Add two rabbits. Stir. Garnish with basil. (ch. 2)
Firstly, humongous apologies for making you wait so long for a sequel. I was on vacation, you see. It was awesome. It so awesome that I got pharyngitis and couldn’t think straight for two weeks.
Since I’ve been gone, you may have noticed a small change. I would like to officially (and belatedly) welcome DKM to the SaveABunny Blog as our second contributor. She has astonishingly good timing, as it turns out, and I hope she will continue to make me feel less guilty for infrequent blogging for a very long time.
But back to business.
As you may or may not remember (it was awhile ago, I know) I acquired my second bunny, Linda Maureen, outside a whole foods one day in a cardboard box.
I brought her home and dropped her in the bathroom with some hay. I was excited to introduce her to my first rabbit, Ellis. I was hoping they would fall instantly in love and that I would be able to leave them alone together when I left town in a couple weeks. Why not hope, right?
Now, rabbit bonding isn’t really a straightforward, one-step process. It can take weeks – months even. Every rabbit is different, and every rabbit couple has different dynamics. I’m excited to share some first-hand experience but in addition, you should check out the official bonding guide recommended by SaveABunny. I didn’t exactly follow it. I tried though.
The first thing I did wrong was completely throw any modicum of patience I had out the window. Linda had been out of her box huddled in the bathroom corner for about five minutes before I decided to bring in Ellis and see what he thought of her.
What’s wrong with this idea?
1. Who knows what kind of weird diseases she might have been carrying around. Sure, she looked extremely healthy and was definitely still less than a year old, but what if she’d had something? Then Ellis would have gotten it, and then I would have two sick bunnies. I should have kept her quarantined until her vet visit that weekend. I did, at least, give her a good once-over to make sure there was nothing obviously wrong with her. And to make sure she actually was a girl. But I recommend a full quarantine. Better safe than sorry.
2. She had just come from a cardboard box, and before that a house with four kids in it, and before that, a school with who knows how many kids trying to pick her up and grab her and poke her and who knows what. And before that, I have no idea where she was, but any way you look at it she was traumatized. Then I decided to introduce her to a big scary boy rabbit without so much as warning her first. Ok, well I did warn her, but I don’t think she understood me.
All I had to do was open the bathroom door a nudge, and there was Ellis, just dying with curiosity to meet this sweet-smelling new lady I’d brought home for him. He immediately came up to her, sniffing her out. She retreated even farther into the corner. He started licking her face. She shivered. All seemed to be going well. Ellis was in love at first sight. I don’t blame him, she was a total cutie.
Then he started humping her, which when introducing rabbits, you should expect someone to do. It’s a normal dominance behavior. Please, please make sure at least one of them is fixed first though. (Ellis had been fixed since I got him from SaveABunny. Linda has an appointment next week.)
I let Ellis hump her a little until she started making these adorable little whimpering noises. Any time a rabbit makes a noise it’s bad. Unless they’re purring. Any other time = bad. But it caught me totally off guard how extremely cute her little noises were, which may have made me not take them as seriously as she would have liked me to. But I eventually shooed Ellis off of her and sent him back into the living room.
Now, let me backtrack a little. I chose the bathroom as their first meeting place for two reasons: one being that it was a small space and they couldn’t get into too much trouble in there, and other being that it was the room Ellis had spent the least amount of time in, so it was the most neutral territory. That’s an important thing to have when bonding – neutral territory. It’s in the guide.
Unfortunately Linda couldn’t stay in the bathroom forever, so I partitioned off a space in the living room next to Ellis’. I got her her own litterbox, and gave her some of Ellis’ extra toys that he was kind of bored with anyway, and I gave her a little water bowl and a nice stack of hay. She started to relax. They sniffed at each other through the partion. They laid down next to each other. Things were looking extremely good considering they had only known each other for two hours. Yay!
I let them out to play together the next day. Every time Ellis got close to Linda, she would run away. It was kind of cute. Ok, it was totally cute, they’re bunnies, everything they do is cute, but I could sense Ellis’ frustration. All he wanted to do was prove to her his undying devotion, and she was playing hard to get. Or she was just terrified he would squish her trying to hump her again. I don’t really know what was going on her tiny little little bunny brain. I still never know what goes on in her tiny bunny brain. Women. I don’t understand them. Ellis, I get. Women, not so much.
This continued every time they were together for next three days. After the second day, in fact, Linda had somehow escaped her partitioned area while I was asleep and had shared the living room with Ellis until I found them in the morning, realized what had happened, shrugged, and ditched the partition completely. They hadn’t killed each other so I figured they might as well get used to sharing the space.
This is not an advisable step in the official bonding guide.
They had been so cute, flirting through the bars of the parition before, that I figured eventually she would stop running away from Ellis and they would be bonded in no time. But, like I said, I’m impatient. Tricks were called for.
First, I forced them to share. I put down a big pile of greens and their mutual love of arugula brought them together for a few minutes of communal chewing. Then Linda ran off.
Ellis had some tricks, too. He had started sneaking up on her from behind, and when she was just about to scamper off, he would bite her in the butt. I tried telling him that was no way to impress a lady, and it wasn’t. It just made her more afraid of him, which made her run away more, which made Ellis even more frustrated. I don’t think he really grasped the whole psychology of the situation, though.
He eventually tried a new strategy. Pointedly ignoring her, he walked right by her and then flopped down, with his little feet out to the side, looking in the exact opposite direction from her. Totally smooth. Totally aloof. Except that his ears were following every sound she was making. I gained a new appreciation for his abilities as a slick lady’s man that day. What a move. It almost worked, too. After a few minutes, she slowly, timidly came up behind him and started sniffing, ears and whiskers forward. Then, unable to restrain himself any longer, he whirled around and chased her across the room. Nice one, Ellis.
It was my turn. I had read in the bonding guide that you can trick bunnies into grooming each other by smearing banana on their foreheads. I didn’t have any banana so I used a little piece of tangerine. Then I held them down facing each other. First I gently let Ellis up. He started licking the tangerine off her face with the excitement of a man who had just been given a supermodel covered in chili-cheese fries. Or, um, something else delicious but more attractive. He didn’t stop at the tangerine mark, anyway. He licked her whole face, her cheeks, and behind her ears before I stopped him. Next, I let up Linda. She gingerly licked the little orange mark I’d made on Ellis’ forehead. He squinted. Then I let them go.
About four minutes later, Ellis approached Linda in middle of the living room floor. She didn’t run away. He started licking her face. She let him. He groomed her all over and then finally laid down next to her. She stayed. She didn’t return the favor, and she was kind of huddled up and nervous-looking still, but she let him lay next to her. And I think she liked it.
They were bonded. Four days. How much do I rock??
I feel kind of like I’m cheating you with my bonding story because it was so easy. I mean, they just happened to be soul mates – who knew? Don’t expect it to go this easily. Read the guide. Comment if you have any questions or tips. And most importantly, be patient.
And don’t be afraid to smudge fruit all over your rabbit’s face. It’ll come off. Eventually. I promise.