bonding lessons #12 (aka a lesson about experts)

I’m almost scared to say it, however I think we can see a dim glimmer of light at the very end of this incredibly long bunny bonding tunnel.

However, we did have to break a few bonding ‘rules’ and ignore some expert advice to get here.

When Spring Fever left the building on June 28th we had a few days of pure bliss; a few days where the bunnies just spent their time together cuddling and snuggling like bunnies do.

However, after that all-too-short blissful period, the humping returned. Although this time it felt very different. It wasn’t the crazy, fervent, incessant humping we had been used to over the previous months. It was more sporadic and certainly not as fervent or incessant.

I tried to understand what was happening, why the bunnies (in particular, Bobo) had returned to this behaviour. And the idea that kept popping into my head, the thought I simply could not shake was that the bunnies were bored.

By now the bunnies had been together in a gradually expanding pen for 6 months, usually 7 hours (or more) each day. Due to bunnies being territorial, they were only allowed hay, food treats and water in the pen with them throughout that time.

If bonding goes smoothly, it usually lasts 1 – 2 months. Our boys were about to enter their 7th month. So the idea of boredom made complete sense to me. Like any animal, when a bunny gets bored it plays up. Usually you hear guardians complain that their bunnies are eating the TV control or any loose wires they can find, or even the furniture. When this happens every bunny guardian knows (or should know) that their bunny isn’t naughty, they’re bored and doing what bunnies do best – nibble. The answer to the problem? Toys.

Bunnies need stimulation, they need their minds to be kept active and busy, just like any animal. Think of animals shut in cages in zoos. With little space and little to keep them stimulated you see they pace back and forward or they begin to act out.

And this was exactly what I felt our boys were doing. They were responded and acting out purely as a result of boredom.

So, I did what I have been doing over these 6 months when something happens, I turned for guidance from the experts in the FB bunny bonding group I had joined. I explained the situation and I asked for guidance.

And the guidance I received was the same I had received over the previous months: ensure the bunnies have plenty of food to forage.

Now I know bunnies eat a lot, however food can only keep them entertained for so long. And I was ensuring that they had plenty of food at all times to munch on.

So I asked again.

As the conversation continued, I happened to mention that the bonding pen we had been using since the start of the process was dismantled each night and returned to the area the bunnies lived, separately. One part was used for Olaf’s enclosure and the other half was used to enclose Bobo when we were getting them ready for the next day’s bonding.

The experts of the group latched onto this, and I was quickly advised that the pen wasn’t neutral and because it wasn’t neutral, it had been the reason the boys hadn’t been able to bond, it was the reason why the boys had been humping so much. When you’re bonding bunnies, animals that are fiercely territorial, their bonding area must be 100% neutral from the start, free from their scents and far away from their normal living area so they can’t smell it either.

Our bonding area had been neutral. However, the pen we used wasn’t deemed neutral as it would have their own scent on each half of it.

Whilst I understood the logic and concept, I disagreed with the conclusion that this had been our long-running issue. In my heart of hearts I just knew that the pen hadn’t been the issue. I knew, having lived with Bobo for over 8 years, that, for him, Spring Fever was the issue, an issue that seemed to initiate other issues.

In my heart of hearts, I knew that the humping that had started humping again was a result of boredom.

However, I had turned to an expert for advice and they had disagreed, pinpointing the problem to be solely the non-neutral pen.

I’ve been working with my intuition for many years, probably more than I have been consciously aware. So, when my intuition kicks in, I tend to follow it. However, I am also human, and my self-doubt and lack of self-esteem is powerful.

So even though, in my heart of hearts, my intuition was telling me that the problem was boredom and if we alleviated it, things should calm down, that little doubting voice in my mind started to chirp up: “What if the experts are right? What if, all this time, you’ve caused the issues in the boys’ bonding because you failed to make their area completely neutral?”

Now… By the time this conversation was happening with the experts, I’d already taken action and listened to my intuition (I’m not the most patient of people and struggled to wait the few days it took for the experts to answer my questions). I had neutralised a couple of toys and introduced them to the pen.

Immediately, I saw results. Immediately the humping calmed down because the boys had something more to focus their attention on.

However, even though I had seen some positive results, because everything wasn’t perfect (there was the occasional humping), my mind kicked in, doubt settled in, and I started to blame myself for not having created a totally neutral bonding space from the start.

Even though something inside of me was yelling that the experts were wrong, my mind convinced me that, because they’re experts and I’m not, that they must be right.

So, do you know what we did? That weekend we bought a brand new bonding pen for the boys. A pen that wouldn’t have their scent anywhere on it.

And do you what happened? Nothing. It didn’t change things in the slightest. There was still a little bit of occasional humping.

What had made the biggest change had been the introduction of the neutralised toys.

So we decided that, even though there was the occasional humping, we would continue down the path we had started, assuming the boys had been bored and we introduced their litter trays and gradually reduced the amount of hay lying around their pen, confining it to inside their litter trays only (bunnies like to eat, pee and poo at the same time).

According to the expert advice, the introduction of litter trays should have probably created a setback because, in their eyes, the bunnies aren’t fully bonded. Until bunnies are fully bonded you’re not ‘allowed’ to introduce toys and certainly not litter trays as they can claim them which can lead to fights. However, there was no increase in negative behaviour. If anything, there was a decrease.

And even though there was the very occasional humping, we also decided to continue expanding the bonding pen to its recommended full size of 2x2m (again breaking the rule that you should only expend every 2 days of no negative behaviour).

And the boys have been doing brilliantly, so much so that this coming weekend we’re going to introduce them to what will become the space they live, free-roaming, together.

The purchase of the new bonding pen, you might think was a waste of money, something I may feel upset about. However, it wasn’t. If nothing else it’s benefitting me in two ways: first it’s giving my back a break from lifting 2 halves of an awkward and heavy pen back and forth each day, and secondly, it will help when we move the boys to their forever space as it’ll enable us to expand gradually, thus avoiding panic and overwhelm which could return them to negative behaviour.

Experts are experts for a reason – they have a lot of knowledge and experience. However, it’s important to remember that no single expert knows everything.

This is something I have experienced a lot in my life from the current situation with bunny bonding experts to those deemed experts in the medical profession.

No-one knows you, your mind, your body, your circumstances better than you. Sure, experts can support and guide you when you need fresh eyes and knowledge. However, they don’t have the answer to every single question. And that’s where it’s important for you to work with your intuition and decipher if the guidance they’re offering is actually the best guidance for you and your situation.

Now granted, this is something that, for many of us, goes against everything we have been taught. Most of us have been taught that the experts have all the answers. Think about experts in the medical profession. How often do you challenge their advice? Most people go to them, take their advice (and usually a prescription of some sort) and never bat an eyelid.

Holding experts in such regard is unhealthy and risky because experts are humans, and all humans are prone to making mistakes. This is why it’s so important to connect with, tune into, and understand your intuition. Our intuition is part of us and, as I’ve mentioned above, no-one knows us better than ourselves, when we’re in tune with ourselves.

So how do you better connect with your intuition?

So how do you strengthen your intuition?

How do you learn to better trust your intuition?

How do you learn to tune into your intuition, this inner wisdom?

I have three ways that will help you do it.

Which way (intuitively) feels like the best current option for you?

Viv xx