Should I get my lone rabbit a friend?
Rabbit ownership is soaring in the UK, and they are now the 3rd most popular pet in British households. Rabbits are a lovely addition to the family and have brilliant, friendly qualities that can make them truly special companions.
There was a time when rabbits were thought to be low maintenance animals, resulting in unintentional neglect and lack of attention.
Luckily, in recent years with guidance and education, the care of pet bunnies has improved, and the public are much more aware of their needs and dietary requirements along with their preferred living arrangements, which we will discuss here.
How do rabbits live in the wild?
Rabbits are sociable creatures and live in mixed groups (think Watership Down). They are a prey species so stay in groups to feel safe and maximise alert signals should any predators come their way. The characteristic foot thumping you may have seen a rabbit display is an indication of danger and alerts the other members of the group to run and hide.
To ensure your domestic rabbit is as happy as possible it is advisable to provide your current pet with a chum to live alongside. Alternatively, if you are looking into getting a rabbit for the first time, then starting with two is a sensible option.
Integrating a new rabbit to the family
The cautious prey nature of a rabbit does mean they have a tendency to be territorial. Therefore, it is best to introduce two unfamiliar rabbits on neutral ground so they can suss each other out and not have the stress of guarding their home on top of meeting a stranger!
The most straightforward pairing is a neutered male and neutered female; they are less likely to fight than two individuals of the same sex and they won’t be able to reproduce as long as they have been castrated and spayed. However, the same sex species can live in harmony, but again neutering reduces the dominant nature that often leads to fighting. The initial meet (somewhere other than home) will give you a good idea of how the two will interact.
Should you be able to get two young rabbits from the same litter, this will be the easiest way to ensure the rabbits will get on happily, make sure you discuss sterilisation with your local Goddard surgery ASAP so that they don’t breed and give you an unexpected litter!
Guinea Pigs are often kept as company for our big eared friends, and while this can be a suitable match, there are some things to note; mixing species could add undue stress to either animal’s daily life because they are so different, this might trigger anxiety and aggression. Again, the early introduction of the two is vital to gauge the reaction.
One more point to be aware of is the diet of a guinea pig; unlike rabbits, they cannot make vitamin C so require different food with a specific supplement added. A lack of vitamin C results in scurvy and malnutrition. If you wish to keep a rabbit and guinea pig together, you have to cater for this to allow the best wellbeing for each animal.
Rabbits enjoy being around other rabbits, not only does it make them feel secure and safe, but they also play together which keeps them sane and happy. They groom each other, which is crucial for their health and comfort. They aren’t designed to live in isolation so any assistance you, as an owner, can offer to keep your pet content, will only strengthen your relationship and bond with them. If you have further questions on this topic then do speak to one of our vets or nurses who will be keen to offer advice and in turn, give your bunny the best life possible.