Rabbits are one of the most popular household pets and are extremely social creatures that enjoy the company of one or a small group of companions. But when it comes to mating, new rabbit owners often question if the rabbit’s highly social nature equates to numerous mates or if they prefer to have one mate for life.
Most rabbits do not mate for life. Rabbits are polygamous and will mate with many partners during their lifetime. While some pet rabbits living in the same enclosure have been known to be monogamous, most rabbits have no emotional attachment with their partners and will quickly separate after mating.
The mating of these promiscuous animals leads to several common questions, particularly from rabbit owners, that we’ll answer in this article. Not only will we discuss whether rabbits typically mate for life, but we’ll also cover other topics such as how long they mate, the effects of a mate dying, and what happens to the baby rabbits left behind.
Are Rabbits Monogamous?
Several animals found in the wild have a reputation for being monogamous and forming life-long bonds with a mate of the same species. Favorites often include swans, seahorses, and even the gray wolf. But, if you’re wondering whether the rabbit can be found on this list, the answer is no.
Rabbits are not monogamous animals. Instead, they are polygamous and will mate with several partners throughout their lifetime rather than choosing one mate to spend their life with.
A significant contributing factor to rabbits being polygamous is that they are prey animals with a relatively short lifespan in the wild. Although a domesticated rabbit can live 9 years or more in captivity. the maximum lifespan of a wild rabbit is about two years due to predators, disease, and other survival factors,
As a result of their short lifespan, rabbits mature at the early age of 4-6 months, when they can start breeding. To ensure their species continues and their genetics pass on to as many offspring as possible, rabbits choose multiple mates within their environment or fluffle (the adorable name for a rabbit colony).
Are Any Rabbits Monogamous?
If you were to discover a pair of monogamous rabbits in the wild, then not only is this incredibly rare, but you can also assume that these two rabbits have very few other options in their environment.
Rabbits can be monogamous, but typically, this is a result of circumstance rather than choice. When sufficient mates are lacking, rabbits may choose the same partner to mate with if necessary to ensure their genetic survival. However, it is highly unlikely for this to occur in the wild.
Harsh conditions such as disease, starvation, or the destruction of their environment may lead to a vast decline in rabbit populations causing wild rabbits to become monogamous.
Monogamous mating of domesticated rabbits is a different story entirely. Pet rabbits are commonly kept in monogamous pairs rather than in a large colony or group. Because domestic rabbits are social creatures, it is highly recommended you keep rabbits in groups or pairs, so many owners will get their rabbits at least one buddy.
If this rabbit is of the opposite sex and the two rabbits are kept in the same enclosure, they will most likely become a monogamous pair.
Again, this is because the rabbits have no other mating options. Should you decide to keep them in a group, you’ll find that members will constantly mate with a different individual rather than favoring one consistently over the others.
Do Rabbit’s Grieve When Their Mate Dies?
The answer to this question depends on if the rabbit is wild or domesticated and kept in a monogamous pair.
In the wild, male and female rabbits separate shortly after the sex and do not manifest mental or emotional reactions when their mate dies. Due to their highly social nature, domestic rabbits often form strong bonds with their mates and grieve for several weeks after their partner’s death.
When wild rabbits mate, the male and female will separate shortly after the sexual act is complete, and then the female will carry, give birth, and care for the babies alone.
This is not the case for domesticated rabbits. As I mentioned previously, it is possible to have a monogamous pair of rabbits if you keep two rabbits of the opposite sex in the same enclosure.
As a result of a rabbit’s highly social nature, this pair will often form a strong bond with one another throughout their lifetime. When one mate dies, the remaining rabbit will typically enter a state of grieving that can last several weeks.
When a domestic rabbit’s mate dies, the surviving mate might:
- Become depressed
- Show signs of illness
- Refuse to eat
- Become lethargic or quieter than usual
- Demonstrate uncommon behaviors like aggression or irritability
While rabbits don’t necessarily grieve the same way humans do, they certainly feel the loss of a closely bonded mate deeply. It is not uncommon for rabbits, especially in their older years, to die shortly after their mate from the stress and grief of loss.
Luckily, most rabbits will accept a new mate after the passing of the previous mate, and this is often a good way to help them cope and provide additional social support during this difficult time.
Many rabbits live in groups or colonies in the wild, so if a member knowingly dies, the colony has each other for emotional support.
How Long Do Rabbits Mate For?
This question can have two answers depending on your intended purpose behind it. If you want to know how long rabbits mate in terms of the actual process, then the answer is that it is an extremely quick affair.
Mating in rabbits takes only a few seconds, and then the partners separate. When breeding in captivity, owners will frequently leave rabbits together to mate several times over 30 minutes to ensure success. While rabbits can technically breed to old age, sperm and egg production decreases by the age of three.
Once rabbits reach their sexual maturity at around six months (potentially nine months for larger breeds), they are ready to start breeding with various mates.
If the female becomes pregnant, she will carry her babies for a gestation period ranging from 28-35 days before giving birth.
Most rabbit owners that breed domesticated rabbits will stop breeding after three to four years for the sake of success and their animal’s health.
Rabbits are sexually active throughout their lifetime, but the quality of both rabbit sperm and egg production decrease around the age of three. Rabbits can technically mate and breed throughout their entire life, so, in that sense, they do “mate for life.”
However, they don’t mate with one singular individual for their entire lifetime, and the mates will experience more difficulty with reproductive success as they age.
Do Male Rabbits Stay with Their Babies?
Humans like to think the pinnacle of parenting is when both the mother and father are constantly devoted to their children from the moment of conception. The animal kingdom, however, rarely works this way.
Male rabbits do not stay with their babies. Wild male rabbits quickly leave to continue mating after their encounter with the female and lack any paternal instincts. As a result, domestic males should be removed from the female’s cage for a period of time as they may injure or even kill the young kits.
There are instances where the buck will even trample or injure the baby rabbits in attempts to mate again with the female since females can be impregnated a mere 24 hours after giving birth.
For this reason, you’ll either want to keep the buck separate while the mother raises and cares for the babies or return him to the enclosure six weeks after he’s been neutered.
It certainly isn’t as romantic as some humans would hope, but the reality of genetic survival for a rabbit means rabbits need to be polygamous and mate as much as possible in their brief lifespans.
While you can have a monogamous pair of rabbits that will mate together for life, make sure you have thoroughly researched rabbit care and breeding before embarking on this endeavor.
Not only are male rabbits devoid of paternal instincts, but the female could also experience maternal issues as well, leaving you to intervene for the babies’ safety.
Plus, rabbits are prolific breeders, so you might find yourself overwhelmed with offspring in a short timeframe if you’re not careful. But, if you’re attentive and informed, you could have a happy and healthy rabbit family.