Can rabbits live alone like this single mini lop on the lawn?

Can Mini Lop Rabbits Live Alone? (#1-Is It Right? #2-We Ask The Experts)

Caring For Your Mini Lop – Can Rabbits Live Alone?

Can rabbits live alone? To answer this question, we need to look at the true nature of rabbits – are they solitary or social creatures?

“Today, most accounts of domestic rabbit behavior are based on rabbits living alone as pets or as laboratory animals or consorting in pairs during commercial breeding. As a result, most people don’t even realize that domestic rabbits are social creatures.”  

Susan Davis and Margo DeMello, Stories Rabbits Tell: A Natural and Cultural History

Rabbits are naturally social animals; their survival depends on their companions in the wild. So if a rabbit is in isolation, that isolation may damage its health and well-being, leading to your rabbit becoming unwell. It is particularly true for the more outgoing breeds such as the Mini Lop.

While many think of rabbits as fluffy, cute, and quiet animals, they are not known for their intelligence. They are, however, intelligent creatures and live in intricately organized social systems. As prey animals at the bottom of the food chain, the adaptive survival strategies of the rabbit are impressive. The owners of pet rabbits need to understand that the domestic cousins of these wild animals retain many of these exciting traits.

The Domestic Rabbit Examined

The Domestic Rabbit Examined at
It doesn’t get more domesticated than celebrating the holidays.

How The Wild Rabbit Became Domesticated

Rabbits were bred for meat and fur in the Roman Empire as early as the 1st century. It was not until the Victorian era that people began to keep rabbits as pets. People started breeding rabbits to produce specific physical characteristics and personality traits. Soon after came the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA). The ARBA developed a system of standardization for each recognized breed. There are 305 breeds of rabbits today, each species having its distinct character.

Breeds Of Domestic Rabbit And Their Traits

Mini LopSmallShort hair. Lop ears. Compact, muscular body. All colors.Very outgoing, playful, curious, intelligent, needs attention.
Flemish GiantGiantShort hair. Erect ears. Grey, white belly.Gentle, docile, very relaxed rabbit. 
LionheadVery SmallLong hair. Erect ears. Tufts of fur, like a mane. All colors.Playful but timid, frightened easily, potentially aggressive when frightened, needs a stress-free environment. Not suitable for young children.
English LopLargeShort hair. Known for its very long, lop ears. Muscular. All colors.Calm, not easily flustered, curious, loves attention.
CalifornianLargeShort hair. Erect ears. White, red eyes, black muzzle, ears, and feet.Not very affectionate but likes attention; creates a bond with the owner; easily bored; needs stimulation. 
Netherland DwarfVery SmallShort hair. Erect ears. One of the most miniature rabbits. All colors.Very energetic rabbits; need to be able to explore; aggressive if they do not get enough exercise.
French LopGiantShort hair. Lop ears. All colors.Known for being gentle, calm, and very intelligent; good with children; bonds closely with humans and other rabbits.

The Mini Lop crosses the German lop and the Chinchilla rabbit. The breed first appeared in Germany via selective breeding. Bob Herschbach introduced the species to the American Breeders association in 1974, and it was officially recognized as a breed by the ARBA in 1980.

Mini Lops are extroverted rabbits who love to play, are very affectionate, and form strong social ties. The need for the Mini Lop to have the companionship of other rabbits is paramount. Rabbits are genetically hardwired to be social creatures.   

Rabbit Social Hierarchies – Do Rabbits Live Alone?

Safety In Numbers

Rabbits are incredibly social creatures. They are prey animals and are at the bottom of the food chain. Rabbits live in large societies of interlinking family groups to offset their position. Having multiple reproductive pairs with many litters ensures the survival of the warren as a whole, hence the well-known saying “breeding like rabbits.”

Rabbits have complex social structures with clearly defined pecking orders. It is natural for rabbits to establish dominance, superiority, and inferiority over one another. Having defined roles allows many animals to live harmoniously together and gives each rabbit a sense of security. 

Establishing Dominance

Rabbits establish dominance through grooming. Hence, those at the top of the hierarchy have the right to be groomed by their subordinates on demand. 

They have a matriarchal society with one top female, or doe, and her male partner, a buck. That pair and its offspring are the dominant pair, socially speaking; the interlinking family units are subordinate to them and less or more dominant than each other. There is also a hierarchy between the members of a family unit. Rabbits that join a warren from elsewhere or have not yet paired will be marginalized socially from the rest of the warren.

Grooming, Bonding, And Lookout

Who grooms who are how rabbits can tell where they fit into their society. The dominant rabbit benefits from a set of social benefits that will increase the likelihood and longevity of its survival. They can request grooming from their subordinates, have them stand watch while they sleep or eat, and have priority when eating. This behavior gives the rabbit a sense of safety and an understanding of its role in the wider community. When rabbits are together, they will naturally assume that the others protect them in the group.

Size alone does not determine dominance, and intelligence may play a significant role in rabbits becoming superior to others. Despite these rules and regulations, rabbits are very communicative animals despite their seemingly quiet exterior. It is natural for them to be expressive and affectionate with other rabbits. 

Can Mini Lops Survive Alone?

Can Mini Lops Survive Alone? Find out at
Miniature Lop, rabbit.

Can mini lops survive alone? Survive? Yes. Happily? Not so much.

Expert Opinions

While some hold the converse opinion, the overwhelming consensus is that no one should keep a rabbit alone. Brigitte Lord is a lecturer at Edinburgh University and was the first vet in Europe to specialize in rabbit medicine and surgery. When discussing if rabbits should have companions, Brigitte told Radio 4:

“It’s incredibly important because they are very, very social animals and for them to display their normal behavior; mutual grooming; feeling safe as well, so one can be on the lookout while the other one is playing or resting, and then they take turns; is really, really important.”

Brigitte Lord, BBC.

International Organizations

The rabbit is the third most popular pet next to cats and dogs in the UK. However, there seems to be a lack of awareness of adequately caring for them as pets. The British Veterinary Society (BVA), the British Veterinary Zoological Society (BVZS), and British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) in January 2020 took a common stance on the need to educate people about what rabbits require as pets.

According to a study in England in 2020, 42% of rabbits did not have companions, although this had decreased from 67% in 2011.

Another study on rabbits, this time at the University of Bristol, said housing rabbits alone “limits their opportunity to show natural social behavior,” adversely affecting their well-being.

It is common to sell rabbits as bonded pairs who have already successfully experienced socialization.

Mini Lops Need Friends!

While they can live alone, a person as their sole companion would be responsible for replacing the care and attention that the rabbit would receive from other rabbits. Caring for a rabbit in this way is a huge responsibility; practically speaking, it is easier to keep two rabbits than one.

The RSPCA suggests that your rabbit must have the company of other rabbits to meet its welfare needs.

Mini Lops are interested, curious, and very affectionate and need to express all these natural behaviors to be healthy. Rabbits who cannot express their natural behavior and live solitary (isolated) lives can develop abnormal coping mechanisms for loneliness and boredom. 

Signs If Rabbitt Feels A Lack Of Companionship

  • Biting or gnawing
  • Overly aggressive
  • Excessive energy
  • Withdrawn and subdued
  • Not eating or drinking
  • Craving attention
  • Digging into hard surfaces
  • Thumping their back feet
  • Excessive nervousness and fear
  • Repetitive and compulsive behavior such as bar biting, rocking, and pacing. 

You can find a more comprehensive list of potential signs of distress in this resource.

Final Thoughts

These are clear signs of stress, and a vet should see your rabbit if they are doing any of these things. Your rabbit has emotional, mental, social, and physical needs that can sometimes go neglected if isolated from other rabbits.

To ensure your Mini Lop is a happy, healthy bunny, make sure they have one or two rabbit friends to share their lives and adventures.

Need a cage big enough for several rabbits? Here’s my favorite off Amazon. Check the price here.

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