Keeping Rabbits Together With Other Pets – Is That Possible (Good)?

If the love of animals doesn’t stop with rabbits, but other pets should also live in the apartment or house, the question often arises as to whether the different species will get along at all. Maybe only a temporary solution is needed, but maybe the family should be expanded to include new members on a permanent basis. Rabbit keepers know, of course, that their darlings prefer to live with fellow rabbits. But what about guinea pigs, cats, or even dogs? Our following article explains what owners can do to keep rabbits together with other pets, how communication barriers can be overcome, and what needs to be considered when socializing rabbits.

The rabbit in society

Rabbits belong to the hare family. Various wild forms and cultivated forms are classified within this genus. However, they all have species-typical behavior and specific physical characteristics in common, which means that rabbit owners have to keep the animals as species-appropriate as possible.

The focus is on:

  • Diet: Food in the form of fresh vegetables, nibbles and treats must be adapted to the needs of the rabbit.
  • The space requirement: Rabbits love to hop, dig and scratch. At the same time, they need sufficient retreats for sleeping and resting.
  • Grooming: Rough, solid natural materials to care for teeth and claws and a sand bath for grooming should be available to rabbits on a regular basis.
  • The urge to move: employment opportunities, rabbit games but also the opportunity to build nests are part of the daily offer for the little four-legged friends.
  • Health: Rabbits make certain demands on their health and must be protected against the wet, cold, dry heating air, drafts and direct sunlight or in the outdoor enclosure in winter.

Rabbits are kept in pairs and groups. In order to develop a really stable social behavior, there is no better support than that of conspecifics. In the group, rabbits learn and live mutual closeness, protection, care, but also conflicts.

This is how rabbits behave towards conspecifics

Rabbits have a unique form of communication that is similar to hares in many, if not all, ways. For example, the famous tapping with the hind paws to warn fellow animals of danger.

The body language of the animals also plays an important role in other respects. Curious, they stand on their hind legs, chew in a relaxed manner and groom their fur, shyly put their ears back or flee in panic.

Rabbits rarely have conflicts with each other. Usually a warning or a short push aside is enough to clarify the hierarchy. The teeth and claws are only used in extreme cases, but can lead to serious injuries, especially if the eyes and other sensitive areas are affected.

In general, however, rabbits are considered peaceful and harmless. First and foremost, they are prey animals that prefer to avoid confrontation. However, as a group they have strong territorial behavior. This is particularly noticeable in specimens willing to mate or when offspring are added. Invaders, explicitly alien animals, are vehemently repelled and driven away. The supposedly cuddly fellows don’t understand fun.

So the question arises as to why rabbits should be kept with other animals at all.

When the rabbit doesn’t want to go to the rabbits anymore

In a few exceptional cases, individual animals are isolated from the group. The first thing to do is to clarify whether there are health reasons, behavioral disorders or poor housing conditions that make life in the rabbit hutch so stressful that the animals become aggressive, withdraw apathetically or even injure themselves.

Outcast rabbits suffer greatly from the isolation, as the community is actually the be-all and end-all. If the behavior is already so disturbed that any attempts to reintegrate them into the previous group or, optionally, into a new group fail, it is actually advisable to keep the rabbits with non-specific rabbits to socialize with pets. Unfortunately, humans alone are not enough as a substitute. Mainly because he is only there part of the time, neither sleeping in the enclosure nor spending the whole day there.

Keep rabbits with other pets

But it often happens that the experienced pet owner not only loves rabbits, but also other animal species. Whole hordes quickly gather under one roof and somehow have to get along with one another.

Despite this and precisely because such different characters collide, everyone needs their own little world in which they can live in a species-appropriate and healthy way.

Rabbits and guinea pigs

For the already mentioned exceptional cases of expelled rabbits, guinea pigs are usually brought in as substitutes of their own kind. However, the two species have little in common, although they might seem compatible at first glance. They are about the same size, eat plants, like to nibble and have soft fur.

But it’s not quite that simple after all. Rabbits are hares in the systematic sense. Guinea pigs, in turn, are rodents. As already mentioned, rabbits communicate primarily through body language, while guinea pigs use sounds to communicate. And already the first misunderstandings arise – and conflicts. Added to this is the typical territorial behavior of both species and the associated aversion to foreign intruders.

If you still want to keep rabbits and guinea pigs together, you should therefore follow a few important tips:

  • At least two animals must be kept per species in order to ensure social contact with conspecifics. Isolated rabbits may also be happy in the “presence” of two guinea pigs, but are unlikely to form a deeper relationship. The whole thing seems more like a flat share: the respective groups live side by side and occasionally share common interests, such as plundering the food bowl.
  • When rabbits and guinea pigs are kept in an enclosure, more space is required so that everyone has sufficient opportunities to retreat. Rabbits prefer caves that are a little higher up, where they won’t be disturbed by the guinea pigs. These, in turn, need houses with a narrow entrance so that the rabbits cannot even look inside.
  • Ideally, separate areas are offered for each animal species. Partition walls, height differences and tunnels can serve as boundaries. A separate enclosure for each species would be even better. So one for the rabbits and another for the guinea pigs.

Without a clear separation, guinea pigs and rabbits can get into serious arguments. This is often caused by misunderstandings in communication. While rabbits, for example, hop onto their fellow dogs with their heads bowed and ears laid back as a sign of submissiveness so that they can spoil themselves by cleaning each other, a guinea pig interprets this attitude as aggressive. For a guinea pig, flattened ears indicate hostility. However, the little pigs do not always flee, but sometimes attack directly in accordance with their territorial instincts – and usually lose the fight. This can have a light outcome, but it can also have fatal consequences. At least, however, the communication barriers cause stress in the enclosure.

The more extensive the space and the food and activity offers, the more such confrontations can be avoided. Everyone uses their own feeding bowl, has their own nest and drinking water. Rabbit toys and guinea pig toys are more likely to be shared and shared, as are natural materials for gnawing, filing teeth and sharpening claws. Because rabbits and guinea pigs agree: a bit of fun and fun is a must.

Rabbits and dogs

However, when prey and predator meet, there is usually a certain conflict of interest. In addition, there is the completely different temperament: on the one hand the dog as a playful hunter, on the other hand the rabbit with an instinct to flee and a high stress level. Keeping both animal species together poses great challenges for the owner.

Ideally, the dog and rabbit avoid each other and only touch each other every now and then while sniffing the enclosure fence. If the rabbits have a walk-in hutch or an occasional outlet, dogs are better off keeping them away. No matter how well-behaved and well-behaved man’s best friend is – a violent slap with the paw is enough to injure the rabbit. What may be just a game for the dog can degenerate into pure stress for the little rabbits and even impair their health in the long term, for example in the form of behavioral problems or cardiac arrhythmias.

In fact, it happens that both species live harmoniously with each other. The breed, size and age of the dog are the main factors. For example, if all pets grow up together as young animals, they learn to accept each other from the start. If the dog is older and rabbits come into the family life, things get more difficult again.

In addition, the dog should not have a strong hunting instinct. Dachshunds and terriers are a suitable size, but they are pure hunting dogs. Herding dogs and companion dogs, on the other hand, have proven to be the best for socializing with other animal species. They take on the role of minder rather than playmate. Some female dogs even “adopt” strange small animals and find a fulfilling existence as foster moms.

Nevertheless, no rabbit should be kept without conspecifics, dog or not. The animals, which are ultimately alien to the species, should only have contact under supervision so that the owner can intervene in good time. The dog does not always provoke a conflict, rabbits also test their limits, defend them and surprise even us.

Rabbits and cats

Cats are even more hunters than keepers. The supposed velvet paws like to cuddle and doze and appear harmless, but this behavior changes towards a rabbit. Young rabbits in particular are part of the prey pattern of an adult cat.

Therefore, the same applies here: If rabbits and cats are to be kept together, it is best to bring the animals into contact with each other when they are a few weeks old. In this way they get to know the communication of the other species and how they can react to it.

Adult animals find it much more difficult to accept newcomers to the territory. There are also misunderstandings in communication. When socializing, if it is really necessary, you should proceed cautiously and with a lot of patience.

However, the temperament of rabbits and cats is more similar than when combined with dogs. Once everyone has gotten used to each other, they usually live side by side rather than with each other.

Tips on keeping rabbits with other pets

Great friendships can develop when rabbits are socialized with guinea pigs, dogs and cats. The character of the individual animals often plays a major role here, as well as whether the housing conditions allow a species-appropriate life in each case.

Which brings the husbandry criteria mentioned at the beginning back into focus:

  • Diet: Animals from other species are fed separately, even if the diet is the same or similar, even if the diet is absolutely identical. The animals must be able to decide for themselves whether they want to share their territory and tolerate guests at the feeding bowl or whether they prefer to eat in peace. Jealousy about food would only provoke further conflicts. In addition, the owner can better control who eats what, how much and when.
  • The space requirement: In addition to the respective space requirement per species or group, there is the space requirement for additional escape routes and retreat options. This applies mainly to the socialization with guinea pigs. Cats and dogs usually move around the whole apartment anyway, but have no place in the outdoor enclosure, especially not unsupervised.
  • Care: care offers such as a sand bath can sometimes be combined well, especially for guinea pigs and rabbits for shared use. But a scratching post, digging bowls and the like are also popular with many types of pets. In principle, the animals take turns independently and there are rarely arguments about whose turn it is.
  • The urge to move: Playing together under supervision or with the participation of the owner can break the ice and help to overcome communication barriers. Special rabbit toys are guaranteed to be interesting for guinea pigs, dogs, cats and the like.
  • Health: Be it the health check for rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs or cats: the animals must always be considered individually. Medication can be optimally dosed by separate feeding. However, a very close look always applies to any injuries and, in particular, to behavior that is appropriate to the species. This is precisely what is up for debate when it comes to socialization attempts: Do the rabbits want to accept strange roommates at all? Will curiosity overcome shyness? Or is jealousy driving a wedge between pets?

As a keeper, you really have to make sure that you dedicate yourself to all animals equally devotedly and intensively. Otherwise, it is better for everyone involved to decide on an animal species and keep it in a species-appropriate manner.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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