Do Rabbits Grieve? Everything You Need to Know

Do Rabbits Grieve
Do Rabbits Grieve

As rabbit owners, we always want to do what’s best for our bunnies and show the proper care, love, and affection. Sometimes this can be hard to do. We may not know what the best approach is to comfort our bunnies or what they are feeling. Rabbits can act out for various reasons. We don’t always know if what our rabbits are feeling is related to illnesses, boredom or even sadness and depression. This had me thinking not too long ago. I was curious about bunnies and why they behave in certain manners during certain situations. Do rabbits grieve? After some research and finding the best possible solution, here is what I know about the topic.

So, do rabbits grieve? Yes, rabbits grieve very similar to the way humans grieve. Especially when they lose a fellow rabbit mate. A rabbit can slip into a deep depression or even fall ill from grief. It’s important to take specific steps and precautions to limit this grief the best we can as pet-owners.

The way rabbits grieve is not overly complicated, but it is imperative to understand. In fact, it’s unethical as a pet-owner not to follow these precautions for your rabbit and do everything possible to help your bunny through these tough times of grief. If you genuinely want to know how you can improve your bunny through this period, stick around.  I’m about to cover everything you need to know.

Understanding the Grief Cycle and Why Bunnies Grieve

First and foremost, it’s important to realize that your bunny can act very “human-like” when it comes to certain emotions and social characteristics. Grief or the action of “grieving” is one of the situations. When your bunny loses a rabbit friend of “rabbit mate” it’s a huge blow and shock for them.

A pet owned captive rabbit can live 8-12 years. Likely, if you have had both rabbits for this duration, they have built a very close bond with each other over this period. They have groomed each other, played, cuddled and much more. Losing this mate for them is like one of us losing our best friend or even “lover.”

The depression can be real and devastating and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Point being, it’s complicated for your rabbit during this process, and as the owner, you need to understand what’s to come in the immediate future and what you can do help your bunny through the grieving process.  As stated above, failure to do these things can result in a very depressed rabbit or even your rabbit becoming ill and ultimately experiencing death as a result.

Allow Your Bunnies to Say His or Her Farewells

This may sound strange but picture this as the funeral humans have. Your bunny needs and wants this opportunity for his friend and companion. You do this by allowing your rabbit time with the deceased rabbit’s body. It is horrific to watch purely out of emotions because your rabbit will not understand immediately what is going on. You may visually see your rabbit going up to the deceased rabbit’s body and doing any of the following.

  • Sniffing the Deceased Rabbits Body
  • Pushing or Nudging the Deceased Rabbits Body
  • Grooming or Licking the Deceased Rabbits Body
  • Hopping or Running Circles Around the Other Rabbit

Helping Your Bunny Understand What’s Happening

Again, the actions described previously are helping your bunny to gain an understanding that something is wrong. At first, your rabbit won’t understand that his mate has expired, but after 3-6 hours of these actions, he or she will get the picture that the bunny is no longer responding to these actions and that he or she has passed away.

Not allowing your rabbit the time to go through this process can have devastating impacts. Your bunny could wander endlessly around the home or play area searching for his or her mate, and without success, your rabbit will become frantic and ultimately come down into the deep depression we discussed earlier.

“Where has my best friend gone and why can’t I find her”?

That would be like the thoughts strolling through your rabbit’s mind without adequate grieving and goodbye time being provided.

We still need to cover other components and things you can do to help your bunny through this problematic circumstance and to prepare you to be the best pet owner possible.

Here’s a video that will have a pet owner not only describe the feelings your rabbit may be having but will also show the footage the surviving bunny figuring out what has happened to his best friend.

Monitor Your Rabbit Closely Following the Tragedy

It’s important that even after adequate grieving time and goodbye time that you keep a close eye on the situation. Just like humans, all rabbits are different and handle things in their own way. They are unique creatures in this respect. Some rabbits may even refuse to eat and become motionless/lethargic following the death of a mate or fellow rabbit friend.

Other rabbits may begin chewing finish and door trims around the home more than usual or even get angry towards you. That’s okay. We would be upset and angry during this process as well, and you need to be understanding of what’s going on. The biggest thing to watch for is to be sure your rabbit is not losing any appetite or need/want to consume fluids.

This is where it can become dangerous for your bunny if you’re not actively monitoring the situation and tragedy could strike a second time if you’re not careful.

Increase Your Time and Strengthen Your Bond

During this grieving process is a big opportunity for you and your bunny. You should be a caring and compassionate pet owner. You should be sad over the loss of another rabbit with your surviving bunny. I believe they can sense this. During this period squeeze some extra time out of your calendar to show some big love toward your rabbit and help him overcome the sadness and depression he or she is experiencing.

A little bit can go a long way.

It’s Time to Let Your Bunny Get Back on the Market and Make New Friends

Sounds pretty cliché, right? I get it. It’s the way it goes.  Your rabbit would be in bunny heaven with a new friend. Some even suggest that the sooner you can do this, the better. Get a new rabbit mate for your bunny.  This may be one of the only effective ways to get your bunny out of depression. Your bunny needs to move on.

If you want to have some real fun with it, take your bunny with you to a local shelter and let him pick the next best friend.

If You Can’t Get the Real Thing, Consider a Stuffed Animal

If you can’t spring for the new bunny or handle the second bunny again, consider faking it until you make it. Get your bunny a stuffed animal instead. Other bunny parents have reported that giving your rabbit a stuffed animal during this period can imitate the real thing. Your bunny may groom the stuffed animal and act as if he has a friend back with him yet again.

Either way, this method should help your bunny feel a little less alone for the time being and maybe help force your rabbit through this dark time of sadness of grief.

A Final Consideration to Ensure, Better Safe than Sorry

The last consideration you want to check on is that your first bunny didn’t pass away from something that’s contagious. Rabbits, like humans, can get sick too. Unfortunately, if one bunny has experienced death and it is contagious, it’s highly unlikely that the other bunny hasn’t contracted the same illness. Bunnies interact and stay close to each other so it would be challenging not to spread an illness back and forth.

However, your vet could still be a miracle worker if you are sure to double check these possibilities promptly. Contact your vet following the death of your bunny and ensure there is no further steps or necessary precautions you need to take to protect your surviving rabbit. Keep in mind, I did state it’s highly likely your other bunny would have already contracted this disease.

Even if this is the cause of death, be sure to allow time with the body for your surviving bunny still. It will add no further risk or harm to the surviving rabbit but not doing so can certainly cause you future health concerns for your furry friend.

Putting It All Together- Although It May Take Time, You and Your Bunny Will Overcome This

With some love, dedication, and affection shown to your rabbit, you can help yourself and bunny pull through this time of grief and devastation. It will be tough for you and your bunny but following the methods, we laid out for you above is a great starting point to handling these situations like a professional bunny owner and soon enough, things can get back to normal.

What’s your experience with handling a grieving bunny? What steps did you take to ensure you dealt with the situation in the best possible way?