Having rabbits as pets is a relatively new phenomenon in my country. They started to become popular about three or four years ago in Slovakia. But there is a lack of literature on rabbit behavior and rabbits in general in our market.
When I decided to adopt a mate for my first rabbit I didn’t think much about it. Neither rabbit was used to being in a cage so I used a big enclosure to separate them, with the male inside and the female outside. I found out that conditions for them must be the same for a proper introduction – both needed neutral territory. So I tried this very simple method: One rabbit was in a bedroom, with the other one in the living room. I put a small mesh fence between these rooms.
The space was new for both of them. At first they explored surroundings and weren’t very interested in each other. Later, when they thought I wasn’t watching them, they started to come to the fence and smell “the enemy.” They couldn’t reach each other so it was safe for both. After a couple of hours, the female didn’t want to return to her room.
The next days I repeated it. I couldn’t put them together because I had to wait after the male was neutered. They were affectione to each other, though. They “kissed” through the mesh fence. It was really difficult to persuade the female to leave the area with me.
They had known each other one week when I allowed them to meet without a fence. I was a bit worried, because the male had been aggressive to me. So I was afraid he might be aggressive to the female, too. But everything was all right. The first two weeks they ran together throughout the night in both rooms, jumping to and from a sofa and table (I thought that my neighbors would knock on my door to stop the noise!).
I also used this method with another three pairs – each time, a male with a female. We were successful. One of these pairs was a very nice adult male and a very young one-eyed female (I had rescued them both about the same time). The eye problem was painful, so she was uneasy and tired very quickly. Once again I had a mesh fence between two rooms, and I let them get to know each other for about two weeks.
When I was with them they didn’t show any interest in each other but when I left they immediately wanted to get under the fence. I saw affection and love grow between them. When I let them share the same spaces, I saw the female wasn’t as content as she first seemed. She was weak and couldn’t keep up with the male. She protested very loudly and was a bit aggressive to him when he tried to be dominant.
So I supervised them. Every day, after a short time together, I separated them with the fence. Later we had the female’s bad eye surgically removed. As she healed, she grew up and became stronger. A couple of days after surgery she fully enjoyed the company of her mate. They now display common loving behavior like grooming and snuggling.
by Ms. Evka Vašková, Slovakia, Europe