While it used to be normal for pet shops to sell single rabbits and for owners to keep rabbits on their own, we are now moving away from this practice. Rabbits are commonly being sold in pairs while owners are understanding the importance of providing their bunny with companionship.
Though it is, of course, possible for rabbits to be kept alone, this should be done only under specific circumstances. Rabbits are a social and intelligent species and they greatly benefit from the presence of a companion of their own kind. However, there are occasions when this isn’t possible, for whatever reason. If this is the case, owners need to work hard to interact with their bun frequently. It’s of paramount importance to be able to read their body language and to learn how to handle them appropriately (especially when children are involved). It is also more critical than ever that their environment is full of enrichment opportunities. This can include toys, tunnels, a large hutch, hiding places, fresh grass for grazing etc.
Benefits of rabbit companionship
Rabbits have been living in social groups for centuries and this is something that is deeply ingrained in them. They simply have a natural urge to be with their own kind. The benefits of having a companion or two are vast and include reduced risk of boredom and depression and a reduced likelihood of rabbits developing vices and bad habits. It is even thought to contribute to better overall health and longevity.
Some think that other species such as guinea pigs and dogs can make suitable companionship for rabbits. While they may get along well in some circumstances, another species is not an appropriate substitute for one of their own kind. There are several reasons why, for example, a guinea pig is not a suitable companion for a rabbit, including different dietary requirements, the risk of bullying and the fact that rabbits may carry bacteria that mat be harmful to guinea pigs. Similarly, while a rabbit may be seen to get on with another animal such as a dog, they must always be supervised, as injuries such as bite wounds are not uncommon.
The perfect pairing
Not every rabbit will get along and only certain bunnies should be housed together. Probably the best way is to raise rabbits together from birth and rehome them together; a method which limits the risk of fighting or bullying. However, as long as rabbits are introduced before the age of about 3 or 4 months, they should bond well.
The perfect pair would be a male and female. Remembering though that at least one must be neutered (and ideally both) to prevent babies. As mentioned, neutering is strongly advised for both males and females to prevent future health issues. Other options include two females or two males who are neutered. Those from the same litter, as a rule of thumb, get on best. They tend to create the least conflict between each other. For more information on introducing rabbits safely >
Unsurprisingly, two rabbits need more space and resources than one and it is important to ensure their environment is big enough to prevent squabbles. It is also key that they have ‘hiding places’ where they can go to get some alone time if needed.