How to Make Sure Your Cat or Dog Gets Along With Your Rabbit

"I can handle a real bunny as a playmate."
"I can handle a real bunny as a playmate." (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

If you think that your cat or dog instantly will befriend your pet rabbit, think again. To your rabbit, these often large, four-legged, sharp-toothed, furry creatures are predators, and if you forcefully introduce them to each other, the shock alone can be fatal to your bunny. To make your pets get along with each other, a gradual introduction and a healthy dose of patience on your part are required. When done correctly and with constant supervision, your pets can live in harmony under the same roof.

Meet and Greet Preparation

Obedience training is essential before introducing your dog to your pet rabbit. An obedient dog looks to his leader for direction, and allows him to control his actions by having him sit, stay or lie down on command. If your dog or cat has pent-up energy to burn, he might use it when meeting the new housemate. To avoid this, walk him or play with him to tire him out before introducing him to your rabbit. Also, to keep your cat's nails from harming your bunny, trim them regularly so they're not sharp.

Sounds and Smells

Before introducing your cat or dog to your rabbit, have all parties involved get used to each other's smells and sounds. Keep your rabbit in his cage in a room with the door closed. Allow your dog or cat to bark or meow while walking around the living room so your rabbit can familiarize himself with the sounds. Stay with your rabbit and pet him to keep him calm. Then place your dog or cat in a separate room and allow your bunny to hop around the living room so he can smell and get used to the new scent.

First Introduction

Keep introductions short, supervised and controlled. Leash your dog and place your rabbit in a cage with an upside-down cardboard box that doubles as a hiding place. Ensure the cage wires are close together so your cat's paws can't fit through them. Allow your dog or cat to investigate and sniff as you watch and praise him for his gentle behavior. If your bunny panics, take the visitor out of the room and try it again later. Have short meetings daily until both parties remain calm. Avoid rushing the introductions -- let your pets set the pace.

Nose-to-Nose Meetings

Once your rabbit and dog or cat don't seem to be bothered with being around each other, allow your rabbit out of his cage. Watch your pets like a hawk as they interact with each other. If your dog acts up, give a quick tug on the leash and say "off." If your cat acts up, a quick, surprising squirt of water can stop him in his tracks. Always reward good behavior with praise and treats so over time your dog or cat starts associating being gentle around the bunny with good consequences.

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