Can cats and rabbits get along? That depends on the cat, and it depends on the rabbit. Under the right circumstances, some cats and some rabbits can become quite good friends. But it’s not a given. You probably already know that bonding a pair of rabbits can be a long and complicated process. Bonding a rabbit and to a feline friend also requires a process, and it might not always be successful. But there are steps you can take.
How Do You Introduce a Cat to a Rabbit?
In a recent survey by the House Rabbit Society, ten percent of respondents reported their cat and rabbit having a “close, loving relationship.” Two thirds reported that their cat and rabbit coexist peacefully, though they’re not best friends.
In the remaining cases, the animals had to be kept separate for one animal’s safety. Interestingly, the rabbit was the aggressor more than twice as often as the cat.
Some pets, like some people, will never get along. But there are some ways you can increase the chances of a successful introduction.
Any cat that will be spending time around rabbits should have its claws trimmed so that it can’t give the rabbit a nasty scratch, even unintentionally.
Consider Basic Instincts
Cats are predators and rabbits are prey animals. It seems pretty straightforward. But it’s not.
According to the House Rabbit Society, outdoor settings often trigger a cat’s predatory instincts. Indoors, however, many house cats are less likely to stalk or chase a rabbit.
There are two rabbit instincts to consider as well: territoriality and dominance.
Rabbits can be extremely territorial. And, while cats are solitary animals, rabbits live in groups that have a dominance hierarchy. It’s common for rabbits to tussle for dominance, and your rabbit may try to establish dominance over a cat in the same way.
When introducing a cat and a rabbit, choose a place that is neutral territory for the rabbit. That place should also be indoors, to reduce the environmental factors that may trigger your cat’s prey drive.
Anyone who has ever owned either a cat or a rabbit knows that each individual has its own personality. Some individuals are outgoing, while others are shy. Some are more territorial than others.
Aggressiveness varies among individuals, too.
Before you start, assess your animals’ personalities.
Does your cat have a strong prey drive? Is it constantly bringing you birds, lizards, spiders, and so forth? If so, then there’s a good chance that it will initially regard a rabbit as prey, too.
Does your rabbit lunge or even bite people who intrude on its space? Then that rabbit’s territoriality may pose a problem.
On the other hand, if both animals are mellow-tempered and tolerant, this increases the chances of a positive introduction.
Confident Cat, Frightened Rabbit
A shy or timid rabbit and a confident cat is one of the most difficult pairs to bond. If your rabbit runs, your cat’s instinct may tell it to chase. And if it catches the rabbit, especially if the rabbit is smaller, this can be bad news for the rabbit.
To introduce a shy rabbit to a confident cat, start with the rabbit in a cage. Make sure that there’s a hiding place where the bunny can get away if it needs to, and don’t leave the two unattended. Also, make sure that the cat can’t stick its paws through the bars of the cage.
Let each of them get used to the sight, sounds, and smells of the other. This getting-to-know-you phase may take days or even weeks, depending on your pets. Approach it as you would rabbit bonding: with repeated short visits, so that neither is in a constant, stressful situation.
When they seem comfortable with one another, try allowing them to be together without the barrier. But don’t leave your pet family unsupervised, and be prepared to intervene if necessary.
Bossy Bunny, Scaredy Cat
It’s perhaps more likely that a confident rabbit will be the more aggressive party, especially if the rabbit is the same size or larger than the cat. But if your bunny chases your cat, it’s a bit different than the other way around. Even an aggressive rabbit will generally stop chasing once they feel they’ve made their point.
Be sure to introduce your pets in neutral space, that is, a place that a rabbit doesn’t consider its own territory. If you’re introducing a large or grown rabbit to a kitten, the RSPCA recommends giving the kitten the same safety precautions as you would a rabbit. That is, a physical barrier at first, and a place to hide if they feel the need.
In this case, you might let the rabbit roam free, while the cat is enclosed.
It’s Easiest to Introduce Two Babies
Rabbit-rabbit bonding is always easiest between two baby rabbits. It’s the same with a baby rabbit and a kitten. Growing up together often increases the chances of a successful, lifelong bond.
Cats and rabbits come in different sizes. And size can be important.
If your rabbit and cat are about the same size, it’s less likely that the cat will take its chances with an attack. If your cat is bigger, it may feel more confident giving chase. And a large rabbit may feel more confident establishing dominance or territorial boundaries.
And we may think of cats in terms of teeth and claws, but rabbits can be savage fighters. They can do serious damage with their powerful hind legs and large front teeth. So protect both animals by ensuring that they’re of similar size.
Both cats and rabbits can find the introduction process stressful. So go slowly, take your time, and be ready to pause the process if you feel that one or both of them is becoming stressed.
Supervise All Interactions
Both cats and rabbits are capable of injuring the other when frightened. Never leave them alone together during the bonding process.
Will a Cat Kill a Rabbit?
It depends on the cat, and it depends on the rabbit. Cats with a strong prey drive will absolutely try. Whether they succeed will depend on the size and strength of the rabbit.
Most cats won’t try it on with a rabbit of equal or larger size. And some will show no aggression toward a rabbit at all.
Why do Cats and Bunnies Get Along?
Bunnies are social animals. They prefer to live with a bunny friend or two. Single rabbits can bond with other animals, including guinea pigs, cats, dogs, and humans.
Many wild felines are solitary, but domestic cats have a range of different lifestyles. Some are solitary, but many feral domestic cats live in colonies. These colonies often have a dominance hierarchy, but how strict the hierarchy is can vary.
The upshot is that many cats also like to have a friend, and, with proper introductions, that friend can sometimes be a bunny.
Can a Rabbit Defend Itself From a Cat?
Again, that depends on the individuals involved. If the rabbit and cat are of similar size, or if the rabbit is bigger, then the rabbit is quite capable of defending itself. But an adult cat can easily harm or kill a smaller bunny, especially a baby.
How to Keep a Rabbit and a Cat
First, make sure the animals are of a similar size. If one is larger, it can hurt the other. The larger pet may also be emboldened to start trouble.
It’s easiest to bond two babies.
As with rabbit bonding, settle in for a long process of short, supervised visits. Start out with a barrier between the two animals so that they can safely investigate the other. Make sure each animal has a hide where they can retreat.
Experiment with removing the barrier when you feel comfortable doing so. It may take days or weeks.
What Animals Get Along with Rabbits?
Properly introduced, rabbits can get along with many different types of pets, including:
- Guinea pigs
Before introducing your pets, though, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions.
Is one pet a natural predator of the other animal? Ferrets, for example, are carnivores, and in the wild they are natural predators of rabbits. For this reason, pet rabbits and pet ferrets are generally not a safe match. The same generally holds true for terriers and Dachshunds, which were bred to hunt and kill rabbits and other small furry animals.
Also, are they behaviourally compatible? A quiet, mellow dog can get along well with a house rabbit. But a boisterous dog that likes to roughhouse may not be a safe match.
Also, though most birds will not bother a pet rabbit, noisy birds may upset a quiet, sensitive bunny.
House cats and rabbits can get along, but it’s not a sure thing. And you should never just throw them together. It’s easiest to match babies with babies, and it’s safest if the pets are of similar size. The process can take quite a while, but if it’s successful, it can be a happy match for everyone.
Do you keep cats and rabbits? Tell us about it!
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