Bonded on Their Terms This Time

Shadow & Tigger

Napping in the sun together

That first bunny marriage for Tigger and Shadow lasted a year. Then Shadow became deathly ill with an inner ear infection.  He stopped eating and drinking. The vet asked us to separate them so that we could closely monitor him. Reluctantly, we did for the first 48 hours until it was clear he was eating an drinking again.  After that, we let Tigger out to share run time with him.  She ran to him clearly showing she meant to groom his head.  He growled at her, lunged, and started chasing her around the room.

The vet suggested keeping them separate until Shadow was off antibiotics.  Two months later, as Shadow was coming off meds, Tigger developed an inner ear infection of her own. This time the vet asked us to move them to separate parts of the house with no contact at all until we got them both infection free.

So, four long months later, we began the rebonding process. We thought perhaps it would go well, because they had both showed signs of loneliness while apart. This time was bumpier than the first time. Now they had issues with each other. It was clear Tigger was holding a grudge.

For two years we tried off and on to rebond them without any real progress. They weren’t trying to kill each other, but they weren’t getting friendlier either. They would start out amiable or ignoring each other and then a head humping or butt nipping incident would lead to a chase, and lock down for both.  They were both holding grudges and no one was giving an inch.

We had pretty much given up hope when we noticed a change taking place. Their cages had remained side by side.  During their separate run times, Shadow started spending a lot of time flopped by Tigger’s cage when he would be out.  Then Tigger started flopping beside his cage on her runtimes.  Then they started grooming each other through the cage bars. 

We started trying “door dates”.  We would open the door of the locked up bun’s cage, pet both of them and allow them to groom each other at the door. Shadow would even come running if we called “door date”. After a few months as jailhouse lover’s, we tried letting them out again for short run times together.

This time around, we decided to do “bunding” instead of bonding. In bonding we were trying to define their relationship in terms of what we felt a good bunny bond should be. We decided to let Tigger and Shadow define their relationship on their own terms and be “bunded” instead.

The result is a pair that share their run times, but have separate cages. They have a good relationship most of the time, but they will have occasions where they fuss with each other, like a grumpy old married couple.  They get a little pushy shovy or might hump a head or chase the other off.  We allow this, because it never progresses further.  They aren’t out to harm each other. 

The little stinkers have proved to us conclusively that humans aren’t the only ones who have weird on again off again relationships. When they go to the vet, they look like the best bonded bunny couple in the world. They spend the minimum two-hour round trip in a carrier together without the least bit of fussing. For Tigger and Shadow it is clearly you and me against the world if they have to go out.

These two have always been incredibly high energy bunnies. Looking back, I don’t know why we thought they would ever be total snuggle bunnies all the time. Tigger and Shadow have a high-spirited relationship. They have “bunded” themselves quite well and love their shared run times, but also love their separate alone times in their own cages.

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