This post is the excerpts from my personal journal about the bonding process we experienced with our bunnies Beanbag & Lookout. From start to finish, the bonding process has taken us 2 full months, 8 weeks, which I am told is a long bonding process. I’m hoping that the dates in this post will provide others with a sort of timeframe for the bonding process. Some bonds take very little time to establish, for Beanbag and Lookout, there was a lot of negotiating to do along the way. I’ve tried not to censor my comments except for in omitting personal and irrelevant information in the hopes that it will give you a real understanding of the time it takes to develop a bond. There are certainly days when we worked on bonding with Beanbag and Lookout that aren’t written about in this post. But I hope that it will help others to understand the process. To continue on to read about the bonding experience, click here for

January 21st

After getting home from services last night, Matt and I spent some time with Lookout and Beanbag. We decided to see if we could get them to work on making friends. So we each spent some time holding both bunnies. Then we put them on the bed. I held Bean and Matt scritched Lookout. Eventually, I held Bean pressed up against Lookout while Matt scritched them both on the head. Once in a while, Lookout would intentionally stick her head under Bean’s chin. And once in a while Bean would try to assertively nip at Lookout. But generally, they both submissively kept their heads down and enjoyed the scritches. We praised them both soundly for this good behavior and rewarded them with a blueberry. It’s progress. If we keep this up, a couple weeks from now we might be able to start working on limited group romp time.

January 22nd

Busy day full of replacements and recycling. We got up at around 9 and put ourselves together. I made a list of the things that needed to get done. The list was long. But we still took some time to spend working with Beanbag and Lookout on getting them to be more civil toward each other. I think we are making slow and steady progress.

January 27th

The one thing we did get done last night was spending more time working with Beanbag and Lookout on socializing. We are making progress. Lookout actively wants to cuddle with Bean. So long as he doesn’t nip at her to try to assert dominance, she is perfectly happy to lay side by side getting scritched. She even tried to nudge her head under his chin. So far, Beanbag is being more aggressive than Lookout though he is slowly yielding. By the end of the 1/2 hour we spent, both bunnies were willing to let me carry them to the cage together and to receive their blueberries from the same hand. I still wouldn’t trust them to be left unsupervised, but we don’t have to keep hands on them at all times any more. Progress.

February 1st

While we waited for our dinner to arrive, we spent some time disciplining Lookout. She likes to dig when she is being held to force whoever is holding her to let her down. Neither of us likes this particular behavior pattern. We’ve tried to change it before, but haven’t had much success. So last night we broke down and did what the rabbit books suggest; when she digs squirt her in the face with water. She was confused and upset by this. But she did seem to be learning to associate her bad behavior with getting squirted. When her face was rather wet but she had stopped digging, we stopped, dried her off, and set her loose for a romp on the bed. She groomed a bit and then came over to be scritched for reassurance. She’s obviously learned to associate our scritches with reassurance and security. Progress.

February 2nd

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This picture says more than my words can. We finally have a breakthrough at getting Beanbag and Lookout to get along. We didn’t want to use the technique described in most of the rabbit books at first because it seemed so cruel. But both bunnies really do respond to using a water bottle for discipline. Getting their faces good and wet wasn’t fun for either of them. But the result was this picture and the others in my new gallery. They finally spent time in the same space without fighting. They are finally working through their dominance battles. Beanbag, of course, was the one who did all the grooming. Thus proving yet again that he is definitively not a dominant bunny and never will be. Sorry, old man, but if it gets you a new friend to keep you company and cuddle with, I doubt you are going to complain.

Lookout’s behavior would have done Fuzzface (Beanbag’s bondmate who died on January 15th) proud. She was patient and non hostile unless she really felt that she needed to defend herself. She really does want this to work. Bean is still uncertain and confused a bit, but he’s learning. I think eventually, his desire to have someone to cuddle with is going to win out.

February 3rd

I know that eventually, we will get another bunny. The reading I’ve been doing says that having trios rather than pairs is a good idea because then the one who is left behind when their partner dies isn’t alone in their confusion. It’s been hard to watch Beanbag being so quiet and docile. He has no one to protect anymore, so he doesn’t mutter a peep at me when I reach in to scratch his head. He tried to groom the stuffed grey bunny on the sunroom bed the other day. I could tell that he thought it was Fuzz. I don’t want him or Lookout to go through that again when we lose our next bunny. But I still can’t help but feeling guilty about the idea of “replacing” Fuzz. I know that no one will ever really replace her. But getting another bunny will feel like we are replacing her in some respects. And I don’t really know how I will feel about it when the time comes to finally choose another bunny. Do we get a young adult somewhere around the same age as Lookout? Do we get a baby that’s just a little ball of fluff like Fuzz was when we first got her? Do we get a mid-life bunny that needs a good home like Bean? I don’t know.

February 6th

We got some time to work with the bunnies again. A lot less fighting and fur pulling and squirt bottling this time. There was a voluntary bout of grooming (Bean groomed, Lookout submitted to being groomed) and it didn’t take scaring them or forcing them to share a litter box to make it happen. There were a couple running dominance battles played out in less aggressive fashion. Nipping at hind quarters rather than boxing or fur pulling. Funny thing was that Beanbag was always the winner of these little battles. I guess he’s grown a spine and won’t put up with being bullied after all these years.

February 8th

Watched the bunnies romping a bit. Bean & Lookout got some time to socialize. There was a lot less fighting and more grooming. Beanbag keeps retreating to one corner of the hall when he feels threatened. He wants to protect his backside from having Lookout take any more clumps of fur. Poor Bean. Lookout is really in to assertively shoving her head under Bean to ask to be groomed. Sometimes he tries to get his head under her, but she always wins and shoves her head underneath again. I also reintroduced the rag rug, so they now have some traction. Slow but steady progress.

February 16th

For the most part, they behaved very well. There was a little nipping, but no serious fur pulling this time. And Beanbag finally got groomed as opposed to doing all the grooming. Lookout still looks uncertain about grooming someone else, but she does do it once in a while now. After about an hour on the hardwood floor in the hallway with me, Matt and I took the bunnies in the bedroom and let them run around together on the bed. They had traction, but for the most part, they were still behaving themselves. When they started chasing each other a bit, we decided it was time to call it a night. At this rate, I might actually decide to try taking them to the vet next Monday in the same carrier rather than separate carriers. (Sometimes stress and fright cement a bond between hesitant bunnies. Some experts recommend taking relucant bonding pairs on car rides together in a carrier to force the issue. We’ve been avoiding this method.) Fuzz would have been so proud of both Bean and Lookout. She would have been eager to join in the grooming and cuddles. I wished so hard last night that she was there. I think in a little way she was, in spirit.

February 20th

To continue with the furry theme to the weekend, I took Lookout and Beanbag to the vet today for their yearly checkup. We visited the vet practice in Wayland recommended to us by a friend who’s a vet. Dr. D is very good with bunnies. Even Lookout behaved like a good girl for him. He listened and massaged and peered and pronounced that they are both in fine health. He said we are doing a great job taking care of them and that we should be very pleased with how healthy and well behaved they both are. (Ha! He should see them at home.) While I took them to the vet in separate carriers, I discovered that someone had chewed through the end of the zipper on our soft carrier. The zipper busted when we were in the car so I decided to see if both bunnies would be willing to share a carrier. Since they seemed willing, I packed them both into the plastic carrier for the drive home. Everyone behaved themselves and got a big bowl of greens in their cages when we got home. Lesson of the day, don’t bother buying a soft carrier for a pet who has sharp teeth. Sigh. I guess that the cheaper plastic carriers are a just easier. Live and learn.

February 22nd

In other news, apparently, Lookout and Beanbag spent about 3-4 hours together in the hallway yesterday morning while Matt was working. They spent a couple more hours together last night when we were done cuddling Bean and decided to make dinner. I still don’t trust them to share space when they have a surface with traction to run on. But for the moment, they are learning to behave quite nicely in the confines of their hardwood hallway play space. They even shared a bowl of broccoli stems and a littler box last night. And Lookout groomed Beanbag for a bit. (He, of course, groomed her for quite a bit more than a bit.) Looks like we will be doing some volunteer time in March and April for the House Rabbit people. We’re not sure yet whether we will bring the bunnies with us or not. We are debating about whether of not it would be too stressful for them. But either way, we will go out and present a public face for prospective bunny owners so they have someone to talk to and ask questions of before deciding to adopt a bunny. It will feel good to volunteer for something I believe in. Especially at Easter-time when so many people get baby bunnies who really shouldn’t. This is not an impulse-buy at the checkout counter folks, this is a living creature.

March 1st

When Matt finally got home, (he got stuck at work for an extra hour) he made dinner for us while I grabbed a shower. We let the bunnies hang out in the hallway together while dinner was cooking and being eaten. Why the hell is it that they will spend hours sitting in the hallway doing nothing but grooming each other but if you put them on the living room rug, they chase each other? Gah. I’m really wishing I could find a way past the current hurdle in their bonding. Someone on one of the lists I read suggested taking them to a friend’s house for 6 hours of romp time in a totally foreign space. I suppose we should give that one a shot but I hate to take them out in this weather. Besides, who do I know that has a home with a rug that is reasonably bunny proof and would let me bring my bunnies over to hang out for most of a day? Hell, for that matter, when do I have time?

March 5th

I penned the bunnies up in the hallway for some bonding time while I got some chores done. About an hour ago, I heard a scuffle coming from the vicinity of the litter box in the hallway. I went to check it out and discovered one of those amusing bunny owner moments; Beanbag was “having his way” with Lookout in the litter box. For those that think this is just typical bunny behavior and that this is just ribald, let me correct you; yes, it is those things, but it is also a major form of dominance behavior. When we were doing introductions with Fuzz and Bean, the turning point was the day that he “had his way” with her. After that, it was all cuddles and grooming. So once Bean and Lookout were done, I decided to take a chance; I grabbed the litter box with both bunnies in it and brought it out to the living room. For those of you who have paid attention to my previous posts about the bonding process, you will probably remember that any time we put the bunnies on a surface with traction, they chased each other. Well, they’ve been sharing the living room and dining room together for the last 45 minutes or so and there hasn’t been a single fight. They have run around and snuffled in corners and chewed on the edge of their new cage without one incident of hostility. Yup, perhaps we have reached a turning point. I really hope so.

March 7th

I took a look at the bunnies to say goodnight as I walked through the dining room and almost fell over. They were each caged, but they were in the wrong sides of the cage. According to Matt, they had a nice evening of romping with only one chase/fight and lots of grooming. Eventually they decided to retire to their cages and they both unanimously decided that the sides of the cage we had chosen to put them in were the wrong sides. So now Bean is in Lookout’s half of the cage and she is in his side. Heh. This just goes to show you all that not only do the silly rabbits have a brain, they also have an opinion. I believe it’s almost time to try removing the wall from the middle of their cage. Perhaps this weekend when Matt can keep an eye on them.

March 13th

Bean & Lookout have been moved into the sunroom and spent the night together last night. I’m told that they were chasing each other this morning, but there wasn’t any fur-pulling involved. Matt removed some of the separating wall in their cage before he left for work this morning. We’ll see how they are doing when we get home tonight.

Speaking of bunnies. Yesterday we had the rescheduled play date the woman whose bunny we are considering adopting! The result of this trip is not unexpected; yes, we have adopted a 3rd bunny. She’s a skinny 3 month old speckled grey and light brown bunny with light brown edge markings sort of like Beanbag’s. For the moment, we are referring to her as Echo because she’s got disproportionately huge ears. Currently, she is living in one of the old cages in the dining room. Once she gets spayed and her hormones calm down, we’ll work on introductions. But we wouldn’t have brought her home if we didn’t feel like she showed good signs of getting along with Bean & Lookout. Lookout was indifferently curious at the play date and only a little territorial when we got home. Bean is really interested because he smells hormones. I think for everyone’s safety that she’ll get fixed as soon as possible and we’ll keep her separate until then. She does like cuddling and scritches.

March 14th

Beanbag seemed rather uphappy/insecure/depressed/beaten-up when we got home. After watching him skitter away a couple times when Lookout came near, I decided that they are not ready to be sharing the cage yet after all. Lookout is domineering and Bean is insecure and scared. She walks all over him and he lets her. So we put the removed panel back into the cage so they each have their own space again. But when Bean was out, he regularly chose to go back to the cage and sit as close to Lookout as he could. He yearns for the company that she represents. Its plain to see. But at the same time, she’s taken to intimidating him and bullying. I know I have to let them work it out. But I’d rather be around to break up the worst of the fights rather than letting this break Bean’s fragile spirit.

Now don’t get my wrong based on the way I am talking about this. Lookout also spent about 20 minutes curled up in my lap after dinner just enjoying time being held and stroked. She has her moments when she’s a sweet bunny. She’s just young, active, and dominant. And with a partner like Bean, this means that she pushes him around alot. As I said, Bean has a fragile spirit in many ways. I feel the need to protect that part of him, even though I know that ultimately, he badly needs another bunny for companionship.

I find it strange to notice that I am feeling a bit schizophrenic and ambivalent about having a 3rd bunny again and about working through bonding them all. I am so protective of the small ammount of spirit and confidence that Beanbag learned from being with Fuzz. I feel like I owe it to Fuzz to make sure that he lives the happiest life he can from now on. Somehow, in the tears and sobbing of her last day, I whispered a half-forgotten promise to her that I’d make sure he would be alright without her. (Damnit I’m tearing up right now as I type this.) I’m doing the best I can, but I still feel like its not enough. I can see him being uncertain and sad without her, and I depserately want to fix it. I know that the answers aren’t easy. I know that this is going to take time but it still hurts because I feel like I’m not doing it right. I worry about whether Lookout will ever calm down and be a good partner for anyone. I worry about whether I made a selfish choice in bringing Echo home. I’m afraid to let myself coo and cuddle Echo because somehow it feels like I should be lavishing all that attention on Beanbag to make up for the fact that Fuzz isn’t here to do it. She had such a big heart, only now, when I am trying to stand in for her, am I realizing how much she gave to us all. And what about Lookout? Fierce, independent, proud, Lookout, who started to flop and stick her head under Beanbag’s once she learned that he wanted to groom her? She may be fierce and independent and strong, but she still needs attention and guidance and love. She still needs contact. And if Echo is going to continue to grow up to be a sweet, outgoing, friendly creature she needs these things too.

I’m not saying that we made a mistake in trying to bond Lookout and Bean. And I’m not saying that we made a mistake in bringing Echo home with us this weekend. Just that I find that all of the social dynamics that don’t quite fit and need so much attention and work are stirring up a lot of feelings in me. I guess I tried not to spend too much time dwelling on the hole in my life without Fuzz. Working through the bonding process and trying to get all of the bunnies emotional and physical needs met has given me reason to think about these things. I can’t hold off the thoughts about how much I miss Fuzz or how much she filled an important space in Beanbag’s life. I have to work through my own emotional turmoil as well as trying to work through getting the rabbits’ social dynamics re-settled. Its been 2 months now since we lost Fuzz, and I still find myself missing her fiercely enough to leave me in tears at work. How can one little life leave such a big hole? Am I ever going to do right by Beanbag, Lookout, & Echo?

March 15th

On the home bunny front, Beanbag seems to be feeling a bit better about the world now that he has his own space again. He perked up this morning and snuffled around on the bed a bit while I was getting dressed. We went back to basics and put him and Lookout into the penned-up hallway again. They groomed and mounted and snuffled around while we ate breakfast. So it looks like we just need to keep working on getting them comfortable. They weren’t quite ready to share a cage full time yet. The new bunny, whom we continue to call Echo for lack of a better name yet, is doing well. She got some cuddles this morning and snuffled around a bit on the couch while I ate.

March 16th

On the recommendation of another HRN member, Matt and I are trying a different tact for bonding Lookout and Beanbag. We know that they behave fairly well together in neutral territory. The problem is when we try to get them to share cage space; that’s when Lookout becomes a bully. So we’ve penned them up together in the pantry with food, water, and a letterbox. It’s better than penning them up in the hallway because it doesn’t serious block traffic around the apartment. We plan to let them live together in the pantry for a while to give them time and space to sort out their bonding issues. Hopefully, they will become so used to sharing space together that who the territory belongs to will no longer be an issue. We didn’t hear any fights over night and Beanbag looked fairly perky and un-stressed this morning, so I am hopeful.

Lookout went back into the cage for the day while Beanbag got taken off to his vet appointment. We don’t want her to claim the pantry as her territory while he’s away today. Echo has gone off to the vet as well today for her first exam and to be assessed for her spay surgery.

March 20th

Bean & Lookout happily cohabitating in the pantry and snuggling lots.
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March 24th

Beanbag & Lookout are sharing a cage and it seems to be working out well this time. Keep holding your breath for us folks; I’m really hoping that this is the end of the great bonding journey. (At least for Lookout & Bean. We won’t borrow trouble just yet about what happens next month when Echo is spayed and ready to join the party.)