The Myth of Bunny Mateship

The Myth of Bunny Mateship
The Myth of Bunny Mateship By Susan Batho

Single parent guilt has a lot to answer for: in a one bunny family, the question inevitably is asked, should we get Fluffy a nice little companion? Working all day, are we neglecting our pet and can we assuage these uncomfortable feelings of guilt with another cute little bunny?

In a word, no.

Whilst people have visions of buns playfully interacting with each other, rabbit breeders have a more realistic vision of torn ears, split lips, and bitten noses… if you are lucky. More than once I have had to demote a show bunny because his beautiful lop ears are now in strips, or they had to sport a staple in their lip to hold it on long enough to heal. Their once beautiful faces would make Lon Chaney wince by the time you have had them stitched, and treated – boys and girls alike. And that was just because they had accidentally managed to get into the same space at the same time.

The Myth of Bunny Mateship
After all the best companion for your bunny is you...

And you know that in a two child, one bunny family, they will only want to outlay for one hutch and expect the second bunny to move in and be the perfect companion to the one who has already staked claim to that space. Or they will buy two kittens and expect them to remain the same doting siblings even when they reach the dreaded teenager stage. Instead of grooming each other nicely, suddenly the hair on one will thin and disappear as the grooming becomes more and more aggressive. In the eyes of the groomer you can see “I will groom you into submission”, and the groomee: “Please, stop, I give in already.”

Or worse yet, a six months later they are brought to you as being “immoral”. Don’t laugh, I’ve had it happen, honestly! I was presented with an exhausted doe in a box with three day old babies, and with some four week old babies still suckling as well. The buck was in a cardboard box, having been banished for his bad behaviour. These grandparents had brought a brother and sister bunny for their grandchildren from a breeder, and the bunnies had been “disgusting” and procreated. I wondered how these two had managed to procreate themselves at the time and found it sad that they had. So I took back the naughty bunnies, desexed them and let them live happy, single lives with someone else.

Kittens can’t help but grow up. The balls of fluff go through what breeders describe as “fugglies” (use your imagination…) and hormones race through their veins and the sweetest babies suddenly get evil – kind of like your kids at that age. If they don’t actually come to blows (which is the norm), you have to watch for things like one lying in the food bowl, not allowing the second one to feed and they can start wasting away before you even realize it: its time to separate them.

But of course you have the exceptions. I’ve have netherland does living together happily, making one very large nest between the two of them and depositing their babies in it. I was away for a month overseas and had forgotten to split up my little nethies… the three of them: A lovely himi boy and two black girls. And when I came home, I found that they had all done what comes naturally. And I was blessed with some bubs… unfortunately, when one doe had cooked her bubs and had them in the giant nest (see mum disappear behind the sides of it…), the other had hers the next morning… too early, and only one of the premi ones survived. Still they happily shared the feeding and the bubs were little round butterballs until I slid in a couple of minirex bubs to help out. The lesson here, of course, was that three bunnies was one to many. I’ve even had two rex sisters do exactly the same thing, however, in that case even though the babies belonged to both, one was chased away and the other took on the feeding and care and the other became the nervous aunt. After that, I had to split them up.

The Myth of Bunny Mateship

I have re-homed older males to live together, but it took work to “bond” them. They were first de-sexed – after all I was re-homing not supplying for backyard breeding – then I kept in very cramp quarters. There’s wasn’t a lot of room to pick a fight with your neighbour, and like prisoners of war, they found a reluctant but firm bond against their conditions. Sometimes, after being weaned into larger quarters they would establish their pecking order, but with minimal interference, and sometimes a brief return to the cramped quarters, they would eventually live together in armed truce. But have to be watched for over-grooming as a form of passive aggression. Yes, even bunnies can be passively aggressive – and I thought they had learnt it from me at the time.

Another pairing that works is letting the old folk play for the rest of their natural lives. I get the buck de-sexed, and even when he isn’t inclined, she will make sure he earns his supper, if you know what I mean. Eventually, the both run out of oomph and live the life of Darby and Joan quite happily in the backyard.

So we know that older bunnies can be convinced that they can live together but it doesn’t help when the family turns up asking either for a companion for Fluffy or for two little nice girl bunnies. (Ha!) I try my best to talk them out of it. After all the best companion for your bunny is you. And the best way to establish a real bond with your bunny is as simple as taking it home, and watching television with it on your lap, or next to you, and if you both fall asleep and wake up together, your bunny is your friend for life. And with toys to entertain them – simple roller cat toys with bells in them, toilet rolls with hay inside them, bits off carrots and apples threaded along almost out of reach. But the best fun for your bunny is you!

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