Bonding 201

Well, it has been a couple weeks since I updated this blog and when I last wrote I was just beginning the process of bonding. Star is one of the most confident and aggressive rabbits I have ever met and I held little hope that bonding her with Snickers would be an easy task.

Instead, it went incredibly smooth and the two are now completely bonded. They kept surprising me with their eagerness to work things out and be together. It was actually me that held them back, because I was in disbelief that they could bond so quickly.

It all started when we were leaving for our usual Thursday bunny night out. Each week, we usually meet a bunch of other bunny friends at a night street market and we bring our rabbits in their strollers. We walk around the street fair and eat ethnic food. It has become a ritual.
Star and Snickers Bonding
As we were putting Snickers and Star into their respective pet carriers, Denise decided to put Snickers’ carrier up close to tell Star that she was getting a date tonight with the little boy. In response, Star lept out of her carrier into the one Snickers was in. We were pretty surprised, but she obviously WANTED to be with him in there.

The two rode all the way to the street fair and when we got there, we put them both into the same stroller. They were a little off guard about not having their own individual strollers and danced around inside the one they were both in, trying to avoid each other.

Star nipped him every so often, because he would thump at her. Any aggressive behavior on his part was met with a gentle nip. I noticed that she was not actually biting him but was giving him the same gentle nips that she usually gives me when she is trying to tell me something.

Because Snickers has such long thick fur, Star quickly learned that she could not nip him on the butt. She even tried a gnawing chewing nip to get through to his backside, but always came away with a mouthful of his fur. Star started chewing on his face instead.

This resulted in Snickers getting a funny stripe of short fur on his face. After a few more days that became a mohawk hairdo. We joke that Star was becoming a hairdresser. Now, even the mohawk is gone and all the hair on Snickers face is now cropped short.

Since the two got along well together in the pet carrier on car rides and in their stroller at the street fair, I decided to do all of their bonding inside those two things. Every day they spent at least an hour in the pet carrier or stroller. Eventually, I just used the stroller and they got to where they could spent 3 or 4 hours in it together.

It is the super small size of the stroller and carrier that helps to make the bonding process easier. As I have said before, space is your enemy when you are bonding. The smaller the space you put your rabbits into, the less stressful it is for them. It also forces them to not ignore the other rabbit and deal with them being close.

When the two of them would start bickering, I would grab them and force them to lay side by side and cheek to cheek. I would pet the tops of their heads and ears and make them remain calm. If they tried to nip, I would not let them and make them lay there and be pet. I would always end a meeting like this so that they would always part on a peaceful friendly note. You can never let biting or fighting end a bonding session. It will only teach your rabbits that if they fight, that they will get separated. They must be shown that having a tiff does not cause them to be taken away from each other.

Snickers was very unhappy about being schooled by Star. He rarely retaliated by biting her back, but did box her regularly. Remember, Star is three times his size. Snickers was constantly thumping to tell everyone that he did not want to be near Star. This was extremely insulting to her and she would nip him every time he did it. I would have to intervene when he would just not stop thumping and therefore Star would not stop nipping him. This is when I would usually end the bonding session and make them lie quietly together before letting them go back to their respective abodes.

Every time I got a chance to take them both someplace in their stroller, it became a great bonding session. The two spent all day in it at a bunny friend’s BBQ for teenager’s graduation. They even went out to dinner with us and sat there bonding, too.

In a little over a week, I felt it was time to try them in an x-pen and so after a long day at the park at an HRS event, I put them in one together at the beach. Their first time in an x-pen was very successful and they even shared their salad there on the sand. I think they were too tired out from their 8 hours in their stroller together to fight about being in the x-pen.

The next day after the beach, Ricky went into stasis for two days and so bonding efforts were abandoned in order to nurse our sick bun. I was concerned that after two days of not working on their bonding, that I would have to start over, but I was very wrong.

I sent up a 3’X3′ x-pen on the patio and put Star and Snickers inside with a fresh new litter box. I did not use either of their regular litter boxes, because I did not want them claiming it as their own. They did relatively well for about three hours with Star only nipping Snickers when he would thump to tell me he wanted out of that pen with her.

Star is very in tune with me and most of the time I could just sternly tell her to STOP and she would obey. Only a couple of times, did I have to physically step in and stop them from harrassing each other. I was extremely pleased that they were almost bonded and that all I had to do was to figure out how to get them to share their abodes together.

After three days of at least three hours in the tiny x-pen together, I decided to see if Snickers would tolerate Star in his indoor x-pen. I let Star loose inside for about an hour and while there was some thumping and nipping, there was no real fighting. I still cannot believe that we had gotten this far without any blood. When bonding Ricky and Lucy, there were terrible fights and poor Ricky would get so many bad wounds.

The day after they spent some time together in Snickers x-pen, I decided to see how they would play together during their run time. I made them spend about three hours in the tiny x-pen on the patio, then I let them loose to run and play there. It was instant party time. The two were racing around and doing non-stop binkies. I think it is what they wanted all along.

Usually, when I am bonding I would be concerned about chasing games. A chasing game can quickly turn into a rabbit brawl and I was not sure if I should let the two do it. I soon realized from the binkies that they both would do while playing chase, that they were having the time of their lives. Star rarely binkies with abandon, but Snickers would do one and she would do a bigger one. They were actually playing together.

It has been three days since this revelation and last night, they both spent the night in Star’s two story condo with a big four foot x-pen attached to the front. It went well, but I think six month old Snickers might have kept Star up half the night with his unlimited energy.

Still, I think that at six years old, this new younger boyfriend is going to keep Star young. I overheard a comment at the HRS educational event we were at last weekend, that Star is a “Bunny Cougar”. I thought that was priceless.

We are still working out some small issues, like Snickers is an Angora style rabbit and needs high protein pellets to keep his fur nice. We give him a couple teaspoons of alfalfa pellets each day. Star is part Rex and can never have those kind of pellets or she will gain weight and be unhealthy. We are going to have to separate them when they get them, but Star is like a kitty and likes to come back and nibble on hers all day long. Snickers does eat them faster and so we are trying to let him eat his apart from Star. It does not matter if he eats some of Star’s pellets.

Since Star has a digestive condition called mega-colon, I was worried about her grooming Snickers and ingesting his long fur. It is a good thing that she is a big hay eater, because the fiber from the hay will help keep any problems from occurring from this.

Star gives Snickers lots of kisses all the time. She always was a kissy bunny and kissed me all the time while she sits in my lap. I have yet to see Snickers kiss or groom Star in any way. I would have never thought that Star would end up as the submissive bunny in any relationship. It remains to be seen whether this is true, but it appears as if Snickers is the dominant bun.

You never can tell how things like this will turn out in the bunny world. Sex and size absolutely do not matter when it comes to figuring who will be the dominant rabbit after bonding. Even personality seems to not play that big a factor, since Star is the most gregarious and confident bunny you will ever meet. It just goes to show the rabbits themselves are the ones who figure all this stuff out.


The Bunny Guy

Preparing Myself For Bonding Bunnies

I am torn about trying to bond Star with our little foster, Snickers because for the past two years she has been bonded with “me”. I know that if she gets a boyfriend, that I will not be as important to her and I have to say that I am preparing myself for the “withdrawal”.

In all my years of having pet rabbits, I have never been as close to a rabbit as I am with Star. We have truly been joined at the hip, since we decided to adopt her after fostering her through three months of surgeries and recovery from her awful eye wound.

She became the “third wheel” in our previously two bun family. Ricky and Lucy had the run of the front of the house and in order for her not to be stuck alone in another part of the house, I started letting her sit on my lap for periods of time during the day.

It was from this that she because extremely socialized and she will actually tell me when she needs to use her litter box while sitting on my lap. She started going places with me, like on short errands and trips to the HRS and I learned that she likes being on the go.

All of this is very unusual for a rabbit and I have enjoyed that she wants to be so close to me all the time. Several nights a week, I even let her snuggle with me in bed until she tells me that she is ready to go back to her condo. Needless to say, I am just CRAZY about that rabbit.

I have become painfully aware that if she does become bonded with this new little bunny, that a lot of her time that she spends with me will become time that she spends with her new boyfriend. Will I be jealous? Will I miss her constant company?

We plan on starting them off with some dates next week and see if they look like they have a future together. Star is the scrappiest most headstrong rabbit I have ever met and she has no fear, especially of other rabbits. Snickers will have to learn to be very submissive to her if this is going to work. Star is VERY demanding when it comes to attention and he will have to be to handle that.

I will be posting updates and pictures of the progress as things go along. It took six weeks of four to five sessions a day, every day to bond Ricky and Lucy. After a month, we were wondering if it was ever going to work. We eventually found the formula and so I know that if we are consistent and in it for the long haul, that success is a lot more probable.

For those of you who have not bonded two rabbits before, it is a process by which you introduce and then socialize two bunnies into living together. Rabbits are extremely territorial and it is rare that bunnies who are not from the same litter will easily allow other rabbits to share their territory. Occasionally, this will happen organically and take no effort at all, but most of the time it requires a concerted effort to make it happen.

You start out by having the two rabbits go on a “date”. This is an introduction and should occur in neutral territory that neither rabbit considers “theirs”. The smaller the space the better and you should have a water bottle set on spray very handy.

Watch the two rabbits very closely for their body language. If any aggressive signals or stances are taken, a quick squirt with the water will usually slow the aggression. Look for ears back or tail up postures. If one of the rabbits sticks his head underneath the other’s body, that is an aggressive behavior. It is a DEMAND for grooming and if the other rabbit is not prepared to be submissive, this could result in some biting or fighting.

Ignoring each other is not a good sign, either. You want the two rabbits to acknowledge each other and grooming is the optimal outcome. Any kind of mounting is extremely aggressive behavior, but not necessarily bad. If the rabbit being mounted accepts being submissive and does not fight back, then it is good. If the rabbit being mounted resents being dominated, then mounting can result in some serious fighting. Discourage all mounting if the bunny does not like it and do not allow it in future meetings to avoid them fighting.

Mirroring or copying the other rabbit’s movements is a good thing. It is a good sign if both rabbits are sitting there taking a bath. If both rabbits are not paying attention to one another, be prepared for any sudden aggressive behavior because it can often occur very quickly.

If there is any kind of tiff or fighting, never allow the bonding session or “date” to be over immediately. This will teach the rabbits that if they fight, the bonding will be over. Instead, force them to lay side by side calmly without letting them fight or nip each other. I make them lay cheek to cheek and pet them both. I praise them and make them stay like that for at least five minutes before ending the bonding session. This is important.

This is a lot more to share with you on this subject but I will save that for a future update when report how things have been progressing.

The Bunny Guy