Social Behavior

Approaching a Rabbit:

The safest initial approach with rabbits is to begin by stroking the top of the head. Do not offer your hand for a bunny to sniff the way you would to a dog. Since rabbits eyes are on the side of their head it creates a blind spot in their vision where the top of their head and nose is. Offering your hand can sometimes spook bunny, due to lack of vision and may cause bunny to attack (lightening fast lunge with a snort). Most buns also do not like having the tips of their noses or chins touched. Their feet also tend to be ticklish.

How to pick up:

Bunnies should NOT be lifted by the ears, legs or scruff. When lifting a rabbit you should use two hands. Support the chest by placing one hand under the front legs. With the other hand, support the rabbit’s bottom. Hold the rabbit firm with its legs against your chest.

Approaching Aggressive Rabbits:

Rabbits have a wide variety of personalities. Some can be aggressive, exhibiting behaviors such as lunging, grunting and sometimes even biting. You want to be safe and minimize any biting. Some people wear thick gloves when they are first approaching a tough bun. This will help protect you if you get bitten. Since rabbits lunge and bite forward, the trick to petting an aggressive bun is to approach their head from above. Sometimes simply stroking the ears from an upright position so the ears lay down parallel with its back can have a calming effect. Remember to always keep your hand behind the mouth.

Rabbits as Social Animals:

Sleeping Rabbits

Social aspects: Ideally rabbits work well in pairs, usually male and female. Single rabbits are possible to keep but not recommend for the sake of the rabbit. Rabbits are very social animals. They like to interact with each other by grooming and just laying with each other. Single rabbits tend to get bored and depressed when their master is not around. An easy cure is to bond the rabbit with another.

Bonding:

Most people do not know the real nature of rabbit bonds. Not all rabbits get along, it’s a much more complicated process than most people assume. Rabbits either love each other, hate each other or be indifferent.

From all my experiences and there have been many, her statement rings true.

Rabbits are extremely territorial especially if they are not neutered or spayed. Some signs of territorial behavior are chinning, urinating (spraying) and aggressive behavior (circling, digging, and fighting).

- To remedy this, get your rabbit spay/neutered and introduce them on neutral territory (space which both rabbits have never been or have no scent).

In rabbit relationships there is usually a dominate rabbit and the other takes on a submissive role. Wild rabbits have a similar hierarchy to a pack of dogs, there is always the head rabbit and the grunts of the warren.

When searching for a friend for your rabbit keep in mind the dominate/submissive relationship and try to categorize what type each rabbit is. Then you can rule out potential rabbits and keep in mind those which make an ideal match with your own.

The following is a list of tips & tricks to help you with the complex world of rabbit bonding:

  • Set up an x-pen with you and your rabbits inside, be ready to breakup any aggressive behavior.
  • Other alternatives to x-pens can be bathtub, kitchen tabletop, the sofa, backseat of a car, on top of a running dryer, in a box with hay that is being carried by around by another person or a wagon with hay in it. Just as long as it’s neutral.
  • Carry a water bottle or squirt gun to spray the rabbits noses if any aggressive behavior comes about.
  • Introduce rabbits for 20 minutes daily in neutral space. Once you see signs of grooming from both parties, try them in the space they will live together, if all goes well, then they are officially bonded.

Types of rabbit bonds:

  • Male & Female: Usually successful, depends on each rabbits personality.
  • Female & Female: Sometimes works & sometimes fights.
  • Male & Male: Usually difficult but can work in some cases.
  • Baby & Baby: Very easy, almost always works.
  • Baby & Adult: Difficult. May go well if the adult is tolerant (motherly).
  • 3 of more: Depends on personalities, sexes & whether the rabbits had previous bonding experience.
  • Bringing home a rabbit to an existing rabbit: Usually difficult start, can work. It is highly recommended that the rabbits have a tentative meeting on neutral territory before deciding upon your rabbit’s bonded friend. Try several potential friends and let your rabbit choose who he/she likes best before you bring home another rabbit.
  • Bringing 2 rabbits home at the same time: Usually easy. Recommended. The new space, smells and sounds are usually enough to bond the rabbits on their own.

Rabbit behavioral signs: “What does my rabbit’s behavior mean?”

  • Fighting: When rabbits fight or box each other chances of a successful bond are narrowed. It is possible the two rabbits could get along in the future but be prepared to do extensive bonding.
  • Love at first sight: Laying next to each other and grooming reciprocation. If this occurs try setting them up in the home they will share together.
  • Friendship: One good indication of this, is ignoring each other. If this occurs watch them while they are together, and separate them when you are not around.
  • One chasing, One running: If this occurs be on the watch for a fight. If a fight does break out be prepared to take lengthier bonding steps. If a fight does not occur, continue but keep an eye out for any signs of aggressive behavior.
  • Amorous Behavior: In other words, mounting. If the male mounts the female and she gets upset and runs away, there is still possibility of friendship. Just keep on trying bonding techniques. If the female fights back, take more lengthier methods of bonding with a long term approach in mind. If the female does not seem to mind then a dominance is established and the bonded should be successful.

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