Rabbits are intelligent, social animals that make good pets. Due to their need for company, a rabbit that lives on its own can experience loneliness and health problems. A lonely rabbit might become withdrawn or depressed. Behavioral problems, such as aggression and biting, are also possible.
There’s never a guarantee that two rabbits will get along together. However, if you introduce them slowly and carefully, they should form a close bond. We’ll look closely at the best rabbit pairings and what you can do to give a pair of rabbits an excellent chance of becoming lifelong companions.
Do Rabbits Need to Live Together?
Domestic rabbits are descended from European wild rabbits. They are naturally social animals that seldom live alone in the wild.
According to research by the University of Rochester, wild rabbits live in complex social structures consisting of many individuals. Each group typically has a dominant male and other subordinate males and females.
Bunnies are happiest when they’re living with one or more other rabbits. They form strong bonds, to the point that they’re inseparable. Bonded rabbits eat, play, cuddle, groom and sleep together.
A pet rabbit kept on its own can become very lonely and depressed. They’re not intended to live alone, without the company of other rabbits. This may cause the following issues:
- Refuse to eat or drink, leading to illness
- Become lethargic and hide in their cage all day
- Destructive behaviors, such as digging and gnawing at furniture
- Become aggressive with their owner
- Over-groom or scratch until bald patches form
Unless you can spend many hours each day interacting one-on-one with your rabbit, you should always adopt two.
What Is the Best Rabbit Pairing?
Rabbits all have individual personalities. There’s never a guarantee that two rabbits will get along.
Whether two rabbits can happily coexist depends mostly on their temperaments. If they are both too dominant, they’re likely to fight with one another.
The sex of the rabbits can be a significant factor. Let’s find out what the best rabbit pairing is.
Can Doe and Buck Rabbits Live Together?
Male rabbits are called bucks, and female rabbits are called does. Though they might look similar, their personalities can often be entirely different.
This is a good thing, however. Their personalities often complement each other. A female rabbit will rarely be territorial around a male, and vice versa.
One doe and one buck is the best pairing, and has the highest likelihood of success. This is mainly because, in the wild, rabbits tend to live in doe/buck pairs. They can remain in the same bond for life.
It is crucial that both rabbits be spayed and neutered before a meeting. Rabbits can reproduce very quickly. They can also develop reproductive cancers if not neutered.
Can Two Female Rabbits Live Together?
After one doe and one buck, the next best pairing is two female rabbits.
There is a higher chance that they’ll fight, when compared to doe-buck pairings. As long as they’re introduced slowly, it’s likely that they’ll get along.
For the best chance of success, both should be from the same litter. Sisters from the same litter often get along exceptionally well.
If the two rabbits are strangers, they should be spayed before being introduced to one another. Unspayed females can be extremely territorial, and have a higher chance of fighting.
It’s possible to keep two pregnant rabbits together, as long as you have enough space. However, mothers should bond with one another before they become pregnant.
Can Two Male Rabbits Live Together?
Two male rabbits can get along together, but this is usually the least successful pairing.
For a male-male pairing to work, one rabbit needs to be much more submissive than the other. They also must both be neutered. Neutered males tend to be calmer and more likely to get along.
Two male rabbits from the same litter have the best chance of getting along. They must both be neutered to prevent hormones from damaging their relationship.
Never keep two unneutered male rabbits together, even if they’re brothers. They will almost always fight, to the point of causing injury.
What is the Best Age to Introduce Rabbits?
So, a doe and a buck typically make the best pairing. But age matters, too. Let’s find out whether you should get two babies, two adults, or one of each.
Two Baby Rabbits
Rabbit babies, called kittens, often get along incredibly well. Before they reach 3 or 4 months’ old, they practically never fight.
This is especially true if the rabbits are part of the same litter. Brothers and sisters often have very close bonds as babies.
However, keeping brother and sister rabbits together doesn’t always work out long-term.
Once the rabbits reach sexual maturity, their personalities will change. They will also smell different from each other. Rabbits that once got along very well can start to fight or fall out completely when they mature.
This can sometimes be prevented if you have your baby rabbit(s) spayed or neutered as soon as possible.
Males can be neutered when they have testicles, which usually happens around 10-12 weeks. Females can be spayed once they reach sexual maturity, which is generally about 4-6 months old.
One Adult Rabbit and One Baby Rabbit
Introducing a baby rabbit to an adult is not usually a good idea. It can work sometimes, but it comes with a high risk.
Adult rabbits rarely bond well with babies. They tend to be more dominant, and can “bully” younger rabbits. Not to mention, young rabbits have much more energy, and this can be tiring for adults to deal with.
Even if the adult rabbit does bond with the baby, this bond may break when the baby reaches sexual maturity. Rabbits’ personalities aren’t fully formed until this point. There’s every chance that the baby will not get on with the adult when it grows up.
If you’re getting a baby rabbit, wait until it’s spayed or neutered before introducing it to the older one. That way, there’s a higher chance they’ll get on.
Two Adult Rabbits
Two adult rabbits are more likely to get along well if they’re of a similar age to one another. They’ll have similar energy levels, and their personalities will be fully formed.
Both rabbits should be over one year old. Both rabbits should also be spayed or neutered before you introduce them. Spaying and neutering often remove aggressive and territorial tendencies.
Pet shops and breeders usually sell baby rabbits, as opposed to adults. You’ll be better off finding a local shelter.
Many shelters will even let you bring your rabbit in for a “date” with another bunny. This will tell you whether they’re likely to get along.
Can Different Breeds of Rabbit Live Together?
There are hundreds of different breeds of rabbits. They can vary wildly in appearance. For example:
- Some breeds of rabbit are very large, like the Flemish Giant. Others, such as the Netherland Dwarf, are very small.
- They can have long or short fur of varying textures. Rex rabbits have short, velvety fur, whereas Angoras have long wool-like fur. Different breeds have various colors and patterns.
- Some rabbits have ears which stick up, whereas others (known as lops) have floppy ears.
However, despite their different appearances, all rabbit breeds are the same species (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Two rabbits of different breeds won’t behave or interact any differently than two rabbits of the same breed.
All rabbits can understand each other’s body language, which is what matters most. Rabbits generally don’t care what their housemate looks like, as long as it’s another rabbit.
The only factor to consider is the size. If you pair an enormous Flemish Giant with a tiny Netherland Dwarf, they may get on well. However, there may be a greater risk of injury.
Regardless of breed, it’s impossible to tell whether two rabbits will get on until they meet. Introduce them slowly for the highest chance of achieving a successful pairing.
How to Properly Introduce Two Rabbits
Rabbits are naturally inclined to live in couples. It takes them a while to bond together, but once they’re friends, they remain very close for the remainder of their life.
Your local humane society or shelter will likely have lots of pre-established rabbit couples. There are millions of rabbits in need of homes across the U.S. Rescuing an already bonded pair removes the hassle of introductions.
If you already have a single rabbit, you should introduce the new rabbit slowly and carefully. Don’t just place them together in a cage and hope for the best. Instead, follow these five steps:
1) Set up Two Separate Cages
Set up each rabbit in a separate cage or pen.
You should choose a structure with wire mesh sides, which your rabbit can see out of. This is because the first step of introducing two rabbits is placing their cages side by side. They will need to be able to see each other.
If you already have a rabbit that lives in a wooden hutch, you’ll have to acquire a temporary cage. You can move them back to the hutch afterward, as long it’s big enough for both rabbits.
Each cage or pen should contain:
- Newspaper, topped with bedding such a straw
- Hay for your rabbit to eat
- Food bowl to hold occasional fruits and vegetables
- Water dish or sipper bottle
- A sheltered area that the rabbit can hide in, such as a cardboard box. You’ll need to replace it if your rabbit chews or tears it. Remember that rabbits like biting card.
- Litter box. This should contain non-toxic paper pulp litter with a layer of hay on top.
Keep your rabbits’ cages in separate rooms to start with. You don’t want to introduce them too early, even by sight. When you let your rabbits out for exercise, let them out at separate times, or into separate rooms.
2) Spay or Neuter Both Rabbits
Both rabbits need to be spayed or neutered before they meet. This serves three crucial purposes:
- It prevents the rabbits from breeding. Of course, if you have two males or two females, this isn’t an issue. However, it’s possible for breeders, pet shop owners, and even veterinarians to incorrectly sex rabbits.
- Spaying and neutering remove the sex hormones that are responsible for aggression and territorial behavior. Your bunnies will get along a lot better.
- It removes the risk of your rabbit developing cancer of the reproductive organs. According to the American Association for Cancer Research, uterine cancer is the most common kind of cancer to occur in rabbits.
Wait for at least six weeks after both operations before moving on to the next step.
This is because your rabbits may fight when they first meet, so it’s vital that their wounds are fully healed first.
Not only this, but after a spaying or neutering operation, it takes some time for the hormones to dissipate. If you wait six weeks, there’s a better chance that your rabbits will get along.
3) Place the Cages Together
Your rabbits’ first meeting should be through the bars of their cages.
Place the two cages or pens side by side. Ensure that they can see each other through the wire, with just enough space that they can’t touch. If you aren’t using cages, place the rabbits in adjoining rooms, separated by a baby gate.
This is an essential first step to introducing two rabbits. It helps them feel safe, as they aren’t invading the other’s territory.
Your rabbits will naturally be curious. They may come close to the bars and try to sniff each other. They may vocalize, honking or chirping at one another. If they display aggression, don’t worry – it will subside as they get used to each other.
Once your rabbits have gotten used to each other through the bars, they’ll make it obvious. They’ll seem far more relaxed instead of being on high alert. For example, they may start lying down on either side of the divide.
After several weeks of two rabbits living next to one another, they will be ready for the next step.
4) Bring Them Face to Face
For your rabbits’ first face-to-face encounter, choose a room which neither of them has been in. You could use a bathroom, for instance, or a spare bedroom. It’s vital that it has a neutral smell, so neither rabbit feels that their territory is being invaded.
Remove anything dangerous from the room, and add a couple of cardboard boxes to hide in. Add some hay, too, and perhaps some vegetables. Associating one another with a tasty treat often helps bunnies bond more quickly.
Then, place both rabbits inside the room. Sit on the floor with them to supervise. It’s a good idea to wear thick gloves, to avoid being bitten if you need to separate them.
Your rabbits will likely start to sniff each other and touch noses. They may begin circling one another. One rabbit will probably start mounting the other, to assert dominance.
What happens next depends on your rabbits’ personalities. One may accept the other’s display of dominance, or they may contest it. Gentle nipping is normal – it’s their way of establishing the pecking order.
Let your rabbits investigate each other for around 10 minutes, then separate them again. Do this every day, slowly increasing the time, until they can be around each other for an hour or more.
If they fight, separate them and don’t try to reintroduce them for a few days.
5) Watch for Signs of Bonding
Bonding is unlikely to happen straight away. Rarely, two rabbits (usually a doe and a buck) will fall in love at first sight. However, it’s not the norm – it usually takes at least a week of daily meetings.
When your rabbits feel comfortable together, their body language will change. They’ll start lying down, grooming themselves, and eating around one another.
They may ignore each other entirely while they do this, which is a good sign. Ignoring is a sign that the rabbits feel comfortable enough to relax in each other’s presence.
When two rabbits lie down touching each other, this indicates that they’re starting to bond.
The final stage of bonding is grooming each other. This is a sure sign that your two bunnies are becoming lifelong friends. You can encourage mutual grooming by smearing a little banana on both rabbits’ foreheads.
Once they’ve been grooming each other for a few days, it’s OK to let them live together permanently. You should never separate a pair of bonded rabbits, unless they fight.
Can You Keep More Than Two Rabbits Together?
Rabbits in the wild never live alone. Usually, around 10-15 individuals live together in a close group. Large warrens can be home to 100 individuals or more, living nearby.
So, it’s possible to keep multiple rabbits together, as long as there’s enough space. However, it is harder to introduce a new rabbit to a bonded pair than to introduce two single rabbits.
In the wild, rabbit groups usually consist of a dominant male rabbit and several submissive females. So if you have a bonded doe and buck, consider getting another doe.
Introduce them slowly, using the same techniques detailed above. Treat the two already bonded rabbits as one item – don’t separate them during the process.
The bonded rabbit of the same sex as the new rabbit will show signs of jealousy. She may be aggressive toward the new bunny, and try to establish dominance. Let them work it out for themselves, though separate them if they fight.
Take it slowly. Wait at least two months after the new rabbit is spayed or neutered before beginning introductions. Let them get used to one another for short periods each day until they bond.
Why Are My Rabbits Not Getting Along?
Sometimes, for no apparent reason, two rabbits won’t bond together. Even a neutered doe and buck can decide that they don’t like each other. This can occur if you introduce them gradually, and do everything right.
When this happens, it’s usually because both rabbits have naturally dominant personalities. Rabbits only bond once they’ve decided who’s dominant and who’s submissive. It may take two dominant rabbits a long time to figure this out.
It’s important to realize that some rabbit behaviors look aggressive, but are actually not.
For instance, mounting (also called “humping”) is a natural behavior that helps rabbits decide who’s “boss.” It’s also normal for rabbits to gently nip one another while they’re figuring out the hierarchy.
If your rabbits are fighting, however, you will need to intervene. Real fighting can be recognized by:
- Flattened ears and a raised tail
- Biting – this is different from gentle nipping. Biting may draw blood, or tear out fur.
When two rabbits are fighting, it’s crucial that you intervene. Otherwise, they could become hurt.
How to Stop Rabbits Fighting
If your rabbits are fighting, try to distract them. One way to do this is with a spray bottle of water.
Rabbits don’t like being sprayed with water. It doesn’t hurt them – it stops them in their tracks.
When you think that a fight is about to begin, spray water at both rabbits’ heads. They will stop fighting, and will likely start grooming themselves. This may be enough to prevent them from fighting again.
If they do start to fight again, try the water one more time. If it still doesn’t work, separate your rabbits and return them to their own cages. Try introducing them again tomorrow.
On average, it takes 1 to 3 weeks of daily face time for two rabbits to become bonded. However, if both rabbits have naturally dominant personalities, it can take much longer. If they fight every time they meet, give them a few weeks apart before trying again.
After several months of attempted introductions, rabbits that still aren’t getting along probably never will. At this point, it’s best to rehome one of the rabbits, and try again with a new one.