How NOT to
Hold a Rabbit:
Never pick up by
the ears or legs. The scruff of the neck is okay, but only momentarily
Never hold them
away from you – snuggle the rabbit close to you
Never drop a
rabbit to the ground – their backs are fragile and can break very easily
Always hold a
rabbit securely even if they struggle and kick.
Be aware they can go from
a mellow rabbit to a kicking dynamo instantly!
are highly social creatures and the original "party animals." Normally,
rabbits do not make any noise when they are hungry, thirsty, hurt or scared.
They instead become quiet and still. Once you live closely with a rabbit,
you will see how much they communicate.
Head Flat on
Floor – pet me now! Or it can mean fearful if the entire body is
lowered to the floor.
upset or disgusted with you. They will flip out their back legs when they
hop away from you, too.
grunt/bark – upset and aggressive.
Licking – grooming you… affection and bonding with you.
Soft Teeth Grinding
– this is the rabbit equivalent of purring – very happy! If
the grinding is very loud, the rabbit can be in pain or have a dental issue.
or humming sound - visitors told me about this, but I heard when I
adopted Bumble. He buzzes when he is feeling romantic toward
my female rabbit even though he has been neutered. She runs when she
hears him do this since he will display mounting behavior.
back feet – alarmed or angry
– marking territory like cats do. If you move the
furniture, they will do it all over again.
Back turned to
you – ignoring you
– alert or alarmed
hurt or dying
- some rabbits can whistle and it is a sound of distress.
Jumps for Joy
– known as a “binky” a rabbit will hop up and turn sideways with its
body and continue running.
Looking at You
- Rabbits have poor
vision up close. When they
cock their heads to the side
trying to get a better look at you.
- Rabbits will also
stand up on their hind legs to get a better look at what’s going
on around them.
They are as
curious as cats and will get into everything.
They also do this when they are begging for treats. If
rabbits have free range of the house, they will run to the refrigerator
every time you open the door once they associate the sound with a treat.
Two Good Books on the subject:
Why Does My Rabbit ....?
and Stories Rabbits Tell
Toys for Rabbits
rabbits are "players." All you have to do is sit and watch a
cottontail rabbit in your backyard for a few minutes to see what I mean.
They jump, run, chase and toss things. Toys are great stimulation for
rabbits so they don't get bored! Toys can be purchased or simple homemade
toys work, too.
Most toys reflect a natural behaviors such as digging, tossing,
tunneling and chewing.
Please be aware preferences for
toys are as individual as the rabbit. One may enjoy digging and
another bunny may like chewing through a paper bag. It really depends
upon the rabbit. You can experiment since most toys are not expensive.
rabbit time to explore the toy before you decide it isn't "fun."
Rabbits need time to check things out first since they should have the last
word on what is fun time.
A few suggestions:
or purchased cardboard castles made for rabbits with openings and ramps
Large cardboard tubes
made for rabbits or find form tubes (used for concrete) at a building supply
sure they aren’t treated with any chemicals before purchase.
Wood Bird toys
– mobiles are okay especially the wood type and check at all materials
in the construction of it.
Large rubber or plastic
pushing. Stay away from foam or styrofoam materials that can cause
choking or blockages.
Baby rattles for throwing – be sure the plastic
is strong enough to resist bunny teeth.
Big Plastic Slinky – I like them, too . . .
what is it about a slinky, anyway?
with no removable chewable parts or hard eyes – more for snuggling than
playing. If you have a single rabbit, they might enjoy a snuggle toy.
Baked and cleaned
tossing - several online rabbit stores carry them in bulk bags. Don't go
for exotic "pinecones" that aren't your basic evergreen pinecone.
Small cotton rag rug for arranging and
tunneling inside. Make sure bunny won't eat it.
although, these are becoming outdated rabbits love digging in them and
Core cardboard rolls
from paper towels or toilet paper rolls – get the ones with the least
amount of glue on the cardboard!
Untreated willow baskets – without paint or
varnish or other chemicals.
Big plain paper bags from the grocery
store for chewing and exploring
Top of Page: BJ looks like a real sweetheart!
He loved to dance and be
petted. A bunny who is small with a big heart. Someone took him
home to all the dancing room he
Parsley is tuckered after a
serious game of bunny "soccer."
Waldo is the "kardboard king."
Bunnies: A Lesson in Patience
people write me about bonding their rabbits I try to give them all the
I can about my personal
experiences with bonding rabbits and one important word: Patience. In
the last year I learned the true meaning of patience in bonding rabbits.
In fact, I was beginning to think perhaps I had met my match (or
matches) in patience. Enter Pansy and Sweetie. (Pictured: Pansy on
left, new friend Sweetie right - yes, this has a hoppy ending!)
Pansy was adopted at one
year old after spending her first year of life in a dark garage with
five cats. She bit anything that came near especially human hands. I
loved that feisty bunny from day one. Within six months she was licking
my hands and hasn’t bit me since. But she wanted nothing to do with the
other rabbits and enjoyed the tentative friendship of the resident cats
Sweetie came to my care at
six years old. He was (and still is) a spirited Holland Lop who enjoyed my company.
When given the choice of bonding with Pansy or Basil, a 10 year old
Dwarf Hotot – he chose Mr. Basil, a small male bunny who became his best
buddy for two years. Sweetie had never had a bunny friend, but he was
protective and affectionate toward Basil. In fact, he was very close to Basil until Basil
passed away at 12 years old.
After Basil passed away, the
single bunny available for bonding with Sweetie was once again, Miss
Pansy. I did what I always did. I housed them in puppy pens next to
each other for a couple of weeks (which became a month) watching for signs of bonding behavior like
grooming. It didn’t happen. Two more months went by and I tried an
introduction in neutral territory. The fur flew for about 30 seconds
until they were separated. It was vicious fighting. Pansy was looking
to remove whatever manhood the neutered Sweetie had left. Sweetie
defended himself with a vengeance. They were separated again, but close
by for another three months. The same thing happened when the
introductions were started again. I considered a stress inducing car
ride or perhaps a vacuum cleaner running close by during the next
introduction. I thought better of it. Pansy had enough stress in her
first year of life and Sweetie didn’t deserve it either. So I
alternated their litter boxes between them, and their water bowls,
too. I thought if their respective scents were all over each other’s
stuff, it might be easier. I tried giving them treats together and
feeding them together. I felt positive reinforcement was my best
chance. For all the advice I had given over the years on bonding rabbits
and all the positive feedback about how my advice had worked, I felt like a beginner. (See
Then I decided to
keep these two rabbits away from the cats during the day since I thought
Pansy might not realize she was a lagomorph instead of feline.
Remarkably, Pansy began sitting near Sweetie at the puppy pen fence.
(They both had separate run time in the house in the evenings.)
Aggression seemed to diminish and calm gradually defined their
interaction. It took another six months to get this far and
Sweetie had his 10th birthday. He had slowed down a bit, but he was
still a very active rabbit. I made another attempt. I set-up
a very large puppy pen with all new bunny furnishings and put them both
in together. I waited with
my leather gloves on to protect my hands in case I had to break up a
fight. Nothing happened. Pansy looked somewhat panicked. Sweetie
displayed dominance behavior and Pansy just hopped away. By morning
they were sitting near each other without any aggression. Pansy was training
Sweetie to stop the dominance behavior (i.e. mounting). Sweetie
was attempting to get Pansy to groom him. Instead, he ended up grooming
her. A week later Pansy groomed Sweetie for the first time. They were
sitting next to each other often. Bunny love had broken out.
The good news is Sweetie has
been much more active since he has a new girlfriend. Pansy has been
less skittish with her protector around. The cats ignore them now.
And, the human has one less bunny litter box to clean. But, that
isn't the point even if it's less work for me. The rabbits are playing and
showing affection with each other. As for patience . . . I learned I have more than I thought
Some Bonding Trivia:
Normally it is a Short
Courtship I know bonding Sweetie and Pansy were very unusual in the
length of time it took for them to bond. Bonding rabbits can take
five minutes (love at first sight). This long pairing was about 10
months longer than any rabbits I had ever bonded previously. It is
the exception instead of the rule. Most rabbit pairs bond in a
couple of weeks or months.
Neuter or Spay First Only bond rabbits who are
neutered and/or spayed. This may seem like a no brainer, but I
have heard the stories . . .
Bonded for Life Rabbits will bond for life -
so please never, ever separate a bonded pair. I even take both to
the vet when one needs an exam.
You Will Not be Ignored
Your rabbit will not "unbond"
with you just because they have a new bunny friend. However, they
will seem preoccupied for awhile. I find it is more fun to watch two
rabbits cuddle and play than to have their attention. They are rabbits,
let them enjoy the company of their own species.
Limit the Aggression Dominance behavior
(mounting) is common and should be kept to a minimum in the bonding
process. If it becomes fighting, intervene immediately!
Normally it isn't, but it can cause distress especially if one rabbit is
especially shy or smaller.
Bonded Rabbits May Live
Longer It's all anecdotal, but most
people who have house rabbits believe rabbits seem to live longer with a
friend. Certainly, their quality of life is much better. It is
obvious. If one is disabled, their friend becomes a helpmate, too. My rabbit Rosemary used to guide her half blind buddy
by nudging him back to their pen. My big Californian rabbit was a comfy
resting "pillow" for his crippled older friend.
One Rabbit Outlives the
Other When one rabbit of a bonded
pair passes away, the other rabbit may even stop eating to the point of
being life threatening. So pay special attention to the survivor.
I normally introduce a rabbit to in a pen next door to start a bonding
process and give the lonely rabbit another rabbit to interact with
Rabbits are Equal
Opportunity Bonders Rabbits will bond with all types of other
animals from dogs to gorillas. There are many of
stories on the internet about this. However, rabbits are best with
rabbits if at all possible. They are herd animals and it seems
like it is in their DNA.
Cottontail Rabbits are
not Lonely People sometimes write me
about "lonely" cottontails in their yard. Cottontails are cousins
to domesticated European rabbits (all 45 breeds) who are our companions.
Cottontails are primarily solitary and dig shallow burrows. They
come together to mate and litter mates will stay together for awhile
before they disperse. Domesticated rabbits are descendants of
European rabbits who live in warrens with complicated social structures.
Read "The Private Life of the Rabbit" (1964), by British naturalist
Resources on Bonding Rabbits:
Bonding Multiple Rabbits
Bonding When the Going Gets Rough
Love Match: A Guide to Bonding Your Rabbits
Five Reasons to have a Bonded Pair of Rabbits
It's Bonding, not
Step by Step Guide to