Bunnies are adorable animals, and they can make great pets if you have the time, resources, and desire to provide the specialized care and attention that they need. But what if you want to add a second pet bunny to your current lagomorph-led household? Well, it can definitely be done, but proceed with caution to ensure the best possible outcome!
Adding a second pet bunny to your family is not a decision or action that you should take lightly. In addition to doubling your commitment to these super-cute critters, you have to consider whether or not they will get along.
You see, bunnies are not like other pets, where you could just introduce a new puppy to your current dog, or drop a second kitten onto the couch next to your content cat to see if the two of them become friends.
Bunnies are prey animals by nature, which makes them both timid and territorial at the same time. What may start out as a seemingly positive introduction could quickly escalate into an unwelcome “bunny tornado,” or result in serious injuries or death to your current bunny, or to the new addition.
We’re not sharing this to scare anyone, but to make sure you are prepared. There is a right and wrong way to introduce a new pet bunny to yours. Opposite sex pairings typically bond best, so that’s important to know upfront. Read on for additional steps you should follow as you introduce a second bunny as a pet.
READ MORE: Owning A Bunny Beyond Easter
Pet Shop or Rescue?
According to the Georgia House Rabbit Society’s website, “It is said that domestic rabbits are the 3rd most popular pet in the United States, falling just behind dogs and cats. Sadly, it is this popularity which also makes them the 3rd most abandoned pet in the country.”
That’s why when it came time to adopt a new pet bunny as a companion for our current furry family member, adopting from a rescue was definitely the right way to go. Additionally, rescue bunnies are often already spayed or neutered, which is a bonus because these procedures at a rabbit-savvy vet are typically much more expensive than the adoption fee!
Some rescues may also have policies on taking a rescue bunny back and swapping it for a different one if the first match doesn’t work out. This is an important benefit for all parties involved when choosing where to select your new second pet bunny from!
Preparing for Your New Pet Bunny
Now that that’s settled, it’s time to prepare! Your house is going to look a little different when a new pet bunny comes to town.
First, since bunnies are territorial animals, you’ll need to identify a fresh new space where your pet bunny hasn’t often been to set up both bunnies when your new baby arrives. Putting the new bunny into the existing pen or bunny bed just isn’t going to cut it.
A sample new pet bunny supply list is as follows. Southwest Florida House Rabbit Rescue has valuable resources on this topic as well.
- Foldable metal exercise pens
- Plastic cat litter box
- Hay manger or pet food bowl
- Water bowl
- Puppy pee pads (or old towels or blankets)
- Hidey house (or cardboard box with all labels removed and a hole cut out)
- Hay, high-quality pellets, bunny-safe litter, and bedding (Good news, you would already have these items from your first pet bunny!)
We recommend borrowing or purchasing a wire pen and setting it up almost like a figure 8 — two equal-sized areas, directly next to each other, with a couple of inches of space between them. Your pet bunny should be close enough to the new bunny to observe him or her from a slight distance for a few weeks. Do not put the pens directly up against each other, as fighting can occur through the wire.
Next, you’ll want to ensure that your bunnies have matching accommodations. If your bunny is litter box trained, you’ll need two litter boxes positioned in the cages in the exact same place. You’ll also need two hay feeders, two water bowls, two hideaway houses, and two sets of toys.
The reason for this is that mirroring behavior is common in bunnies. When one eats the other may go eat. When one hides in his or her house, the other may mimic that behavior. You want them to become as comfortable as possible living closely, but not together, to make the adjustment to togetherness even smoother later.
When Your New Pet Bunny Arrives
Once your new bunny comes home, introduce him or her to their living quarters and new neighbor. After letting the bunny settle in for a couple of days, it’s time to start cage swapping. Each day, you will swap the bunnies by placing them in the other cage, to get each pet bunny used to the other bunny’s scent in a non-threatening environment.
Continue this process for several weeks and observe their behavior. Are the bunnies sniffing each other through their cages? Better yet, are they comfortably lounging up against the cage just a short distance away? If so, it may be time for a date night! (No, not for you and your spouse, for your pet bunny and his or her new friend!)
Note: Make sure that both bunnies are fixed well before you make any introductions. Even if there is no risk of pregnancy, hormones are typically too high for a successful bond. A serious fight early on can risk the pair ever bonding, and you want to give them the best chance of success possible!
In a small, neutral space, prepare for date night by gathering a towel and a broom. Sometimes bunnies may fight, and if they do, you definitely do not want to be in the middle of it. Pet bunny bites can hurt! This is where the broom comes in handy to gently separate them, while someone picks up an agitated bunny with a towel if needed.
Place your bunnies down next to each other. The best approach is to pet both of them simultaneously, which simulates them grooming each other. It gets them relaxed and happy while in the presence of each other. Sometimes, your bunnies may take it from here and begin snuggling or grooming each other on their own. That may not happen right away, though.
Either way, the first successful date is a 5- to 15-minute interaction without a bunny tornado, or bunnies chasing each other in a circle and nipping at each other, taking place. You’ll continue these dates on a daily basis, working up to longer and longer dates. You’ll want to take breaks for a night or two if they begin fighting and starting over within a few days.
As your bunnies become more accustomed to each other, they will likely get closer, snuggle more, or just be content on their own but in each other’s company. This is your signal that moving in together may be coming soon!
You may also see one pet bunny bowing its head and the other bunny grooming him or her. Keep encouraging the grooming and making sure the bunny doing the grooming is getting extra love while they wait for reciprocal grooming. Mutual grooming is the best way to tell when you have a successful bond.
Move-in Day and Beyond!
After a substantial amount of relaxed dates and reciprocal grooming over several weeks, you can have a move-in day! Clean everything in the home base space with vinegar and do some rearranging for the new couple. Monitor that there is no negative change in their behavior and, as long as they continue reciprocal grooming and their normal relaxed routine, they can live happily ever after together!
Once you have helped to create a successfully bonded pair of rabbits, you should not separate them. Even if they go to the vet for semi-annual teeth and nail trimmings, they should always travel in the same carrier together as well. Besties for life!
Adding a new pet bunny to the family can be a lot of work, but we’re here to tell you that the bonding process can be done! As a result, you may save a rescue bunny, giving it a well-deserved better life, provide your family with double the cuteness and joy of bunny ownership, and give your pet bunny and loving companion and lifelong friend!
WANT TO READ MORE?
Don’t have a pet bunny? That’s OK. We have great gift ideas for other pets and their owners, too. Check out 19 Of The Best Pet Products For Your Adorable Furry Friends And Their Humans.
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Photo Credits: Michelle Knapp