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Bonding a free roaming rabbit.

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Seastoe

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Hi all 😊

I'm a first time rabbit owner. I adopted Harvey from a shelter a few months ago and we became instant best friends. Not much is known about his back story. He was found wandering around a park, and they guessed his age to be around 1.5 - 2 years. He was desexed before I brought him home, and the shelter suggested once he's settled, I might like to look at getting him a friend for company.

I had a couple of questions I wanted to ask about bonding him as he's a fully free roaming rabbit, and a lot of the information I've been reading is on rabbits who are penned in, even if only just during the night.

Harvey's not great in confined spaces. He's a jumper and a climber, and completely fearless 😊 He'd rather be up high, looking over everything than burrowing or hiding under something. He's also not shy or timid. The first day I brought him home, he adventured around getting used to the place and then curled up in my lap, exhausted and demanding cuddles 🥰

He also such a well-behaved boy, and very intelligent. He's not really a chewer, except for his toys and boxes. He's toilet trained, has learned to come when I call his name, and give me little kisses when I ask for them. We have a relaxed but fairly regular routine. He wakes me up in the morning for breakfast (he sleeps on the end of my bed), and we usually have a little play before I start working from home and then he takes a nap. He'll get up 2-3 times for a run around, but he's most active around 6pm, after he's had dinner and once I've finished work, which is when we practise his tricks. Being a jumper he's mastered hurdles!

He gets a lot of attention from me and is a bit of a spoilt bunny, but I've been reading that most rabbits need attention from their own kind as well.

I just had a couple of questions about other people's experiences with rabbits that might have a similar personality to Harvey's.

  1. Were there many territorial issues with another bunny coming in? I feed a group of sparrows each morning and Harvey comes out to play with them, and has never shown any signs of aggression, but he does get bossy with me, like when I clean out his play-pen and he doesn't want me touching his stuff. He definitely knows this is his apartment, and it's not overly big. Two small bed-rooms, a lounge and a small bathroom/kitchen area. I'm worried that there won't really be a 'neutral' space to introduce a new rabbit as Harvey's been allowed everywhere. Is it okay to keep him free roaming while the other bunny is penned off, would that make her jealous/sad?

  1. Did you find many bad behaviors being copied? I've been so lucky with Harvey. Like I mentioned above, he doesn't chew things he shouldn't or poop/spray around the house. He's been an absolute dream, but according to the research I did (and like all animals) not all rabbits are so well behaved, and I'm a little scared another bunny might lead him astray.

  1. Were there any instances where you thought your bunny might not benefit/be happier having another friend? Also, from what I've read this is extremely rare, but I thought it was worth asking.

I'd love to hear any thoughts, positive and negative aspects, anything you've found that might relate to his kind of temperament. I tried showing Harvey pictures of other bunnies and asking if he wanted a friend, but he didn't really commit to a yes or no. Just kinda flopped his ears 😂 I love him so much. And while initially I wasn't looking to get another rabbit, after what I've been reading, I don't want to be depriving him of a friend if that would make him more happy.

Thank you in advance, and I hope everyone is keeping well and safe xx

Stacey & Harvey.
 

Blue eyes

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I've had a few buns that were perfectly happy to be single bunnies. My most recent one was the more shy one of a bonded pair. After his partner died, he gradually came out of his shell and really blossomed. He sought out our attention and binkied about happily during the day.

I know there are those that insist that a rabbit must have a bondmate to be happy. I am not one of them. I've seen enough single buns that show every sign of being perfectly content as a single bun.

You've given your guy a ton of freedom and it sure sounds like he's formed a great bond with you. He has a routine (which rabbits tend to like) which seems to suit him just fine.

Your concern about a rabbit mimicking the behavior of another is true. Either one may teach the other one either good or bad habits. We opted not to get another mate for the male mentioned above, mostly because he seemed so happy as he was, but we also were concerned that another rabbit might mess with the good habits he had. We had seen that happen with prior bondings with other rabbits.

If you want a second bun yourself, that's another thing altogether. But if your single rabbit and you are doing great together, my suggestion would be to enjoy what you have.
 

Mariam+Theo

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Hi there! Welcome to the forum! Harvey is so cute in your picture!

I'm going to answer your questions the best that I can, but truthfully I have never bonded bunnies before so everything I say will just be off of research and stories that other members have shared.

If you can, get the new bunny from a rescue that allows "bunny dating." Bunny dating is where your rabbit picks out the rabbit that s/he wants for a sibling (or girlfriend 😂).

1. Male rabbits are territorial by nature, even after they are fixed. I find that Theo (even since his neuter) is very sweet to all of our cats, but as soon as they touch something of his, he gets defensive. Theo doesn't get defensive if I touch something of his, because he knows that everything that is "his" is actually mine.
Harvey not showing aggression towards the sparrows does not mean that he won't show aggression to another rabbit. Sparrows and rabbits are very different and have different smells. Harvey is not being threatened by the sparrows in the same way he would be threatened by another rabbit. When you touch his stuff does he lunge at you (I'm not trying to make Harvey sound evil. Theo does this too with food-selfish bunny 😂)?

If you did get another rabbit you would need to reduce the space Harvey has (maybe reduce it so he only has one room to stay in) a month before you get the rabbit. With vinegar, wipe down surfaces in all the other rooms that Harvey is not allowed in anymore so that his smell is removed.

Make sure that the new rabbit is fixed when you get her, so you can start the bond ASAP. I would get two puppy playpens, set them up in the living room (since Harvey would have not been in there for a month, it will be new to him as well as new to her), and put them 3-6 inches apart so they can't bite each other through the cage bars, but also so that they can get used to one another. I would only let them out for bonding time, other than that keep them in their playpens so they learn that the other one will always be with them. If you let one out and keep the other one in the cage, the one out of the cage will feel like it is in charge, and act as though the territory is theirs.

2. Harvey sounds like an AMAZING bunny😍. So well behaved, how lucky you are!
It is possible that she might lead him astray, but he could also teach her how to behave. It is really a 50/50 chance so you will just have to be willing to see what happens. Since all rabbits are different there is no way to really know what the rabbit will chew, or what it will scratch up, or where it will use the bathroom so go ahead and be prepared for the worst. Bunny prove everything and don't let either of them free roam until they are bonded and completely litter trained. When bonding, rabbits tend to forget their litter habits and begin marking territory so Harvey will most likely not be as well-behaved when it comes to that. Thank goodness, after the rabbits are bonded the issue of marking territory will eventually go away.

3. I have always wanted to get Theo a friend, and I know he wants one, but that is just not an option right now. If you think your rabbit will benefit from a companion than go for it! Some rabbits do better alone than with a companion, like in @Alyssa and Bugs♡ case. Check out this link: Anyone looking into getting your rabbit a friend please read. *2nd violent fight*.

Here is a link that is super helpful: Bonding Bunnies

And here is a video that is great too:

Sorry, this is so long! Good luck!
 

Seastoe

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I've had a few buns that were perfectly happy to be single bunnies. My most recent one was the more shy one of a bonded pair. After his partner died, he gradually came out of his shell and really blossomed. He sought out our attention and binkied about happily during the day.

I know there are those that insist that a rabbit must have a bondmate to be happy. I am not one of them. I've seen enough single buns that show every sign of being perfectly content as a single bun.

You've given your guy a ton of freedom and it sure sounds like he's formed a great bond with you. He has a routine (which rabbits tend to like) which seems to suit him just fine.

Your concern about a rabbit mimicking the behavior of another is true. Either one may teach the other one either good or bad habits. We opted not to get another mate for the male mentioned above, mostly because he seemed so happy as he was, but we also were concerned that another rabbit might mess with the good habits he had. We had seen that happen with prior bondings with other rabbits.

If you want a second bun yourself, that's another thing altogether. But if your single rabbit and you are doing great together, my suggestion would be to enjoy what you have.
Thank you so much for your comment 😊 Honestly, I think he's pretty happy being a single bunny. His personalty has shined since he moved in. After day two, he'd made it pretty clear this is his apartment, and I'm doing him a favour by paying rent for both of us 😛

The main thing I'm worried about is that he might get bored when the novelty of having his own place wears off, or that a change in routine later down the line might unsettle him. At the moment I have a job that allows me to work from home, but that might not always be the case. Harvey is very animated though, and the more time that passes, the more I get the sense he'll tell me if he's unhappy or missing out 😊
 

Seastoe

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Hi there! Welcome to the forum! Harvey is so cute in your picture!

I'm going to answer your questions the best that I can, but truthfully I have never bonded bunnies before so everything I say will just be off of research and stories that other members have shared.

If you can, get the new bunny from a rescue that allows "bunny dating." Bunny dating is where your rabbit picks out the rabbit that s/he wants for a sibling (or girlfriend 😂).

1. Male rabbits are territorial by nature, even after they are fixed. I find that Theo (even since his neuter) is very sweet to all of our cats, but as soon as they touch something of his, he gets defensive. Theo doesn't get defensive if I touch something of his, because he knows that everything that is "his" is actually mine.
Harvey not showing aggression towards the sparrows does not mean that he won't show aggression to another rabbit. Sparrows and rabbits are very different and have different smells. Harvey is not being threatened by the sparrows in the same way he would be threatened by another rabbit. When you touch his stuff does he lunge at you (I'm not trying to make Harvey sound evil. Theo does this too with food-selfish bunny 😂)?

If you did get another rabbit you would need to reduce the space Harvey has (maybe reduce it so he only has one room to stay in) a month before you get the rabbit. With vinegar, wipe down surfaces in all the other rooms that Harvey is not allowed in anymore so that his smell is removed.

Make sure that the new rabbit is fixed when you get her, so you can start the bond ASAP. I would get two puppy playpens, set them up in the living room (since Harvey would have not been in there for a month, it will be new to him as well as new to her), and put them 3-6 inches apart so they can't bite each other through the cage bars, but also so that they can get used to one another. I would only let them out for bonding time, other than that keep them in their playpens so they learn that the other one will always be with them. If you let one out and keep the other one in the cage, the one out of the cage will feel like it is in charge, and act as though the territory is theirs.

2. Harvey sounds like an AMAZING bunny😍. So well behaved, how lucky you are!
It is possible that she might lead him astray, but he could also teach her how to behave. It is really a 50/50 chance so you will just have to be willing to see what happens. Since all rabbits are different there is no way to really know what the rabbit will chew, or what it will scratch up, or where it will use the bathroom so go ahead and be prepared for the worst. Bunny prove everything and don't let either of them free roam until they are bonded and completely litter trained. When bonding, rabbits tend to forget their litter habits and begin marking territory so Harvey will most likely not be as well-behaved when it comes to that. Thank goodness, after the rabbits are bonded the issue of marking territory will eventually go away.

3. I have always wanted to get Theo a friend, and I know he wants one, but that is just not an option right now. If you think your rabbit will benefit from a companion than go for it! Some rabbits do better alone than with a companion, like in @Alyssa and Bugs♡ case. Check out this link: Anyone looking into getting your rabbit a friend please read. *2nd violent fight*.

Here is a link that is super helpful: Bonding Bunnies

And here is a video that is great too:

Sorry, this is so long! Good luck!
Thank you so much for all this information! I definitely couldn't keep Harvey in a single room, though. One of his favourite napping places is behind me on the couch in the living room, and he sleeps on the end of my bed 😛 But I could potentially move his play-area out of the spare-room and into the lounge, then section off the spare-room for new bunny 😊

I wish he could meet Theo, I bet they would be instant best friends 😊
 
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