Welcome, Gracie!

Posted in Day-to-day, Husbandry How-to, Sanctuary Spotlight at 2:33 am by ACR&S

We’ve got a few new residents up here at the Sanctuary. On June 19, I spent about 5 hours waiting for Midwest flight 2704 from Raleigh to Milwaukee, which had a special climate-controlled, pressurized cargo compartment carrying three new Sanctuary residents. I’m spreading their introduction over two posts, so today I’m pleased to introduce Gracie.

Gracie is a spayed female Californian rabbit, between 6 and 8 years old. She was owned for 5.5 years until a job transfer made her owner decide to give her up.

GracieCalifornians are huge rabbits, in the 10lb range, having originally been developed for meat and fur production. Gracie’s size, age, and some fairly minor age-related health concerns would have made it nearly impossible to find an adopter for her, so although it’s not standard practice for owner surrenders, we agreed to a direct transfer to the Sanctuary.

This transfer would also be advantageous for us: we have an existing bonded pair of very large rabbits, Roo and BunBun. Roo is only 7 or so years old, but his partner BunBun is nearly 12. With BunBun clearly showing his age, we’ve been having to give thought to a future partner for Roo once BunBun passes. But we don’t have any other potential bondmates for Roo in the Sanctuary (our primary candidate, Jeannie, has proven beyond a doubt that she hates him and will murder him if given the opportunity), so practically any solution required bringing in another rabbit.

Ideally, it’s best to form a triple in a situation like this, so that there is no solitary grieving period when the eldest bunny passes; the other two can comfort one another. At the same time, making a triple is very difficult. The existing pair-bond is strained, and the difficulties of introduction and bonding are doubled. But I thought we might have a better than average chance with Gracie, Roo, and BunBun, because of some unique circumstances in their history:

Gracie has outlived two previous partners, both neutered males, so she has a proven track record of being able to bond with other rabbits. The members of the Sanctuary pair are both males, the most difficult pair to achieve, so adding in a female wouldn’t strain the relationship to the same extent as if they were a mixed-sex pair. Roo and BunBun also had a female third at one point early in their bond, when all three were still being offered up for adotion (Paula was later placed with one of our board members into a new pairing). Finally, since all the rabbits are members of large, mellow breeds, I didn’t expect the furious scuffling that can occasionally arise in introductions with smaller, more fiery breeds (Jeannie is an exception to this rule).

When planning an introduction, I always schedule it for a weekend when I plan to be home pretty much continuously. Rabbits do best when allowed to work out their dominance issues without too much human interference – one rule of thumb is, “don’t separate them unless you see blood”. Not strictly true, of course (see these pages for detailed HRS introduction techniques), but it gives you the idea that you want to interfere as little as possible. To do this safely, you have to be available to be home and to observe the rabbits carefully in case things turn sour.

So Friday night, I began the introduction. I decided to start by violating one of the main guidelines for intros: using neutral territory. Instead, I dumped Gracie into Roo & BunBun’s cage. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME, KIDS. It’s an excellent way to end up spending your Friday night at the emergency vet.

Whether by intuition or luck, I was right: there were no major problems. Gracie decided to show that she’s the new boss, and for all her enormous size (she’s a few pounds bigger even than Roo!), she spent some time chasing and humping both Roo and BunBun. Fortunately, both figured out quickly that they could just go into a litterbox and hide from her, and she’s too lazy and fat to follow for very long.

Once their chubby butts were all tired out and the chasing had stopped, I offered some fresh hay and some veggies and pellets to see whether they fought for resources. Not at all. They contentedly shared hay, veggies, and pellets, occasionally grooming one another’s noses or ears as they happened to brush against them. This is a very excellent sign and indicated to me that they were probably not going to escalate beyond mounting.

[Aside: In the picture above, you can see tufts of fur sticking out all over all three rabbits. In young rabbits, this could be a sign that they had been fur-pulling or biting one another, but in these guys, it’s just a result of their poor grooming habits. Failure to self-groom is a common sign of aging; BunBun in particular needs to be groomed by human hands every few days, otherwise he looks like a dandelion about to explode.]

After two full days and three nights, they’re still doing wonderfully. Mounting has almost totally diminished as of yesterday afternoon. This morning, I caught Roo and Gracie laying side-by-side (BunBun, as is his habit, was snoozing a few feet away in his hidy box). I think we have our triple, and now I have a little more peace of mind about Roo’s future when BunBun crosses the Bridge.


  1. Jenn said,

    June 27, 2008 at 4:57 am

    That is a huge amount of rabbit.

  2. 1mm rubber sheet said,

    June 5, 2016 at 3:56 am

    1mm rubber sheet

    Searching for happy endings » Welcome, Gracie!