This weekend we attempted to bond Dwarf Lop Peter (7 Months) with Rex Lottie (9 Months). Peter was a recent rescue from a centre, neutered & very friendly & lively. Lottie not spayed, adorable & a little more timid. We would usually expect both Rabbits to be spayed/neutered prior to bonding. A vet had given owners advice that it should make no difference to the process, nor their bond afterwards (I do disagree with this advice). Owners have had rabbits at home next to each other in separate cages & introduced in the bath (obviously no water), this advice is given in places, however I would say it slows the process down and confuses the rabbits, for instance if they fight and get separated it becomes like a child getting their own way & so continue to do so, this slowly damages the bonding process. Ideally I would prefer to bond two bunnies of the opposite sex that have never met, both put in a different & strange environment (not that we are strange, crazy, maybe) put in a small area, observing 24/7 with as little intervention as possible, this is usually successful but not always comfortable viewing & staying up all night or doing shift rotation is very tiring.
However, set up our bonding cage which is 6ft x 2-3ft, litter trays, hay water, a little box to chew on & fling around but not too many places to hide as interaction needs to be encouraged. Some nice forage to calm nerves including chamomile, some Pet Remedy aka Cheesey Feet Spray, fly mesh over the cage, big fan & snuggle safes from the freezer (30+ degrees this weekend). The first 12 hours was a lot of humping and nipping from Peter, fur being pulled but no blood so this is safe to continue but does not allow for short naps with set alarms, only matchsticks for eyes.
Saturday daytime Peter had relaxed & was now doing the typical man thing going in for love after being a grotbag. Lottie is a bit like ‘skitzo alert’ and is a little on edge thinking it is a trap so he can nip again. Time for a cruise in the carrier and some nana smooshed on heads, bunnies generally cannot resist the banana and tends to lead to grooming. So heads were down and throughout the day some mutual grooming & some cuddles. This was positive and all happening in very much the same pattern as previous bonds. The heat needs to be taken into account here as well at 30+ degrees its not cuddly weather for fur babies.
Both were cuddled up nicely in the same litter tray, this is all so positive, a good 24 hours and they could be married and off home for their forever honeymoon…
Unfortunately, during this cuddle Lottie decided to get up & hump Peter’s head, all very normal but Peter in some kind of reaction to get her off bit her next to her vagina splitting the skin, very little bleeding but a worry in such a delicate area. So what does Lottie do after? Goes and grooms Peter of course, Lottie in no distress whatsoever.
Obviously the wound needed to be checked, gave it a clean and syringed manuka honey into the wound, this helps to keep it from getting infected. I put Rearguard on her as she was now an open target for Flies laying eggs in her (Flystrike), which could occur in seconds. I was also notified she had previously been Rearguarded a couple of weeks earlier, so this was good news. Hygiene is so important when cleaning a wound, wearing gloves, clean syringes, warm boiled water to hand. The wound was very clean, so I just gently flushed the area with water and syringed some manuka honey into the wound and gently massaging on the opening. The honey has really good healing properties as well as preventing infection and encouraging Lottie to take good care of it. The bond was still strong and had reached the stage of consummation, however, the wound would not let this happen. We believe Peter’s bite was accidental but we have to raise the question of whether this would have occurred if Lottie was spayed? A vet I saw the next day thinks she humped Peter because she was feeling frisky (I am not too sure it is as simple as that), but am sure that she would be giving off a scent that would encourage Peter to be attracted to this area & maybe even bite it if in his face. The cuddling was fine & other than Peter trying his luck a few more times no problems occurred in the night under my caffeine fuelled alertness.
The wound obviously puts us in a dilemma as a business. The first thing we should do is seek a vet to look at Lottie’s wound, we are not trained vets despite much research and owning a copy of the Textbook of Rabbit Medicine. The reason we do so much research is because we have had some bad experiences and unfortunately feel that whilst many vets are good with cats and dogs. Rabbits are much different, filed under exotic pets – the third most kept domesticated animal after cat and dog. The point is many vets are not rabbit-savvy and struggle to diagnose problems. The vet said she is probably in season so was feeling ‘frisky’. Oh, I thought Rabbits were always in season? Oh yes they are aren’t they. With vets that are not rabbit-savvy you can pay a lot of money on a gamble.
I of course will not name any vets or surgery’s but I do not include our own vets in ones who I do not trust, we have a very strong relationship with them & this is incredibly important if you care for your rabbit. You need to know they are Rabbit savvy and are caring, during tough times you need strong supportive staff and empathy, not a money greedy cold shrugger who just says these things happen.
Our vets are not open Sunday, this leaves out of hours (who I refuse to use & pay their horrifying rates) and another vet who I also did not trust because of a previous misdiagnosis with Topsy which lead us to force-feeding Topsy medicines they did not need the weekend before she died, which was heart-breaking. Topsy was complex and I felt if I give them benefit of the doubt as this is a wound should be treated like any other animal. I first got the cold-shrug about Topsy & was then told the rabbits must be separated and she needed stitches with the consultation fee would cost £350! I kindly refused, now for some unbeknown reason she gave her Metacam & Marbocyl without any permission with a combination charge of £35, no bottle just a shot of each. Both that I have in date at home that they had given to me for Topsy 😦
Peter & Lottie were still doing really well. Lottie looked unaffected by the wound & was eating and drinking, happy to be groomed and loved and have a hop around the room. I watched them all day and all night. Peter spent most of the time showcasing his binky skills and amazing effortless flops like some sort of mating ritual for Lottie.
On Monday I took Lottie to our vets, who said the wound was clean & that a staple should be enough to hold the skin together to speed up the healing process (perhaps 5 days), this felt a more suitable option & was much cheaper. Lottie had been a madam and taken her staples out almost instantly. They were done again and she had to wear a cone, lets say she was not impressed and kept chewing it, whilst Peter teamed up with her and kept trying to fling it off her, whilst she pulled the other way. I had to intervene several times. Whilst drinking a well-needed cup of coffee, I could see over my cup Lottie was cleaning but the cone was still on nodding up and down. With her pointy Rexxy nose had finally slipped her head through the lace-tied hole and had of course pulled the staple out. I pulled the cage open but was too late to make a difference. She looked at me mightily impressed with her magic trick. She knew the cone no longer served any purpose and agreed it may as well come off. She licked her wound cleaning it obsessively, I was impressed with her determination, she must of been back here for what…an hour.
Obviously the worst thing is that I then have to tell the owners that I have spent nearly £150 over two vet visits and have nothing to show for it except for a good bond that is fractured by this wound, therefore, leaving them unsupervised or Peter starting to chase again would be a worry. At least £350 was not paid as I am sure she would have taken that out as well.
Sadly Peter did get territorial at home and the owners did need to separate them. I am so disappointed that the bond broke down, when you bond rabbits they become your life, the women have love island, the men have the world cup, we have rabbits who are watched much more than TV in our home. You relate to their feelings and actions, bonds are delicate but are special because they need to be worked at and learned from. My fingers are crossed for Lottie’s quick recovery, she is absolutely beautiful I have never seen such a small Rex, so loving and delicate and the best of luck to Peter who is such a soppy loving bunny.
My post advice in this situation is to keep the two in separate rooms if possible and let Lottie’s wound fully heal, whilst keeping it very clean. When ready to get Lottie spayed and look at a new fresh introduction between the two in a neutral area, however, there are never any guarantees that this will work.