Bunny, plus one?
July 13, 2014 11:35 AM   Subscribe

Should I get a bunny friend for my senior citizen bunny who has lived alone his entire life?

Two years ago we adopted a bunny who we were told was five or six years old. He had always lived indoors by himself. Years later, he is still going strong and for all we know could live a few more years. Yesterday, I was reading online about how important it is for bunnies to have a friend. I read, to my dismay, that rabbits are much happier living in bonded pairs. Is it too late to get my sweet bunny a fellow male friend? He is not neutered if that has anything to do with your answer.
posted by rabu to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You can try, but I don't think it's mandatory.

I had one rabbit, and then had another one sort of forced on me with a "They need a friend!!" guilt trip, and the two of them never got along. I loved them both but I had to keep them separated.

It's true that they like having a friend *if* you can get them to bond. Big "if," especially if they're not fixed.

The second bunny I got has since passed away, and I just have my original guy, Baron von Floppy Ears. I feed him, I play with him, he seems really happy to me. Every animal is different and has its own personality. Some rabbits don't like other rabbits. I'm not a big fan of any "You MUST do X or you are a bad pet owner" pronouncements that pretend every situation is the same.

Two rabbits is also a lot of work. If you genuinely want two, find a place where you can take your current guy to meet potential friends and see how it goes. But if you don't have the time or space or inclination to have two, don't feel like you "have to."
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:15 PM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

It can be hard to bond bunnies. Getting 2 rabbits to like each other can be a long, stressful process. If you give your bunny adequate attention, he is fine as a solo bun. Google bonding bunnies to see how it's not as simple as just getting another rabbit.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 12:31 PM on July 13, 2014

My son had a bunny when he was a child. He asked for a 'bunny buddy' for his bunny, (Funny Bunny). We bought him a brown/white bunny (Brown Bandit) who killed Funny Bunny two weeks later. I'd say if your son is attached to his bunny, don't get another.
posted by donaken at 12:39 PM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bunnies are very social animals. They enjoy grooming and being groomed, playing, etc. From my experience, two bunnies was significantly less than 2x the work. It wasn't actually anymore work than 1 bunny. Bunnies can share a litter, share a hay pile, share an enclosure, etc. Basically, in my case it meant a bit more pellets and a bit more salad.

It is true that bonding bunnies isn't trivial, but from my experience its pretty straightforward.

First find an organization like the House Rabbits Society, which has experience bonding rabbits. Then explain to them what you want to do. They will almost certainly ask you to bring your bunny in so a suitably bunny buddy can be found. Try a few bunnies, see how they interact with one another. If you find a second bunny who seems like a good match, than great. Otherwise, probably best to try again later.

The actual bonding experience is simple, assuming the bunnies are well matched to begin with.

For a few days keep them physically separated, but co located(i.e. in the same room). Then when you notice signs of friendliness, you should abut their enclosures. I knew it was time to move forward when my bunnies would physically hangout as closely as possible at each stage.

Interject these phases with periods of chaperoned play time. When the bunnies are behaving all of the time they are together, then you can start letting them hangout unchaperoned. Keep a very close eye on your bunnies this whole time, ANY antisocial behavior means backing up and starting over, and also moving slower.

For bunnies to bond successfully, they need to have complimentary personalities. For example, one of my bunnies was female and a giant. She DID NOT need a big bunny man to put her in her place, she needed a little gentle elderly bunny to groom her and worship her.

I think the lack of neutering might be a problem. In any case talk to your local house rabbit's society. They will have EXCELLENT advice. Bonded bunnies are one of the real joys in life though. If a person thinks their bunny is happy alone(mine certainly was) its like night and day to get them a little bunny companion to have adventures with. Of course, just like people, a bad match is worse than death.
posted by jalitt at 12:44 PM on July 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

And I just saw that he's not neutered. You would absolutely have to get him neutered before you could even think of getting him a rabbit friend. Otherwise he will fight with boy rabbits and mount girl rabbits incessantly (and of course impregnate any girl rabbit who's not spayed).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 12:45 PM on July 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Are you me? :) We just had this conversation yesterday - I have an unneutered, almost 10yo bunny.

I let him run around outside of his cage twice a day, and visit with him in the mornings, where he allows me to pet and groom him. Weekends I am able to spend more time with him.

My concerns were -
1. he's not neutered, and it seems unfair to neuter him at this age, on the chance he would be happier with another rabbit. (plus, they say it takes several months for the hormones to get out of his system)
2. bonding - this can be an issue, but there is a house rabbit society near us that we could have bonding dates at. Friends of ours did this, and they bonded their bunny with another - however, their female bunny is still very dominant, and the new boy bunny hides and always has to wait to eat, so I'm not sure that's the ideal life for a bun.
3. what if I bond him to a younger bunny, and then he passes away, and the younger bunny is heartbroken and dies of grief? (this sometimes happens, according to the bunny email lists?)

I would say you'd definitely have to neuter him, and get another fixed bunny. If he seems happy as is, and you can spend a decent amount of time with him, I wouldn't get another bunny just for him.

If you do decide to get another bunny, I'd definitely make the time for bunny play dates and not rush into anything.
posted by needlegrrl at 1:02 PM on July 13, 2014

Grendel and Robocop, our rabbits, were 12+ when they passed. According to the various vets we took them to when they started to fade, they were super, super old for a rabbit. So if you get another bunny friend for yours, you might only have 2-7 years of friendship, followed by the need to get another bunny to be friend to the friend who will still be around. If you go that route, you'll be locked into a cycle of bunny dates every 5 years or so.

Our remaining rabbit, Dr. Beef Wellington, is the same age as your bunny. We've opted to not get him a friend for the same reason. We take him out, let him explore, and he's okay with out 4 year old, so we hope that's enough for the little, loved spaz.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:06 PM on July 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Some bunnies get along a lot better with guinea pigs than they do other rabbits. Maybe give that a try? Maybe try to do some kind of temporary visitation thing initially, however. It works wonderfully for some rabbits, and not so for others.
posted by clone boulevard at 7:31 PM on July 13, 2014

I think I've heard that bunnies bond better at an early age together. Bringing in another bunny later on in life is probably an iffier proposition. Unless your bun seems depressed, I think he's probably fine and used to status quo.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:26 PM on July 13, 2014

If your bunny is happy with you as his family, he doesn't need a bunny friend. Some bunnies do perfectly fine having human only companionship. I had one bunny who, I swear, considered herself human.

I have only gone through companion searches when a rabbit is not thriving. For example, I had a rabbit who would make herself sick by not eating when she knew I was going away for the weekend even though I had a roommate or friend taking care of her. Got her a friend through my local House Rabbit Society, bonded them and never had that happen again.

So you don't need to. If you do decide to, follow the above advice on neutering, going through the HRS (they will also help with bonding--either by coaching or by recommending someone who will bond them for you, for a fee, usually), etc. You can also talk to them about adopting an older rabbit. Older animals are so much harder to adopt out, but would probably be a good idea in your case. You certainly don't want a bouncy, youthful bun getting in your senior's space.
posted by carrioncomfort at 4:12 AM on July 14, 2014

I had a bunny I got as an adult who was a little shy and cranky, not very well socialized. He probably would have been ok -- bunnies do bond with humans a little -- but he was perceptibly happier and became friendlier with people when I got him a lady friend. I followed this advice from the House Rabbit Society, more or less, and they were friends in about a week or two. The first rabbit has since died and I've kept the lady rabbit solo for the past couple of years. She's very happy and healthy and seems to be fine with or without a friend.

(Do get your first one neutered before trying to bond him if that's the way you decide to go. Initially I brought the lady rabbit home unspayed and she chased and mounted my already netuered little guy. Bonding went much more smoothly post spaying.)
posted by clavicle at 10:05 AM on July 14, 2014

I had a bonded pair, very affectionate, the male died. We got a replacement, but our female's response was "who's this little shit?" We tried all the tricks - I even went so far as to run a vacuum cleaner around them. No dice.

She decided to bond with our son instead - she was always hanging out just a couple of feet from him, she even got panicky when he got near the front door. We ended up getting a third rabbit to bond with the second rabbit.

In the end the three of them tolerated each other, but only after a massive fight happened when I wasn't there (a gate got forced open). It resulted in scarring, and if they'd been trapped together I think one would have killed the other.

I personally wouldn't try to bond an elderly rabbit again, I believe there's too much potential for harm.
posted by Leon at 5:18 PM on August 14, 2014

(Oh, on the plus side, bonded pairs are way less work. They don't get so bored, and are less likely to try to eat the plaster off the walls).
posted by Leon at 5:19 PM on August 14, 2014

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