REPOST: Bunny Bonding Woes -- HELP

Discussion in 'General Rabbit Discussion' started by Allen Wrider, Oct 23, 2019.

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  1. Oct 23, 2019 #1

    Allen Wrider

    Allen Wrider

    Allen Wrider

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    I posted this in another thread but I'm looking for various opinions. At my wit's end!!

    I have this beautiful Florida white bunny named Quinn that I've raised from a baby, and she's been with me for a year and a half. She's my first bunny, and she's very attached to me so I didn't plan on getting another rabbit.

    But Easter came around, and one of my colleagues got his kids an "Easter bunny". Well, we all know how well that goes, so this unspayed female that they couldn't take care of ended up in my lap. I had her spayed immediately, and set to work finding out everything I could about bunny bonding, but it's going terribly!

    It's been two months since the new bun (Skippy's) spay, and she absolutely refuses to submit to Quinn. Quinn wasn't happy with her either, but she displays the typical dominant behavior and isn't aggressive unless directly responding to Skippy's behavior. Skippy's bit her, pulled tufts of her fur, boxed and chased her, and tried to mount her very aggressively.

    I recently changed their separate caging to a pen setup with a fence in between, and they're not fighting or biting through the fence (which is an improvement), but they both bow down and ask to be groomed, and neither one will relent. Sometimes Skippy still raises her tail when she sees Quinn eating or hopping by, though she doesn't lunge at the fence. Quinn is largely uncaring of her presence and often lounges directly by the fence.

    While the change in environment seems to have helped, I still can't trust them together and I'm afraid they'll never bond! I don't want to get rid of either one or have them fight forever-- PLEASE HELP!
     
  2. Oct 23, 2019 #2

    zupper

    zupper

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    So after they both spayed and about 2 months after that were they introduced in a neutral territory which is absolutely new for both? If not they will probably keep defending their territory.
    If first bonding failed you can try separating them again for a couple weeks but so they can't see each other so they can be reintroduced again as completely new rabbits, they should forget each other by then if they never had a serious fight.
     
  3. Oct 23, 2019 #3

    Imbrium

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    Jennifer

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    Great info about bonding can be found on these sites:
    https://www.cottontails-rescue.org.uk/information/bonding-bunnies/
    https://rabbitsindoors.weebly.com/bonding-bunnies.html
    http://www.saveabunny.org/rabbitcare/bonding-guide
    http://wabbitwiki.com/wiki/Bonding_rabbits_together
    https://rabbit.org/hop-on-board-perspectives-on-rabbit-mounting-behavior/

    F/F bonds are much tougher than F/M bonds and there's no guarantee it'll work (though I've succeeded, so it's also definitely possible).

    The initial questions I have are:
    ~ Are you using completely neutral territory for bonding (ie neither rabbit has been in it unless the other one was there too)?
    ~ How big is the bonding area?
    ~ What amenities are in the bonding area and how willing are they to share? (in terms of hay, veggies, water, litter box, toys, etc.)
    ~ What's the frequency and duration of your bonding sessions (on average)?
    ~ Have you done any stress bonding, and if so, how much/for how long? (Stress bonding examples: rabbits (and human referee) loose in the backseat of a moving car, on top a washer during the spin cycle, in a bathtub, with someone running a vacuum in the room, etc. - anything that will make them slightly to moderately anxious and more interested in usual in seeking the comfort of a fellow rabbit.)

    If you've got the time and inclination to post a brief video (like 2-3 mins) of them interacting, that can be very helpful as well since body language of the rabbits can speak volumes to experienced bonders :).
     
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  4. Oct 23, 2019 #4

    Allen Wrider

    Allen Wrider

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    The problem I'm having is that this new pen is as close to neutral territory as I can manage. Since I had Quinn for almost a year before Skippy came into my care, all her extras went into temp care for Skippy. Quinn's been pretty much everywhere in the house except for the kitchen, but I don't have the proper gates or means to do it in the kitchen for long periods of time.

    I'm honestly afraid to stress bond them because I've got almost no assistance in this process, so a car is out or anything where I can't be hands on with them. As for normal bonding sessions... They're maybe 10 minutes at a time, that's the longest I can keep them in a controlled area together without them begging to go elsewhere (like back in my room to their safe zones or over the gate and away from the other bunny). I will try to post a video soon, I need to get some things set up first.
     
  5. Oct 23, 2019 #5

    Imbrium

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    Jennifer

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    You NEED neutral territory for bonding. Based on that and all the other issues you're having with carving out an appropriate bonding area, I recommend investing in an x-pen. The best deal I know of is from Petco. It doesn't want to let me link something other than the biggest height (48'') because that's what I bought last spring, but even the 24'' height is acceptable for rabbits as long as they're vaguely supervised (without supervision I'd recommend 30 inches minimum... if they can get out of that height, it should be by climbing rather than jumping, which can be thwarted in other ways). Set it up on your front lawn, at a park, at a friend's house, whatever it takes to get neutral territory. You can also get a baby gate for around $10 at Wal-mart if the layout of your kitchen allows for gating.

    Once you have an area that is foreign to both bunnies, they should be more interested in getting to know each other. Let them have a (neutral) litter box, water bowl, handful of hay and maybe veggies in the bonding pen and see how they do in a truly neutral space. Ignore requests to leave the bonding area. Kids beg. Parents refuse to cave for their children's own good. Rabbits work the same way - be strong!! ;)

    If their initial inclination in a truly neutral area is to fight, though, you may need to reboot them by keeping them separated for 3-4 weeks where they can't see or smell each other.
     
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  6. Oct 23, 2019 #6

    Esthezyl

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    Try to buy a big piece of fabric like a large towel and cover the bottom of your bath tub with it. Then you put your bunnies in it and separate them with a piece of card board every time they look like they are going to fight. Pet both at the same time, encourage them. Repeat the session each time a little bit longer. First can be 10 minutes, then 20, then 30 etc. This might take months. But if it's like some buns I know, it will work. At the same time, you can exchange their litter boxes and toys in their separate living areas so that they get used to the other's scent. When during bonding sessions, humping and chasing can be tolerated to a certain extend. When you see one might get injured, separate them, but not with your hands! Use the cardboard. Good luck!
     
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  7. Oct 24, 2019 #7

    Allen Wrider

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    Okay SO, it won't let me do a video for you, but after your suggestions I tried some bonding out in the kitchen (wiped down the gates I was using as a block to remove the smell, and neither of them go in the kitchen).

    I gave them a tunnel that I hadn't yet left out for them and scrubbed the heck out of an old litter box that once upon a time tim for cats. Skippy immediately rubbed her chin on any and every surface she could find. The litter box, the cardboard tunnel, the legs of the kitchen table, you name it. Quinn was more reluctant to interact, and when Skippy went elsewhere to explore, she hunkered down in the litter box and began to eat.

    It became very clear that it was her safe space, she started growling whenever Skippy would come by for a piece of hay or even just wander toward her. She never lunged, but she was very protective of the litter box and the food inside it. so after a few passes of this, I removed it from the area.

    Then Skippy became protective of the tunnel and started chasing and biting Quinn when she got near it, so I felt it necessary to remove that as well. Unfortunately, with very little to stimulate them, Skippy began to chase and bite Quinn on her rear paws, and even when I eventually got them nose to nose Skippy continued to try and reach under Quinn's neck to bite her.

    Quinn ended up running and leaping into my arms whenever Skippy wandered vaguely in her direction, and she spent the brief remainder of time with some part of her touching me at all times. Scared. Very very scared. I've included a screencap from a video I tried to take of the situation. Screenshot_20191024-104150.png
     
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  8. Oct 24, 2019 #8

    Imbrium

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    Jennifer

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    I was able to view the videos that you sent me the link to via PM. Your instinct to remove objects that they got protective of was good, by the way. I saw both good and bad signs in the videos... at this point, I would say that they haven't reached the point where I'd recommend rebooting the process completely by keeping them apart for 3-4 weeks, which is good news. However, I saw a lot of stuff that makes me inclined to say that stress bonding (as well as backtracking to a smaller bonding area where you have a lot of control over the situation) is pretty much a must at this point.

    This is great advice, though I'd make one adjustment to turn it into stress-bonding for the first few sessions:
    In the beginning, skip the fabric/towel so that the bathtub is slippery. Increase the stressors in the environment by plugging in a vacuum and letting it run nearby or playing loud(ish) music, etc. Encourage them to sit together and pet them both at the same time while they're side-by-side (which also distracts them from thinking about fighting). End every session with some treats and make sure it ends on a good note. After a few sessions (or 5-10 minutes into each session if things are going well), you can add a towel or fabric and stop using noise... also start offering them some leafy green veggies to share. They've had a number of negative interactions at this point, so you'll need to be patient and help them gradually realize that being around each other can be a positive experience.

    Edit: Also, I forgot to mention something pretty major - it's important to recognize the warning signs of a naughty idea forming! You can see it in a rabbit's body language when they're thinking about going on the attack and cut that off at the pass. When you see things like ears flattening back or a tail up in the air (like the brown rabbit's tail in one of the videos), interrupt that negative behavior *immediately* using a positive distraction (for both rabbits, not just the aggressor). Petting, hand-fed pellets (so you can give treats without overdoing it on fruits/non-leafy veggies), verbal reassurances, that sort of thing.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2019
  9. Oct 26, 2019 #9

    K1marie

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    UGH!!!!! I am still working at bonding my 2 buns. Two neutered males. And I realize it may never happen - but I'm not throwing in the towel for several more months . I have been switching their cages every day. They each have a toy that looks like the other (the visual thing is more for MY benefit) - but I switch around their toys and cuddle them with each toy. I feed them greens in the area between the two cages - they remain civil for that. When out together though - they will fight. Lionel (the dwarf Lionhead) will bite at Murphy (the Big Boy Holland Lop). Murphy goes ape and jumps and kicks and in turn also bites and Murphy is basically like a small kangaroo with bear paws. Its very hard for me to tell the aggressor - they seem to switch on who makes the first move. Murphy does LOVE to be groomed and when face to face at the gates/cage will put his head down and ask. I can get him to sit forever scratching his head and ears. I tried banana on Murphs head - and Murph remained still but Lionel ended up biting him instead when he had the chance (how bad did I feel !!!!!) Lionel doesn't seem to get into the whole head grooming thing. He enjoys it for a brief time, but is then like - "if you don't have a treat for me - I'm out of here." I can't really hold them next to each other without restraining their heads. If I don't restrain their heads- either Lionel will turn and bite or Murphy will make a fast move (probably afraid Lionel is going to bite) and then they both get all jumpy. The seem fine if I restrain them - but they are just giving it to being restrained - it hasn't gotten me anywhere - as soon as they are free enough they will go at it. Neither has gotten injured thankfully - and we of course break it up with a dust pan - and just give 2 or 3 more tries but bc it seems they are just repeating their "attacks" - the sessions remain short. I have tried spraying water, a whistle, yelling - they cannot be distracted - and certainly not in a positive way. Starting out with positive distractions - such as treats - works until they have eaten them all - then back to the behavior. I have been told , I may be starting bonding too young? -they are 9 & 10 months old now. Maybe if ONE of them was older - and BOTH weren't so young? I bonded my last two neutered boys- but 1 was 5yrs old and the other was only 8 months. I read ALL about Bonding to refresh when I got these guys. I set up everything perfect - both neutered, two cages, a double gated area, multiple litter boxes - etc, etc. I had NO IDEA that they wouldn't eventually bond. Everything I read was M/F was the easiest, M/M next , then F/F the hardest. Everything said time and patience - but NOT that they WOULDNT bond. I wish I knew that. I got them at different times, I would have done "dates" or whatever to be able to have a successful duo. I have been switching their cages for a about 3 few weeks now - that hasn't changed anything. When one is out and I tell him to "go home" they jump in whichever cage is open. They both totally sprawl out on their ledges next to each other and sniff eachother without biting when they are in their cages...but I suspect that is bc they are smart and know they are each safe. I have tried bonding in the bath tub, in an outside pen, in a small box, a smalled penned area and a large penned area - all new places to them. The only time they were civil - was in the small box - but we had to rattle it - and I know that is TOO stressful for them - I don't know that they were seeking comfort in eachother as much as just being still bc they were being traumatized - so I won't do that again. I will however continue to try bonding - at least another 6 months being as creative as I can.... I want them to share a cage - which is much bigger and allow them to be out at the same time. Otherwise they can't each get enough time out. I love them both - but if I can't bond them - I will have to move to an area of the house that doesn't get much foot traffic - so they will certainly be lonely - else send one on dates and see if he can find a new home. And I DONT want to do either. My next step will be to move both cages to an area neither has been - there are only two rooms in my house (two unoccupied upstairs bedrooms) They will only see us when we go in and visit them. I will keep them apart 3 weeks and see if they are interested in getting along after being alone. Thats really my only hope (other than them getting a little older and settling their ways with age)
     
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  10. Oct 26, 2019 #10

    Allen Wrider

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    This is... Pretty much the exact problem I'm having with Quinn and Skippy. Quinny's my baby, she loves being groomed and petted and she's been with me for so long that she's settled into the idea of being a rabbit. Being MY rabbit. She displays all the typical signs of dominance when they're at the fence together. But Skippy... When I got her, they hadn't touched her in at least two months. I don't know if they really fed her greens/hay and she certainly didn't get to leave her hutch to roam and explore. Plus she can't be older than seven months, going by what they told me about when they bought her. I think that more than being in with another rabbit, she... Doesn't know what to do with her new situation. She doesn't know how to be a bunny, much less coexist with another one. She's getting better with me, but I want her to respond positively to Quinn as well.

    Well, but I haven't tried stress bonding yet. I'm gonna see how @Imbrium 's methods go before I throw in the towel... And maybe Skippy just needs to be a little older, you know?
     
  11. Oct 26, 2019 #11

    K1marie

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    Yeah, it seems like your Skippy is like my Lionel - more skiddish and insecure. My Murphy might as well wear a propeller on his head for the way he acts sometimes. But he does also get into the whole boxing and tornado thing. I am hoping time will teach Lionel (like your Skippy) that he's safe and there's no threat to him. He gets startled very easy with new voices and sometimes when a cat appears around the corner (which he LOVES the cats) but their sudden presence startles hims.
     
  12. Oct 26, 2019 #12

    Emma Nelson

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    I took my 2 male brother bunnies for a car ride, it really helped: the aggressive brother started grooming his sibling, it was astonishing. Sibling brother has taken longer to trust his once-aggressive brother (they remember!), but I can now house them together - although I'm still keeping a careful eye, as this was just over the past 7 days. For the car ride, the bunnies were initially in separate containers, then we put them together for the return journey (about 10 minutes each way). After the journey, I put them both in a small outdoor run on grass (new and neutral patch of lawn), with some suitable 'furniture' inside to give them places to hide if necessary. I had my sons take turns on standby beside the run for the first hour, so they could raise the alarm and intervene if necessary.
     
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  13. Oct 26, 2019 #13

    K1marie

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    I haven't gotten to try a car ride yet - I have been afraid to put them together AT ALL. I have to have two people and a dust pan to prevent a tornado with mine. I may try a ride in carriers separate to start and then transfer them together as you said for the return ride and see if it seems they will keep their aggression at bay. What were your bunnies like BEFORE the ride? Did you have to be RIGHT there all the time?
     
  14. Oct 26, 2019 #14

    Zekeybun

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    I recently went through the bonding process as well, one year old male and a seven month female, both neutered beforehand. My boy, Zeke, so very outgoing loves attention and people and has been free roam since I rescued him. My girl, Ava, was born at the rescue and had very minimal human interaction- she was very skittish and was overwhelmed at the introduction. She immediately hunkered down when we got her home and wouldn’t budge. They had gone on dates- and at the rescue they went well, but once Zeke was confident and comfortable again he got very aggressive. He had at least touched every room of my house. We tried separate but next to cages but every introduction was a mess. We tried stress bonding but once we put them both in the carrier they broke into a fight. It finally worked for us to do two carriers and then put them together in the smaller of the two. About a week of consistent every day rides that lasted between 20-40 minutes really helped the process and if you’re struggling with a neutral space I ended up carpet cleaning and then spraying every single surface with a water vinegar solution.. the smell lingered for a day or two but helped immensely with the territorial tendencies from my male. I hope that you find the options that work for your buns, it took me almost a month of mixing stress bonding and positive short time in a friends basement but all the stress and frustration is worth it.
     

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  15. Oct 27, 2019 #15

    K1marie

    K1marie

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    That is so encouraging - thanks. I haven't done the car thing - I really had little hope for that to work, but hearing your story - I will definitely give it a try. Can you detail a little more how you handled the car ride? Did you start with two carriers each time and return the trip with them together? I can't imagine putting them both in the same carrier....They could really get a good bite in. How small a carrier ? I have different sizes, just use the smallest?
     
  16. Oct 28, 2019 #16

    Zekeybun

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    I will say that I was lucky enough to have a few resources to help, the rescue I went through actually offers to bond rabbits for people but we had such a great start I didn’t think I would need help.. boy was I wrong
    I have a 20” dog carrier that I bought specially for this, they’re cramped which is what you want, it’s the fear of hurting themselves that stops them from fighting. I used to use a 35” carrier just for my French lop so he has enough room to spread out. I tried just putting them both in the carrier and immediately picking it up and carrying it to my car, it was already running so the time they were still was as minimal as possible. I then took them on a ride through the neighborhood and to a local strip of road where traffic is pretty constantly moving and the speed picked up they tolerated this well and I had no issues. The second time I tried this from the time I shut the door until I could grab the carrier handle all hell broke lose and my lop suffered a pretty good bite. I think they were on to me too soon..
    I ended up rounding my poor boyfriend into helping I would put one rabbit into the smaller carrier and then the other I would either put in the larger carrier, but I found something like a box or even just carrying her to the car worked better as we got the system down. Once I’d hit an area of road where we moved constantly we’d squish the other rabbit in the carrier usual after about 10-15 minutes in the car. I’d find by this point they would both be uneasy enough they wouldn’t mind the other. Then as soon as we were home we’d pick the carrier take them back to their room give treats and separate. Mixing this and a totally clean neutral space we were good friends in about two weeks.
    I can say I completely understand the frustration it can be really easy to feel totally lost when you’re trying to do everything right. I would say try something you haven’t yet, it might be just enough to catch them off guard. And of course best of luck and keep us posted!
     
  17. Oct 28, 2019 #17

    K1marie

    K1marie

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    Thank you and everyone for sharing their experience. I will update when I have some news to share - hopefully good news!!
     
  18. Oct 28, 2019 #18

    Flakes

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    Have you thought about renting a hotel room for a night as a neutral area. Not only would the car ride over be scary but I doubt either bunny has been to the local holiday inn (or whatever)
     
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  19. Oct 28, 2019 #19

    Allen Wrider

    Allen Wrider

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    That actually sounds like it'd work well. I'm going to try the washer idea, since it's easier for me to do that alone, but maybe I can get help in a car from someone...
     
  20. Oct 28, 2019 #20

    Allen Wrider

    Allen Wrider

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    Lol I could try that??? I guess? Problem being that Skippy kind of goes to the bathroom everywhere though. She's litter trained but not very well.
     

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