When we tell people we have bunnies for pets, we actually get asked, “Why bunnies?” and when they hear about the crazy things we have to deal with, they will ask “Why did you get two boys?!”
I’m going to explain here so I don’t have to repeat myself over and over.
I had rabbits as pets when I was younger, I found them to be super intelligent, very loving and quite cheeky. Other than the chewing and the occasional digging, they are quiet. They can also be litter trained and they clean themselves so you don’t have to wash them, they run around themselves so you don’t have to walk them and the extra bonus is that THEY ARE SO CUTE AND FLUFFY!
Why boys? Because boys in my experience were always nicer and more accommodating. The girls were fiercely territorial and quite violent (lunging at and biting you and other rabbits) in comparison.
What I didn’t remember was that my experience was only of what bucks (male rabbits) were like with the does (female rabbits) and humans, not with each other – I’d never had 2 boys!!
Tony has never had pets in his life and wanted a dog so we went to Battersea Cats and Dogs Home to see if there were any suitable companions. All the dogs were HUGE and the little ones were so energetic they might as well take up the space of a big dog.
Also the little one that was there kept pissing everywhere in its excitement and I wasn’t really looking forward to having to clean up piss from all over the floor constantly. Little did I know I’d end up with that situation anyway with 2 boy rabbits!
Our place isn’t that big so we knew it just wouldn’t suit to have a dog cooped up inside. I hate going outside in the freezing cold but I know if there was a dog, I’d be the one to have to walk it outside every single day for a couple of hours of play. I’m alright for this in the summer but definitely not in the winter. No yard means compulsory and multiple outdoors visits in the cold for me too and I wasn’t keen on that at all!
I’d settle for a cat. Except, well, I’m allergic to cats. On a good day, I’d get the sniffles after many hours with them. On a bad day, I find it hard to breathe with only a tiny bit of fur (not even the cat) present.
So rabbits it was.
We picked them up and they arrived in our home on 31st December 2016. They were 3.5 month old boys. They are not brothers but they were kept in the same play area together and looked like they got on. They were the only two in their play area and were snuggled up to each other.
Thinking of getting only one, we decided that 2 were better together so they could play and keep each other company and snuggle together when they needed more warmth. We also didn’t want to split up their friendship if they’d already made one. So, we got them both.
The advantage of having one bunny is that because they are social animals, the one bunny will want to interact and so the bond between you and the bunny will grow quite quickly. You can then dedicate all your time to this one bunny and train them to do little tricks. Rabbits learn very quickly!
The disadvantage is that if you are not around to give it the time and interaction and affection it needs, the bunny will get quite lonely, bored and depressed.
Rabbits are very social beings, if you think about how they live, they live in warrens of large groups. They are used to having company.
If you keep a rabbit by itself, you have everything else in your life including it but… all it has in its life is you and you don’t even speak its’ language!
As much as we think we’ll be enough, I don’t think we are ever going to be the same as another bunny friend.
When there are two bunnies, they are great emotional support for each other and can encourage play and confidence in each other plus they get to display normal bunny behaviour with someone who understands their language perfectly.
They have each other as well as you, so psychologically and emotionally, it is much better for them. Though, bonding and interacting between you and them can be slower.
What I didn’t factor in however, was that having two also means the possibility of them fighting and not getting on at all, as they got older, which is what happened to us.
This is more painful than having one, on any given day. Now you have 2 individual rabbits that need your time separately! So, this is when the whinging and all my stories of fisty-cuffs comes in.
We’ve managed quite well living with them for 8+ months now. The fights started in the beginning when their hormones kicked in so we separated them.
They fought again when we tried to make them friends (after neutering) and put them together (forced bonding) but when we realised it wasn’t going to happen and they’d rather kill each other than live together, we’ve kept them apart and it’s all been very calm and peaceful. They’ve been quite happy binkying about in their own respective areas.
That is, until the other day when Rome got through the fence, intruded on Paris’ area and they fought, unsupervised because we were out of the house at the time. We came home to a lounge room full of clumps of fur everywhere and drops of blood.
I think it’s fair to say, ours our now enemies for life and will fight to the death if they ever get together for long enough and especially when we’re not around.
Needless to say, we’ve been extra cautious with the fencing and have been watching them when we see them both on either side of the same fence. They’ve still managed to inflict injury on each other that way.
SO…. if there was any advice I’d give to anyone considering getting a rabbit, I would still recommend getting 2 but I would suggest that when you get them:
a) they are already neutered
b) they are already bonded (after neutering)
I must stress that you choose bunnies who have been neutered FIRST before being bonded. We chose rabbits that bonded before being neutered and there is a risk that the bond breaks once the hormones kick in and they start fighting for territory or dominance.
It turns out that fighting happens with any sex combination so it doesn’t matter if you get girl-girl, boy-boy or girl-boy combos, when the hormones kick in, anything can happen. You could be lucky and they remain bonded but it’s hard to tell beforehand what will happen.
If you’re getting them young, choose siblings from the same litter otherwise, just get one rabbit, get it neutered THEN take it to a shelter to go bunny dating, so it can find its own friend/partner for life (preferably one that is already neutered as well).
If I could do it all again, that’s what I would do.
As mentioned, rabbits are quite territorial but females tend to be very protective of their territory (must be the instinct to protect their nest) so I would get a male first, get it neutered, then take it to a rabbit shelter to get a female companion.
When they meet, it will be in neutral territory at the shelter. They’ll be introduced to several different bunnies but one at a time, to see which is the best match. When a match is found, they usually stay overnight at the shelter together for a couple of days just to make sure that they really do get on with each other, before you bring them both home.
When you bring them home, the male will be more easy going with welcoming the female into its home territory than the other way around which is why I suggest getting the male first.
We don’t regret getting the two we have though. Even though they’ve turned out to be more work having to do everything twice and buying 2 of everything and spending time separately with them, they are beautiful boys and it’s been a real pleasure getting to know them.
Paris is lovely and well behaved. He doesn’t bite anything or go anywhere unless he has permission (except when he’s planning his revenge on Rome). He will sit for ages and bunny purr when you pat him. Sometimes however, he’s so shy he won’t let you touch him at all so he rejects all your attention and spends a lot of time by himself just lying around in his hutch. He takes a lot of coaxing to stick around and would rather hide than play.
Rome is more outgoing so will always greet us for pats but with that personality also comes the need for a lot of attention. He is ultra curious and will test all boundaries by chewing, pushing, biting, scratching at, jumping over, through, under anything and everything. It is very entertaining but it also tests our boundaries and sometimes, we end up wanting to strangle him.
They are polar opposites of each other which is why it’s so hard for them to get along but how are you to know this just by seeing them at the pet store cuddling side by side?
Now that we know their personalities, we’ve pretty much realised that you can’t force them to be together if they don’t like each other.
We’re also struggling with the decision to let one go and replace him with a female. How do you choose? They’re pretty much family now and both have good and bad qualities about them.
So instead of choosing between them, I dream that one day they can meet their life partners and I daydream that maybe if they had partners, they’d be kinder to each other and their partners would help dissipate any bad blood between them and they could all actually get along together.
That would however, mean having 4 rabbits… like I didn’t have enough work as it is!! For that we need a bigger place. Ahhh… nothing like kids/furbabies to get you taking on a larger mortgage hey? It’s either that or choosing between them!
Have you seen that clip where someone offers $100K for people’s dogs? Every single person said no. I feel like this is one of those decisions… hmmm I say I love them but how much do I really love them? LOL