In terms of social behavior, there are different types of pets. There are pets that prefer to be on their own. Then there are pets that bond with their owners. And finally, there are pets that absolutely must live in a group of conspecifics. But what about rabbits? Are rabbits social animals?
Rabbits are social animals. You should never keep rabbits alone, but always in a group. This also corresponds to their natural way of life in the wild. So if you want to keep rabbits, you will always need at least two rabbits.
Let’s look at why rabbits should not be kept alone. For this, we should also learn how rabbits live in the wild.
Finally, we will discuss which gender combinations work best for rabbits.
Why You Should Not Keep Rabbits Alone
Rabbits live in groups in the wild. You should therefore decide from the outset for at least two rabbits if you want to keep rabbits as pets.
Keeping them individually should only be a compromise, e.g. in the case of sick animals or in the case of male rabbits that have been freshly neutered. However, you should not keep the rabbits alone for a long time even in such cases. Besides, you should spend a lot of time on a single animal!
In the wild, rabbits live together in large clans or groups. They graze together, give each other security in the group, and have a strict hierarchy among themselves.
Each rabbit or pair of rabbits has its own area in the rabbit hole. This means that rabbits kept in a group always need enclosures large enough to allow them to get out of each other’s way and easily find separate places to sleep.
Rabbits have a very pronounced social behavior towards their conspecifics. They cuddle and groom each other, give each other security and play together. They are also quite intelligent animals.
It is a joy to watch two rabbits running after each other, exploring the apartment together, lying cuddled together in their favorite corner, or lovingly licking each other’s ears.
But how sad is the sight of a single rabbit sitting in the corner of the cage until its human comes once a day for a few minutes or hours to feed and pet it?
How sad is a single rabbit that hops around listlessly and can only play with a human when it goes out? With a human who does not understand it, who cannot play its games, and who certainly does not groom it rabbit-style.
Many people imagine that they have to keep their rabbit alone so that it strongly bonds to the owner. This is a very selfish attitude and not in the best interest of the rabbit.
Do you really want your rabbit to like you only because it has no other chance to get some attention? Wouldn’t it be better to have two rabbits that both come hobbling up begging for a treat?
It is also not true that individually kept rabbits are generally more affectionate. In fact, it is not uncommon for females kept alone to become belligerent and aggressive toward their humans. Single male rabbits sometimes become gluttonous and lazy.
It is true, however, that rabbits kept in a pack also like their humans and play with them. They recognize him as a food bringer and can become very affectionate.
But you can also leave the animal alone sometimes with a clear conscience. Could you do the same if you knew exactly that your rabbit squats alone in the cage and is lonely while you go out?
Whether a rabbit becomes affectionate and regards its human as a friend depends mostly only on the character of the individual animal anyway.
Rabbits Social Life in the Wild
In the wild, rabbits live in large family groups. They build underground burrows together. Their territory lies around these burrows. They clearly mark the boundaries of their territory, which can be up to half a mile in size, with urine and feces.
Rabbits show a very pronounced social behavior towards their conspecifics. Within a group, there is a very clear hierarchy. Higher-ranking animals live deeper in the burrow, lower-ranking animals live in the outer areas.
At dusk, the animals leave their burrows to feed. They usually stay close to the burrow in order to be able to flee quickly into their burrow in case of danger.
Usually, there are many more entrances to the burrow than rabbits. This allows any rabbit to quickly find a rescue entrance.
Rabbits are relatively territorial and usually stay in their families among themselves. However, it happens that they accept young animals and females of other groups into the pack. On the other hand, they immediately attack adult males and drive them away.
Rabbits also fight within the family, mainly to gain a higher ranking position within the pack when defending their own territory. Animals that are ready to mate also squabble more frequently.
But this should also not be the case all the time. If you find that your rabbits are fighting a lot at the moment, you can try a stress relief remedy.
We have had very good results with Bach RESCUE REMEDY PET* and can only recommend it. It also helps well if your rabbits are upset for any reason.
Rabbits presumably form fixed pair bonds within their group. Male and female rabbits live together in one burrow, they sleep together and go foraging together.
The males in particular are not always faithful, and they may even make other females happy. The females, on the other hand, allegedly repel any other male if they are in a committed relationship.
The hierarchy within the burrow and thus also the roosting place is predominantly determined by the females. The males, on the other hand, have their own hierarchy, which predominantly serves other purposes. It is not necessarily the case that the highest-ranking female lives with the highest-ranking male.
The fact that rabbits in the wild never live alone and form solid partnerships should clearly show every keeper that you should never keep rabbits alone!
When keeping rabbits as pets, it is best to keep a neutered male rabbit with a female. However, larger groups require much more space, experience, and time. We, therefore, advise beginners not to do this.
What Gender Combination Works Best for Rabbits
There is no general guideline as to which combination is really the best. But basically, pairs get along best and form a very harmonious unit.
Two rabbits of the same gender usually get along well until sexual maturity. After that, however, they often engage in severe rank fights. In that case, the animals must be separated.
However, if males are neutered before sexual maturity, then there is a fairly high probability that they will get along permanently. Unneutered males, on the other hand, usually do not get along at all and will fight bloody rank battles after sexual maturity.
By the way, the same is true for females. Two adult females rarely get along. From 6-8 months of age, they also frequently engage in severe rank fighting.
Mating adult females is absolutely not advisable. It is also not advisable to keep mother and daughter together. The daughter will contest the rank of the mother when she reaches sexual maturity. So you will have to separate the animals then.
There are, of course, pairs of female rabbits that live together relatively peacefully over a long period of time. However, our observations clearly show that these pairs are never very harmonious and fall apart even with minor changes such as disease.
Neutering females brings peace to female groups. But you should only do this if there is no other option.
In larger groups, several neutered males can be kept together with several females. However, the requirement for this is a very large enclosure with at least 20 sqft per animal or even more.
Some people recommend socializing rabbits with guinea pigs because then no neutering costs have to be paid. We can only very strongly advise against this, these animals do not fit together at all.
Conclusion: Are Rabbits Social Animals?
Rabbits are very social animals. They need contact with their conspecifics. Therefore, you should never keep them alone, but at least in pairs.
You can also keep them in larger groups, but for this, you need a relatively large amount of space and should also have sufficient experience with rabbits.
It works best if you keep a neutered male and a female rabbit together. But other combinations are also possible, but not all are recommended. Just follow our tips above to ensure the right composition of your bunny group.
It is simply the natural way of life of rabbits that they are not kept alone. A rabbit kept alone will not lead a happy life.