How to Bond an Older Rabbit with a Baby Bunny: It’s Easy If You Relax
One of my older rabbits recently died and, as I’m going to Spain for a month soon, I couldn’t possibly leave my remaining older rabbit alone by herself. In a matter of days, she would die of loneliness with just my housekeeper coming in three times a day to feed her. So, I decided to get another rabbit but, instead of choosing a rabbit around the same age as my old girl, I chose a baby bunny instead.
At the time, I had no idea if trying to bond an older rabbit with a baby bunny was a good idea at all. Particularly as my old girl is a large Thai rabbit who weighs over 5lbs and the baby rabbit I picked out was only 8 weeks old and weighed barely ounces. But, I took a chance that I could bond this odd couple before I went on vacation and, as it’s turned out, not only was it the right decision but I now have two rabbits who are so tightly bonded together, they’re just about inseparable.
If you too are trying to bond an older rabbit with a baby, here are the steps I took which, hopefully, will work for you as well as they did for me.
First day and introductions – My older male rabbit, the father of the old girl left behind, died late on Friday night. On Saturday morning, I was at my local rabbit dealer picking out a new one. While some people might think that’s fast, and too soon for my old girl to get over her daddy’s death, I decided if she wasn’t going to feel completely lost and alone, she needed a new friend. And now.
As I was also traveling to Spain in less than a month, I needed her to have enough time to hopefully bond with the baby before I left.
By lunchtime, I was back at my apartment, teeny tiny baby in its rabbit carrier and was ready for the introductions. They consisted of nothing more than letting the baby out of the carrier close to the sofa my older rabbit was lounging under looking thoroughly depressed. Less than a minute later, she was out. Sniffing around the new baby and beside herself with curiosity.
Meanwhile, I kept hold of the baby, which sat placidly on the floor, and stroked both of them while talking softly. Any sign of aggression from my old rabbit, and I would have immediately picked up the baby and moved away.
That, however, did not happen. Instead, she seemed to become completely indifferent (an extremely good sign if you know anything about bonding rabbits) and disappeared back under the sofa.
Both rabbits loose in my living room – Instead of doing what all the books recommend, introducing the two rabbits in a ‘neutral space’, I allowed the baby to sniff her way around the living room right in the eyesight of the older one, while I watched to see what the older rabbit would do. She appeared a few times to take a sideways glance at the baby while she nibbled on food from her bowl but, other than that, she pretended she had no interest in the new arrival whatsoever and went back where she spends most of her days – under the sofa and out of sight.
Within a few hours, however, that had changed again, and the older rabbit was out and chasing the baby around the living room. It seems the baby had gotten just a little too close, and discipline was in order.
I rescued the baby, pulled both rabbits onto my lap and stroked them, while telling the older rabbit in no uncertain terms she “must not hurt the baby”. Surprisingly and very sweetly, several licks and kisses were suddenly bestowed on the baby, and then off she went back under the sofa again.
Feed close together with separate bowls – By late afternoon, it was time for dinner and that’s when I put two food bowls on the floor in front of the sofa. Close to each other, but far enough apart neither rabbit would feel threatened while eating.
Oddly, the baby couldn’t care less that my old girl was there as she was so intent on eating her food. My old girl, meanwhile, ate just as she normally did, but with a look of intense concentration as she tried to figure out who this new bunny was. Then back under the sofa she went, and dinner time was safely over.
Monitoring both rabbits for aggression – This dance continued for the rest of the day, with the baby getting closer and closer over time. When she got too close, the chase around the living room began again and I ran in for the rescue.
As long as there were no signs of dangerous aggression – ears pinned back, growling sounds, or violent lunges — coming from my older rabbit, I allowed her to do so. The result? By the late evening and supper time, they were both sitting a couple of feet away from each other, quietly eating out of their own bowls pretending they had no idea the other one was even close by.
Bedtime – Of course, there is no way you can house two new rabbits in the same cage or pen on the same day or even in the same week usually as, for the rabbit you already have that cage is its own territory and, for the new rabbit it would be completely overwhelming and extremely frightening.
Luckily, I have my rabbits housed in an 8 feet by 4 feet pen in my bedroom, which I made myself out of metal cubes. So I just added two more cubes to the outside of the main pen put in a litter box, a food dish, a water bowl and a towel for her to sleep on, and that’s where the baby bunny spent her first night.
The positive side of this? She could sit in her own fenced off area completely safe, but still able to see through the bars into the main pen where my old girl was sitting, and my old girl could do the same.
Second day – bonding almost complete – When I woke up in the morning, both rabbits were still in their separate pens but, instead of feigning indifference, they were both leaning up against the wall of the pen right next to each other sniffing. The older one was sticking her nose through the fence and quietly grooming the bits of the baby she could reach.
As any experienced rabbit owner will tell you, once the grooming starts, the two rabbits are almost bonded, so this was an excellent sign.
Second day and third days – During the second and third days, I did just the same as I did on the first. Left the two rabbits in the living room together, while monitoring what was going on. When I fed them, I moved their food bowls closer together every time until, on the morning of day three, they were eating quietly side by side.
When the baby decided the food in my old girl’s bowl looked better than hers and proceeded to climb in, my old girl didn’t take a blind bit of notice. Just continued to eat around her.
Day four and two rabbits in one cage – By day four, my older rabbit and the baby were completely bonded and, I think much of that was because, other than monitoring what they were doing, I left them to their own devices and simply relaxed. and got on with my day.
Rabbits can sense if you are tense or nervous and that can make the bonding far more difficult. I’m generally a relaxed, take-it-as-it-comes kind of person, who tends to leave my rabbits to their own devices a lot, and I’ve never had a bonding problem because of it.
As for this particular bonding, by the end of the fourth day, my two bunnies were quietly sitting side by side, grooming each other, sharing food and cuddling as long as they possibly could.
That night, they slept in the main pen together for the first time, although I monitored them closely right up until I went to bed myself. No problems resulted, however, and just a few days later, they are both now as happy as clams and as bonded as any two bunnies are ever likely to be.
Be aware, not every rabbit bonding is the same. Some can take a few days, others can take a few weeks. I do believe, however, that any two rabbits can be bonded together if you give it time and, most of all, relax.