Bonding Two Holland Lop bucks
Updated: Jan 23
“Gizmo and Blueberry” - Painting by Abbye Smith
Gizmo and Blueberry is written by Amy Smith a librarian, wife and mother of two.
The story of Gizmo and Blueberry began well before we adopted them. My daughter had asked for a rabbit for Christmas, for three years. I finally decided that we, as a family,were ready. We planned on litterbox training them so that they could live inside. I started doing lots of research and had many conversations with Wade about getting two rabbits and what worked best in terms of pairing. Throughout our discussions and after everything I read, it was determined that we would get a buck and doe. But, things don’t always go as planned, and the timing of everything yielded all bucks. So, we decided to get Blueberry and foster Gizmo so that we could keep Blueberry socialized with another rabbit until a doe became available. But as fate would have it, we all fell in love with Gizmo, and made the decision to keep him. We were prepared for the idea of eventually having to house them separately if things did notwork out in the same enclosure long term.
Within two days of bringing them home, they began urinating in the litter boxes. I was amazed with how quickly they took to it. This continued with just a few accidents until about mid-February. This is about the time, the boys started reaching sexual maturity. The once litterbox trained brothers began throwing urine and chasing and mounting each other for dominance became more frequent. I kept a close watch on them, never wanting to separate them unless necessary. I did not want to risk breaking the bond they had. I checked with the vet to see if neutering was an option yet, but he wanted them to be six months old. Needless to say, we cleaned A LOT! I made attempts with moving the litterboxes to different areas, cleaning up and putting everything in the litterbox, but nothing really worked. I understood from my experience and everything I read, that things would probably be messy until they were both neutered.
Left photo shows the Smiths pen with urine guards for Gizmo & Blueberry
Sunday March 7, Gizmo quit eating, had visible discharge from his eyes, and started making strange noises. I called the vet the next morning and took him in that afternoon. The vet knew just as soon as I handed him over what was going on. Gizmo hadSnuffles (Pasteurella) and was running a high fever. We were told there were no guarantees on his recovery, that he would hopefully respond to treatment, but it was possible he would notrecover. Snuffles is highly contagious and so Blueberry was checked as well. Thankfully, he never caught it, but they had to be separated until Gizmo was fully recovered, a minimum of 30 days. Gizmo was given fluids and treated with antibiotics and eye drops for 10 days. It was touch and go for over a week, but he finally started eating and regaining strength. Once he regained strength, he immediately went back to using his litterbox. It took until mid-April for him to be fully back to himself. This was the time frame, Gizmo became fully litterbox trained and that has never changed.
Video of Gizmo with the medical condition called Snuffles
Photo of Gizmo recovering from snuffles
Based on the size of both Gizmo and Blueberry in March, the vet agreed they were big enough to go ahead and neuter, we just had to wait for Gizmo to fully recover. Because of everything going on, I decided to keep my original date for the end of April to assure Gizmo was fully recovered prior to going under anesthesia.
Because of Gizmo’s illness, I had to keep both boys separated. I had dreaded doing this, worried that they would never have the same bond and be able to live together again. I kept them in separate enclosures, in separate rooms for about 6 weeks. As Gizmo was recovering, he went back to using his litter box fully and quit spraying. Blueberry was much more challenging and began spraying and urinating everywhere except for the litterbox. He was a by far more difficult to litterbox train. Because of this, I made the decision to keep them separated until they were both neutered and healed up. Also, I wanted to be sure that Blueberry was fully litterbox trained before trying to re-bond them. I was afraid Blueberry’s bad habits would rub off on Gizmo. Both rabbits were neutered the end of April and recovered well and quickly.
After having them neutered, I moved them both back into the same room, but kept them in separate enclosures. From everything I had read, neutering would help calm the hormones and hopefully eliminate the spraying issues. It was mid-May when Blueberry finally started using the litterbox again. After a few weeks of good litterbox habits, I moved both him and Gizmo’s enclosures side by side to start the bonding process again. During this time, we put them together in mutual spaces supervised for short time periods. Everything went really well, so in mid-June, we opened up their enclosures where they could be together. We would keep an eye on them and leave them for a couple of hours and separate them back out. This went well, but when we would separate them back out, Blueberry once again began urinating everywhere but his litterbox. I went ahead and added a second litterbox back to his area after about a week, he slowly started using the litterboxes again. This was a minor setback, but once he was back to regularly using his litterbox, we made the decision to fully combine their enclosures, which doubled their living space. So, on July 4th, the boys were back together. We have not had a single problem. It is like they instantly took back to each other as if they had never been separated.
Litter box training had its challenges for us with two boys, but it has paid off in the end and we have happy rabbits in a clean environment. I also feel like we have beat the odds of having two males bonded and living together. They were litter mates due to surrogacy and thankfully through the many challenges, they were able to stay bonded and live together. I say all of this to give some insight to our journey of adopting two male rabbits versus just one. We were well prepared for the different possibilities, and despite the hurtles along the way, everything has ended up just the way we wanted it to. So do not give up to quickly on litter box training, there will be ups and downs, but just stick with it and they will figure it out!