Rabbit rabbit rabbit
February 13, 2006 6:11 PM   Subscribe

My rabbits hate each other and are making a disaster out of my house.

No, they are not allowed out together, but whichever one is out obsessively marks the house (by peeing/spraying) while the other is caged.

Iggy Pop is a 2 1/2 year old neutered male and Gabe is a 1 1/2 year old spayed female. Both were rescued. We have had Iggy for about 2 years and Gabe for about a year.

From day one Gabe has hated Iggy. We did everything we were supposed to do - introduce them slowly, in neutral territory - but when Gabe gets near Iggy she goes nuts and attacks him. We have tried putting them in harnesses and taking them outside where they can see and smell, but not reach, each other. This worked for a couple of months until we decided to try to let them reach each other. Gabe attacked Iggy.

I am at my wit's end. How can I help my rabbits adjust to each other? Is it too late? Failing that, how can I stop them from peeing all over the house? I have tried spraying them with water, coating the spray spots with vinegar to deter them, setting up blockades around areas they frequent, everything I can possibly think of.


I searched AskMe and found these two questions, neither of which really helped but did serve to warn me of the anti-bunny sentiment in this group.

http://ask.metafilter.com/mefi/8196

http://ask.metafilter.com/mefi/19160
posted by arcticwoman to Pets & Animals (12 answers total)
 
It sounds like you've done everything right, but something is just getting Gabe all in a twitch. The only thing I can suggest that -may- work is to stick them in a pet carrier together (if you can even do that without them clawing the hell out of each other) and driving them around for a while in a car. The car sufficiently terrifies them, and they might seek comfort from their companion-in-terror when they're stuck together. This helped ours for a bit when they were in a snit with each other, but we've only tried it once, with moderate, but not long-lasting, effect. Unfortunately, we haven't found the magic thing that would make the fights stop forever with our buns, so we just let them out separately when they go on a fighting jag for a few days. It comes and goes, they've been fight-free for a few months now. We've kind of given up on them being totally bonded, and are just happy when we don't have to break up bunny fights. My bunny, Grendel, is just a jerk and there's no changing her crazy ways.

I wish I could help you out with the peeing, we haven't had to deal with that. Are you 100% sure they're both neutered? It might be worth a trip to the vet to check that out.

Good luck!
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 7:06 PM on February 13, 2006


I only have bad news, so if that's not what you want skip over this comment.

From experience, there are two ways to raise bunnies. The first being a single bunny in a household with cats, dogs and kids, it doesn't matter much because they can do well that way, OR in a hutch with many bunnies.

Multiple bunnies is not pretty. As cute as they are it is difficult to imagine how cannibalistic and territorial they are.

My only suggestions are to a) keep them well apart from each other-like never ever see/smell each other or b) adopt one out. I hope you find a better answer, but that's what I know from raising rabbits.
posted by snsranch at 7:13 PM on February 13, 2006


I'm not too suprised by the bunny hate, people who misunderstand how to act or treat bunnies are going to get attacked. I'd suggest lurking around rabbit.org . I only own one bunny who is the coolest. I've read that they can be hard to socialize. I remember reading that if you basically have them fenced off but in the same room and then every day move their fences a little bit closer for a month or maybe longer. The key is patience and showing them who's boss. Also they mellow with age. The most leverage you have is that bunnies pretty much only care about food however you should try and only use positive reinforcement. If my bunny ever blatantly poops outside his litterbox though I will give him a timeout in his cage for a while which works well. Maybe they are being territorial over their food or their litterboxes so you might try adding more. I also read that wherever a bunny pees its a good idea to try putting a litterbox there. Bunnies are remarkably clean animals and pretty much only mark or poop outside of their bowl when they are trying to tell you something is wrong. Sounds like they havent really had time enough to get used to each other. anway, good luck!
posted by psychobum at 7:24 PM on February 13, 2006


Robocop is Bleeding and Biscotti are great resources for bunny questions. If they don't show up and post, you might drop them a line.
posted by jennyb at 7:26 PM on February 13, 2006


Wait! Banjo and the Pork is Robocop is Bleeding's partner in bunny parenting so nevermind.
posted by jennyb at 7:26 PM on February 13, 2006


I wish I could help. I had one bunny years ago and he was an only bunny in a house with cats (which he considered his personal sex toys), so I have no experience with multiple bunny households or this kind of problem. I would definitely take psychobum's advice and seek out a rabbit-oriented forum. For now, I would be keeping them in separate rooms at least, they probably don't need to be reinforcing this behaviour while you look for a solution.
posted by biscotti at 7:36 PM on February 13, 2006


We have two bunnies who were fairly difficult to socialize, but now get along great. First idea: talk to the experts. The House Rabbit Society (rabbit.org) has expert rabbit bonders; if you live in a major urban area you're more likely to find one, but they're all over. A wonderful HRS woman took our two beasts for a week, and brought them back largely bonded.

The going-for-a-drive-in-the-same-cat-carrier trick was largely responsible for our bunnies' success (and if you can't do this, try taking them for a drive in adjacent cat carriers where they can see and smell each other, or just on two peoples' laps in the back seat), but also I think it's just a question of knowing when to bring them together and when not to. But I'm not an expert.

There are some great ideas on the HRS site here. One thing to add: bring them together in the afternoon, when they're naturally a bit slow. Bringing them together in the morning or late evening when they're very active is a recipe for disaster.

If they're peeing everywhere, it's either because they're not actually fixed, or because they're marking territory with unusual vigor. So make sure they each have their own space, entirely uncontaminated by the other bunny. (And then, obviously, introduce them in a neutral space -- but you knew all that.)

Stop spraying them with water; rabbits don't understand negative reinforcement. They won't connect that they're being punished; they'll just think you're being mean.

You could also try giving them a refresher potty-training course. Lock the bunny in his/her cage with the litterbox for a weekend. By the end of it, they should be peeing exclusively in the litterbox.

But it's also possible your bunnies just don't like each other. Some relationships weren't meant to be. But don't give up; talk to the experts if you can.
posted by Polonius at 7:49 PM on February 13, 2006


Thanks for all the suggestions, let me just clarify a few things.

I am 100% sure they are both fixed. I took each one in, paid the fee, and came back with a certificate the next day. They are marking with unusual vigour despite this.

They each have their own cage and inside each cage is a litter box and food/water. The only litter boxes in the house are in each one's cage. Would it me a good idea to have more? Can they share communal litter boxes that are out in the living room?

Both cages are in the living room/kitchen area. They can see each other all the time and the caged one can see the freed one most of the time. I'm sure this exacerbates the problem but due to space constraints I really can't find a way around it.

They poop outside their litter boxes too. All over the house. Specifically - unless I am keeping an eagle eye - the free one will sneak up next to the other's cage and pee/poop on all sides. I'm sure this just fuels the fires of hatred. The best so far: Gabe climbed onto Iggy's cage and peed through the bars into his food dish.

I would like a bit of clarification on the car trick. I am worried that Gabe will kill Iggy if I put them together in a carrier or even near each other on someone's lap. Is this a valid fear?
posted by arcticwoman at 8:00 PM on February 13, 2006


I will definitely check out the sites you suggested.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:00 PM on February 13, 2006


Maybe you could try putting a solid wall on the cages or a box in the back so they can't see each other? I have to add my territorial bunny story: our old dwarf bunny (1lb, tops) bit the toe half off my 65lb dog who was sampling the rabbits alfalfa pellets. And we were worried about the dog hurting the rabbit!
posted by fshgrl at 10:11 PM on February 13, 2006


How often do you handle the buns? I've found that picking up our jerk-bun (Grendel) and carrying her about for a bit has reduced her natural jerky ways over time.

How close are the cages together? Can they see and seethe at each other all day, or are they in seperate rooms? Ours currently share a common cage wall (Neat Idea condo) which has gone a long way towards getting them used to being around each other, but blocking snits should they break out.

You could try this seperation-in-proximity trick when it comes to the car ride. You'd need a large-ish littler box, some Neat Idea cubes (you can get them at Target or any other dorm-supply store. They're wire 14" squares), some zip ties, and whatever litter you normally use. You can create a cube that's the size of the litter box, lower the box into place, then insert a frame that bisects the box, creating two pee/poop okay zones. Then for a car-ride, they'll be next to each other, but unable to really get into it.

I fourth/fifth/whichever the talk to HRS suggestions.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:25 AM on February 14, 2006


The way I got my bunny to stop pooping everywhere (as I read off of rabbit.org) was to get more than one litterbox, and most importantly make the littlebox a place they would really want to hang out, at least initially. I put pellets and alfalfa in it (sometimes hay) and change it every day. The sides are high enough that he won't accidentally miss, but not so high that he has to jump out and scatter poops. Also bunnies are insanely private, they don't like you ever invading their home and never pick them up to take them out of their cage. I'd guess that it'd probably be best if they couldn't see each other when they are in their cages, or at least have a spot they can go to hide.
posted by psychobum at 1:15 PM on February 14, 2006


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