Rabbits are great pets and they need companionship. Many rabbits bond and become attached to other rabbits in the same household. Similar to humans, social interaction is important for rabbits.
Rabbits miss each other when one of them dies. They will go through a mourning process that can include excessive water drinking, fur chewing, and carpet digging. To help them through this process, leave the deceased rabbit in the cage for an hour so the other rabbit can discover that it has died.
Rabbits And Their Bonds
Rabbits are social creatures and oftentimes form bonds. “Bonded rabbits, or two rabbits who are emotionally connected” should not be separated. Source However, sometimes separation is inevitable, especially when one rabbit gets sick and the other does not. Rabbits form bonds quickly, but they can also lose them quickly.
Avoid separating bonded rabbits for more than 24 hours. “If they’re separated and one rabbit comes back with a different smell or change in health, they may reject each other and begin fighting.” Source
If you do separate bonded rabbits for less than 24 hours, they do miss each other. Rabbits form bonds like humans and enjoy having their friends with them. They also miss each other when they are gone for one reason or another, especially because they are not able to tell each other where they are going, or if they are going to be coming back.
As for a mother rabbit’s bond with her babies, it may not be exactly what you expect. To find out, take a look at my article Bunny Love: Do Rabbits Miss Their Babies here.
When A Bonded Rabbit Dies
What should you do when a bonded rabbit dies? Rabbits often form physical and emotional bonds with the other rabbits that are in the home. When a rabbit in a bonded pair dies, shower the other in love and attention. If they show signs of distress, get another rabbit companion for them to bond and become friends with.
This will allow them to form new friendships and new bonds. It will also help them through the grieving process and allow them to return to their normal behavior quickly.
What To Do If You Can’t Leave The Deceased Rabbit In The Cage
If a rabbit dies at the vet and you cannot leave it in the cage for its companion to mourn over, watch what the surviving rabbit does. Once they realize that their rabbit companion is not there and has not been with them for a long time, they might start showing signs of distress.
If they show signs of distress, give them extra attention and keep track of their eating and drinking habits. They may become withdrawn and start to mope, but this is normal and expected. Also, watch and make sure that their digestive process is functioning as it normally does.
Why Leave The Dead Rabbit In The Cage?
When you leave a dead rabbit in the cage with its companion rabbit for an hour or more, the surviving rabbit has the opportunity to find out for itself that it has died, since owners can’t tell the rabbit that its friend has died. They can groom the deceased rabbit and eventually come to terms with the loss. The longer you leave the deceased rabbit in the cage the better, but one hour will work if a longer period of time is not possible. 2-3 hours is best.
I know that might sound really weird, but it does work. When you leave a deceased rabbit in the cage with its surviving companion, the surviving rabbit can mourn for its friend and go through its own mourning process. After they have gone through that process, you can then remove the dead rabbit and dispose of it how you wish.
When Your Rabbit Doesn’t Get Better
If their eating habits change and they start to get sick, consider getting another rabbit. This will give your rabbit another companion to focus on and bond with. Also, contact your vet if any behavior becomes worrying, or if your rabbit becomes aggressive and starts fighting with the other rabbit. You may have to intervene if your rabbits start fighting.
Be prepared for this by understanding why rabbits fight and exactly what you can do to stop them from fighting should it begin. Take a look at my article Five Reasons Pet Rabbits Fight and How to Stop Them for some critical insight into this so you’ll be prepared. Even better, that article will tell you what signs your rabbits will give off to show that they’re actually “over” their issue.
Where Can I Get Another Rabbit?
When looking for another rabbit companion, consider going to your local shelter. If possible, bring your rabbit with you and see which rabbit they get along or bond with. If they become aggressive towards the new rabbit, talk to your vet about the best course of action.
Look on Facebook Marketplace or another form of classified ads. You can also talk to your friends and see if anyone who lives in your area is selling or giving away rabbits.
What If I Can’t Get Another Rabbit?
Rabbits are very active creatures and require some responsibility. Having multiple rabbits is not for everyone. If you cannot get another rabbit immediately or shortly after a rabbit dies, consider getting your surviving rabbit a stuffed animal for comfort. Most rabbits can bond with a stuffed animal that is similar to a rabbit. With this, they can get through the mourning process faster. This will prevent them from becoming lonely. This is also good when you have one rabbit that has become lonely.
Another option is to look for people in your area who only have one or two rabbits and see if you can arrange for a play date with your rabbit. This will enable your rabbit to form bonds and have social relationships but without the responsibility of an additional rabbit being taken care of by you.
You Can Help
As previously mentioned, you can help your grieving rabbit by showing them extra love and attention. Extra vegetables will almost always be appreciated by your fluffy companion. If they stop eating or start drinking excessively, keep an eye on their behavior and see if it continues for a couple of days. If they do not go back to their normal behavior soon, contact your veterinarian for professional help.
Contact Your Vet
If your rabbit dies because of illness and cannot stay inside the cage with the others, talk to your veterinarian about what should be done. Rabbits are kept in close contact with each other, so any contagious illness that a rabbit has will probably spread to the other. Keep watch for any symptoms. If your rabbit becomes sick because of grief or illness, be sure to talk to your vet about all of your options.
Other Useful Articles
- Do Pet Rabbits Come Back if They Escape? – Besides potentially being missed by other rabbits with who your pet has bonded, your rabbit escaping can be a traumatic thing. To find out if your rabbit will return home on their own if they escape, and some specific things you can do not only to make sure that they don’t escape but also that you attract him or her back home, take a look at this article!