Cats hitting it off with bunnies?
Well, this might be hard to imagine at first.
Since the former are predators and the latter are prey.
But, cats and rabbits are more similar than you think.
So, is it possible for them to coexist at home?
And what should you do to achieve this?
Continue reading to find out:
- If cats and bunnies get along or not.
- 11 things you should do to introduce them properly.
- The ideal place and time for them to meet each other.
- Important signs to watch out for during their interactions.
- And a lot more…
Do cats and bunnies get along?
Cats and bunnies can get along well. This is possible if they’re introduced to each other properly. But some factors also play a big role in this. Like their age, size, and temperament. For example, it’s easier for young pets to get used to each other than adults. As well as those of the same sizes.
Not convinced yet?
See this beautiful friendship of a sassy cat and a gentle bunny:
How to introduce a cat to a rabbit? 11 tips to make them get along
#1: Put them in separate places
During the first few days, keep your cat and rabbit separately.
Don’t make them interact with each other yet.
This is because doing so will only result in a negative experience.
You’ll only frighten them as they’re not familiar with each other. And this is what you need to avoid.
What to do?
Being in a new place will be scary for a cat.
So to make them feel safe, give them their own space.
It could be a separate cage or room. Make it as comfy as possible. Put all their needs there, like food, water, and toys.
Now, having a new member of the family (especially a predator!) will stress a rabbit too.
So to keep them calm and content, put them in a cage – away from the cat.
It must be large enough for them to move and hop around.
But if you’re keeping them in a room, make sure they don’t have access to each other.
Note: Experts say that it should be at least 10 ft x 6.56 ft x 3.28 ft (3 m x 2 m x 1 m). This area must always be accessible to them. And it can be exclusive of sleeping quarters with 6 ft x 2 ft x 2 ft (1.8 m x 0.6 m x 0.6m).
#2: Familiarize them with each other’s scent
Cats and rabbits may have tiny noses, but theirs are more superior than ours.
Bunnies are said to have 100 million smell receptors. While cats have up to 200 million as per VCA Hospitals.
“What are those for?”
These are proteins found in the nasal cavity that can hold odor molecules.
So as their name suggests, they’re the reason why we can detect scents.
Now, the end of the mini science talk.
Because of their amazing noses, cats and rabbits depend more on their sense of smell than sight.
So any scent that’s unfamiliar to them can throw them off. And the odor of a new animal will be threatening to them.
What should I do?
Don’t let your rabbit and cat meet yet.
Before seeing each other (visual), make them get used to their odors first (smell).
How? You can try 2 things.
- Switch their bedding or blanket. Do this the next day after they sleep as these are the ones that’ll be saturated with their scent.
- Rub the same towel on both of them. Get a clean cloth and gently rub it on one of your pets first. Then using the same towel, also do it on the other one.
Repeat this every day to make them more familiar with each other’s scents.
#3: Let them observe and sniff each other
Next, observe your rabbit and cat closely after a few days.
How do they react to each other’s odors?
Are they both calmer now?
If so, they can move on to the next stage.
Let them sniff and watch each other’s movements.
But, do these while they’re in a cage, like this:
- Put your rabbit in their hutch.
- Get your cat or lead them to the same room.
- Let them sniff the cage and watch the rabbit move.
After a few minutes, place the cat in the cage instead. Then let your rabbit roam around.
During this, feed and play with them. So it’ll be a positive experience for everyone.
You can start with at least 5 to 10 minutes of interaction per day.
Note: Make sure your bunny has a hiding place where they can go if they feel anxious. This can be a plain cardboard box or a low chair. But if your cat gets aggressive, put your rabbit out of the room right away. Then try again the next day.
In case you’ll be providing a cardboard hideout for them…
Check out this article: Can Rabbits Eat Cardboard? 3 Dangers, 5 Reasons & 3 Tips
#4: Make them meet in a neutral space
Now, if your new cat already feels safe in their surroundings. And their caged interactions are doing well…
This might now be the time to let them meet each other without any barriers.
But, make them interact in a neutral space. Also, supervise them all the time.
“What does it mean?”
The area should be unfamiliar to both of them.
It must not have any of their scents or any other animals.
This is to prevent them from acting territorial and aggressive during the meeting.
When is the right time to do this?
You can do this after mealtime so both of them are full. Or a few minutes after a nap so they don’t feel cranky.
Note: Put their cages in the room. Then keep the doors open so they can go in and out.
#5: Watch them like a hawk
To keep them safe, stay in the room and observe closely.
Never leave them unattended. This is because a cat has predator instincts and you’ll never know what can happen.
Allow your cat and rabbit to sniff and investigate each other.
Let them settle things out on their own accord. So avoid stepping in UNLESS it’s necessary.
“How do I know if it’s working out?”
In most cases, you’ll see that their roles will be switched.
The rabbit will be more assertive. And the cat will likely back off or act unbothered.
#6: Separate if one becomes stressed or aggressive
A curious kitty is also a good sign.
But if the rabbit seems stressed around the cat, again, remove them from the area. And also if they start acting aggressively to each other.
It’s important to intervene and move fast in this kind of situation.
As it can be a traumatic experience for both of them once the fight escalates. And this will make introducing them harder.
Learn more: 21 Quick & Effective Ways To Reduce Stress In Rabbits
#7: Avoid scolding and punishments
No matter what, avoid raising your voice on either of your pets. As well as punishing them when they acted aggressively.
Remember, pets will not understand why you did those things.
They can associate that bad experience with each other’s presence.
Say, the cat may learn they’re going to get scolded when the rabbit’s around.
Or they’ll think it’s okay to pester the bunny without the punishment and your presence.
“What can I do to stop them?”
If the other one is hostile, you can get their attention by making a sound. Say, blow a whistle or call their name.
Interesting fact: A study found that dogs who were punished during training are often tense. They also showed more stressful behaviors and panted a lot.
#8: Go back a few steps if needed
Does it seem like you’ve been intervening a lot during their interactions?
If so, it could mean that they’re not comfortable with it yet. And you should go back a step or two.
Keep them in cages again during the meetings. And make them get used to their odors once more without seeing each other.
Note: Again, rushing things can ruin what you’ve started. So don’t be afraid to return to square one. This is normal and you’re making progress.
#9: Ensure to give your pets’ needs
Cats and rabbits are loaded with energy.
They need daily exercise and mental stimulation. Or else, they’ll develop bad behaviors.
Both of them can destroy things due to stress and boredom. While bunnies may also show excessive peeing and digging.
And this will make introducing them more difficult.
Felines love stalking and chasing. And indoor cats will have a few chances to do this.
So to satisfy their urge and be calm during meetings, play with your cat every day.
“What toys do cats love?”
- Catnip toys.
- Laser pointers.
- A wand with a feather or small toy.
Do this for about 10 to 15 minutes per session.
PetMD says to play with old cats twice or thrice a day. But for young kittens, it can be up to 10 times.
“What about rabbits?”
PDSA recommends letting your rabbit run in a large area for at least 3 hours a day.
(The more, the merrier your bunny will be. So allow them to hop around to their heart’s content.)
Other games or toys rabbits love are:
- Reverse fetch.
- Knocking things over.
- Finding yummy treats (e.g., puzzles).
- Going in tunnels (cats also love these!).
You might also like: 29 Best Ways To Bond With Your Rabbits (Backed By Science)
#10: Don’t rush things
Introducing them to each other can take days, weeks, or even months.
This will depend on your pets’ personalities. But its success will also be in your hands.
So as much as possible, avoid forcing them to interact with each other if they’re not ready yet.
Keep in mind that a rabbit and a cat won’t become best buds overnight.
So repeat the previous steps if needed.
Also, be extra patient during the process. 🙂
#11: Learn to read between the lines
Lastly, this will not be successful if you can’t understand your pets’ emotions well.
As they interact, they’ll send each other’s signals.
Whether they’re telling the other to “Back off!” or “Go away. I’m scared.”
And being able to read these signs will help you know what to do next.
Say, going back to the previous step if your bunny seems stressed. Or earning your cat’s full trust first and making them feel comfier since they still look anxious.
“What should I do?”
Well, don’t worry.
This doesn’t need any sixth sense or psychic powers.
Just observe your cat and rabbit for a few days. Get to know them better.
See how they react to things and what they usually do after.
Rabbits usually give subtle hints on what they feel
So here’s a list of things to watch out for based on RSPCA:
Happy or content:
- Slightly closed eyes.
- Ears pointing upwards and outwards.
- Binkies – jumping on all fours and twists.
- Relaxed posture (e.g., lying down, extending their body).
- Raised tail.
- Turning away.
- Exposed teeth.
- Stomping of hind feet.
- ‘Boxing position’ – standing up with raised front paws.
- Dilated pupils.
- Tensed muscles.
- Crouched position.
- Hiding/withdrawn behavior.
- Ears flattened against the back.
Continue reading: What do rabbits do when they are scared?
On the other hand…
Cats might be easier to read than bunnies
And here are some signs you should keep in mind as per vets:
- Lying down.
- Having a still tail.
- Relaxed ears and eyes (not in hunting mode).
- Arched back.
- Dilated pupils.
- Twitching ears.
- Crouched position.
- Raised and stiff tail.
- Ears pointing forward.
- Crouched but with their rear end raised.
Also, since cats are predators, watch out for this important sign…
Interesting fact: Cats’ pupils seem to change depending on their mood. If they’re on a ‘hunt,’ you’ll see that these will be like vertical slits. So if you notice this, better hide your bunny away.
However, research found that vertical pupils have a greater purpose.
It says that this makes vertical lines sharper for cats. While the horizontal ones are blurrier.
Now, this helps them determine the distance of a certain object or prey.
Amazing, isn’t it?
Note: Some rabbits can also be more fearful than others. While certain cat breeds have high prey drive like Bengals and Savannah cats. In this case, introducing the 2 pets will need more work and caution.
Since the rabbit has to be assertive and the cat has to be submissive for them to get along well.