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The importance of companionship for rabbit, the pros and cons of single versus bonded rabbits, finding a friend for your rabbit...

Rabbits are very gregarious, living in large communities in the wild and have a complex social hierarchy.  Companionship for a rabbit is vital to its wellbeing and this can be provided either by us, another rabbit or, best of all, both.  The best rabbit pairing is always neutered male and spayed female as male/female pairings are their natural way of life in the wild.

Problems caused by lack of companionship

Single hutch rabbits tend to suffer more from self-destructive behaviour such as fur pulling, overeating and pulling at the bars on their cage and damaging their teeth.  Single house rabbits who do not receive enough companionship from their human owners may exhibit more destructive behaviour such as gnawing at skirting boards and carpet.  Both forms of behaviour are caused or exacerbated by boredom and loneliness.

Single rabbit versus bonded rabbits (pairs or groups)

A rabbit will always be happiest if it has another rabbit to live with.  However, a single rabbit can be perfectly content if it is receiving enough companionship from a human.  This brings with it several advantages to you as an owner - your rabbit will bond more closely with you and be a more interactive pet, treating you almost like another rabbit by snuggling up to you, licking your hands and face and following you around.  Once this bond is made it will never weaken, even if you add another rabbit.

A single rabbit is a considerable time commitment and is really only suited to house rabbits who live closely with their owners.  There is also the question of how lonely your rabbit will be when you have to go away or on holiday.

Bonded rabbits living in pairs or groups spend all day everyday together; sleeping, grooming or playing.  This is something that we simply cannot replicate however hard we try and is therefore always going to be the best situation for your rabbits.  Your rabbits will still interact with you and show affection but will not be so "needy".

Bonded rabbits also bring their own advantages to us as owners.  There is little to compare to the happy sight of a truly loved up couple sleeping nose to nose, or getting into mischief together and egging each other on.  Plus, you never have to worry that your rabbit is lonely, even when you go away.

A rabbit that has been used to living in a pair or group may find it difficult to adjust to being a single rabbit.  In particular, a rabbit that has lost its partner will be grieving and possibly suffering health problems as a result.  The ideal tonic to this is to find it a new partner.

Adding a rabbit

If you decide to find a friend for your rabbit, remember first of all that both rabbits need to be neutered / spayed.  Find a rabbit of the opposite sex i.e. if you have a boy rabbit, find him a female friend and vice versa.  The age of the rabbits does not matter too much but obviously the closer in age the better so there is less chance of one dying years before the other.

Often the easiest option is to adopt a rabbit from a rescue centre as they will be able to find a rabbit of the right sex, age and temperament.  Be aware that even a match that is perfect on paper may not always work - rabbits have minds of their own and, whilst naturally disposed to bond with another rabbit, may sometimes take a dislike for no apparent reason.  If this happens as a last resort you can take the rabbit back to the centre and try again.

Tags: behaviour

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