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The Importance of Companions for Rabbits


Rabbits are a social species, and in the wild, live in groups of about 20- 30 extended family members. For our pet rabbits, it is rarely practical to keep them in groups of this size, but there are many welfare benefits for rabbits kept in pairs as companions, or in small groups.

 

Rabbit companions will cuddle together, groom each other (this is called allo-grooming) and play together. This allows them to carry out many of the normal behaviours which they cannot do when living alone. Studies have shown that rabbits living in contact with another rabbit have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and are likely to be healthier, as high levels of cortisol can increase the risk of getting many illnesses. Loneliness in single rabbits can cause behavioural problems such as chewing cages, over grooming and constant burrowing when outside.

 

The most successful bonded companions are usually a male and female rabbit. This of course means that they should be neutered to avoid unwanted litters. Neutering of both male and female rabbits has health benefits, particularly for females to avoid the high risk of womb (uterine) cancer which can occur in unspeyed females from age 2 years and older. At Abbey House, we regularly neuter both male and female rabbits. Please contact us to discuss the procedures if you are interested.

 

Pairs of male rabbits can be bonded, but must be together from a young age, and be neutered by 5-6 months old to avoid them fighting which can result in serious injuries.

 

Pairs of female rabbits can also be bonded. Again, best successes are with rabbits who have been together since young, and should be neutered by approximately 10 months of age.

 

Please do not keep rabbits and Guinea pigs together, as rabbits will often bully Guinea pigs.

 

The size of rabbits kept together as pairs does not really matter, and neither does their age, although it may be quite tiring for an elderly bunny to have a very young rabbit companion. Don't forget to provide plenty of room for any rabbit to run around and exercise.

 

Watching rabbit companions at play is very entertaining, and there is a lot of pleasure in seeing rabbits enjoying the company of their companion. 

 

  


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