Here’s what I meant to tell you last week…
About a month after we had Peanut and Tater Tot, they started to fight. Not horribly, thank goodness, but they (mainly Peanut) began to exhibit behaviors intended to establish dominance. Again, we were brand new bunny-parents; we had no idea what to expect. But it didn’t take long to realize that this behavior could be dangerous. Tater had to endure a few hours of being picked on before Bunny-Daddy could get out of work and purchase another cage, a plastic bottom one this time (the evolution of our appropriate housing knowledge continues—getting closer this time!). Peanut was moved into his own cage next to Tater and there the boys were situated from January 2012 until last month. Their physical enclosures evolved to individual extra-large dog crates with larger litter boxes as our parental knowledge expanded (thank you Rescue and our FB bunny community). The boys enjoyed a rotating schedule of exercise time in the living room, sharing space and toys but never at the same time.
Plainly, we were scared to put them back together. The last things we wanted were stress, an injury (or worse) because we trusted bad advice from a breeder (see last week’s story—she told us two boys would never be a problem together). As I became more familiar with rabbit interactions I suggested to the Bunny-Daddy that we try to bond them but he was not interested, didn’t want to risk the good thing we had going. It’s rare for two rabbits who are not bonded to be able to share space, exercise areas, and live so closely and do it without incident. In fact, by a few years into our configuration, Peanut would lie outside of Tater’s crate and Tater would try his hardest to groom Peanut through the bars. They would flop in front of each other in such a way that we knew, once the bars were down, snuggling would happen.
Rescue guru, my mentor and friend M put the boys together for a lengthy but ultimately one-off bonding session in February 2014 (I think). They did great but we were still hesitant, to put it lightly (which is a rare tone for me). Our mantra became “When we move, we will bond them.” And we stuck to our word… well, we are sticking to it. It’s a work in progress.
I joke that my bonding method works great—have them live side-by-side for four-plus years, then move. It’s different; it’s fresh. I was a little delusional for the transition, I have to admit. I thought we would put them together the day we moved and poof, hoppily ever after. I had a volunteer/friend/bunny-sitter hired for moving day to be with the boys while I had a million other things to do so she could monitor and keep the peace if necessary. Thankfully a dear friend and fellow bunny-mom talked some sense into me that morning and urged me to ready their separate sleeping quarters, as they would likely need some time to adjust. I was just assuming that they would cuddle right up and never have a problem; she was, rightfully, reminding me that even if they are doing fine together, they might just need their own crates for overnight– thank you D and Hoppy Birthday.
From day one in our new home, the boys have been exercising and lounging together. The first day was picture perfect. The following days, as they got more comfortable, there was a little nipping (that same friend who gave the great advice got the worst nip… sorry Auntie D!). There has been a little chasing, circling but NO fights or bites. I’m peeking over the top of the screen now, one month into our new set up here, watching Peanut chin a willow basket and Tater enjoy some hay in their communal litter box. They still sleep separately and we supervise them when they are together. They are so damn happy to be together. So maybe our bonding method does work… I guess it’s like any other relationship or family situation. Families find each other differently. Families function differently than others; many don’t seem to function at all. I can’t help but smile, from a place deep inside, when I see our beautiful boys in our beautiful living room.
For two people who got two bunnies without too much preparation, life for us and for them could have turned out so, so differently. Most people give up. I can say that for sure because I’m the person they email when they’ve given up (or haven’t even tried) in the rabbit world on our island. I didn’t know where any of this was going when we brought the boys into our home but I let my instincts guide me and we kept just taking the next step. And ultimately, our boys brought me my life’s purpose, opened up a part of me I just couldn’t find a way to access. I have them, I have Rescue and I have Reiki. I have it all. And I have our boys to thank for it. Much love.