Introducing Rabbits – After Neutering


September 18th, 2015

Rabbits are sociable animals and should live with other rabbits. Ideally rabbits should be kept with a litter mate of the same sex, or another rabbit of the opposite sex, which must be neutered. After neutering your bunnies will need to be re-introduced to each other.

After neutering your bunnies it is important to wait 4-6 weeks before allowing full contact interaction. This will give them time to heal after their operations and for their hormones to settle and in the case of bucks, allow time for any remaining sperm to die off.

During their healing they should be kept together in adjoining cages. This will allow them to become accustomed to each other scents and enable them to smell and touch each other without fighting.

If you don’t have a cage for your house rabbit, put the two rabbits in adjoining rooms with a baby gate or similar barrier between them.  It is important that they are able to see and smell each other. If you have a hutch rabbit, you will need another hutch and need to place the two hutches facing each other. 

Give them a few days to settle down.  The rabbits will be very curious about each other, touching noses through the bars and probably displaying some courtship behaviour such as honking and circling even though both are neutered / spayed.  It helps to have a good understanding of rabbit body language.  A good sign will be when both rabbits lie down either side of the bars as this shows they are relaxed together.  It helps to feed them both together at the barrier so they get used to eating together.

Introducing rabbits is a tricky affair and can take anything from a few days to a few weeks. It is all dependant on the individual’s personalities, and patience will be key. If either rabbit is displaying aggressive behaviour such as growling and biting, wait a while longer before allowing them to interact fully.

The Bonding Process

When they are ready and the relaxed behaviours of lying side by side in their own cages has been seen you can start to slowly introduce them with the bonding process.

Step 1

Prepare a neutral space for the introduction, somewhere that neither rabbit feels is “their” place. This should be a safe space that has not belonged to either rabbit before. The area should be as large as possible but broken up with various obstacles and perhaps a few favourite vegetables to act as distractions. Things such as cardboard boxes with door cut into them and tubes are a great way to allow bunnies somewhere to run and hide if they become nervous.

The potential pair should then enter the area simultaneously.

You need to stay with your bunnies. They should NEVER be left unsupervised during the bonding process. If they get upset or stressed you need to be there to either serperate them or lend them support as a chaperone. 
 

Step 2

What happens next really depends on the pair. Sometimes after a little ‘eyeing-up’ and perhaps a little chasing the rabbits may lose interest in each other and do their own thing. Often, I’ve found that one of the pair shows far more interest with the other seemingly indifferent to their new follower!

In the most common scenario, one of the rabbits will take the lead and approach the other, sniffing and circling them and trying to mount them.  This is not so much for courtship as for dominance and is the rabbit’s way of figuring out who is going to be “boss”.  A submissive rabbit will let this happen, putting their head on the ground, while a less submissive rabbit may nip or run away.   Stay with the rabbits at all times and intervene if you feel one or both rabbits are becoming too stressed.

Occasionally the ‘introduction’ may culminate in fighting. If this happens split the pair immediately and try again later, returning them back to their adjoining cages for a day before repeating the meet and greet process. Because there is a risk of fighting, it is important that introductions are always undertaken with close supervision so that any fights can be broken up immediately.

Step 3

Allow them time.

Providing fighting has not broken out between the pair allow them 10-20 minutes of interaction before returning them to their respective cages. The process should then be repeated daily with the interaction time being gently lengthened each day.

All being well, the rabbits will eventually stop taking notice of each other and become curious about their surroundings instead.  This is the turning point when it is usually safe to let the rabbits roam free together, however, continue to separate them when you are not there to supervise.  When the rabbits start to lie down together or groom each other, the bond is made and will continue to deepen with time. 

At this stage the pair can be put into the accommodation that they are to share together to see how they react. All being well, they can then be left together but regularly observed to ensure that no fights break out.

Remember...

This is a lengthy process and should never be rushed. Bunnies need to time adjust to one another and given the freedom to do this in their own time. Once a bond has been formed don’t forget that they should never be separated for any length of time. This will likely cause you to have to back to the beginning and reintroducing all over again.

If one has to visit the vets – they both go. If one comes out to be groomed – they both come out.

They should at all times be kept together. They, once bonded are inseparable and are dependent on one another. Please do not cause your buns unnecessary stress by separating them.