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Thread: Two female rabbits fighting - please comment

  1. #1

    Default Two female rabbits fighting - please comment

    Hello all you bunny lovers,

    I have a question about two female rabbits fighting.

    To give you a bit of background, they are c. 2 and 1.5 years old rescue bunnies who I've had for a over a year now. When I got them, Pulla, the dominant one, was fully grown and Hippu was still growing up. Apparently coming originally from the same household, they were already friends together. In my apartment, they live free range in the living froom, with a daily access to the balcony.

    Last spring they began fighting. Hippu, who was then a teenager, began challenging Pulla's dominance by "humping" her agressively, to which Pulla responded by chasing Hippu around the house and humping her back. I separated the bunnies in different rooms, and got them spayed. After the operations, which went well, I kept the bunnies separated for another week or so, following the vet's guidance. I bonded them again in my bedroom, which at that point had no smell of either rabbit. They became friends again, and had no problems whatsoever for the whole summer.

    Just recently, in the last 4 weeks or so, the bunnies have begun fighting again, every day. A pattern similar to the one before spaying repeats. Hippu is challenging Pulla's leadership, it seems. It often starts from request for grooming: Pulla puts her head down in front of Hippu to order her to groom her, and Hippu licks her a bit, then runs away. This gets Pulla annoyed, and she starts chasing Hippu around the house. Another example: the bunnies have a shared bed and it has a roof. Especially Pulla seems to like to sit there on the roof, as the Queen of the Hill. Sometimes Hippu jumps there, when Pulla's not around. When Pulla sees this, she jumps on the roof and agressively humps Hippu, and occasionally chews a chunk of hair from Hippu's neck.

    What could be the reason for this kind of behaviour? Boredom? Challenging dominance? And then, what can I do to make the situation better? Get them to do other things as much as possible? Or is it just normal daily bunny life?

    I would appreciate any comments you might have.

    Lots of bunny hugs to all,
    Silli

  2. #2
    Wise Old Thumper
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    hmm. i'm sure people will come along who can offer advice. i'll just say 'welcome' and i hope you find help.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by happybun View Post
    hmm. i'm sure people will come along who can offer advice. i'll just say 'welcome' and i hope you find help.
    Thanks happybun for the welcome and yes hopefully someone can help :-)

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    Mama Doe RogerRabbit999's Avatar
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    Well, on a positive note they are both spayed and they sound like they have enough space as well if they are free-range. You said though that they share a bed and I know bunnies rarely like sharing things, so I would buy another bed to start with. Ideally, bunnies seem better bonded with one of each sex. I know there are many bunnies of the same sex bonded and that are very close, but you always run the risk of these flare ups and so I would be reluctant to try same sex bondings myself, and you do seem to have with these two, one of them always trying to get the upper hand. If I were in your situation, I would actually introduce a neutered male to difuse the situation, as I have known many trios of this combination work very well, especially if 2 females have not been getting on. If you don't feel that this is something you can do I personally feel you have no choice but to seperate them and you may have to rehome one and then rebond the other with a male. I know this sounds terrible but I would be too worried about one or both of your bunnies being badly injured, and if you get the chance to look through some of the bigger rescues, you will see many more female bunnies being split up and rehomed because of fighting, then you do males, and sadly this does seem to happen a lot. I'm sure you don't want to loose one of your buns, and so really hope that you are able to introduce a male, and I am sure you will see your 2 females soon getting along how you would like them too.

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    Wise Old Thumper Elena's Avatar
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    I would look into reducing their space, ie, going back to bonding basics. It sounds like the change in daylight hours is affecting them, it's quite common for them to scuffle in spring due to 'spring fever' ie, breeding season, they can breed all year round but it happens more in summer. I would even possibly take them out for a while and neutralise the room and contents with half white vinegar/water in a spray bottle.

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    I agree with Roger but do the rabbits lie together at all. I had to separate bonded sisters (neutered) for this kind of thing and paired them off with boys. They also lived with a male but that wasn't enough. The male has to be dominant to keep both girls in check and he wasn't. Have you tried shouting at them to reinforce your dominance so to speak. Hope you get it sorted.

  7. #7

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    Thank you all for your helpful comments!

    Tonibun, yes the rabbits do lie together, and most of the time spend time next to each other, even grooming peacefully at least a couple of times a day. However, I think there's an increase in these short flare ups and I'm worried that they will begin to get worse like Roger was writing.

    Roger, you mentioned buying a new bed is an option. I wanted to ask how do you make sure that the rabbits know their "own" beds? Can I somehow reinforce this? Or will they use both at times anyhow? Or even placing them in different rooms and closing the door overnight? Also, what do you think about litter boxes? Should I have two? Somewhere I've read that they should share one box. And food's another thing: this far I've always given one chunk of vegetables for both to share, which results as Pulla sitting on the food so that Hippu can only take some bits and pieces from underneath. Hippu then eats Pulla's "left overs" (which is plenty). Is it normal?

    Elena your vinegar tip sounds fantastic I'll try it, too. Both rabbits are always licking all surfaces in the room, apparently to mark it as their own, and I think trying to remove some of these smells could work.

    Like Tonibun was saying, maybe I should somehow show my dominance over the rabbits... How do you do it? The problem here is that I didn't get them when they were babies… Pulla loves being groomed and likes people, but Hippu is very shy and doesn't like being petted that much even though she's slowly getting better. Maybe it's worth mentioning that they never lick me, and I've read is sometimes a sign of not being the boss. Difficult to read a rabbit's mind…

    Again, please keep those comments coming, they're really useful!!! :-)
    Last edited by silli; 13-11-2012 at 10:25 AM.

  8. #8

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    Also Roger, thanks for the tip about introducing a male - if nothing else works I'll need to consider this option.

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    Wise Old Thumper Aly&Poppy<3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by silli View Post
    Also Roger, thanks for the tip about introducing a male - if nothing else works I'll need to consider this option.
    What would happen if they all fall out then? Could you accommodate 3 single buns? And then find friends for them individually?

    Perhaps a rescue could help out? A neutral area where neither of them have been and start from scratch. I wouldn't consider another bun unless they were being separated and having their own husbun. A male won't necessarily be the dominant one In my male/female pair, it's the female who's boss!

    Rabbits won't listen to you so trying to be dominant won't work Have you tried taking them on a car ride in their carrier? Don't know if that will help but that's what people do when bonding.

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    Mama Doe RogerRabbit999's Avatar
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    With regards to the beds, they don't need to have their own beds as such, it is more about there being 2 beds so that they can both have a bed to lie on, and it hopefully stopping one of the fallouts. I do feel that the vinegar idea may be a waste of time, as all that will happen as soon as you have spent ages wiping everything down, is that your buns will go round chinning everywhere to put their own scents back on everything. Please don't shout at your bunnies as you will only scare and upset them, and I think it is unrealistic to expect them to think 'crikey she's the boss, we better get along better' as it won't happen, bunnies really don't think like that, and the more you scare and upset them, the more likely they are to fall out more. Rabbits only seem to think about their own kind with regards who is the boss etc, and let's not forget we are only here to be their slaves and do everything we can to make them happy!! Yes, I forgot to say about male rabbit needing to be a fairly bossy one, as that would work with showing your buns who is boss, and I really do think would help them get along a lot better. Because of the risk of a big fall out and possible serious injury, I really would separate your buns when you are not home with them, so that you at least have peace of mind while you are out, that nothing really bad can happen. With regards the feeding I think you really need to nip this in the bud straight away and feed them separately, or sit with them and have 2 piles and make them stick with their own one, as food is probably the highlight of bunny's day, and that could possibly be causing a lot of bad feeling with the one sitting on it and only leaving left overs for the other. That kind of unacceptable behaviour can be dealt with quietly, and if you allow the one to dominate the other at meal times, I really do think your problems are going to get worse over time. With regards litter trays, I'm sure that just the one is fine. I don't know how much time you have to spend on your buns each day, but this wouldn't take long anyway, and it sounds as though you really do care about them, and put a lot of time into them anyway, but I have had a lot of success with grumpy buns with clicker training them. It provides valuable mental stimulation and gives them something to think about, and I have yet to meet a bunny that doesn't enjoy it, as when you think about it, what bunny wouldn't enjoy some fun things to do, time with their carer, and on top of that, to get treats for it as well. As soon as they have made the connection between the click and the treat (healthy of course) you are on the road to success, and I have found that just as fall-outs were about to occur, a click and a treat provides a distraction to a fight, and it could be about with your 2, just breaking the cycle.

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