Introducing Your Rabbit To a New Friend

James Glover
by James Glover
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QuestionI have a Netherlands dwarf doe rabbit. She is extremely playful and on the whole seems happy to eat all the carpet and furniture in the house! As a working couple we spend a lot of time out of the house and would like to find her a friend to play with, but I have heard many conflicting stories about adding another rabbit to the mix. She is one year old, so is it too late to add another bunny? I am worried they will fight constantly? If it is still OK to add another dwarf, should I choose another doe of similar age or younger? Is there any other advice as we are both very new to pet care and just want out little lady to be as happy as possible. (Stephen Gilbey - United Kingdom)

Answer

Firstly, well done for considering your rabbit's needs before your own. Introducing two rabbits is never easy, and while it is better for most rabbits in the long run to have a companion, some rabbits will never accept a new introduction. It is therefore extremely important that you have the option of returning any rabbit you attempt to introduce. The easiest way to attain this flexibility might be via a rabbit adoption society.

Neutered rabbits are introduced more easily, since they are less territorial and unwanted pregnancy will be avoided. Always introduce the two rabbits on neutral territory, away from anywhere where either rabbit has spent any time. The easiest introductions are between a neutered male and a spayed female, or between two spayed females. Introducing two unspayed females over about 4 months has a lot more potential for serious fighting, so you will find the whole process far more possible if you have your existing rabbit spayed and introduce a younger, spayed female.

When the time comes to introduce your rabbits, locate the two rabbits in adjacent cages where they can see and smell each other. Once they are familiar with each other's presence without obvious stress, you can introduce them on neutral territory for short periods of time. If a fight occurs separate them immediately and try again after a few hours. If they appear uninterested in each other or groom themselves, this is a good sign. Even if fighting does not happen, separate the rabbits after 15 minutes and re-introduce them every hour or so until the rabbits seem entirely relaxed together. A good sign is if they will eat from the same bowl together without any sign of aggravation. You will be able to leave the rabbits unsupervised for short periods of time if the rabbits engage in grooming each other.

Introducing two rabbits is not easy and may take from a few days to a few months before you can leave them completely alone at all times. If no fighting occurs when they first meet, your chances of success are high. However, if persistent fighting occurs in the first day or two the chances are poor. Good luck!

Disclaimer: This service is meant to provide advice only and is not meant to replace an appointment with a registered veterinarian. Users should always seek a second opinion. Unfortunately we are only able to answer several questions per week so not everyone gets a published answer. And, unfortunately we can't answer by email.
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