I’m sure you’ve heard that it’s good to get a second rabbit to bond with your single bunny. Some people even claim that it’s absolutely essential. I wouldn’t go so far as to say everyone has to have multiple bunnies to be responsible caretakers, since every bunny’s situation is different. But I do think that it’s an important step in your rabbit journey to consider because having multiple rabbits will usually lead to a much happier pair of bunnies.
In general, rabbits will be happier in pairs than when they are single. A second rabbit can prevent depression, and even help to minimize boredom and troublemaking behaviors. However, enough social interaction from humans or other pets is also okay if getting a second rabbit is not possible.
However, you want to make sure you are ready before making the commitment to get a second rabbit. You’ll need to take your rabbit’s personality and medical status into account. It’s also important to make sure you have time and space to introduce the two rabbits in a neutral place to prevent territorial fighting. Sadly, it’s not as easy as just bringing a second rabbit home. There is a lot to consider first.
What to consider before getting a second rabbit
Despite the importance of bringing a second rabbit into your home, it’s also important that you take the process seriously and spend time helping your rabbits adjust to each other. Rabbits like to have a dominance hierarchy, so they need time to figure out which of them is the boss in the relationship.
The process can be a little stressful and time consuming, so it’s best if you can plan for that so you can give your rabbits the support they need. If this means putting the bonding off for a couple months so that you can make it a successful experience, then the wait is worth it. Learn more about how to bond a pair of rabbits.
How much time are you spending with your rabbit?
If you are able to stay home with your rabbit and give them attention all day long, then they are much more likely to remain happy even if they don’t have another bunny companion. However, if the house is empty for hours on end every day (for example, when you go to work),then it’s time to seriously consider bringing home a second rabbit. A rabbit that is kept away in a separate room or outdoors is definitely in need of a partner to meet their social needs.
The isolation that a single bunny feels when they are left alone for most of the day can end up leading to depression. An empty home is unnatural for the rabbit and causes them to feel lonely and desperate for attention. As a result, the rabbit is also more likely to be bored and start behaving in destructive ways around the home.
Is your rabbit spayed or neutered?
The biggest factor that would cause me to advise against getting a second rabbit is if your rabbit is not spayed (females) or neutered (males). Of course, we want to avoid adding to the overpopulation of unwanted baby bunnies. Unaltered rabbits are also much more difficult to bond with each other. They have much stronger territorial instincts that make bonding almost impossible.
There are a number of other reasons why it is best to get your rabbit fixed. It can prevent aggressive behaviors and urine spraying in rabbits. Neutering also prevents a number of serious health conditions that rabbits are likely to suffer from as they get older.
Older rabbits who have not been spayed or neutered yet may not be the best fit for a bonded pair. There is greater risk for complications during the neutering surgery, so you will need to talk to your veterinarian about your options.
If you cannot get your rabbit fixed because of their age or other medical reasons, it’s doubly important that you provide your rabbit with as much attention and companionship as you can. You can even consider trying to bond your rabbit with other household animals, such as a cat.
Can you keep the rabbits separately in the beginning?
Despite the social needs of rabbits, it’s rare for any two rabbits to accept each other as friends right away. They need time to warm up to each other. This means you are going to need space and supplies to keep your rabbits separate until they are able to get along with each other.
You’ll need to purchase another enclosure, and another set of all their habitat accessories. On top of that, you’ll have to make sure you have a neutral space in your home where you can introduce the two rabbits. Your current rabbit will undoubtedly feel ownership over their space and won’t be quick to share it with an unknown rabbit. The bonding process will go more smoothly if you introduce your rabbits to each other in an area of the home where neither rabbit feels ownership.
This becomes much more difficult in smaller homes. For example, a studio apartment can be a tricky place to try to bond two rabbits. But even in these scenarios, you can find ways to partition areas and use the bathroom as a neutral area. It will just take a lot more planning and preparing on your end.
What is your rabbit’s personality?
The personality of your rabbit matters quite a bit when you’re deciding whether it’s time to bring another rabbit home. A rabbit who is excessively aggressive right now, might now be willing to make friends with a new bunny. The same can be true for a rabbit who is excessively timid or anxious. For these rabbits, you’ll want to take the time to work with your rabbit and help them overcome their behavioral quirks before you go about introducing a new rabbit to the home.
You’ll also want to be conscious of the personality of the new rabbit you are adopting. It’s best if you can find a rabbit who will match your rabbit’s energy levels. If you have a very shy rabbit, it can also be advantageous to introduce a calm, yet confident rabbit to help your bunny come out of their shell.
Do you have the resources to take care of two rabbits?
Many costs of rabbit care won’t increase significantly when you get a second rabbit. Sure, you’ll end up paying a little more for their food, litter, toys, and treats, but buying in bulk can keep these prices from skyrocketing.
The part of rabbit care that can increase significantly is medical costs. This goes for both routine medical examinations, as well as emergency situations. You’ll definitely want to double your pet emergency fund to make sure you’ll be able to give your rabbits the medical attention they need if anything were to happen. It may be better to wait just little bit while you make sure you can cover a surprise expense.
Can you take the time to introduce a new rabbit?
Despite the importance of bringing a second rabbit into your home, it’s also important that you take the process seriously and spend time helping your rabbits adjust to each other. The process can be a little stressful and time consuming, so it’s best if you can plan for that so you can give your rabbits the support they need. If this means putting the bonding off for a couple months so that you can make it a successful experience, then the wait is worth it.
Why having two (or more) rabbits is best for bunnies
Our domestic rabbits come from a breed that live together in family warrens. They have an extensive social hierarchy among themselves and often even have a few close friends who they will cuddle up next to for sleep. This social behavior is ingrained in our rabbits and has not disappeared over the years of domestication.
Just like humans, rabbits simply have an innate social need, and it’s something that only other rabbits can really fulfill. Try as we might to give our rabbits as much socialization and attention as possible, we’re still a poor substitute for another rabbit.
Rabbits who spend time with other bunnies are able to be much happier. They will always have a companion to keep them company, even when we humans are away and sleeping. Pairs of rabbits will also be able to understand each other and take care of each other’s needs much more readily than people can.
All of this leads to much happier rabbits. They’ll have a friend who they can cuddle with and groom. Your bunnies will be able to behave much more like rabbits naturally would, without having to figure out how to beg for attention in a way that humans will understand.
Less troublemaking in the house
While it may seem like double the rabbits will make double the trouble, that usually not the case. Many troublemaker rabbit behaviors, such as digging the carpet and chewing on baseboards, are done out of boredom or to grab your attention. When they have another rabbit around, your bunny won’t need to partake in these behaviors anymore. Getting a second rabbit can actually reduce the amount of troublemaking bunny behaviors.
That’s not to say that your rabbits will never be naughty again. That would be too good to be true. Some energetic pairs of rabbits, especially young rabbits, will still get into a lot of mischief. But in most cases these behaviors are reduced.
Depression is less common
Depression is actually very common in single rabbits, especially if they are treated as cage animals instead of companion pets. These rabbits can start to withdraw or become aggressive, losing their natural bunny curiosity. Having a bunny friend can keep your rabbit in good spirits, even when you are not able to give your rabbits much attention.
The exception to this is when one of your rabbit’s passes on. The loss of a companion can be really difficult for a rabbit to handle and during these times you will need to watch your rabbit closely to make sure they are not developing symptoms of depression. This is also why it can be an advantage to have groups of three of more rabbits. The two surviving rabbits will be able to comfort each other during the loss of one of their companions.
Is it bad if you only have one rabbit?
Some people will claim that no rabbit should ever be kept as a single bunny; to do otherwise would be akin to animal abuse. This is really just an exaggeration. In most cases it is best if rabbits have another bunny partner, but you can still care for a happy and healthy bunny even when you only have one.
Everyone’s situation is different, and it’s not always possible to bring a second rabbit home. Instead of judging people in these situations, I want to offer ways that you can improve your rabbit’s living conditions to help them remain happy, curious, and thriving bunnies. As long as you are giving your rabbit attention every day and treating them as part of the family, they can still be happy and avoid depression.
Indoor vs. outdoor rabbits
It is much easier to help a single rabbit stay happy when they are kept indoors. They can spend time with you as a companion pet (much like a cat or dog) and get attention all day long. You and your family will be able to form a very close bond with your rabbit as they become a part of your daily life.
Outdoor rabbits, on the other hand, usually end up spending a lot more time in isolation. I always recommend keeping rabbits indoors because of the many other dangers that rabbits face outside, but outdoor single rabbits also have a very high chance of becoming depressed. If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot bring a second rabbit home, then it’s doubly important that you bring your rabbit inside and make them an integral part of your family.
Even though human companionship is not the ideal type of socialization for rabbits, it’s not completely useless either. Rabbits and humans can form very tight bonds and friendships with each other. By spending a lot of time with our rabbits and getting to know and understand them, we can help them stay happy in their daily lives.
Think of it this way: humans are also very social animals. It’s usually best for us humans to have friendships and bonds with other humans. But there are often times when we struggle to make connections with other people or have to live in isolation for a while. Having a pet can significantly increase our happiness in these situations, even though we need to learn how to communicate with a completely different species. It’s the same for rabbits. Even if they are not with other rabbits, having other beings to interact with can really help them continue to live happily in their day-to-day life.
Other animal friends
Sometimes rabbits can form strong bonds with other animals. Rabbits and house cats are often known to develop strong partnerships. Some rabbits will be able to form connections with dogs, or even household birds. Rabbits and guinea pigs used to be considered ideal bonding partners, but it’s important to be careful with these pairs. Sometimes rabbits can accidentally injure their guinea pig friends.
Rabbits who bond with other animals are able to have their companionship all day long. They won’t be left alone while you are away at work or sleeping at night. Rabbits are also less likely to be territorial toward animals of a different species. It can be easier to introduce and bond these animals with rabbits who have more territorial behavior.
- Related reading: Learn more about how to introduce your rabbit to your other pets
There are also medical reasons that would make you unable to bond your rabbit with others. Usually this is because the rabbit has some medical condition that would prevent them from being spayed or neutered. In these cases it will be important to make sure you give your rabbit a lot of human companionship or even introduce another pet to the home.
Adopting one rabbit is better than none
Some will say if you don’t have the resources to take care of two rabbits then you shouldn’t even get one. I love to see pairs of rabbits bonded together, but I disagree with this sentiment. As many of my readers know, I volunteer at an animal rescue and I see a lot of rabbits looking for families to take them home.
A rabbit who goes home with a family is still in a much better situation than a rabbit who is alone in the shelter. It is my opinion that if you can only bring home one rabbit right now, then that is still one rabbit rescued. You can always bring home another rabbit after you are a little more experienced and are ready for the commitment.
Will your rabbit stop loving you after you get them a friend?
It is true that your rabbit will probably not be as attention seeking as they were before they had a bonded partner. But this doesn’t mean they love you less. Your rabbit will still enjoy coming up to you and hanging out with you. They’ll love to be pet and will have fun doing tricks and training with you.
That’s the thing about love from a rabbit. It doesn’t get partitioned into little pieces when they have more partners and companions around. Instead, it grows. Your rabbit will have a beautiful, happy love for their new partner, and they’ll have love to go around for you too.
Even better, now there’s a new bunny! This new rabbit will also grow to love you as they become adjusted to their new home. Don’t worry that your rabbit will love you less, instead get excited because now there will be two bunnies who love you!
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- “Should I Get a Second Rabbit.” House Rabbit Society. July 10, 2011. https://rabbit.org/faq-should-i-get-a-second-rabbit.
Recommended Products and Brands
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- Hay: Second Cutting Timothy Hay from Small Pet Select
- Pellets: Oxbow Garden Select Food for Rabbits
- Treats: Oxbow Simple Rewards
- Toys: Small Pet Select Natural Toys
- Enclosure/cage: A rabbit exercise pen
- Rabbit carrier: SleepyPod Mobile Pet Bed