When a rabbit loses his partner he grieves much the same as his humans do. It’s important that we help him to understand what has happened to his lost companion. If at all possible, always take both rabbits to the vet when one goes there for treatment. In the event the ill rabbit dies, her partner is there with her at the end. If this is not possible, ask your vet to keep the body of the deceased rabbit available and either bring it home to the surviving rabbit, or take the survivor there to spend time with his companion’s body. It’s important that we provide our rabbit the understanding that his partner has passed away and not simply “disappeared.”
With the loss of a companion rabbit, you certainly will be grieving too. While dealing with your grief, it’s important that you also monitor your rabbit to ensure he’s still eating and has not gone into a depression that can cause illness. Spend extra time with him and reassure him that he is not alone. Another way you can help him is to provide him with a stuffed animal that he can cuddle and groom. Your rabbit may ignore the stuffed toy at first, but eventually is likely to take advantage of the comfort it can provide.
Each rabbit may react differently to the loss of his companion; some will mope and not eat much, others will act as if nothing has changed and seem normal. It’s important to pay close attention and ensure your rabbit is okay. You may notice him experiencing various stages of grief, including anger and loneliness. Allow your rabbit the time he needs to grieve for his partner and take advantage of this time to bond with him. Together, you can help each other heal from the loss.
In time, you may want to consider adopting a new bunny as a companion for your remaining rabbit. Most males will accept a new partner willingly, though many females may prefer to stay single for a while. Contact your local shelter or rabbit rescue and work with them to bring your rabbit in to meet potential mates. This is the best way to learn if your rabbit is ready for a new companion. Let your rabbit move at a pace that’s comfortable for him; rushing an introduction can result in fighting and hurt feelings. You don’t want him to suffer stress or injury from introducing a new companion too soon. Don’t forget that rabbits like to choose their own companions; working with an experienced rabbit rescuer can make the process much easier for you both.
The loss of an animal companion is a difficult situation for everyone involved. Ensuring your rabbit’s surviving companion is handling the loss and working through his grief is just another part of the process of loss. With patience and compassion, you can make this process easier for you both.
San Diego House Rabbit Society