We couldnâ€™t cover Rabbit Awareness Weekâ€™s Behaviours topic without talking about the most important rabbit behaviour: companionship! Is your rabbit lonely? Left alone all day? Even if they have your company all day, is human company enough?
The PDSA Animal Welfare Report 2011 published earlier this year highlights that 67% of rabbit owners report that their rabbit lives alone. (Perhaps as worrying two-thirds of those who keep rabbit pairs have not bothered to have their rabbits neutered!). By PDSAâ€™s calculations this means thereâ€™s over 1.1 million rabbits craving a buddy!
Petplan, the UKâ€™s largest pet insurer, also conducted a â€œPet Census 2011â€. They report that 56% of pet owners are not worried about leaving their pets alone (and interestingly that women are more guilty of this than men!). Hereâ€™s the sting though, as 53% of respondents recognised that their pets showed signs of anxiety, anger, depression and/or loneliness.
Picture yourself in the situation: 10 long years, living in the tiniest flat and cramped or perhaps in the luxury of a massive manor with all the space in the world, but no one to share it with? Nothing! No contact with another human beingâ€¦.ever. Perhaps you have company, but itâ€™s not your own kind. Think on that stereotypical â€œCrazy Cat Ladyâ€ who gets ridiculed by society as being all alone with only her cats for company. Itâ€™s the same for your rabbit â€“ without company of another rabbit (or rabbits) its just not quite the same.
Thereâ€™s a bit of a myth out there that rabbits donâ€™t get on well with each other, and that itâ€™s difficult to bond them. Thereâ€™s an element of truth in that, which is largely down to territorial behaviours, lack of space, exercise or stimulation. However, if you ensure all your rabbits are neutered and learn a few tricks it can be very easy.
We were recently contacted by a couple of families who were tricked by the myth as a result of what I can only call vicious rumour!
The first is a lady with a male neutered rabbit who lives with her in her flat as a house rabbit. They get on well and her little guy gets lots of attention for his owner. However, she started to notice he was getting bored, and despite having her for company she could see he was still a little lonely. She had arranged to adopt a female rabbit from a local Scottish SPCA centre, and had visited her local pet store to get in some provisions. The store knew her well and they were chatting about her new addition. The store assistant replied, â€œWhat did you do that for, your rabbit will kill her!â€. Thankfully, in a panic, she got straight on to the phone with us and we soon set her mind at ease. She was absolutely doing the right thing, and her rabbit was craving company.
The second case was another family. They first of all contacted us asking about the possibility of adopting two females from us. I have to admit I got excited at the prospect of rehoming some of our girls, as things seem to have hit a bit of a lull just now, but on hearing more of their story I realised thatâ€™s not what they needed. They had rescued two males, separately, over the course of the last year. Both males were neutered, but were being kept separately just now as an initial bonding attempt hadnâ€™t gone brilliantly and the family had been told by â€œrumourâ€ that they wouldnâ€™t be able to bond two males together. Recognising that their rabbits were missing company they assumed theyâ€™d need to grow their bunny family and keep two separate male-female bonded pairs.
Now, I have to admit it is always a little harder to bond two males together, and this will only ever work when both males are neutered! However, we visited the family and carried out an initial bonding session and talked them through the behaviours and the tricks. The initial session went very well, and Iâ€™m told subsequent sessions continue to go well. Hopefully within a short space of time the two boys will be living together quite happily.
If you have a lonely bunny, please give it some careful thought. If you can, think about investing in a bunny-buddy for them. We have a fair few rabbits on our list, and can help you with bonding them too, so there really isnâ€™t anything to worry about. When you see two rabbits bonded together, youâ€™ll see natural companionship like youâ€™ve never seen it before. Watch your rabbit finally display all those wonderful behaviours youâ€™ve heard is enthuse about.
To emphasise my point, hereâ€™s a video I found on YouTube. Bonded Pair. Happy together. Grooming each other. Both male!