Sudden humping behavior

Discussion in 'General Rabbit Discussion' started by mark, Jan 22, 2018.

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  1. Jan 22, 2018 #1

    mark

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    Hello everyone,

    We have a pair of buns, who have been bonded for several months now and living in bliss as far as we can tell. We brought our second one home as a companion to our first rabbit (details here http://www.rabbitsonline.net/showthread.php?t=88550 ) back in October.

    Although we have taken the occasional overnight trip (leaving Kimchi home alone), this past weekend was the first time that Ellie, our second bun, spent the night alone (at home, with Kimchi). We have a web cam set up and they live in a large area in our bunny-proofed living room.

    We recently reconfigured our dining room area to accommodate a larger area for them to be confined in when we are not home, or are asleep. So now, rather than having the large X-pen area, they have that area plus the dining room. This is a change for them, which is why I mention it. They absolutely love (and prefer) to hop up onto the dining room chairs, and sleep on them for long periods of time.

    So last weekend, we switched on the web cam and drove out to my mom's house, where we stayed overnight. We were gone a little more than 24 hours, and checked in on the rabbits frequently using the web cam. Every time, they were seen doing their normal stuff - sleeping, eating, laying around, running/walking around. No issues - a relief for us, as we are very protective of them!

    When we arrived home last night, we let them out into the rest of the house (also bunny-proofed) as we normally do when we are home and able to supervise. We opened the door so they could go out onto the patio (bunny-proofed) and run around outside a bit. As we were watching TV, we noticed at one point that Ellie was humping Kimchi out on the patio. After a few seconds of tolerating it, he hopped off and some circling behavior ensued. We had not seen that before, even when they were first bonding.

    That led to some head humping - mostly Ellie humping on Kimchi's head, but a little the other way around - and things got a little heated. I've read a lot of books and articles that mention that hierarchy establishment often looks like fighting, so after breaking up this first incident we allowed it to play out a bit.

    They eventually settled down with very little intervention on our part (one clap of the hands, one time), and soon after were found munching hay side-by-side in the litter box, laying around as usual, etc. We kept the camera on overnight so we could monitor them from our bed (we can also see them down the hall from our bedroom, so we can hear them if they fight, etc.).

    Since they didn't really seem to fight - they groomed each other and all of that before we went to bed last night - we decided to not put them into their carrier and take them on a car ride, which we have heard is a good way to settle things down if and when they do actually fight.

    Fortunately, it seems that things are back to normal. When I got up to leave for work this morning, they were sitting together as they always are, waiting for me to serve them breakfast. My wife reports that all was normal today so far as well.

    My current theory is that Ellie was thrown off a bit by our extended absence - including a day/night cycle - and that this may have "reset" her mentally a little, back to her shelter days (presumably being left alone more or less for long periods).

    Do we need to worry here? Has anyone had any similar experiences?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Jan 23, 2018 #2

    JBun

    JBun

    JBun

    Jenny - Health & Wellness Mod Staff Member Administrator Moderator

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    Any changes to their routine has the potential to set off these types of behavior. It may be something like when a rabbit leaves or enters a colony, then hierarchy has to be reestablished with each rabbit. Essentially you left the colony then reentered it and she had to reestablish her dominance. Usually a day isn't going to matter, but apparently it did to your bun, which likely means she's extra sensitive to your presence in her life.

    I don't know if it will make any difference, but if there's a next time, try leaving an old garment of both of yours(one you don't mind your buns chewing ventilation holes in) that hasn't been laundered recently and still has your scent on it. This might help them with feeling like you are still present and prevent this dominance behavior from happening again. Also leaving a radio or other music on may help as well.
     
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  3. Jan 23, 2018 #3

    mark

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    Wow, thanks so much for the thoughtful reply, JBun! That does make sense to us as well. We will certainly try the not-yet-laundered (and potentially sacrificial) garments to see if that helps. We will consider the radio as well.

    We do go away for overnight trips here and there, and usually we have my wife's mom come by to visit and feed the rabbits, but it didn't work out last weekend, so they didn't have any human contact for ~30 hours.

    I am also hopeful that the first time is the worst in that they hadn't been left alone together, and that it will just be easier the next time.
     
  4. Jan 23, 2018 #4

    Aki

    Aki

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    Rabbits are really easy to throw off, but they can also get used to most things if there is no traumatizing event - a lot of things can become routine after a few times. I often leave my rabbits alone for a few days (with a petsitter coming twice a day) and they tolerate it very well (I barely get a 'oh, it's just you' stare before they go back to their room when I come back home). in october, they had a bad experience while I was away, considering Aki had a GI stasis episode and had to be taken at the vet for 24h and then treated by the petsitter. She recovered but the rabbits were both obviously frazzled when I came back home. They were tense and there were a small poops when I left again a few weeks afterwards but no major problem and they were completely fine and normal whenever I've left since then. Also, they had a small chase and hump episode last year, after over 3 years of cohabitation, after a few days of my neighbours being noisy. It stopped quickly and I've never seen them do it again since.
     
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  5. Jan 24, 2018 #5

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    Thanks for the reply, Aki. It's good to know that we are not unique in experiencing the humping/dominance-establishing behavior after the rabbits have been bonded and together for some time. It really is a relief to know about your experiences, Aki and JBun!

    Fortunately things seem to be normalized for the most part. My wife took this picture mid-day yesterday. :)

    K and E new.jpg
     
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  6. Jan 24, 2018 #6

    Aki

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    Aw, so cute. I love to see rabbits cuddling ^^
     
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  7. Jan 30, 2018 #7

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    So unfortunately, this odd head-humping behavior has not stopped. It's been over a week now (9 days!) since we left them home overnight for ONE NIGHT.

    Things are peaceful- there has been no escalation as far as we know - but this is still happening. They'll be laying around, and Ellie will suddenly hump Kimchi's head furiously. He'll sit there for a moment or two, but eventually will move away, and generally, will chase her off a bit. Seems like "fun chasing", not malicious. She will run off and basically that is it.

    Generally speaking, moments later it is as if it never happened. They will go back to doing whatever they were doing - together or apart. Often times they will snuggle again, hop in the litterbox to eat hay side-by-side, etc. They both groom each other still. All of this gives us hope that things will eventually work themselves out.

    Last night there was a commotion in the middle of the night - 1:45 am, many hours after we had gone to bed. When I went out there nothing was obviously amiss; Ellie soon hopped up on her chair to go back to sleep, and Kimchi (who had rattled the cage loudly) seemed unconcerned.

    Any ideas here? We love both the buns dearly and hope to work through this. Kimchi is our original bun however, and he is smaller than she is, so we are a little concerned for his well-being at this point.

    Does anyone here have any experience with this extended head-humping business?
     
  8. Jan 30, 2018 #8

    mark

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    So unfortunately, this odd head-humping behavior has not stopped. It's been over a week now (9 days!) since we left them home overnight for ONE NIGHT.

    Things are peaceful- there has been no escalation as far as we know - but this is still happening. They'll be laying around, and Ellie will suddenly hump Kimchi's head furiously. He'll sit there for a moment or two, but eventually will move away, and generally, will chase her off a bit. Seems like "fun chasing", not malicious. She will run off and basically that is it.

    Generally speaking, moments later it is as if it never happened. They will go back to doing whatever they were doing - together or apart. Often times they will snuggle again, hop in the litterbox to eat hay side-by-side, etc. They both groom each other still. All of this gives us hope that things will eventually work themselves out.

    Last night there was a commotion in the middle of the night - 1:45 am, many hours after we had gone to bed. When I went out there nothing was obviously amiss; Ellie soon hopped up on her chair to go back to sleep, and Kimchi (who had rattled the cage loudly) seemed unconcerned.

    Any ideas here? We love both the buns dearly and hope to work through this. Kimchi is our original bun however, and he is smaller than she is, so we are a little concerned for his well-being at this point.

    Does anyone here have any experience with this extended head-humping business?
     
  9. Jan 30, 2018 #9

    mark

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    Sorry for the duplicate post ... perhaps a Moderator can remove one of them? Having issues with the RO website today ...
     
  10. Jan 30, 2018 #10

    Stinkerbunnies

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    My rabbits are not yet bonded, so I can't really say. But are they nurtured? Ellie might be trying to mate, but again, I don't really know. I have two males. Sorry I can't be more helpful.
     
  11. Jan 30, 2018 #11

    mark

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    Haha yes, for sure Kimchi is neutered - we had that done last year. Ellie came from the shelter and we were told she had been spayed. She is the hump-er, so that is strange indeed!

    I think it may be hormonal, but am not sure if that is possible if she is spayed?
     
  12. Jan 31, 2018 #12

    JBun

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    Could be spring fever. It can happen with spayed/neutered rabbits as well, where they tend to have more hormonal type behavior as spring approaches. There can be an increase in humping and nest building behavior.
     
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  13. Jan 31, 2018 #13

    mark

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    Thanks, JBun. I hope you are correct. As long as the extra "attention" is amorous, as it appears to be judging by how quickly they are grooming/snuggling/eating together afterwards, then it should be OK.
     

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