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Old 12-05-2017, 08:49 PM   #1
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Default Bonding Males HELP

Hello everyone! I'm new to this particular bunny site, I hope you guys can help me out with some issues I'm having bonding / some behavior issues.

Buckle up, this is a long one.

I'll start from the beginning. Once upon a time I had Oliver (a now 4 year old Netherland Dwarf neutered male) and Charlotte (a ? year old lion head mix spayed female). They were a match made in bunny heaven. Unfortunately, Charlotte passed away a few months ago. I guess she was older than I thought. Oliver was devastated. He stopped eating, hiding in the back of his cage and being sad.

Enter Gus. I was not planning on getting a male bun OR a young one at that. I knew it would be harder to bond them with the age difference and otherwise, but I fell in love with Gus when I met him and knew I had to bring him home.

I attempted bonding them before Gus' neuter seeing as it was going to be about a month before my vet had time to get him in. This did not go well. So I waited.

Fast foward to now, it's been a week over a month since Gus has been neutered. I've been swapping cages. Oliver and Gus live side by side with just enough room between them to keep them from nipping each other. I've tried some bathtub sessions but neither one wants to back down and give dominance. Furthermore, Gus seems to be a little terror. He's very affectionate, when he wants to be. But he's easily set off and will lunge at you, honk, and even chase after you if you walk by too quickly. I've never had a rabbit be this aggressive before. He has calmed down a little in the past week. But is this normal and just part of the "teenage" bun phase? Oliver was not like this (I had him since he was a wee baby).

I've been working at bonding the two (sessions in the bathtub that is) for a couple weeks now and it has always ended up with vicious biting, fur pulling, chasing, flipping over, and so on. I try to stop it as quickly as possible but it's hard when they've really got one another. Gus normally is quick to hump Oliver, which I've let happen a few times just to see if it will establish dominance. But he does it to the point of pulling out his fur and then it ends up in biting.

My optimism is draining. I want them to be friends so bad. I wish I could make them understand that being friends will improve their quality of life tenfold. But I just don't know what to do anymore.

So here are my questions, in short.

1. Is Gus' aggressive behavior normal for a young rabbit? Is this something he's likely to grow out of?

2. From the information I've given, is there hope for the two of them to bond? Some people have said "every bun will eventually bond" but one of them is going to have to give...

3. When should I know it's time to give up?

4. Is there something else I should try with bonding? I've taken them outside, in the bathtub, in the living room, on the floor in the bathroom, tons of neutral places. All end up pretty similar.

5. Could it be possible that getting a female, bonding her to Oliver, then using that as maybe a way to bond Gus also? Would that be something that could work?

I'm sorry for this being so long... I'm just very sad that this has been 3+ months of little to no progress...

Thank you in advance!

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Old 12-06-2017, 03:10 AM   #2
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First off, sorry to hear you are going through this. I know how discouraging it can be.

I won't sugar-coat the answer, though, because I don't believe that helps you or the rabbits.

The possibly good news is that it's only been 5 weeks since Gus' neuter. This means that you may have started the bonding too soon. It can take some rabbits up to 8 weeks for those hormones to fully dissipate. Given your description of his aggressive behavior when not bonding, it is certainly possible that he has residual hormones. (Or it could be that he's simply frustrated with the other boy.)

I do not believe that any 2 rabbits can bond. That sounds like something said by those who have only experienced easier bonds. Ask any rabbit rescue and they will tell you that sometimes 2 rabbits just aren't going to get along. That is why they allow people to bring in their rabbits to test for potential compatibility.

At this point, I would suggest stopping the bonding sessions for several weeks. Wait until a minimum of 8 weeks post Gus' neuter date. I would keep the two rabbits totally out of sight of each other during this time so they can (hopefully) forget that they are enemies. Right now they clearly are not fond of each other and they aren't likely to forget that unless they remain apart for a length of time.

When it is time to resume, try limited neutral space as before. Alternatively, you could instead try what I refer to as the "immersion" method of bonding. With this method, the rabbits remain together until they either bond or it is determined that they will not bond. You can see this method (and the gradual, session bonding) here.

If you get a spayed female to bond with one of the males, don't, for a second, think that that would help Gus and Oliver to bond. If anything, that would make it even more difficult because the males will both be competing for the female. Trios can sometimes work, but usually that is either with all females or just one male.

As for knowing when to give up... that's very subjective. It depends much on your gut feelings. There comes a point when the stress each rabbit is experiencing doesn't justify continued persistence in the face of too little progress. You will probably be the best one to make that determination since you are the one seeing the rabbits firsthand and getting the best sense of what is going on.

For now, keeping them apart and hoping they'll do better after a break, is probably your best option. There just aren't any guarantees with bonding. One of the difficult things with bunny ownership is realizing how important it is for the first rabbit to actually do the choosing of a second rabbit. It's so easy for us to fall in love with a particular bunny, but that doesn't mean our current bunny will approve -- as you well know now. Let's keep up hope that Gus and Oliver's time apart will help them to forget their past differences and start fresh with the new bonding.

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Old 12-06-2017, 01:42 PM   #3
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The fact that the second rabbit is young isn't your problem at all. Age difference does not enter the equation as long as both of the rabbits are neutered. On the other hand, getting a male to bond with a male is a very unwise move. I'm surprised you never saw the information, especially since male / male pairing is not really advisable for a lot of species, and that the people you got the second rabbit from didn't warn you.
I don't know where you got the idea that all rabbits will eventually bond - that's completely unaccurate. Most desexed female / male couples will eventually bond. It doesn't always work, but it generally does because in a natural state rabbits will live socially with a rabbit of the opposite sex and that females are naturally 'top rabbits' which makes the hierarchy easier to establish. Two females is a lot harder.Two males is the worst configuration, it rarely works out and when it does it often gives unstable pairings with chronic fights and a shaky hierarchy. It only works when one of the two males is very submissive. Adding a female to the mix will only add to your problems. You can decide to get a female to pair with one of your males but a trio with 2 males sounds like a terrible idea to me as it will add fuel to the fire when it comes to the competition between the males. I think it would encourage them to fight more than anything.
I agree with everything Blue eyes said. About the 'when to stop thing', just make sure your rabbits aren't hurting each other - keep a close eye on potential wounds and stop if the fights escalate. Rabbits can hurt each other very badly in a split second. Also make sure the bonding sessions aren't stressing them out too much.
In any case, maybe it will end up working out if you get lucky. But you have to be prepared to keep those rabbits separated, to schedule at least 5 hours out of their cage separately everyday, for the next 8 to 10 years because there is a very real possibility they will never get along. There is also a chance they will seem to finally get along just to fight for dominance again a few months / years later...
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Old 12-06-2017, 10:12 PM   #4
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Thank you both this has been very helpful.

I know it was an unwise move getting two males. It was not my original intention but I was very fond of Gus upon meeting him. I went to look at another bunny originally and fell in love with his personality. I suppose my ignorance got the best of me on that one and I'm paying for it now.

I will say, last night I did try one more session in the tub just to see what happened. I put some lettuce down to occupy them and give good associations with one another. Gus was happily munching away and Oliver was too stressed about being in the tub to eat. He just wandered around and looked at stuff. I did, upon recommendation of another forum, take some banana and smeared it all over Oliver's head so Gus could lick it off, and therefore simulating grooming. This worked and they were calm. No real fights broke out but I didn't allow it to get to that point either so who's to say. They mostly ignore each other until one moves too fast and then they get into it.

All in all, since it has been awhile since Gus' neuter, I was hoping to see some sort of progress with them bonding by now. But it hasn't. That's why I bring up if it's time to stop trying. I could consider what happened last night some kind of progress, but it was all forced and not on their own will. So I just don't know.
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