Should I Get a Friend for My Pet Rabbit?

Learn if you should get a friend for your pet rabbit in this Howcast video featuring bunny lover Amy Sedaris and rabbit expert Mary E. Cotter.

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Rabbits make wonderful pets. If you're thinking of getting one, check out these videos: Actress Amy Sedaris, who is a loving mom to her own pet bunny, helps rabbit expert Mary E. Cotter, Ed.D., LVT answer all your questions about how to take care of a pet rabbit. It's not always easy, but it's worth the work.

 
 

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Speaker 1: Friends! Speaker 2: Friends. A lot of people ask if it's a good idea to get a friend for their pet rabbit. We love when people get friends for their pet rabbits because rabbits are social animals who live in social groups in nature and they really enjoy the companionship of their own species. It's not so easy however to introduce rabbits and a lot of people have disastrous results and they call us after the fact instead of asking for advice beforehand and what happens is, they go to the pet store and they say, you know, "I have a female rabbit and I want to get a friend for the rabbit" and the pet store will say "Well, put the rabbit with another female, that way you won't have litters or whatever" and they sell the person what's supposed to be a female, it ends up being a male, the people have a litter a month later, so that's one possible ending. Another possible ending is they give them another female and the rabbits just don't get along and the person has no idea how to change this situation. So what we tell people when they want to introduce their rabbit to a friend is first of all, both rabbits need to be spayed and neutered so that they cannot reproduce and so that the hormones that drive them to reproduce will not be affecting their behavior when they're together. And what we do when we're introducing rabbits is house them side by side for a couple of weeks. In side by side pens with just enough air in between that they can't touch each other through the pens. And then we slowly introduce them and we do it by putting them in a constricted area and we wear shoes on our hands, tennis shoes on our hands. And we keep the rabbits from any kind of aggressive behavior and the minute they show any sign of aggression we plunge our hands down with the shoes on them to separate the rabbits. That way we don't get bitten, the rabbits don't get hurt, it's very easy. This is a bonded pair here now. These rabbits have been living together for a couple of years. This is a little Lion Head and this is a little Netherlands Dwarf. They're good buddies, bonded rabbits will huddle together, they'll eat together, they often do something called mirroring behavior where one rabbit will sit up and shake his hands and start to groom himself and the other rabbit will then sit up and shake his little paws and start to groom himself. Speaker 1: Copy cats. Speaker 2: Copy cats, copy rabbits, copy buns. And you'll see that in a bonded pair. It's really fun to have a bonded pair because you see behaviors that you don't see with single rabbits. One thing that really interests me is that even in the heat of the summer, these rabbits will lie together body to body, tight as can be when it's 90 degrees outside, they'll push their little bodies against one another in that heat and it doesn't bother them at all. They would much rather have the company of a bunny... Speaker 1: Oh, really? Speaker 2: ...than the coolness of separation. Yeah, it's really very touching to watch, actually. Speaker 1: You do have to consider that it's double the cost, right? I mean, it's... Speaker 2: It is double the cost. It's not double the space. Speaker 1: No, but the veterinary, I mean if you take them to the vet. Speaker 2: That's right. That's right. Speaker 1: The carriers, it's just more, but... Speaker 2: Well, not more carriers. If you take them to the vet you should be able to take them in one carrier. Speaker 1: Okay. Speaker 2: But the vet bills, the vet bills for sure, that's a big consideration. Speaker 1: Yeah, right. Speaker 2: If one gets sick, they're in contact with the other one, the other one is likely to get sick too, you may end up with two vet bills. So you do have to pay attention. Speaker 1: Double trouble, that's what I way. Double trouble. Speaker 2: On the other hand, when they have companionship of their own species, they're more relaxed and that makes them less likely to get sick. Speaker 1: Yeah. Speaker 2: So there's considerations on both sides. Speaker 1: But it's sad when one passes away and the other one misses, you have to deal with that too, grieving. Speaker 2: Yeah. And what we do then, there's been bunnies actually that stopped eating when their partner died. Speaker 1: Sure. Speaker 2: They were really grieving. And people call us and say... Speaker 1: She was murdered and it's an ongoing case. And there's one suspect. Speaker 2: Spousal abuse! No, when a bunny partner dies, very often the remaining bunny will be grieving and the owner will call panicking because that bunny is not eating now and we'll invite them over to meet some possible companions for that bunny and match them up again and hopefully send them home with another bunny who will be a good companion. Speaker 1: But it's a process. I mean it's a process, you can't just put any two rabbits together. Speaker 2: It's a process and it can take several weeks. This is one thing you can expect with a bonded pair. Every once in a while you're going to see mounting behavior, you're going to see little pieces of behavior here and there that are residual from before. In some bonded pairs, not every one. Some bonded pairs have what we call platonic relationships, some have very intimate relationships and some have on-again-off-again relationships. My bonded pair would get together, would get along really well for a long time, then suddenly the female would start humping the male and that would make a fight break out. But that was back in the 80s before veterinarians routinely spayed female rabbits and my female rabbit was hormonal all the time. My male had been neutered and the female had not been spayed because the vet wouldn't spay her. And that caused problems, that's why I say from first hand experience, have them both spayed and neutered and you can have marital bliss that way. And domestic peace. So yes, get a friend for your bunny. But ask for the help of experienced bunny people to introduce them safely. Speaker 1: I think I got a friend! Speaker 2: Yeah!

Expert

  • Mary E. Cotter

    Mary E. Cotter, M.A., Ed.D., LVT is the founder of the NY-based Rabbit Rescue & Rehab. She serves as chapter manager of the NYC House Rabbit Society and is vice president of the International House Rabbit Society. Involved with rabbit rescue since 1982, she speaks and writes frequently on rabbit-related topics, addressing owners, veterinary professionals and shelter workers. Mary is an adjunct assistant professor in the veterinary technology department of LaGuardia Community College (City University of New York) and co-manages a 7,000-member Internet mailing list focused on rabbit health, care and behavior.