How to Know Your Rabbits are Bonded (and how to move them in together)

Bringing home a new rabbit roommate for your beloved bunny is a big move! Bonding two rabbits takes time, patience and skill. But the payoff is a lifetime of companionship and fun for your formerly solo pet. This complete guide covers everything you need to know about successfully bonding rabbits, from identifying cues they’re truly bonded to slowly moving them in together. You’ll learn techniques for reinforcing their relationship through occasional tiffs and squabbles on their lifelong journey as a pair. Follow these tips and soon your rabbits will be snuggling happily as bonded best friends!

How to know your rabbits are bonded

Knowing if your rabbits are truly bonded can be tricky. Bonding rabbits takes time, patience and observation. Here are some signs that your rabbits have formed a strong bond:

  • They regularly groom each other. You'll notice your rabbits licking each other's heads and bodies. This social grooming strengthens their bond.
  • They sleep close together or cuddled up. Bonded rabbits feel safest and most content when touching or snuggling their mate.
  • They play together. You may see binkying, zooming around together, gentle chasing, and other frolicking. Play is a sign of happiness.
  • They eat side-by-side. Bonded rabbits will comfortably eat together. There's no food aggression or attempts to push the other away.
  • One follows the other voluntarily. Bonded rabbits often move around together, without one rabbit running away or trying to get space.
  • They come to each other for comfort. A bonded pair will seek each other out if they feel scared or unsure.
  • They share toys and space without issue. Items and areas are "ours" not "mine". There's no resource guarding.
  • There's mutual grooming. It's not just one rabbit grooming the other, it goes both ways.
  • There are very few spats or fights. Bonded rabbits have the occasional tiff but serious fights are rare.
  • They display affectionate behaviors like honking, tooth purring or circling. These show positive feelings between the rabbits.

The most telling sign is the rabbits choosing to be close to each other because they enjoy it, not because they have to. Wherever one goes, the other follows. They take comfort in each other's presence. That voluntary companionship indicates a real pair bond.

Behaviors of bonded rabbits

When rabbits are happily bonded, you'll observe some consistent behaviors between the pair:

  • Nuzzling noses
  • Laying together
  • Grooming each other
  • Sharing food
  • Playing together (e.g. binkying, chasing)
  • Sitting side-by-side
  • Following each other around
  • Sleeping curled up together
  • One bunny comforting the other if scared/unsure
  • Affectionate behaviors like honking, tooth-purring
  • Sharing toys without possessiveness
  • Eating together with no food aggression
  • Gentle nipping or mounting (for dominance)
  • Occasional circling or chasing (to reinforce bonds)

You'll notice both rabbits regularly initiating affection, seeking each other out, and displaying protective behaviors over their mate. There will be mutual grooming versus just one rabbit grooming the other.

Bonded rabbits also "share" their owners for pets, treats and attention. Rather than competing for your focus, they are comfortable being petted together. This shows their closeness has created a sense of "ours" rather than "mine".

Of course every bond is unique. But in general, a bonded pair enjoys physical closeness and mutual grooming while also respecting each other's individuality. Ongoing affection, play and companionship indicate rabbits who have formed a lasting relationship.

The test: 48 hours together in a neutral space

To confirm your rabbits are 100% bonded, do "the test". This involves housing the rabbits together in a neutral space for 48 straight hours.

A neutral space means new territory neither rabbit has lived in before. This could be a pen in a different room, a blocked off section of your home, or even a friend's house. The key is the space can't be part of either rabbit's existing home territory.

Why 48 hours? Rabbits require substantial time together to work out any lingering hierarchy or territory issues. Less than 2 days may not reveal underlying problems in their relationship.

During this 48 hour period, observe your rabbits closely. Look for signs of bonding like mutual grooming, sitting together, sharing space contentedly. Also watch for odd behaviors like unusual aggression, avoiding each other, mounting or nipping.

Ideally at the end of the 48 hours, your rabbits should be snuggled up happily together. They feel secure in each other's presence. The new space feels like "theirs" now vs. being "his" or "hers" alone.

If you still see territoriality, lots of nipping or chasing, or one bunny avoiding the other, it means your bond needs more reinforcement. Go back to earlier bonding tactics before trying shared space again.

But if your rabbits pass the 48 hour test with lots of affection and companionship, congratulations! Your rabbits are fully bonded.

How to clean your rabbit's territorial space

Before moving bonded rabbits in together, you need to thoroughly clean their existing enclosures. This removes all territorial scents and lets you create neutral shared space.

Here's how to scrub away territorial smells:

  • Toss out all old toys, blankets, litterboxes, food bowls, etc. Anything absorbent needs to go.
  • Use white vinegar or enzymatic cleaner to wash down all surfaces.
  • Pay extra attention to corners and baseboards where scent accumulates.
  • Clean the walls up to your rabbits' height since they scent mark higher than you'd expect.
  • Wash any solid surfaces like wood, plastic, metal.
  • Remove and replace any carpet or fabric flooring.
  • Air out the space to let all smells dissipate fully.
  • Neutralize odors with an air purifier.
  • Once fully dry, spray with diluted vinegar again.

The goal is to completely eliminate all familiar scents from their prior enclosures. When rabbits move in, it should smell foreign to both of them. This prevents "this is MY space!" territorial behavior.

Some additional tips:

  • Use new litterboxes, bowls, toys so they smell neutral.

  • Rearrange pens so the layout feels new.

  • Switch out old bedding for fresh piles of hay.

Thoroughly removing all scents helps the rabbits accept new shared space as belonging to both of them, not one bunny or the other.

How to clean your rabbit's scent

In addition to cleaning your rabbits' enclosures, you also need to clean your rabbits! This removes their individual scent so they smell neutral when put together.

Here are tips for removing a rabbit's personal scent:

  • Brush your rabbit with a slicker brush to remove loose fur.
  • Give your rabbit a dry bath using waterless shampoo and unscented baby wipes.
  • Spray your rabbit's bottom with diluted vinegar to neutralize caecotroph smells.
  • Gently wipe inside ears with unscented baby wipes to remove grease and dirt.
  • Trim nails so there is less scent residue from scratching.
  • Use a damp rag to wipe feet, legs, underside.
  • Spot clean any stains around nose, mouth, genitals.
  • Finish by brushing again to fluff up cleaned fur.

Aim to reduce your rabbit's individual scent as much as possible without stressing them out. The goal isn't to make them smell "clean" per se, just more neutral.

This scrub down before bonding helps prevent territorial behavior kicked off by "You smell funny to me!" reactions. Starting fresh reduces potential conflict.

Rearrange the room

When rabbits first move in together, you want to create a neutral shared space. The best way is rearranging their existing room to feel new.

Here are some tips:

  • Move pens or cages into a different layout.
  • Rotate the setup 90 or 180 degrees.
  • Switch out old toys and bowls for new ones.
  • Add new structural elements like cardboard boxes, tunnels.
  • Use different bedding like blankets or mats in a new place.
  • Rearrange furniture and hideouts to alter the environment.
  • Swap which rabbits go in which pens if switching between bonding sessions.

The more you can modify the territory to feel unfamiliar, the better. Neither rabbit will see it as their sole space.

As they explore together, they will create joint ownership of the new set up. The more neutral and changed the area is, the easier this is.

Slowly over time you can incorporate familiar items back in. But initially it's ideal to have 100% new shared territory.

How to move your rabbits in together after they are bonded

Once your rabbits are fully bonded, it's time to officially move them in together! This is an exciting milestone. Here are tips for a smooth transition:

  • Start the rabbits in a neutral space first, like a freshly cleaned pen.
  • Gradually open up more shared areas over 2-3 weeks.
  • Keep the rabbits together 24/7 from the start. No separating them back into solo spaces.
  • Try "swap sessions" where rabbits switch pens daily so no single bunny claims space.
  • Observe them together closely the first 2 weeks for any tension.
  • Let them work out hierarchy issues on their own unless serious fighting erupts.
  • Add in familiar items slowly if the rabbits are getting along well.
  • Be patient! Adjusting to a new roommate takes time.

Moving in together is exciting but also incredibly stressful for rabbits. Go slow with introductions to shared space. Give your rabbits time to settle in together.

With patience and proper precautions, your bonded rabbits will transition smoothly into forever roommates.

Start small and slowly open up more space

When first moving bonded rabbits in together, start small. Begin with a single pen or enclosed puppy playpen area. Keep the pair contained during initial move-in time.

After 1-2 weeks with no issues, start granting them access to more of the room, bit by bit. Open the pen door but keep baby gates up temporarily.

After another week of smooth cohabitation, remove baby gates so they can access the whole room. Continue gradually expanding shared territory.

If you notice tension, move too fast, or give them free run right away, problems may erupt. Territorial behavior could reemerge.

By starting in a small neutral space and slowly expanding, you give your rabbits time to adjust. Removing barriers gradually helps ease the transition to permanent togetherness.

What to expect from a bonded pair of rabbits

Bringing home a new rabbit roommate is a huge change. Here's what to expect when your previously solo bunny gains a bonded partner:

  • Personality changes as they focus on each other, not just you.
  • Less human attention seeking initially.
  • Territorial behaviors like lunging, biting, chasing until hierarchy is set.
  • Nipping and mounting as they work out dominant rabbit.
  • Some chasing/honking as they re-confirm bonds.
  • Occasional scuffles settling space ownership.
  • Marking territory with chin rubbing, urine, droppings.
  • Guarding you, food, toys from the new roommate.
  • Gradual mellowing as the rabbits bond tighter.
  • Affectionate behaviors replacing territorial ones.
  • Less boredom and more fun with a friend!

Remember this settling in period is temporary. With time, patience and proper bonding technique, your rabbits will transition to happy forever partners.

Expect occasional disagreements

It's normal for newly bonded rabbits to have the occasional spat. We're talking 5-minute tiffs, not all out fights.

Minor scuffles may erupt around:

  • Establishing dominance hierarchy
  • Setting territorial boundaries
  • One rabbit being a bully
  • Space ownership disputes
  • Resource guarding (food, litterbox, toys)
  • Irritability from hormones or shedding
  • Perceived insults during grooming
  • Mistaken identity in dark lighting

As long as spats resolve on their own, it's okay. But repeated serious fighting means reassessing the bond strength. Occasional bickering is normal though as rabbits negotiate shared living.

Keep your rabbits together all the time

Bonded rabbits should live together 24/7. Do not continue separating them into individual pens or spaces.

Splitting up rabbits once bonded can cause:

  • Increased territorial behaviors from being apart
  • Forgotten social skills necessary for positive relationships
  • A regression in bonding progress
  • Fighting upon reunification
  • A breakdown of the pair bond
  • Increased stress from constant change

Rabbits form close attachments to their mates. Frequent separations can fracture the bond you worked so hard to build.

The goal of bonding is lifelong companionship and that requires continuous cohabitation. Keep your rabbits together always for the health of their relationship.

It’s okay if the rabbits aren’t lovebirds

Not all bonded rabbit pairs are extremely affectionate with each other. Some duos prefer sleeping and eating side-by-side versus cuddling constantly.

Lack of cuddling or grooming doesn't necessarily indicate a poor bond. Different rabbits show affection differently.

Signs your pair bond is strong even without cuddling:

  • Choose to be near each other
  • Share space amicably
  • Play together frequently
  • Respect each other’s signals
  • Comfort each other if scared
  • May groom each other during sheds
  • Relaxed, ears up when together
  • No major fighting

So don't worry if your rabbits aren't constantly snuggling. Sitting side by side or hanging out in the same area are signs of companionship too. Not all bonded pairs demonstrate the same outward affection styles.

They may need occasional intervention

Most rabbit pairs can resolve minor spats on their own. But you may need to intervene in some scenarios:

  • Prolonged fighting with no resolution
  • Injuries emerging like bites or scratches
  • Bullying behavior like constant chasing
  • Cornering or pinning the other rabbit
  • One rabbit seeming stressed out or afraid
  • Guarding resources aggressively like food or litter

To intervene:

  • Make loud noises to startle and distract them
  • Spray quarreling rabbits with water
  • Place an object between bickering rabbits
  • Gently pick up and separate rabbits for a cool down

Monitor to ensure dangerous aggression or bullying does not recur. If it continues reassess bonding status. Occasional minor scuffles are expected but fighting should taper off as the bond strengthens over time.

They will need occasional re-bonding

Periodically rabbits may need relationship reinforcement. Signs a re-bond is needed:

  • Frequent bickering over resources
  • Mounting or nipping flares up
  • Reduced affectionate behaviors
  • Spending more time apart
  • Personality changes like more timidity
  • Urine spraying or territorial pooping

To reinforce bonds:

  • Do short positive bonding sessions in a neutral space
  • Remove any resource guarding triggers
  • Try "swap sessions" trading pens daily

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