Petkeen is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn More

Do Rabbits Need a Companion? Do They Get Lonely?

Genevieve Dugal

Rabbits are fun, loving fur balls that never fail to entertain their owners with their crazy antics. And when you have the pleasure of sharing your life with one of these touching little mammals, it is normal to wonder if it would be happier with a companion. The simple answer is yes because rabbits are incredibly social animals that need to live with their peers to thrive.

However, a lone rabbit won’t necessarily be miserable. Still, you will need to compensate for the lack of a companion by devoting a lot of time and attention to your rabbit. In addition, another animal, such as a dog, cat, or even a guinea pig, would not be a great companion for your rabbit. This is because bunnies behave and communicate in very different ways, so if they are kept with an animal of another species, they will not understand the behavior of the other and will, therefore, not be ideal companions.

Divider-rabbit2

Why Do Rabbits Need a Companion?

Silky Angora rabbits eating rabbit food
Image Credit: Zanna Pesnina, Shutterstock

Like any animal, rabbits have physiological and social needs; if not met, they can lead to behavioral issues. Because, unlike the dog or the cat, the rabbit is not a predator but a prey. This position in the food chain induces particular behaviors.

On the one hand, living with other rabbits and sharing the same habitat is reassuring and stabilizing for these fearful little creatures. This is why, in their natural habitat, rabbits prefer to stay in groups, even outside their burrows, because they are able to perceive a possible danger better. Additionally, rabbits tend to cluster together to sleep. They adopt relaxed positions more easily (hind legs to the side or in line with the body or lying on their side) when sleeping close to each other. A rabbit that sleeps alone, isolated from its congeners, will sleep in a position of alert, without completely closing its eyes, at the risk of being devoured by a potential predator.

On the other hand, if you like rabbits, you will understand and appreciate them better by observing their behavior. A single rabbit is often much more boring to watch than a rabbit living in harmony with a companion.

Allowing your little bunny to live with another rabbit is, therefore, an essential element for his well-being, and it also allows you to gain a better insight into all the richness and depth of communication between rabbits.

What Happens When a Rabbit Gets Lonely?

Mini lop rabbit playing in field of grass
Image Credit: Erika Cross, Shutterstock

Common signs of a lonely and sad bunny include the following:

  • Nibbling. If your rabbit chews on his cage bars or your fingers, he is trying to get your attention. If he pokes you with his nose and nibbles you, it usually means he wants you to stroke or play with him.
  • Destructive behavior. When rabbits feel lonely, they sometimes become hyperactive and get angry. While it is normal for a rabbit to dig, this destructive behavior can escalate quickly. Be careful if your rabbit suddenly starts chewing on the carpet or the furniture: this behavior is abnormal and can be a sign of a lack of attention or worse.
  • Signs of stress or withdrawal. Some rabbits become depressed when left alone for too long. They isolate themselves from their humans and refuse to interact, even when asked. A depressed rabbit may also hide or refuse to come out of its cage. He may not respond when you try to stroke or play with him. Additionally, a rabbit that feels lonely may begin to pull out its hair, stop feeding, and become lethargic.

Note: Call your veterinarian if you notice one or more of these signs, as they can be underlying symptoms of an illness.

How To Introduce a New Companion to Your Rabbit

rabbits
Image Credit: Rebekka D, Pixabay

You’ve finally decided to adopt a new companion for your little bunny to make him feel less alone. While this is a great idea, be aware that rabbit cohabitation won’t be smooth in the early days (unless you’ve adopted two baby rabbits together).

Here are some tips for facilitating cohabitation between two rabbits:

Allow Time

If you think adopting a second bunny will save you time spending time with your furball, think again. Your bunny will need you just as much, and your second bunny too! Therefore, for the well-being of your two animals, you will need to spend even more time with them than before. Not to mention the doubling workload. Because yes, having two rabbits also means having twice as much space to clean, litter to change, food to buy, veterinary care to pay, etc.

Increase The Available Space

If you plan to adopt a second rabbit, it is essential to opt for a larger cage or a larger enclosure. Indeed, two rabbits can live together, but only if the space they have is large enough for them to maintain a minimum of privacy.

Choose The Sex

Although the character is more important for a successful relationship between two rabbits, gender can also make a difference. Therefore, it is generally recommended to opt for a male and a female; however, sterilization is necessary in both cases.

Note that age does not matter. However, it is best to choose two rabbits of the same age so that they have roughly the same life expectancy. This will prevent one of them from being left alone for several years.

dwarf lionhead rabbit
Image Credit: Karsten Paulick, Pixabay

Do Not Rush The First Meeting

The rabbit is a territorial animal. For this reason, when it is time for introductions, do not place your new rabbit directly into your other rabbit’s cage. The latter could quickly be aggressive.

Instead, install the newcomer in a separate cage and in another room for two weeks. This will allow him to explore his new territory in peace, to get to know you but also to leave his scent on you. As you take care of your first rabbit, you will gradually get him used to the new smell, which will allow him to be more relaxed on the day of the meeting.

Plus, keeping your new rabbit in quarantine helps prevent the possible spread of disease. This is, therefore, an essential step.

Carefully Plan Rabbit Meetings

Once the fortnight of quarantine has passed, you can prepare the first meeting between your two rabbits. To do this, set up your new rabbit’s cage in a neutral room. Then, let your first bunny enter this room and walk around the cage as they see fit. The two animals will get to know each other by sniffing each other through the bars.

If neither rabbit is showing signs of aggression, that’s a good start. And if they ignore each other, that’s even better. Indeed, in rabbit language, this means that the presence of the other is wholly tolerated. You can then move on to the real encounter.

Install your two rabbits in a neutral room (even a hallway) or in the garden, and let them discover each other physically. However, stay nearby in case it escalates. And don’t hesitate to give them treats during the meeting to make the time a pleasant and positive experience.

Note that you may have to repeat this meeting for several weeks before you can let your rabbits cohabit. Indeed, every meeting should be short, especially if there is aggression. But luckily, for some, acceptance comes right away!Divider-rabbit2

How Do You Keep a Lone Rabbit Happy?

English Lop rabbit
Image Credit: Mike Andreou, Shutterstock

A lone rabbit is not necessarily unhappy, but he will require almost constant attention from his human. So, if you can’t adopt another rabbit, expect your pet to demand more attention and prepare to do whatever you can to keep him company.

Here are some tips to make it happen:

  • Give your rabbit a big and comfortable enclosure. Rabbits need a lot of space, even when they can’t be supervised.
  • Take your rabbit out of his cage for at least an hour a day. Rabbits love to explore and sniff around. Take yours out of his cage and interact with him every day. However, be careful that it does not destroy your home. Watch him closely or use a special room for him, where there are no valuables or carpeting.
  • Do not handle your bunny excessively. You might think it’s a good idea to hug your bunny and bond with him, but he’s unlikely to like it. Instead, lay your bunny on the ground and hang out with him. If he seems to be reacting positively, walk up and pet him. If the bunny does not like you being in his personal space, he will start to growl. Stand back a bit and give him time to approach you. If your bunny is shy, it may take a while for him to trust you. Be patient, and don’t give up!
  • Pet your rabbit often. Rabbits enjoy being petted when they are resting after a meal. Gently approach and stroke his forehead, cheek, or back. Keep in mind that rabbits do not like having their ears, stomach, tail, neck, or feet stroked.
  • Play with your bunny. Rabbits love to go out and play. They especially enjoy knocking over objects, digging, and throwing small toys. Buy toys or make them yourself. For example, you can give him hard baby toys or plastic balls with little bells inside. Often, a simple piece of cardboard, such as the cardboard tube inside a roll of toilet paper, is sufficient. If your rabbit likes to dig, give him a straw mat or cardboard filled with scraps of paper.
Divider-rabbit2

Final Thoughts: Bunny Companions

Rabbits are intelligent, social creatures who need to live with their peers to thrive. Cohabitation between two individuals is not always easy at first, but with patience and a little skill, you will be rewarded with happy and healthy little bunnies.


Featured Image Credit: Purezba, Shutterstock

Genevieve Dugal

Genevieve is a biologist and science writer. Her deep love for capuchin monkeys, pumas, and kangaroos has taken her worldwide to work and volunteer for several wildlife rehabilitation centers in Bolivia, Guatemala, Canada, and Australia. As a Canadian expat, Genevieve now lives in Argentina, where she wakes up every morning to horses and cows saying hello from the vast plain next to her home office window. She is the proud mom of three rescued dogs, Lemmy, Nala, and Pochi, and a frisky kitten, Furiosa. Having the privilege of sharing her knowledge and passion for animals of all kinds is what makes her fulfilled and happy.