Rabbits are born in litters of 1 to 14 babies, but the average litter size is about 6. The mortality rate for domestic rabbits is low, so most babies will survive to adulthood. But do the baby rabbits recognize each other as they grow up?
Rabbits do recognize siblings from their litter. Since they were born and raised together, it’s easier for rabbits to remain closely bonded with their siblings. However, they may still attempt to mate with each other, so it’s important to spay and neuter them.
Rabbits are social animals who need companionship. Siblings are naturally bonded with each other since they’re been together their whole lives. This connection is strong and can often survive events that might break other bonds, such as a change of scent or a period of separation.
Pros and Cons of Sibling Bonds
Rabbits form close bonds throughout their life. In the wild, they live in groups of 10-15 with one dominant male. Rabbits can be bonded with those that they are not related to, but bonds between siblings can be formed early in life.
Since rabbit siblings are born at the same time and spend their whole lives growing up together, they already feel safe and comfortable around each other. Eating, grooming, snuggling, and playing together are things that bonded rabbits do, and siblings get a head start on those habits.
Another benefit is the fact that the bond of rabbit siblings runs deep. After being spayed or neutered, a rabbit’s scent can change, which can alter bonds they may have formed previously. But if rabbits have grown up around their siblings, they’re more likely to recognize each other even after life changes such as a period of separation or surgery.
It is worth noting that rabbits can still break bonds with each other as they develop into sexual maturity or after they’ve been spayed or neutered. Siblings have a better chance of recognizing each other, but it’s not guaranteed that they’ll get along after their scent changes.
REMINDER: Spaying and neutering your pet rabbits (especially if they’re siblings) is important. Some people are worried about neutering their pet rabbits because it will change their behavior, but you might be pleasantly surprised at how exactly their behavior will change. Check out my article Will a Rabbit’s Personality Change After Neutering? on this topic to learn more.
Even though rabbits may recognize and bond with the siblings from their litter, there are still some things to watch out for. For example, male and female rabbits will still attempt to mate, regardless of familial relationship. This is just an instinct that rabbits have, and it doesn’t matter to them if it’s with their siblings.
If rabbits do end up breeding with their siblings though, there can be consequences. Inbreeding is damaging to the health and genetic pool of any species, and rabbits are no exception. To see more about the serious risks of siblings breeding, and even a couple of upsides of this in a few very specific circumstances, see my article Can Rabbits Mate With Siblings? Is It Safe?
Rabbits that are the result of inbreeding can have several health problems. Painful and misaligned teeth are one of the major problems, which can make their lives hard due to increased stress, eating problems, and pain. There can also be problems with their eyes, as well as problems with their growth rate and reproductive health.
Because of these dangers, it’s best to get your rabbits spayed or neutered as soon as possible. For female rabbits, this is when they’re between 4-6 months old, while males can be neutered at 8-12 weeks.
DID YOU KNOW?
Keeping your pet sibling rabbits separated is important if they are not yet neutered. Rabbits are very fertile animals and there’s a 95% success rate when they breed. Can Rabbits Mate Through a Cage or Fence? is an article I wrote to help you come up with the best setup possible to prevent this from happening.
If you plan on keeping a pair of rabbits from the same litter, you could also choose two males or two females to avoid breeding. Aside from the fact that most rabbit owners aren’t equipped to handle multiple litters of rabbits, spaying and neutering make rabbits calmer, healthier, and less aggressive.
Starting the bonding process when your rabbits are young can be helpful in the future!
The Short and Long Term Memory of Rabbits
Rabbits have a short-term memory that usually lasts for about 5 minutes. They may not remember everything that happens in a day, but they still form deep connections and long-term memories that determine their behavior and habits as they grow up.
Rabbits, like all animals, are very connected to emotions of safety and happiness, as well as negative ones like pain or fear. Through careful encouragement and reinforcement, these pets can remember people, places, sounds, and other rabbits. With a bit of repetition, rabbits can recognize their owners, respond to their own name, and even enjoy some music that is played!
Rabbits are also likely to remember any bad things that happen to them though. If they step on something sharp, chew an electric cord, or eat something they hate, they will remember and act differently to avoid it. This can be a good thing because it helps keep them safe.
Unfortunately, this also means that if owners or other rabbits hurt them, they will remember that and it may be hard to regain their trust. Rabbits are hard-wired to remember pain and fear, which makes it hard for them to break a negative association.
Broken Bonds and How to Fix Them
Bonds and relationships are central to the lives of rabbits. They crave socialization and companionship, which can come from their owners or other rabbits. Unfortunately, these bonds are not perfect. They can be damaged or broken, even the bonds between siblings.
Hormones, changes in their environment, developing personalities, or any number of factors can affect the bonds between rabbits. If your rabbits become aggressive, territorial, and aggressive with each other, it might be necessary to separate them and re-introduce them as if they were strangers.
For more information on introducing rabbits, follow along with our step-by-step guide here that talks about bonding baby rabbits to older rabbits.
Sometimes the damage of a broken bond is too deep to repair though. Rabbits are sensitive to change and if they fight too often with each other, a bond can be broken permanently.
This isn’t anyone’s fault, but it does happen from time to time. If you try to force unhappy and unbonded rabbits to live together, it will do more harm than good. They might end up stressed, angry, and could suffer from health problems as a consequence.
If this is the case for you and your rabbits, it may be necessary to find one of them a new home and try to introduce a brand new rabbit as a friend. Rabbits are truly happier with a companion, so do all that you can to try and make sure they’re not alone!
Other Helpful Articles
- Male or Female Pet Rabbit? Why Your Choice Matters – Looking for a rabbit, but don’t know which gender to choose? Check out our article to see their different temperaments and personality traits!
- Guide: How to Care for Your Rabbit After Giving Birth – If you have a pair of rabbits that have successfully mated (siblings or not), this article will help you with the aftercare to make sure your rabbit stays healthy and safe after giving birth.
- Checklist: What You Need to Buy For a New Pet Rabbit – If you are planning to get a new pet rabbit or maybe recently did bring home a new furry family member, you’ll want to take a look at this list of recommended items to make your life just a whole lot easier. These are absolute must-haves for your pet rabbit.