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Introducing Your Rabbit to Other Family Pets

By: Margie Wilson

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For many animal lovers, it is natural to have more than one furry friend in their homes. Many homes have multiple dogs, cats, or rabbits. But a problem occurs when we combine the prey animal (the rabbit) with the predator species (dog and cats).

Many dogs and cats are natural-born hunters. If it moves, it's theirs. This can be a deadly combination for a rabbit, whether or not the predator even makes contact. Rabbits have been known to die of fright, being scared to death in their cages by dogs, raccoons, even raptors overhead. Rabbits can easily go into shock, so any introductions of the predator animals must be done with extreme caution or not even considered.

Are Dogs and Rabbits a Good Match?

A good rule to follow is, if a dog has "retriever" or "terrier" in his breed, or is a puppy, the answer is no. Retrievers do just that -retrieve the prey. Terriers are bred to hunt and chase, especially little bunnies. Even the playful golden retriever may not want to harm the bunny at all, but play and chase him to exhaustion. Puppies are way too rambunctious for the common household bunny, and many have sadly killed a rabbit by relentless pursuing. Of course, there are always exceptions, and in some situations, rabbits and hunting/sporting dog breeds do get along but as a general rule, it is not recommended.

Why Can't We Be Friends?

If your household has a puppy, young dog, terrier or retriever, don't leave him alone with your bunny. It would be best to keep them in separate rooms. Barking dogs can cause panic and the "My, you look tasty" look can be quite terrifying to a bunny. Avoid even upsetting your rabbit by keeping them far apart.

If your dog chases birds or squirrels, don't tempt fate. It would be safest for the rabbit to have a different home. On the other hand, if you have a mature dog, especially one that has exposure and positive experiences with small critters, they often will accept and do very well with your rabbit.

Mature Dog Meets this Rabbit Creature

Before introducing your rabbit, your dog must be under voice command and have had obedience training. If you have to repeat commands over and over, or he just does not listen, don't even try it. It is essential that your dog be on a leash, in your control, and quiet during the introduction. The rabbit can be in his normal habitat. Do this several times, just being in the same area with the bunny. Do not rush; do not force a nose-to-nose. You will know by your dog's reaction. Soon, he may be able to go up to your bunny when your bunny is curious towards your dog - not when the bunny is hiding in a box, tucked in his cage, or under the bed.

Soon your bunny and your dog may be nose-to-nose (with your dog still on his leash). You will know if your dog is mature and calm enough to unleash him. Is your bunny content and curious? Always be with them. No matter how wonderful they get along, never leave them alone.

When Cat Meets Rabbit

Funny thing is that many cats are often afraid of a rabbit. They don't know what to make of this odd-looking creature, and often they will run and hide. When your cat finally comes back out, start with your cat and rabbit separated through a cage or a barrier, or even with your cat on a leash (only if he is used to it).

Some introductions can go badly, even with otherwise amiable cats. Cats known for bringing home dead mice or chasing after birds are not good candidates for sharing their home with a rabbit. Even loving cats can suddenly show signs of aggression, (ears flat back, hair standing up) and even attack an unsuspecting rabbit.

Cats can do much damage with their teeth and claws, so if your rabbit becomes injured, please get him to a rabbit-savvy veterinarian. Don't risk introductions with cats that are mighty hunters.

When it May Work

As with a dog, a mature cat is best, one spayed or neutered, and like the dog introduction, go slowly. You may be able to let the cat and rabbit live together eventually, much sooner than with a dog. You will know when it is safe. Again, never leave them alone without you there to supervise until you know, for sure, they are grooming each other, lying together, and being content for long periods of time.

You must be sure to keep separate feeding areas, as cats are very territorial. Both animals should have separate litter boxes as well, as rabbits should not have clumping cat litter or clay as they often are tempted to eat it, and that can cause blockages.

Overall, common sense, familiarity with your animals, and patience are the keys to combining household pets. If you have a feeling something is not right, stop and listen to it. It could save your pet's life.

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