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Rabbits are social and need companionship, sometimes introductions get complicated but it's always good to continue to give your rabbit what they need.

*Notice* I use the word "hump" in this video to describe the natural behavior of male rabbits to display dominance over other males.

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Hey, welcome back to Animal Wonders! Some of you have mentioned in the comments that you wished our rabbit, Cheeks had a companion.  Let me just say that I get so happy when I see well-placed compassion for animals.  Thank you for being concerned about his happiness.  You are awesome.  

So, let's talk about our rabbit situation at Animal Wonders, because we need to talk about socialization and some new news that just happened.

(Intro)

Cheeks is a Netherland Dwarf Rabbit and he will be turning nine years old this summer.  For the last couple years, we have been focused on keeping his delicate digestive system stable so that he can stay healthy. We have not tried to introduce him to another rabbit, because stress makes a situation worse.  

In his younger years, Cheeks spent a lot of time with other animals including a Patagonian cavy, a brush-tailed bettong, and chinchillas. All of them were rescues and made up a sort of motley crew.

Due to USDA regulations, rabbits are not allowed to cohabitate with other species. So, they told us he needed to have his own private space. The enclosure he is in right now is quite small for a rabbit and not what I would recommend. The reason he's not in a larger space is because he doesn't like being down low. He doesn't like being outside, and when we finally offered him this space, he was so much more relaxed and no longer stomped his displeasure at us. It was a surprise to us but it was clear that he liked it.

We have not found Cheeks a suitable permanent rabbit companion because no one can handle his pushy behavior. And until now we didn't have the space to house another rabbit if they'd had a failed introduction. Over the years, Cheeks has gotten to come out and socialize with other animals for supervised play sessions. But as he's gotten older, he just doesn't enjoy other animals anymore. He loves attention from humans and he also really, really likes his stuffed toy hedgehog.

About six months ago, Cheeks retired from doing public presentations due to his sensitive gut. So, we're gonna let him go and relax.

Recently, we were able to build an expansion at Animal Wonders and with the extra room we were able to take in another rabbit that needed a home and continued teaching about the incredible adaptations that rabbits have.

His name is Hazel and he's so calm and relaxed. He's just the best at presentations because nothing bothers him. Since Cheeks is content with his routine, I've been focusing on how I can make sure Hazel has the best life I can offer him; which to me, means he needs a companion.

Rabbits are social animals. In the wild, they live in large colonies and form strong bonds to a few other rabbits. I want to give Hazel the chance to form a bond with a rabbit so he can fulfill that part of his social nature.

But, introducing animals can be a challenge. I wanted to start out by seeing how Hazel would react to another rabbit. I didn't want to go ahead and rescue another rabbit only to end up housing three rabbits on their own if Hazel wasn't interested or became really territorial. So I decided to see how he would respond to Cheeks and go from there.

They saw and smelled each other a few times before I let them meet in neutral territory. Since I know how intense Cheeks is around other rabbits, I supervised carefully. The meeting was as I expected. Cheeks ran right over to hump him, which is a natural behavior for intact male rabbits. Hazel, amazingly, was really calm and didn't get upset by Cheeks' behavior. He actually sought out interaction with him.

This makes me so happy because it shows that Hazel is accepting of other rabbits and we can work on giving him a friend. Even though their meeting went really well, I won't be pursuing a full introduction between Cheeks and Hazel for several reasons. Cheeks is an intact male meaning he has not been neutered and un-neutered males can rarely cohabitate with other rabbits since they are hormonally driven and can become extremely territorial. Cheeks is also old and has a very sensitive gut, so getting him neutered is very risky. The anesthesia needed for the surgery disrupts gut bacteria and causes motility to slow, which is incredibly dangerous for him and could likely kill him.

Also, Hazel and Cheeks have a big age difference and if they did bond, it would be really hard on Hazel when Cheeks passes away. So, Cheeks and Hazel won't make a good match.

But Hazel's well-being has been on my mind a lot lately. So, last week when we were asked to take in another unwanted Netherland dwarf rabbit, I said yes in the hopes that they could become best friends. Everyone, meet our newest friend! He came with a funny name but I'd like to open it up to you guys to give us some suggestions and see if we can come up with something more fitting. So, leave those name ideas in the comments below.

This guy came in late last night and I haven't really had any time to get to know him. So, that's what we're going to do together right now.

The quick exam I did last night told me a couple things. The first thing that I noticed is that he's heavier than Hazel and has denser fur. I was told he was born in June, which means he's a little over a year-and-a-half old. Hazel is about ten months old, so they're just about a year apart and I believe they told me he was housed outside so that explains his thick fur.

I've already trimmed his nails. I did that last night because he kicked a few times and I noticed his nails were really sharp. So to prevent more injury to my arms as we get to know each other I trimmed the sharp tips off.

If you look closely at his eyes, you can see he has some crust in the corners, and that could be caused by a couple different things. He could have been housed on wood shavings like pine or cedar which can irritate their eyes or he could have an eye infection or a respiratory infection.

The previous owner had washed his bum yesterday because he had some poop stuck in his fur. And I gave it a good look-over yesterday and immediately saw the problem. He has a lot of old fur build-up causing some matting, which makes it hard to groom; and it becomes an easy place for feces to get stuck. Some brushing should help get that old fur out and he should be good to go. I did a little last night but he got stressed out. So I let him have a break for the night and let's go ahead and give it another go now.

Alright buddy, here we go.

Let's get this going.  

What do you think?

That’s where I got some out before.  Let's see. There's some good matting.

He's being really calm for this. I'm just slowly pulling that mat out. It's not really bad. So it's not like it's been hurting him, so I can get it out by just brushing; we won't need to shave it or anything.

Alright, well now we got that all smoothed out!

Hey, buddy! That's gonna work out a lot better.

So, I'd love to start introducing this guy to Hazel right now, but that's not how it works. First, the new rabbit needs to be examined by our veterinarian to see if he has any diseases that are contagious to other rabbits or other species, like sugar gliders.

Once he clears his exam, we'll give him days of quarantine to make sure he has no signs of illness. While he's going through quarantine, Hazel is going to get neutered. He showed perfect behavior when he first met Cheeks, but after a bit he did show signs that he wanted to hump Cheeks in return. If left alone, that could turn into a dominance fight which could result in them hurting each others, we know that Hazel has the potential to be a great companion but we want to make sure his hormones don’t take over and ruin the introduction. It'll take up to four weeks before all of his hormones leave his body which lines up perfectly to the new rabbit's quarantine period.

While we're waiting for them to be ready, I'm gonna work on setting up a new home that will accommodate both. Thanks for letting me share what's going on with our rabbits.

I hope you enjoyed all of our adorable little guys. And, I'm glad I got to show you what it's like to rescue animals that come with their own backgrounds and personalities, and how we work to give them the best lives possible in whatever way works for them.

If you'd like to go on an adventure with us every week, subscribe to our YouTube channel:  AnimalWondersMontana, and if you'd like to welcome our new friend with some toys or food, check out our Amazon Wishlist.  Link is below. Thanks, guys!