please give advice! (housing two rabbits of different ages)

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notkrimi

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i adopted a rabbit a little over two years ago, and since then, we've become the best of friends. i had always wanted to find him a companion because i knew that once covid restrictions would loosen up, i wouldn't have as much time with him. plus, it would just be nicer for him to have a special someone his species. however, i hadn't started to search for a companion for him until the past few months. i was staying in contact with a rabbit rescue near where i lived to bring my rabbit in for matchmaking since he had been fixed for a couple of months (my application and interview had been accepted, so we were in the process of setting up a playdate appointment with the other rabbits at the shelter). however, i have since moved from that location following a recent family member's passing (moved a couple states in the US) and was unable to follow through with the process.

a week ago, a breeder that i used to be in contact with reached out to me asking if i'd be interested in buying a 4 month old female rabbit, and i said yes for some reason. i admit that i made an impulsive and poorly-planned decision, which i can't say i'm proud of especially because i tried educating myself about how socializing rabbits works and what's required for a successful bond, but it is what it is. i picked her up a few days ago after meeting them in a neutral environment and seeing them interact (they were mostly ignoring each other). the breeder said that they thought it was a good fit, and i took their word for it because they had 13 years of experience with rabbits to back it up and reassured me that the age difference wouldn't matter because of their personality compatibility. i felt like i had owed it to my first rabbit to find her a friend asap, so i trusted their advice. however, things got a little rocky when i got home. i usually free roam my rabbit, so i sectioned off a little area for the new one to live in and made sure it was enclosed. however, every time they interact in a neutral environment (breeder suggested to supervise them in a bathroom) gets me worried because they will groom each other, but then it will turn into mounting or circling/ultimately nipping (i separate them before it turns into a real fight).

i feel so overwhelmed and can't help but feel extremely guilty for saying yes because i did know that it's best to socialize two fixed rabbits and adopt from shelters instead of buying from breeders. at this point, i've stopped having them socialize in neutral areas and just keep them separated (still in the same room with the enclosure set up). i feel like i owe it to the new rabbit to provide a safe and healthy environment, but she seems very anxious and scared. i want to give her the time and space she needs to adjust, so i'm thinking of moving her space to an entirely different room where she won't be so frightened. or would that make her more frightened because there'd be nobody there? what do you guys think?

anyway, i've thought of two solutions to my original problem of bonding my first rabbit:

a) keep rabbits separated until new rabbit is old enough to be spayed, then reintroduce them a month after her spaying has been completed. although i like this option more than the other one for the new rabbit's sake, it's still a huge time and money investment because it's not guaranteed they will be compatible after the spay. that also brings about the problem of finding her a better home if they end up incompatible especially since it would be months from now when we find out if they will bond.

b) return the new one and seek rabbits that are already spayed elsewhere to begin a new bonding process. i'm honestly kind of reluctant to go through this option just because i've already put the younger one through the process of introducing and keeping her in a strange new environment, which has most definitely gotten her stressed out.

sorry that this was all over the place.. i'm just really stressed out and could use some good advice.. i know taking in a younger rabbit to bond was foolish and a mistake, but i'd really appreciate if the responses were constructive and meaningful instead of scrutinizing. thanks so much :)
 

JBun

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The breeder was wrong. You can't really know what a rabbits true adult personality will turn out to be for bonding purposes, until the rabbit is actually full grown and a spayed/neutered adult. And so it folllows that you then can't know if a baby/young rabbit will be a compatible match with another fixed adult rabbit. Breeders generally know about breeding/showing, not often about what's needed for the successful bonding of pet house rabbits.

A baby or young rabbits personality, can be completely different from what their adult personality is. And then there are the hormones that alter a rabbits behavior, and drive that behavior and the rabbits actions. Your rabbit is still a young rabbit with new hormones, and those hormones can get in the way of the bonding process, disrupting it and even possibly causing it to sour and ruin any chances of a successful bond later once she is spayed. You don't want to risk a real fight breaking out, which could potentially ruin your chances of a successful bond, as well as risk serious injuries occurring.

And this rabbit is also just new to your home, for less than a week(?). She needs time to settle in. Your other bun needs time to get used to a new rabbit being in 'his' territory. You don't want to be rushing this, as that can lead to problems and mistakes that can further complicate, what can already be a difficult and complex bonding process.

You can't know if they'll be compatible until she's spayed and has 4 weeks minimum post spay for hormones to fade, before bonding attempts can be resumed. And even then there are no guarantees. So you'll need to decide if you want to take the risk and expense of having her spayed, and if bonding isn't successful, keeping her permanently separate from your other bun. Or return her to the breeder or rehome her yourself to a good home.



If you decide to keep her, my recommendation is to stop all bonding attempts for now and keep them separate. If she's nervous with your other rabbit being near her enclosure or in the same room, I would suggest moving her enclosure to a room your other rabbit can't access. She needs time to settle in and feel safe in her new home. You don't want her to feel so stressed that she ends up going into GI stasis.

If she's comfortable around people, then it should be ok to sit and spend time with her. But if she's nervous around you, I would minimize the time around her with just the essentials of feeding and cleaning for a week or two, so she can calm down and feel safe. Then gradually start getting her used to your presence.


While you're waiting for the spay and the time when you can resume bonding, I would suggest reading up on the bonding process and also rabbit behavior, so you have as much knowledge about it as possible. This will help you better know how to read aggressive body language, what's normal behavior in bonding, and when you need to intervene or even stop the bonding process for the safety of the rabbits.





 

notkrimi

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The breeder was wrong. You can't really know what a rabbits true adult personality will turn out to be for bonding purposes, until the rabbit is actually full grown and a spayed/neutered adult. And so it folllows that you then can't know if a baby/young rabbit will be a compatible match with another fixed adult rabbit. Breeders generally know about breeding/showing, not often about what's needed for the successful bonding of pet house rabbits.

A baby or young rabbits personality, can be completely different from what their adult personality is. And then there are the hormones that alter a rabbits behavior, and drive that behavior and the rabbits actions. Your rabbit is still a young rabbit with new hormones, and those hormones can get in the way of the bonding process, disrupting it and even possibly causing it to sour and ruin any chances of a successful bond later once she is spayed. You don't want to risk a real fight breaking out, which could potentially ruin your chances of a successful bond, as well as risk serious injuries occurring.

And this rabbit is also just new to your home, for less than a week(?). She needs time to settle in. Your other bun needs time to get used to a new rabbit being in 'his' territory. You don't want to be rushing this, as that can lead to problems and mistakes that can further complicate, what can already be a difficult and complex bonding process.

You can't know if they'll be compatible until she's spayed and has 4 weeks minimum post spay for hormones to fade, before bonding attempts can be resumed. And even then there are no guarantees. So you'll need to decide if you want to take the risk and expense of having her spayed, and if bonding isn't successful, keeping her permanently separate from your other bun. Or return her to the breeder or rehome her yourself to a good home.



If you decide to keep her, my recommendation is to stop all bonding attempts for now and keep them separate. If she's nervous with your other rabbit being near her enclosure or in the same room, I would suggest moving her enclosure to a room your other rabbit can't access. She needs time to settle in and feel safe in her new home. You don't want her to feel so stressed that she ends up going into GI stasis.

If she's comfortable around people, then it should be ok to sit and spend time with her. But if she's nervous around you, I would minimize the time around her with just the essentials of feeding and cleaning for a week or two, so she can calm down and feel safe. Then gradually start getting her used to your presence.


While you're waiting for the spay and the time when you can resume bonding, I would suggest reading up on the bonding process and also rabbit behavior, so you have as much knowledge about it as possible. This will help you better know how to read aggressive body language, what's normal behavior in bonding, and when you need to intervene or even stop the bonding process for the safety of the rabbits.





thank you for your response and all the helpful resource links! i'll make sure to read them all to educate myself more. i did ultimately decide to give her a separate room yesterday to give her more time and space to adjust to the new environment. i'll probably see how she's feeling after a few weeks to decide if i should keep her or just find her a new home after spaying.
 

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