Let’s cut to the bunny chase. Rabbits and cats can be best friends. But how in the world do we go from predator and prey to BFFs?
The solution is simple but only sometimes easy to execute. You have to artfully introduce the two animals slowly. Luckily, the steps for training a cat and rabbit are about the same as you would with any two animals.
Below are our best tips to help you get the ball rolling.
Before the Introduction
Before you let your rabbit start hopping all around the living room, there’s something you need to do first: ensure the animals are comfortable around you. Pretty simple, yet pet owners often miss this crucial step.
The truth is that rabbits are prey and cats are hunters. Both animals will exhibit predator and prey behavior when they see each other for the first time. But when your rabbit and cat trust you, they’re more likely to trust each other when you’re in the room and be more relaxed overall. Plus, if the introduction goes awry, you can wrangle the animals together much better because you know how to handle them.
Your bunny should feel relaxed in your presence without needing to hide. Likewise, your cat should enjoy your company rather than run from you the second you waltz through the door. Build a relationship with your rabbit and cat first, then you can focus on introducing the two pets.
The 5 Steps to Introducing a Cat to a Rabbit
1. Start With Scent Exchange
Animals communicate through scent, so a scent exchange always starts things off on the right foot. A scent exchange means offering your cat something covered in the rabbit’s scent and vice versa. It’s as if two people talked behind closed doors. Your rabbit can’t see your cat, and your cat can’t see your rabbit, but the two are getting to know each other on their terms.
You can offer anything as long as it’s safe, like a favorite toy or a blanket. Another option is rubbing a piece of cloth on your rabbit’s back, then rubbing the fabric on your cat. Do the same thing with your cat.
2. Find a Calm and Neutral Space
The space you choose dramatically impacts the success of the meet-n-greet. Ensure there is plenty of open space and lighting. When it’s time for face-to-face introductions, choose an area free from noise and foot traffic.
Rabbits are territorial and can become aggressive if a cat enters their domain, so choose a space that neither your cat nor rabbit visits often.
3. Secure the Rabbit in an Enclosure
The first meet and greet should be for visual introduction only. You never know what could happen, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and keep your rabbit in an enclosure.
The enclosure can be any blocked space where the cat and rabbit can still see each other. Provide a safe hiding nook for your rabbit if it wants to hop to safety.
Suppose there isn’t any flight reaction from the rabbit or stalk behavior from the cat. In that case, you can allow the two animals to inch closer toward each other. Keep a protective barrier between the two pets should a predator-prey situation begin.
4. Offer Treats During the Introduction
You can offer treats to your cat and rabbit to keep the introduction fun and stress-free. The treat should be something delicious and enticing that your cat doesn’t usually eat. Likewise, offer your rabbits some treats like fresh grass or dandelions.
5. Watch for Signs of Stress
Observing signs of stress is the most important part of first introductions with any animal. You’ll improve the more you get to know your rabbit, but some common signs of stress include:
- Flattened ears against the body
- Tense, crouched position
- No nose twitching
- Running away
- Sitting upright and digging with the front paws
- Showing their front teeth
Is One Introduction Enough?
Here’s where people run into trouble. They desperately want their cat and rabbit to become best friends and end up rushing the introduction. Or they only do one meet-n-greet. With predator-prey relationships, you must plan for several meetings at the beginning. Cats and rabbits won’t become best friends immediately. Animal relationships take time to develop, especially predator-prey friendships. Cats have to learn to overcome their hunting instincts, and rabbits have to learn to stay calm in the presence of a hunter. That’s not easy, so give it time and you’ll eventually see results.
Can rabbits and cats be best friends? Absolutely! As long as we give them time to nurture a relationship. That doesn’t mean your cat and rabbit will be best friends, but the outcome is much better when you introduce the animals properly. Give it a try and see what happens. Of course, only do so if you’re supervising.
Featured Image Credit: Sharomka, Shutterstock