Many people ask, can rabbits live alone? Rabbits are social animals, and, like us, can suffer from loneliness. Though there are exceptions, most rabbits want and need another rabbit for company. For this reason, we always recommend keeping rabbits in groups of two or more.
Rabbit welfare organisations almost always recommend keeping two rabbits or more. Have you ever wondered why?
Rabbits, like humans, are social creatures. They evolved to live in groups. This means that, much like you and I, they can become bored and lonely living alone without the company of fellow rabbits. And this, in turn, can cause not only unhappiness but also a variety of physical and behavioural problems.
However, sometimes circumstances prevent keeping more than one rabbit. And although it’s not optimal, there are ways to keep a single rabbit happy and entertained. We’ll talk about those in a bit.
How do Rabbits Live in the Wild?
Rabbits are burrowing animals, and live in extensive underground systems of tunnels and rooms called warrens. Domestic and wild rabbits are also crepuscular animals, which means that they’re most active at dawn and dusk.
Wild rabbits’ social behaviour can vary. Some live in large groups called colonies. Others live in family groups or in territorial pairs. And, yes, some wild rabbits are solitary and come together only to breed.
Domestic rabbits, however, need companionship, preferably rabbit companionship.
Is it Ever OK to Have Just One Rabbit?
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of offering your bunny the companionship of another bunny. In fact, studies have shown that when given a choice between food and social interaction, most rabbits will often choose a visit with another rabbit over a food treat.
However, there are some circumstances where certain individuals may do better on their own, for example:
- A formerly abused pet rabbit
- Rabbits who were bullied by other rabbits
- Bunnies who have had other negative social interactions
In addition, there are a very few pet rabbits, like a very few humans, who simply do not enjoy the company of other rabbits!
If your rabbit prefers to be alone, they will make it abundantly clear. And in these cases, it’s possible for a single rabbit to live happily, provided they have plenty of social interactions with their humans.
Do Different Breeds Do Better on Their Own?
That’s an interesting question. Different rabbit breeds absolutely have different personalities, activity levels, and so forth. But when it comes to companionship, breed is unimportant. The vast majority of domestic bunnies need a rabbit friend.
Does One Sex Do Better Alone?
Although both female rabbits and male rabbits are happiest in pairs, females tend to be more independent than males, and more territorial, as well.
Is Company More Important at Different Life Stages?
In general, no. Rabbits of all ages are social and need companionship. Although some sources say that after five years of age, many domestic rabbits want to spend more time interacting with their humans.
Do They Need Other Rabbits for Company?
Generally speaking, they do.
Although our house rabbits love us and enjoy spending time with us, there are some social behaviours that only another bunny can provide, for example:
- Constant companionship
- Entertainment on demand
- Spontaneous play
Just as we all love our pets, sometimes we need another person to talk to. It’s the same for your bunny.
Can Human Company Be Enough for a Rabbit?
If you have a solo bunny, then that rabbit’s social needs fall to you to fulfil. You’ll need to play with your bunny, help them to get enough exercise, and spend a lot of time in their company so that they don’t feel lonely. But there are ways to do this without turning your own life upside down.
First, make your bunny part of family life. If you or someone from your household is home most of the time, spend that time in eyesight of your rabbit. You could:
- Bring your rabbit into your home office (either running free or in a puppy pen)
- Move your rabbit’s run close while you work in the garden
- Rabbit proof a part of your garden where you can both spend time together
In addition, consider moving your rabbit enclosure into a part of the house where people spend a lot of time, such as the living room. Allow them to run free or in a puppy pen while the family gathers for evening activities.
Problems a Solo Rabbit May Suffer
Rabbits are social. They’re also quite clever. Loneliness and boredom are no fun, but, more importantly, they can cause serious behavioural and even physical problems for your rabbit.
A lonely rabbit is a bored rabbit. And a bored rabbit can become destructive. That means chewing.
Chewing is a natural behaviour, and necessary to keep a bunny’s ever-growing teeth in check. However, a bored or lonely bunny may chew its hutch, its toys, or other things that it shouldn’t. In addition to destroying the chewed objects, it could also harm your bunny.
Fur Pulling and Repetitive Behaviours
A bored or lonely rabbit may also over-groom itself, pull out its own hair, or engage in other repetitive, and potentially harmful behaviours.
Loneliness is a major cause of stress, for us as well as for rabbits. Being prey animals, rabbits are already a bit high strung by nature. Being lonely on top of it can cause stress-related health problems, including GI stasis.
Can Rabbits Live With Guinea Pigs?
You’ll find a variety of opinions on this, and a variety of arguments on both sides.
On one hand, you’ll find a lot of anecdotes about rabbits and guinea pigs living peacefully with one another. They can’t impregnate one another, and they both have similar housing requirements.
On the other hand, there are some potential problems.
Rabbits and guinea pigs have different dietary needs, for one. Guinea pigs need a diet that’s fortified with Vitamin C. Such a diet will make a rabbit ill.
Also, rabbits, cats, and dogs can carry Bordetella bronchiseptica, which is a primary cause of potentially serious respiratory disease in guinea pigs.
Also, even though they can coexist peacefully, rabbit communication and guinea pig communication are very different.
Finally and perhaps most importantly, rabbits can easily cause serious harm to a guinea pig with their teeth, claws, and powerful hind legs. Some rabbits are aggressive, but even rough play can injure a guinea pig. And this potential can stress the guinea pig out on a day-to-day basis.
For this reason, most experts recommend against housing rabbits and guinea pigs together.
Can Rabbits Live With Other Animals?
Yes, but it depends on the rabbit, and it depends on the other animals.
Some dogs can be great pals with some rabbits.
But a lot depends on the dog, and a lot depends on the rabbit.
A large, vigorous dog can inadvertently harm a rabbit, especially if the dog likes to play rough. Likewise, certain dog breeds, such as some terriers, were raised to kill small prey like rabbits. This would be a dangerous combination. And of course rabbits can die of fright, so proper introductions are important, no matter how gentle the dog is.
In general, it’s easiest to introduce babies to babies. Whatever the situation, though, there are some tips for a more successful introduction.
First, make sure your dog is well trained, especially with recall. You need to know that they will come immediately when you call, even when they’re investigating something as interesting as a rabbit. Also, until you can predict both animals’ reactions, keep your dog on a lead.
As with bunny bonding, first introductions should be through a barrier, such as a fence or the wall of a run. Your rabbit should have a place to hide during this time, in case they start to feel stressed.
Introductions should take place in neutral territory, as both dogs and rabbits can be territorial.
Keep sessions short, to avoid stressing your bunny. And always be aware of both animals’ behaviour. Be prepared to stop if your dog becomes overexcited, for example, or if your bunny becomes stressed.
And never, ever leave them unattended together.
It’s strange to think that a predator like a cat can be friends with a prey animal like a rabbit. But it happens. Just like with a dog, though, it’s important to consider the personalities of both animals. Setting is important, too.
A cat with a high prey drive, for example, a cat that is always bringing you “presents” of birds, lizards, and so forth, may not be the best choice to introduce to your rabbit.
Interestingly, though, rabbits can be very territorial and very aggressive. And as often as not, the rabbit may come out on top in a fight.
Read more about introducing cats and rabbits in our guide.
You’ll find opinions on both sides of this equation. In general, though, we believe it’s better to be safe than sorry.
First, chickens and rabbits each carry diseases that can infect the other. Chickens carry salmonella, for example, which can be very serious for a rabbit. Rabbits, on the other hand, carry pasteurellosis, which can cause cholera in chickens. There are numerous other examples.
Also, chickens and rabbits have different dietary requirements. They will, however, enjoy one another’s food. This can cause nutritional deficiencies for both animals.
Finally, rabbits and chickens have different temperaments. Moreover, conflicts are likely to result in injuries to both animals.
Bunnies are social animals, and, with a few rare exceptions, they need rabbit company. However, if properly and carefully introduced, some rabbits can bond with other animals, such as cats and dogs. You can also keep a solo rabbit, as long as you provide several hours per day of social interaction.
In any case, our bunnies want to be part of family life, whether indoors or out.
Have you kept a single bunny? Do you have any advice for our readers? We’d love to hear about it!