This is an age-old question amongst rabbit keepers, one that there is no easy answer to. To explore this question, let us hop into a burrow and take a look at the wild cousins of our beloved bunnies.
The domesticated rabbit is descended from the European Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) found in the wild. They live in tight-knit groups of 2-10 individuals and the Males (Bucks) and Females (Does) have separate and yet slightly overlapping hierarchies. The Burrow typically develops the hierarchies around the Does.
Why is it important to know how rabbits behave in the wild?
By looking at the natural behaviour of their wild cousins, we can work out what the best living conditions and practices are best for our snuggle buns.
So, we now know that rabbits are naturally social, and will establish a social hierarchy. This suggests that it is best practice to keep more than one rabbit. In the UK, there is currently no law stating that rabbits must be sold as a pair, which often means that well-meaning parents buy a single rabbit for their children. This is fine, as long as the rabbit will receive lots of cuddles and attention from the humans it lives with. Yes, you do become roped into the rabbit hierarchy. Unfortunately, the single rabbits bought for children are often kept alone outside and do not have adequate interaction. Eventually, the children also become bored and the rabbit receives even less attention.
Our First Rabbit Tulip, a beautiful dutch doe, was a rabbit rescued from exactly this situation. At first, she was aggressive and didn’t like to be handled. Soon enough she bonded with us and she was the sweetest darling you could ever know.
There are, however, some times that having a single bunny can be beneficial. I currently have one rabbit after my other doe Bramble passed away in February. Pepper, never successfully bonded with Bramble but they interacted through the bars or their respective hutches. They were both housed in the lounge and were let out to run around separately.
Since Bramble’s passing, Pepper has shown signs of being lonely, such as pestering us for attention, which she gets, but the pros are that she now has free roam of the house, at all times. Pepper has decided that we are part of her hierarchy and loves to be petted, on her own terms. She seems happy and content now and as she’s elderly, I think introducing a new kit will be an unnecessary stressor. We also know one of Pepper’s brothers, who has always been a single bun and absolutely adores his human mum.
We call Pepper ‘The Dowager empress’ because she has outlived 3 mates! 3!
So in conclusion, it is always better to have more than one bun, but if you have to have only one, then lots of love and boops and snuggles, and they will be just fine.