this case, it’s best to give up on bonding these two rabbits. The two probably just have incompatible personalities.

3. When it’s been many months with no improvement

If you’ve been working with your rabbits for months on end without noticing any improvement in their behavior toward each other, it may be time to give up the bond. This is when they still lunge or attack each other occasionally or appear very anxious around each other even after 3-4 months of trying to improve their relationship.

The first step in these scenarios is always to try something new. Putting your rabbits into new and unusual situations can change how they interact with each other and improve their relationship. But if you’ve been doing that for the last 3-4 months with no improvement, then it’s probably time to stop bonding. 

If the bond has been taking many months, but you see slight improvements over time, this is a different scenario. There is no reason to give up bonding your rabbits in these cases. You can continue to let them move forward at their own pace.

4. When you cannot handle the stress

Bonding rabbits is incredibly stressful. It takes a lot of time and concentration as you watch your rabbits to prevent fighting. You can lose sleep and experience heightened anxiety when your rabbits aren’t getting along. 

Bonding also takes an emotional toll on you. As you watch your rabbits go through new and stressful situations, you are bound to feel like you’re doing something wrong, and you should not be putting your rabbits through this.

Remember, you are also an important part of making a bond successful. If you’re too anxious, your rabbits will feel it and respond to your emotions. If you can’t handle the stress, that’s okay! Take care of yourself. But for now, it’s best to give up on bonding your rabbits. You can try again once you’ve had a chance to get some rest and reduce the stress in your life. 

Should you give up forever or take a break?

Most of the time, you don’t have to completely give up on bonding your rabbits. Instead, you can give your rabbits a long break from the bonding and try again from the beginning after several months have passed. This time apart from each other can help the rabbits to forget about any negative feelings they had and give their bond a fresh start. It doesn’t always work, but many times it’s all the rabbits need to finally become friends.

If your rabbits injured each other before you took a break from bonding, it’s best to house your rabbits in entirely separate rooms during their time apart. You want to give your rabbits a chance to completely forget about each other and the bad blood they have between them. Their bond can still work out if you give them enough time apart (6+ months), but even then, they might never bond.

On the other hand, a severely anxious rabbit can benefit from staying in the same room as the other rabbit. Keeping a barrier between the two rabbits gives the fearful one the chance to feel comfortable and more confident. Their feelings for the other rabbit can change during this time apart, changing the dynamics between the two rabbits if you choose to try bonding them again.

rabbits separated by a fence
You can stretch an exercise pen across the length of a room to make a separate space for both rabbits. This will allow them to live side by side, without risk of injury.

Living side-by-side but separate

Another option that’s not often discussed is letting your rabbits live side by side but keeping them separate. You can keep the rabbits in exercise pens side by side and alternate exercise time, or you can divide a room in half to give a lot of space to both rabbits. This gives your rabbits a chance to still be around another rabbit without any risk of fighting or injury.

This can be an excellent option when one rabbit is anxious around the other. Placing a barrier between the two of them can increase the confidence of your nervous rabbit and allow the two some socialization without any bullying from the other rabbit.

If you can’t trust your rabbits to be friendly with each other all the time, but they do get along most of the time, you can also continue to give your rabbits supervised play dates together. They can live separately and never be fully bonded, but they can still have the chance to socialize with each other as long as you are home to watch them and prevent any mishaps.

Signs that you should NOT give up

Sometimes, rabbits show behaviors during the bonding process that can be pretty confusing. It may seem like they hate each other even when they are actually making progress in their bond. Don’t give up on your rabbits if you notice any of the following behaviors or scenarios.

1. Chasing

Chasing can be a kind of dominance dance that the rabbits go through during bonding. It is a set of behaviors the rabbits use to figure out their relationship with each other. The Chaser is claiming the position of the top bun. As long as the other bunny runs away, they accept their position as the subordinate rabbit.

Most of the time, chasing only occurs for short spurts of 10-15 seconds. It should not be accompanied by any serious aggressive behavior, but occasional nipping is acceptable. As your rabbits get closer to each other, the chasing should also diminish. If it doesn’t, or you notice that it sparks excessive fear and bullying behavior, then it’s time to reevaluate your rabbits’ relationship and decide if the bond is appropriate.

2. Ignoring each other

While it may seem that two rabbits hate each other when they ignore the other rabbit, this is actually a good sign. It means the two rabbits are okay with sharing a space together, even if they aren’t yet ready to be friends. Over time the two rabbits will start to check each other out and, hopefully, accept the other rabbit.

3. One bad day

Bonding rarely happens in one straight upward line. There will be setbacks and roadblocks that your rabbits have to get through while they figure out their relationship. Sometimes this means the bond is going well when suddenly they have a bad day and take a step backward in the bonding process. 

Not only is this okay, but it’s also expected. Continue to help your rabbits, changing the space and bonding techniques when necessary. A couple of bad days will often lead the way to a closer bond as the rabbits work through the issues in their relationship.

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.

Recent Posts