Rabbits prefer companionship because they are social animals.
So while I’d love nothing more than to spend time with my bunny every day, all day, I gotta make a living to pay the bills (and take care of my rabbit).
I considered getting another rabbit so my first rabbit could have a friend. But I wondered, should I? Can I?
Can You Bond a New Rabbit With an Existing Rabbit?
Yes, you can put two rabbits together, even if one is new and the other is a bunny you’ve had for a while. Having two rabbits ensures that the social needs these fluffy animals have are met.
It also minimizes depression and troublemaking behavior since the rabbits won’t be bored.
When Should You Get a Second Rabbit?
Is it a good idea to get a second rabbit, though?
The answer is that it depends.
It’s a good idea to get a bunny friend for your rabbit if:
- You have the money and resources to take care of a second rabbit. Remember, it’s more food and potentially more vet bills. And at first, it’s a second cage or hutch, litter box, food and water bowl, etc.
- You have the patience and are ready for the time commitment of introducing and pairing the two rabbits.
- You have a neutral space you can use during the introduction period to prevent territorial fighting.
- Your rabbit is spayed or neutered because pairing unaltered rabbits is more challenging, and it takes longer to bond them.
Why Is Getting a Second Bunny a Good Idea
There are three main reasons why your rabbit should have a rabbit friend:
1. Meet Rabbit Needs
Just like people have an innate need for social connection, so do rabbits.
You can be a great friend to your rabbit and shower it with love and attention. Rabbit owners and their rabbits can form tight bonds.
However, you aren’t a rabbit.
If your rabbit can spend time with another rabbit, it will be much happier. There is always a fellow rabbit to keep it company.
Two rabbits understand each other’s needs, and they can take care of each other too.
They can cuddle when they want to. They can share their meals. And they can groom each other.
2. Less Troublemaking
Another reason why getting another rabbit is great for your current rabbit is that it’ll be less bored.
Therefore, your bunny won’t get itself into trouble in a bid to get your attention.
For example, it won’t chew your electric cables or try to dig a hole in your carpet.
3. Prevents Depression in Rabbits
Getting another bunny will also prevent your rabbit from developing depression.
If you only have one rabbit, it will feel more like a caged animal than a true companion.
If your rabbit’s social needs and craving for attention aren’t met, it can withdraw. Your rabbit may even become aggressive.
Having two bunnies means they can comfort each other.
A Guide to Introducing and Bonding Rabbits: 9 Steps
When you get a bunny friend for your rabbit, you can’t just place the two rabbits in the same hutch or cage and call it a day.
Instead, there is a whole process to introducing two stranger rabbits. This process is called bonding.
To increase your chances of successfully bonding your rabbit with a new rabbit, follow these steps.
I successfully bonded my two rabbits with these steps and some patience.
Step 1: Place the New Rabbit in Its Own Cage
When you get your new rabbit, take it home and place it in its own cage.
This rabbit will need their own bedding, food, water, bowls for the food and water, and a litter box.
Place the cage in another room or some distance from your other rabbit.
Step 2: Swap Bedding and Toys
Once you’ve had your new bunny for a few days, you can swap the bedding and toys between your rabbits.
This is, technically, the first step to introducing your two rabbits.
Rabbits communicate via smell, so you want them to get used to each other’s scents. So like a polite handshake, they get to know each other through smell.
Step 3: Arrange a Meeting of the Eyes
After the bedding and toys have been swapped and your rabbits seem content, you can let them meet each other by sight.
This means you put the two cages or hutches next to each other.
Now your two bunnies can smell, hear, and see each other. Once they seem content to be in each other’s presence, move on to the next step.
Step 4: Let Them Eat Together, but Separately
For this step, you want your rabbits to eat together. However, they should remain in their separate cages.
Start by simultaneously feeding your bunnies their favorite snacks. You can do this where the cages meet.
Feed them some distance apart to begin with. Over the next few days, feed them closer and closer together.
This will ensure they get used to eating together.
Step 5: Wait Until They Are Comfortable
This isn’t really a step, but it is essential.
Before you move onto the next steps – where your bunnies will meet face to face – they first need to be comfortable with each other from afar.
A tell-tale sign that they are ready for the next step is when you see them lying side by side with just the barrier between them.
This indicates that the pair is happy and comfortable with each other.
Step 6: Set up Neutral Ground
The first face-to-face meeting between your new rabbit and old one should be on neutral ground.
Neutral ground means it is an area no rabbit will feel territorial over. Neutral territory increases the chances that your bunnies will feel like socializing with each other.
You should have new litter boxes, new food and water bowls, and new toys in the neutral territory.
Add plenty of hiding places (tunnels, tubes, and boxes). So if one rabbit feels overwhelmed, they have a place to retreat to.
Give the bunnies some treats and place tasty hay around the area.
Step 7: Let the Rabbits Meet
Once your neutral area is set up and ready, the rabbits should meet.
Place one rabbit on one side of the area and the other rabbit on the other side. This gives the bunnies a chance to “size” each other up from a distance.
The meeting also doesn’t feel forced this way.
The bunnies can decide for themselves if they want to tip-toe around each other or meet straight away.
It is essential to stay with your rabbits during this meeting step. You should keep a close eye on them.
Scenario 1: The Meeting Goes Well
If they engage in normal bunny behavior, I advise leaving them be.
Normal rabbit behavior during the first meeting could look like any of the following:
- Ignoring each other
Don’t be surprised if your rabbits ignore each other when you first put them in the neutral area. This may even happen the first few times until they warm up to each other.
Never rush the bonding process. Be patient.
- Grooming, nuzzling, or sniffing each other
It’s a good sign when your bunnies start nuzzling, sniffing, or grooming each other. This means they like each other and get along well.
In this case, you can move on to the next step.
- Mounting each other
This is normal behavior in bunny language. It’s how they decide who’s boss so it isn’t only sexual for rabbits.
When one rabbit tries to mount the other rabbit, don’t let this go on for longer than 30 seconds or so.
The rabbit being mounted may become frustrated or try to run away. This will set the bonding process back a bit.
If the rabbit being mounted looks fine, then that’s ok. But still, keep a close eye on the pair.
- Chasing or nipping at each other
You may also find that the rabbits may chase each other. Keep watch and make sure no bunny gets hurt.
However, it is best to not let them chase each other for longer than 30 seconds. This increases the risk that a bunny may get hurt or the situation can escalate.
Rabbits may also nip at each other. In bunny language, it says “leave me alone.”
Should the nipping be followed by aggressiveness, then end the bonding session, restart step 4, and take it slow.
Scenario 2: The Meeting Doesn’t Go Well
If one or both of the rabbits looks stressed or engages in fighting behavior, the meeting should be stopped immediately.
If a bunny is distressed or a fight breaks out, it may feel like the process has just taken 10 steps backward. I certainly felt that way the first time my rabbits met and seemed to not like each other.
Sometimes, two rabbits just won’t be friends, but don’t give up after the first meeting.
Simply take a few steps back. Keep the cages next to each other. Feed the bunnies treats together. And wait a few days, and try the meeting on the neutral ground again.
Step 8: Repeat
If you don’t have to take a few steps back because of aggressive behavior, then you should let the rabbits meet each other face to face in neutral territory for about 10-15 minutes each day.
The more often you repeat this meeting, the more successfully you can bond your bunnies.
Imagine only letting your bunnies spend time together in the same area for 20-30 minutes once or twice a week?
You’ll get better results if you do it more often, but never force the bonding process.
Step 9: Move the Rabbits in Together
When the pair of rabbits look comfortable with each other, you can let them share the cage or run.
You’ll know when they are friends because they’ll share food and water bowls. They will also nuzzle and groom each other.
If you’ve moved them in together and they start exhibiting aggressive behavior, then go back a few steps.
Keep the rabbits in their separate cages. Let them meet each other face to face on neutral territory for 10-15 minutes per day until they are friends again.
Practical Tips for Introducing a New Rabbit to an Old Rabbit
There are a few things to keep in mind when you want to bond one rabbit with another:
- Get another cage, litter box, and food and water bowls for the new bunny.
- If your existing cage is big enough for two bunnies, you can keep the rabbits separate by using baby gates.
- Ensure the new bunny is also neutered or spayed.
- Set up a neutral environment for when the rabbits meet face to face and when you bond them.
- Instead of swapping their food and water bowls and bedding, you can also place your old bunny in the new one’s cage and vice versa.
- While your rabbits are meeting face to face on neutral ground, be ready to break up any fights. Have thick gloves, a squirt bottle filled with water, and dustpan and broom ready.
Introducing New and Old Rabbits – Some FAQs
Can you put a baby rabbit with an older rabbit?
Yes, you can bond a baby rabbit with an older rabbit.
However, ensure the older rabbit has been spayed or neutered. Once the baby rabbit reaches 4-6 months, take it to be neutered or spayed too.
How can you tell if rabbits are fighting or playing?
When rabbits are fighting, there is aggressiveness in their behavior that is absent when they play with each other.
With fighting, one rabbit deliberately attacks another by aiming for vulnerable regions like the face or tummy.
When rabbits play, they may nip each other, but they also playfully jump back and forth.
Final Thoughts on Introducing and Bonding Two Rabbits
A pet rabbit will be happiest when it has a friend that’s a rabbit. This is because rabbits understand each other and the “new” bunny can always be there for the “old” bunny.
However, introducing two rabbits requires a lot of patience and time commitment. It isn’t a process that can be rushed.
For the best results, follow the 9 steps laid out in this article when you bond a new rabbit with an old rabbit
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