Rabbit to Rabbit Introductions

Did you know?

  • Domestic rabbits are social species and tend to live in organized social groups. With rabbits, as with any other species, it can be a challenge to introduce a stranger into a pre-established social group or to a single animal that is used to living alone. As such, it is extremely important to gradually introduce rabbits into new environments and new individuals properly in order to prevent any undue stress and associated behavioural problems
  • Unfamiliar rabbits should be introduced very gradually so that they can become habituated, desensitized, and counter-conditioned to living with other rabbits
  • The time required to peacefully and successfully introduce two rabbits can vary tremendously. This process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, so it is important to remember to be patient and not to rush any of these steps

Tips for rabbit to rabbit introductions

  • Desexed, opposite-gender pairs often get along best, though same-gender pairs may work with a bit more effort and patience
  • Time and patience are the keys to successfully introducing a new rabbit to the household
  • Give the new rabbit its own room or area that is completely closed off from others
  • It is important to make sure that the new rabbit is comfortable in its new environment before trying to introduce it to another rabbit
  • Place both rabbits in separate houses or cages and set them adjacent to one another in the same room while continuously giving each rabbit treats - it is very important that they receive treats throughout the introduction process to ensure that they focus on the treats instead of one another. They will also start associating positive experiences with being near each other as opposed to reinforcing negative associations, such as experiencing fear or aggression while they are together. This will allow them to be able to see, smell, hear, and get used to one another without being able to fight. If either rabbit starts displaying aggressive (such as lunging toward the cage wall) or fearful (such as hiding at the opposite side of the cage) behaviours, stop the session and try again later. As long as there are no signs of stress from both rabbits, keep repeating the sessions daily, moving the cages closer together. This step can take several weeks and should not be rushed
  • Take both rabbits to a neutral area, typically in an area where neither rabbit is usually allowed to be loose, as they can become aggressive over core activity areas.  The rabbits are now allowed to approach one another if they so choose. Look for, and encourage (with treats or praise), any friendly or calm behaviours. Ritualized dominance (where one rabbit places its head over the other rabbit) is a normal behaviour used to establish roles and avoid overt aggression and maybe be shown in this context. Be aware that fights can still occur during this step, so have a towel ready to separate them if they become aggressive or start to fight.  If either rabbit seems uncomfortable, stop the session and revert back to the previous step
  • If the rabbits continue to interact well, allow them to roam freely in other areas of the home while under supervision. Continue to expand this training throughout the house to ensure there is no aggression associated with any given area