If you have a neutered rabbit at home and want a companion for them, we offer a bonding service here at the rescue centre, where you can leave your vaccinated rabbit with us whilst we bond them.
How does it work?
Our specialised bonding pen has a middle partition consisting of a mesh barrier through which the rabbits can see and smell each other but the mesh is not wide enough for any teeth to get through. It has two separate doors at the front so that each side can be accessed independently. The middle barrier can be pushed back to make one larger area for when the rabbits are ready to begin mixing.
We ask that the visiting rabbit is of the opposite sex and make sure they are fully vaccinated and neutered.
When the visiting rabbit has arrived we place the prospective suitor in the bonding pen at the same time as the new rabbit, so that neither rabbit has a chance to view the new area as their own.
We then generally leave the rabbits in this set-up for a couple of days, swapping them over into the each other’s pen a couple of times so that they will get used to each other’s scent. We will be watching the rabbits’ behaviour in this time and looking for positive behaviours such as mirroring and whether the rabbits are choosing to lie next to each other next to the middle partition.
After a couple of days we will do a supervised meet. We generally have two people present, each armed with a towel in case we have to intervene. We open the middle partition and watch the rabbits. Normally one rabbit will start to go around scenting and they may go up to each other. There may be a little chasing, but we tend to step in if the chasing is too frantic. We calm both rabbits down and normally stroke both rabbits side by side allowing them to see each other, we transfer our hand between the rabbits, so transferring each rabbit’s scent to the other one. The initial meet can be as little as a few minutes to half an hour, depending on the rabbit’s behaviour with each other. We try to end each meet on a high.
During the coming days we try to increase the amount of time the rabbits spend with each other gradually. If the rabbits are quite calm in each other’s company, we will feed them together and allow them more space to explore together. We normally add toys in the pen at this point. We choose toys with bells in. When we are happy that they can be left for short periods, the bell toys are useful, as if there is a commotion such as chasing, we are alerted by the bells in the toys and we can come back into the room to calm things down if needed.
Once the rabbits are spending the majority of the day together and they seem content in each other’s company and there has been no chasing or aggression shown, we then let them stay together overnight. Generally once the rabbits have stayed together overnight with no problems, they are bonded enough to go home.
We tend to keep them at the rescue centre for the next couple of days just to make sure they are okay. We recommend that the new owners watch the rabbits closely once they take them home. We ask that the rabbits are given two feeding bowls and water bowls so that there is no competition. We also ask the owners to check that one rabbit isn’t able to guard entrances or exits and if they ever require veterinary treatment, both rabbits are taken to the vets in the same box, to protect their bond.
There is no set rule for how long the bonding process can take to work. It can be as quick as a couple of days to about a month. Also if it does not work out with one suitor, we will sometimes try another. If we do have to try another suitor, we use our other bonding pen so it is still a neutral space for both rabbits to begin with. We will also try to match the two rabbits’ personalities more carefully. We initially allow potential owners to pick their preferred choice, however they are informed at the start of the bonding process that normally their rabbit will ultimately choose their own companion.
Bonding at home
Alternatively you can arrange to take one of our rabbits for a short term trial in the home, as long as you have the right facilities, space and experience to manage the bonding process yourself.
To talk to us about bonding your rabbit with a new friend, call us on 01803 812121 or email email@example.com. We will be happy to help if we can. Please note that we currently have a waiting list for bonding.