Re: progress?

David L. Fisher

I know.  One would think I would have used more of that knowledge, huh?  This was rather soon to try any kind of "now you can see each other, but not get at each other" but it did give me an idea of where Monty's "starting point" would be regarding her acceptance of another bunny hopping around.  Believe it or not, I have successfully bonded bunnies before (and Tamari got 3 mates, the last of which was there to see her off when her time came).

Monty's space is a big x-pen in the living room, and the newcomer was outside of that space but still in the living room, which was not the best idea in hindsight.  The newcomer has a pen in the dining room, and there is tile separating them, so Monty won't go up to her pen directly. 

I do sit right there and make sure that both bunnies are safe, and I pay particular attention to Monty's posturing as she is the one who will feel like there's an intruder.  In the past, I've put bunnies in pens adjacent to each other so they can get used to each other, but the layout here doesn't really allow for that.  The kitchen and dining room are connected and probably more of the dining room setup, and the hall has been used by both bunnies, so I don't know what they will consider neutral, but the hallway might work better.  My bedroom isn't a good neutral territory (at least not in my opinion), and the other bedroom is a music room with a LOT of stuff that is vulnerable, and I'd have to carry both bunnies into that room to try bonding.

Funny how much I know about this, and yet how little knowledge I actually demonstrated by letting the newcomer run around in the living room outside Monty's pen.  I'll try another route next time.


On 6/10/2021 12:26 AM, Chris Norlund wrote:
Hi Dave,
You really *need* to only allow them to share a NEUTRAL space together, and not have any access to going behind enemy lines into the other one's space!!  Of course Monty would take extreme offense if an interloper is in his(her?) space.  That was inevitable, and preventable. 
Rabbit Rule # 10 --- "My space!!  Enter at your own risk!!"

Start over.  Re-Boot!!    Create a space that neither one of them has ownership of. Kitchens are usually a good one, and floors are usually not carpeted. Smooth floors even bring an element of equalizing the situation.   I try to give the rabbits **at least**  about 9sq ft/rabbit for a bonding arena.  (and that is a ratio that works for Hoppy Hours too ---- with MANY rabbits having a giant play-date).  Too small of a space, or no where to get away and take a break from the other rabbit can be a recipe for intimidation and trouble.

If it was my rabbits......:
I sit them side by side (SNUGGLY!) between my knees on the floor, and then spend about 30 minutes with them cheek-to-cheek, while I am petting both of them and getting each other's smells on the other one.  They are so close together, and noses facing forward---so there is no opportunity to bite the other one.  That is how their first encounter goes when I am bonding rabbits.  Lots of positive stroking, immersion into each other's space and smells, CALM and very controlled and very equalized, and the threat of a stranger is decreased.

The next step I take is to allow them to sort of face each other (not centered straight-on because of their blind spot), with a decent handful of hay and good sprinkling of cilantro in it in front of them --to share.  Eating together can be a socializing experience, and a positive experience.  The bonding experience MUST be a positive one to progress, and if it becomes aggressive---it needs to be diffused or a diversion, or stop all together.  Sometimes just standing over them loudly saying 'NO' can be enough.  I stand right next to them when they are doing this eating exercise, so I can reach down and subdue any hint of aggression before it can escalate. 

Once they have eaten, and realize that the other rabbit probably isn't going to instantly attack them, they start sniffing and hopping around in the enclosure, and may come closer for a look-sniff at the other one.  Just keep reminding them that YOU are there by your dominant presence. Put on your Hulk-Hogan costume.  There are a lot of things you can do to keep them focusing partly on you, and not each other so much.  It can actually be entertaining if you get creative.   I've experimented with quite a few diversions with interesting successes, and even done public demos of bonding tricks that help to keep things low-drama. 

Those are some of my best basic bonding secrets.   
Set the stage for success:  
*Middle of afternoon during normal naptime is when they tend to be more chill.  
*Make sure they are NOT hungry or thirsty when you start the encounter (hungry rabbits can tend to be more aggressive, and 'hangry'). 
*Have some neutral new 'toys', boxes, 'props' spread out in the bonding arena when they are moving about more freely. 
*Have a very large litterbox that they could share comfortably, with plenty of hay in it. (make sure the litterbox is clean and neutral of urine smells!!)  If you don't have a huge litterbox, or mortar-mixing pan etc---just use a big open-top cardboard box that is short sided like a litterbox. Costco has big produce boxes that the sides can be trimmed down.
* Don't allow yourself to get distracted, or someone could get hurt.  Allow yourself plenty of time to focus on them only.  I don't even have my cell phone within reach. Maybe a bottle of water is all.

  Rabbits are very predictable, and they nearly always do things for a reason.  Understanding and anticipating their behaviors can be a real tool in your favor.  Body language can also be very telling about their next move.  So being fully engaged and not distracted is really important.

Good luck!!  Take your time, don't rush things......

On Wed, Jun 9, 2021 at 7:27 PM David L. Fisher <dlf@...> wrote:
Oops, I may have spoken too soon.  I let the newcomer out again (as I
was writing the last message) and Monty was in her pen, but lunging at
her when she got close, trying to claw and/or bite her.  In fact, Monty
scared her enough that she made a puddle right there, one of the times. 
So... the two bunnies have met, and Monty is still true-to-form about
other bunnies in her home, so we'll see how things go.

I have to go back to MA in July for a wedding, so we have until then to
try a bond, unless the newcomer gets a space at the rescue so she can be
adopted.  Obviously I want what's best for both buns.


On 6/9/2021 9:28 PM, David L. Fisher wrote:
> I let the newcomer out to run around last night, and made sure that
> Monty couldn't get too aggressive (and she seems to be inclined to nip
> through the x-pen fence).  So far, Monty has ignored her enough that I
> think it's a good sign.
> Interestingly, not a single territorial marker (no poop, no pee) from
> her exploring, and also just sitting and calmly grooming herself. 
> Later on, I noticed that Monty went around and licked the carpet
> everywhere the newcomer was - and she also didn't leave any
> territorial markers.
> I know it's early on, but I think this might be a good sign, except
> for the small displays of aggression.  I'm hoping that Monty will get
> used to her sharing the space, and come to accept her.  She is not
> hyper like the other bunnies I had here (which might annoy Monty) -
> she is very mellow, and I'm hoping she'll come out of her shell.  When
> she's in her pen, she invariably is in her hidey box when I'm around
> but will hang out visible and Monty will hang out so she can see her.
> I hope this is an encouraging sign - it would be really nice if Monty
> had a friend, but so far I still can't tell if she lost interest after
> the other rescues that were here.
> Dave


Chris Norlund,
House Rabbit Educator 
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