Bonded Bliss?

Tilly & Toffee on one of their dates.

Since Tilly & Toffee both lost their partners, I have been attempting to pair them. Initial dates didn’t go too bad but not great either, however, there was potential. I found the best place to bond them was in the house, away from other interfering bunnies & most importantly a neutral territory.

One of their early dates, the cushion was a good barrier for them to sit close & feel safe.

Toffee was very keen to want to bond with Tilly right from the start.  Tilly on the other hand was not. Unfortunately, Tilly’s past means she is very frightened when meeting new bunnies & her fear turns into aggression. It’s a case of ‘I am going to get you, before you get me’. In the early dates I would sit with Tilly reassuring her that Toffee was not going to do her any harm. It took a couple of weeks for her to start to calm down & feel reasonably comfortable with Toffee about.

Toffee ignoring Tilly which helped her feel more comfortable.

Toffee has the patience of a saint & persevered in taking things steady with Tilly.  Tilly relaxed more & more.

Tilly happy to lie near Toffee.

However, as these improvements were progressing, Tilly still had a nasty tendency to attack Toffee if he walked about too much & also she would be grooming his side or rear & then would go in all teeth. Toffee retaliated a few times but most of the time I was able to intervene before she got hold of him. I recognised when Tilly was doing this behaviour & managed to tell her to stop just by holding my hand over head. In an attempt to get rid of this behaviour I started to reward her with a treat whenever she groomed him or whenever he walked by without her attacking him.

Toffee had just been having his head groomed by Tilly.

We had got to the point where Tilly would groom Toffee & she would ask Toffee to groom her, which he often did.

I sprinkled pieces of cabbage leaves around to distract from the intensity of it just being them.

There was the odd set back, mainly at Toffee’s cost.

Toffee’s fur after Tilly had attacked. Thankfully, he has a really thick coat.

As the weeks turned into months, they’d been on dates since June, we reached a plateau.  I was able to have them together for several hours with only the odd incident, there were lots of grooming on both sides, I had even introduced cardboards boxes & Tilly had relaxed enough to allow Toffee to investigate them & go for a groom to her, whilst she was in the box. Even though there was all this positive behaviour, Tilly’s have a go attitude whenever the opportunity presented itself was still there, so I could never leave them together unattended, I just couldn’t trust her. Her behaviour was not progressing anymore.

Toffee & Tilly, happy to sit side by side for hours.

All throughout the dates, poor Toffee has been slowly losing his sight due to cataracts.  Looking at the photos & reading how far they had come you will not believe it, but I had to call it a day on their dates. It was so disappointing after all the time & effort from Toffee & me.
Toffee’s loss of eyesight had meant that he had started to walk rather than hop to investigate things & Tilly had noticed. As soon as he displayed this behaviour she went for him, Toffee then started to sit further & further apart from Tilly & it got to the point where he would sit with me & nip me as if to say, please put me back home. I felt that the stress that Toffee was obviously feeling was too much for him. He had done his utmost to become friends with Tilly & was so patient with her but this behaviour towards him was not fair. I have never had a bonding like these two & it looked so hopeful with all the progress that Tilly made but I think her wild instinct has kicked in & weak bunnies are just a hindrance.

Toffee is still very desperate for a missus & I think I may have secured him one, but not for a few weeks yet.  Tilly too is showing signs of wanting a companion, in fact I even think she is missing the daily dates, as tempting as it is, I will not risk Toffee again.  So Tilly’s potential husbun should be arriving at the beginning of next week & we’ll try again!

 

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