Rabbit Behaviour: The Importance of Companionship

The importance of companionship to a rabbit cannot be overstated. A solitary rabbit is an unhappy rabbit, it really is as simple as that. Companionship can be provided by us as owners but by far the best scenario is a pair of happy, bonded rabbits.

Why do rabbits need companionship?

In the wild, rabbits live very closely in a network of burrows called a warren. Within this warren this is a strict pecking order, with one male and one female at the top of the tree. Beneath this are many more mated pairs, youngsters who haven’t yet made a mating pair and outsiders who are unable to find a mate. Rabbits rely on each other to keep an eye out for predators and warn of danger. They also groom each other, sleep close together and forage together.

This behaviour is still relevant to domestic rabbits, with the best pairing being neutered male and spayed female i.e. a “mated pair”.

Why boy / girl is best

For rabbits, sex is the cause of most arguments. Therefore, neutering / spaying has a huge effect on rabbits’ behaviour, calming them down and removing the driving force that causes males to fight and females to be territorial. However, male/male and female/female pairings are still more difficult than male/female. In this way, rabbits stay true to their roots and how they would live in the wild by wanting to be in a “couple”. A male/female bonded pair can be likened to a happily married couple, with the bond growing deeper year by year. Bonded rabbits feel grief and will mourn the loss of their partner; luckily, they usually accept a new partner readily.

Companionship from other sources

Solitary house rabbits can bond very well with their human owners. They may follow them around, “groom” them, even sleep in their bed with them. This is sufficient companionship for the rabbit but there is always the problem of what happens when the human has to go away. Rabbits often pine for their companions with a resultant loss of appetite; something which is very dangerous in rabbits and can lead to death.

Rabbits can also bond with cats or dogs although this is more rare and depends a great deal on the nature of the cat / dog. In many cases, the rabbit becomes the “boss”, taking a superior position over the cat or dog. However, nature dictates that cats and dogs are predators and rabbits are prey so no relationship can ever be entirely safe.

Rabbits have traditionally been kept with guinea pigs for companionship but rabbits tend to bully guinea pigs and they do not make good companions for each other.

In summary, rabbits are gregarious animals and companionship from another rabbit, or their human owners, is vital to their emotional wellbeing.

Copyright 2011 Hannah Davis / Bunnyhugga.com All Rights Reserved

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