While I was in college I had a rabbit that was a great pet, but after moving into a bigger place I really wanted to add cats and dogs to my household. I had to put some thought into the pros and cons of having a bunny with other pets.
The first thing I really needed to know was whether or not I’d be making a huge mistake by adding any other pets to my home, especially a kitten or puppy to live peacefully with my bunny. The answer for me turned out to be that yes, you can have a home with rabbits, cats, and dogs though not every group of pets is going to make a good combination.
Factors to Consider in a Multi-Pet Home with Rabbits
When combining a bunny with other pets, preparation and planning are critical. There are assessments you can make about your household that can make a major difference in determining the success or failure of your pet family.
- Rabbits with Cats
- Rabbits with Dogs
- When to Reconsider
Rabbits can live well with cats since they are often similar in size and have some habits that are generally alike. Rabbits and cats both like to live in clean spaces, both can be litter trained and if raised together they may behave something like siblings. Dogs and rabbits can also live well together if the match is a good one, though not every dog and bunny will make good companions. Having a group of pets together isn’t something to force. One animal that is able to breed in a group of spayed and neutered pets can make the situation chaotic and even dangerous. An animal that has known aggression issues may become unsettled with humans or other animals if forced to live in a group. If you have any doubts about harm coming to one of your pets, you can always reconsider and have just one or two pet types that go well together.
Information for Pet Owners Interested in a Large Pet Family
Rabbits are sociable and curious creatures who can benefit from interaction with their humans and other pets in the home. They do especially well in a home with more than one rabbit. If you are interested in having a rabbit with other pets from guinea pigs to ferrets to dogs and cats, you just want to make sure you’ve chosen the best situation and that every pet is ready to live in the group. Consider:
- Can rabbits and other pets exchange illnesses?
Very generally speaking, different species get different diseases. This is why we can have a winter where the humans in the family all catch a cold and the pets are just fine. A cat can get Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and this won’t be passed along to dogs, rabbits or humans. That said, there are some illnesses that can cross this barrier so if you have an animal with a short-term or a chronic illness, ask your veterinarian some questions and do your research.
- How do you introduce rabbits and other pets?
The last thing you want to do is to bring a new pet home and just put the new animal loose in a room with your current pets. Even two animals of the same species and same gender can react poorly to one another at first. You will need the space and the equipment to introduce new pets to the home in a slow fashion while keeping all of your critters safe and comfortable.
- What kinds of animals are a good fit to live with rabbits?
We sometimes see viral videos of animals that wouldn’t seem to go together and they are doing well or have even become best friends. We can’t assume this is realistic in an average situation. Sometimes even two cats, two dogs, or two rabbits don’t get along with each other. Ferrets are actually predators in their native environments and while they are small, they often won’t fit in with a rabbit. Guinea pigs and rabbits can make good companions if introduced slowly. These are just examples and each situation is different. Cats and dogs are both animals that adapt well to living with humans and domestic dogs and cats are social creatures like rabbits.
Will Any Dog or Cat Adapt to Any Rabbit with Preparation?
The simple answer to this question is no. This isn’t because there aren’t potentially good matches in a home with all three pet types, but some pets just don’t work with other pets. Your particular rabbit may be too shy or nervous to live with dogs, cats or even with other rabbits. Your rabbit might get along well with a calm and relaxed cat but may panic at the sight of every dog. Your cat may seem very social with other cats and even dogs, but may be triggered by rabbits and chase them at every opportunity. It’s up to you to assess the nature of your rabbit, cat or dog and then try a slow introduction. Don’t leave a rabbit with another animal unsupervised even if things were going well. Start with slow and brief periods of introduction and build up to longer ones if the situation seems good. Keep a barrier between two animals until you are certain of how they get along.
Are There Special Considerations for Puppies/Dogs with Rabbits?
Canines and rabbits would rarely become the best of friends in the wild. While there are many situations where your dog will fit in fine with your rabbit, there are unique issues to consider before making a decision about this. It is often best to get animals together for the first time while one or both are still young and this is true of canines and bunnies. At the same time, most puppies love to play with toys and most puppies will encounter small and furry toys at a young age. A puppy may see a rabbit as just another toy and be very excited when the “toy” moves around. This can lead to a disaster without the right setup. Older dogs that are calm and have been around cats or other animals may still fit in well with a rabbit even if they haven’t encountered one before. Even a calm dog who sees a wild rabbit may see it as prey, however, so the situation should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
First Time Dog To Rabbit Introduction
The first time you introduce a puppy or dog to a rabbit, you will ideally want to have the dog and the rabbit in enclosures. A dog who is crate-trained will usually remain somewhat calm in the crate and the rabbit can be in a comfortable cage so the two animals can see each other clearly. By starting out this way, there is no risk to either animal at all. If the two animals seem to be content observing one another without excessive fear or excitement, you can eventually move on to another stage. When introducing pets outside of the enclosures, the dog should always be on a lead and small dogs are best held in a lap as well. If possible, have another person holding the rabbit comfortably while sitting nearby but don’t allow the two to touch at first. If the two seem comfortable with each other, you can gradually increase the contact but always keep them both under the control of a person.
Can Dogs and Rabbits Live Together?
Dogs and rabbits that become comfortable can usually live together and a well-trained dog will learn that the rabbit is not a toy and not prey. In some cases, they will actually become friends and in other cases, they will just co-exist. While some rabbits and dogs can even be loose in the home together after months to years of supervised practice, ideally you should keep them under supervision and avoid all risks. Even a small dog can hurt a rabbit very quickly and this can be accidental during play. Rabbits also have very powerful legs and sharp teeth. A rabbit can do significant damage to humans or to other pets if they become frightened enough to bite or claw.
Are There Special Considerations for Kittens/Cats with Rabbits?
With cats, it is especially helpful to introduce them to rabbits while they are young. Kittens are curious and very open to new experiences and they tend to bond fairly well with dogs, rabbits, and even new people. Adult cats may become set in their ways and not adapt as well to new situations, people or animals. Some kittens will see a rabbit as prey, though, especially if the rabbit young or small. Kittens may also want to play and may frighten or injure the rabbit without intention.
Rabbits and Cats First Time
Rabbits who see young kittens for the first time should not just be let loose with the kitten just because of the size difference. The bunny may actually instinctively want to establish its place and since the kitten appears small and weaker, there is a chance it will be at risk. For all of these reasons, follow a plan when introducing new felines and rabbits.
Just like with dogs, cats and kittens are best introduced from a confined environment. If the rabbit is in a cage and the cat is in a carrier you can also prevent the animals from getting to each other through the bars. At first, you just want them to see each other. Cats are naturally provoked by movement, so it is best if the rabbit is kept fairly still during the first and second introductions. Stick to a brief period of observation and then separate them. You can slowly increase the amount of time the animals see one another and also watch for signs that the cat is comfortable with the rabbit’s limited movements. If the kitten or cat becomes relaxed and doesn’t seem overly excited by the rabbit, give the rabbit enough room to move around an enclosure so the feline can adapt to the way a rabbit moves without the temptation to attack or chase. This should all take place very slowly, preferably over days or even weeks.
If your cat or kitten is trained to move around on a harness this can be very helpful during the first introductions outside of an enclosure. Start by taking turns so that the cat sees the rabbit in a loose environment and the rabbit sees the cat moving around the room normally. If you see they are comfortable, you can move forward in baby steps. Once you feel fairly sure that the two animals are harmonizing, you can try introducing them without enclosures. Harnesses for both can increase the safety factor, though you don’t want to add in something new so this should only be done with animals that are harness-trained. Make sure there is very close supervision and there should be at least two humans around that are known to both cat and rabbit. If there is any sign of aggression or over-excitement, the humans can intervene and pick up the animals for another try later. If you go about this slowly, most cats and rabbits will learn to co-exist and perhaps even become close playmates or friends. If things do not go well enough for them to be loose together but they seem comfortable otherwise, you may have to keep one enclosed and out of reach for the long-term.
Making the Final Decision
If you have proceeded very slowly, you should be able to tell over time if your dogs, cats, and rabbits can get along well together in your home. The worst mistakes are usually due to owners who try to rush through the introductory steps, so your best chances of success come with patience. Once you’ve spent weeks to months getting your animals acquainted, you’ll be ready to determine the ground rules for your pets and your home.
Most of the time you can have cats, dogs and bunnies in the same home with the right introductory period. What isn’t as certain is how much interaction these animals can have with each other. If your animals do turn out to do well in a loose environment, long term success is most likely by always giving them their free time under supervision. If your pets can’t be out loose together, you can still have a happy multi-pet home by giving each animal some dedicated time but otherwise keeping your rabbit in an enclosure.