One of the most controversial topics in the rabbit care community is the question of whether it’s okay to keep a single rabbit as a pet. Some say it’s absolutely necessary to have two rabbits for them to stay happy. I agree that in most cases, it’s ideal to have more than one rabbit living together in a home. However, as someone who volunteers with rescue rabbits, I’ve also seen how much of a difference human companionship can make in the life of a single rabbit.
Pet rabbits can be kept alone if they are given daily attention and socialization from their human companions. It’s best if single rabbits are kept as house pets so you can spend ample amounts of time petting and playing with them. If you cannot give a single rabbit enough attention, it is important to bond them with another rabbit.
Don’t misunderstand me. Rabbits are social animals, and I do believe it is best for rabbits to be kept in pairs or groups. If you are able to bring multiple rabbits into your home, I encourage you to do so. However, if you are unable to bring a second rabbit into your home, for whatever reason, your single bunny can still be happy and avoid depression.
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The case for single rabbits
I see a lot of judgment toward people who only have a single rabbit. There is the attitude that if you can’t take care of two rabbits then you shouldn’t get one to begin with. While I think that this attitude does come with the best of intentions, from people who just want every bunny to have the best life possible, it also ignores the reality that many people and many rabbits face.
Whether you’re a person with limited resources and living space, or you’re a rabbit who comes from a neglectful background and just needs a loving home, there are many reasons that rabbits are kept as single pets. Even if it’s not the best case scenario, human companionship can still do a lot to give a rabbit a loving and happy home.
Adopting single rabbits
As someone who volunteers with rescue rabbits, I can say with certainty that I love seeing rabbits go to a loving home, whether they are single or not. Many rabbits in shelters come from places where their health and social needs were completely ignored. Even if the adopter is only able to take home one rabbit, it’s still a significant improvement to the life of the rabbit. If you can only adopt one rabbit then you are still giving one rabbit a loving and happy home.
In fact, I do not recommend trying to bring home two rabbits at the same time unless they are already bonded or you have experience caring for rabbits. Bonding rabbits, even in neutral territory, is very difficult and requires some understanding of rabbit behavior and body language. If this is your first time adopting a rabbit, it’s better to live with a single rabbit for a while until you can better understand them. Then you can start to think about bringing in a second rabbit. To learn more about rabbit body language, check out my article (with pictures!).
Even if you want to adopt two rabbits, it’s not always possible. In the 5+ years that I’ve volunteered at animal shelters, it’s been relatively rare to find bonded pairs of rabbits. While I have seen pairs come through occasionally, the vast majority of rabbits are single when they arrive. Because there is a high chance that two unfamiliar rabbits will start fighting each other, most shelters also have the policy of only allowing one rabbit to be adopted at a time (unless they are already bonded).
Rabbits and human companionship
Rabbits are social animals and they benefit a lot from the company of another rabbit. That doesn’t mean human companionship means nothing. Time and again I’ve seen rabbits come into the shelter from neglectful backgrounds. They enter as depressed and withdrawn rabbits, but with even the small amount of attention that they are given by volunteers and staff, these rabbits are able to brighten up and come out of their shells.
There are enough animals in the shelter system that we can only devote so much time to socializing any single animal. Yet even this small amount of interaction is able to make a gigantic difference in the life of a rabbit. Imagine how much bigger the difference will be once the rabbit goes home with a family who can devote much more time and attention to them.
Even without another rabbit friend, the companionship that rabbits can get from us does a lot to help them live a happy life. It does put a lot more responsibility on you, the caretaker. You need to make sure part of your daily routine includes spending time with your rabbit. But if you treat your rabbit more like a companion pet (like a cat or a dog) instead of a caged pet, it is relatively easy to integrate your rabbit into your daily life.
Resources for two rabbits
Two rabbits also take more resources than one. While many products can be bought in bulk, keeping the cost of food and litter from doubling, it will still inevitably cost you more money from month to month. Vet expenses will also go up. There are annual health examinations, of course, but there are also twice as many chances for one of your rabbits to get sick. You’ll want to consider getting some kind of pet insurance or saving up a pet emergency fund just in case the need arises.
Another resource that many people are short on is space. Even if you want to get a second rabbit, you may live in a small apartment with no available neutral space for bonding. Personally, I decided it was best to move to a larger place before searching for a partner for my Elusive. Your apartment complex may also have a one-pet limit. It’s important to check up on these kinds of policies before making the decision to get another rabbit.
Difficulty bonding rabbits
Many people also have single rabbits because bonding is difficult and intimidating. There are rarely professional services available to help people with bonding rabbits. It’s no surprise that even people who want to get a second rabbit are overwhelmed by the idea. First, there’s the cost of getting multiple sets of supplies (ex-pens, litter boxes, food bowls, etc.) for the new rabbit and the neutral space. Then there’s the emotional stress of watching your rabbits work out their differences and doing your part to prevent them from hurting each other.
In the end, you’ll have two happily bonded bunnies, but there will be sleepless nights and many tears involved along the way. Because it’s such a difficult and stressful process, for you and the rabbits, I cannot stress how important it is to wait until you are ready.
How to keep a single rabbit happy
If you have a single rabbit, that means you need to do a lot more work to keep them happy on a day-to-day basis. You need to make sure you socialize with them every day and make your rabbit a part of your daily life. You can help your rabbit maintain happiness by seeing to both their social and physical needs.
- Give your rabbit a comfortable enclosure. Rabbits need a lot of space, even when they can’t be supervised. Get an enclosure that is at least 3-4 times the length of your rabbit. I always recommend using a pet exercise pen as a rabbit enclosure; it’s bigger and cheaper than most rabbit cages (check current pricing).
- Give your rabbit a variety of toys. Rabbits like toys to chew, dig, and forage for treats. Learn what kinds of toys your rabbit will like to play with.
- Provide a healthy diet. A healthy rabbit is a happy rabbit! Make sure to give your rabbit an unlimited supply of timothy hay, with 1-2 cups of daily leafy greens. Pellets should only be given in small amounts. Learn more about a healthy rabbit diet.
- Interact with your rabbit daily. If you don’t have another rabbit, that means you are responsible for your rabbit’s socialization. This could be as simple as sitting on the floor to read with your rabbit, or letting your rabbit hop up on the couch next to you while you watch TV.
- Pet your rabbit often. Most rabbits love to be pet. Try giving them scritches behind the ears and on their forehead. Many rabbits will love a massage up and down their back as well.
- Make sure your rabbit gets lots of exercise. Exercise is important for keeping a rabbit healthy. Try to let them out of their enclosure for at least 4-5 hours a day to make sure they can get enough exercise.
Questions to ask yourself before getting a second rabbit
My goal is to prevent people from being judgemental toward those who have single rabbits. It is not to discourage you from finding a partner for your rabbit if that’s what you want to do. There are a lot of great resources out there for bonding rabbits (including my guide).
If you take the time to do some research and are patient with your rabbits, you can bring a second rabbit into your home. But if you’re still on the fence, and unsure if it’s time to take the step forward, ask yourself these questions first.
How much time do you spend with your rabbit?
Rabbits need a lot of attention to maintain long-term happiness. In the wild, they come from a species that live in family groups and spend a lot of time around others. This means the more time you can spend with your rabbit the better.
If you are constantly out of the house running errands or socializing, and leaving your rabbit completely alone for most of the day, you should seriously think about bringing another rabbit home. On the other hand, if you are able to spend many hours a day at home, living side-by-side with your rabbit, then it’s less urgent for you to introduce a second rabbit to the home.
- Read more: How to tell if your rabbit is lonely
Is your rabbit showing signs of depression?
Rabbits without enough socialization can easily develop feelings of loneliness and depression. If your rabbit is starting to show these signs, then a second rabbit can usually help a lot in brightening their day-to-day life and helping them be a happy rabbit again. This would also take some responsibility off your shoulders since the new bun will be able to socialize with your rabbit all day long.
- A lack of energy and curiosity
- A lack of appetite (a rabbit who is not eating at all should be brought to an emergency veterinary clinic)
- Fur pulling
- A lack of self-grooming
- Persistent destructive behaviors
- Unexplained aggressive behavior
- Socially withdrawn
- Small fecal droppings
It’s important to note that the more symptoms your rabbit shows, the more likely they are depressed or ill in some way. If your rabbit shows only one or two of these symptoms, they may not be depressed. I could just be their personality. Always put your rabbit’s behavior in context.
Does your rabbit have any medical issues?
Bonding is a stressful process for rabbits. They can become anxious and frightened which also puts stress on their bodies. If your rabbit has any medical problems, the stress from bonding can exacerbate the issues. It’s possible that they’ll be stressed out enough to induce an episode of GI Stasis, so it’s important to get input from a rabbit-savvy veterinarian before attempting to bond a rabbit with health issues.
For this reason, it’s often a good idea to check with your veterinarian before trying to bond a rabbit who is older than 6 years old. As rabbits age, there is a greater chance that they will develop underlying health issues that you might not know about.
Do you have the resources to care for multiple rabbits?
As I mentioned earlier, it’s very important to make sure you can give your second rabbit as much of a loving home as you’ve given your first. This may mean you have to wait until you’ve saved up a little more money, or you might want to wait until you’ve moved to a different home.
How stressed are you right now?
It’s also important to pay attention to your own mental state. If you are anxious and overly stressed about something happening at work, for example, then you may want to wait until the problem has been solved before attempting to bond your rabbit.
Not only will your rabbits be able to pick up on your anxious attitude, making them more likely to be agitated toward each other, but you also might not be in the right mindset to make good decisions during the bonding process. You may find yourself getting angry or impatient with your rabbits, putting them in potentially dangerous situations. Don’t underestimate the difference that your own mindset can make when you are deciding to bring home a second rabbit.
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Recommended Products and Brands
Important: These are Affiliate links. As an associate to Amazon, Small Pet Select, and Chewy.com, I may receive a small commission from qualifying purchases.
The two brands that I use when buying food for my rabbit are Oxbow and Small Pet Select. These both have high quality rabbit products and are companies that care about the health of our small animals. If you are purchasing anything from Small Pet Select use the code BUNNYLADY at checkout to get 15% off your first order.
- 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