Five ways we’re helping a rabbit get along with a kitten

We added a new member to our household last month. Oreo joined us in mid-December, after we adopted him from our local humane society, and it’s been an interesting transition for all of us.

Don’t take that the wrong way—we adore him. It’s just that James and I adore him quite a bit more than Cookie does, despite the fact that Oreo was utterly fascinated by Cookie when we first brought him home.

But I suppose that comes as no surprise, when you consider Oreo is five months old, and Cookie’s somewhere around nine years old. Not to mention the whole predator vs prey thing. Both can make for a rough start, though I’m told (by the internet and the pet store alike) that cats and rabbits can make for great housemates.

It’s just taking a bit of work, that’s all. So I thought that in addition to my photo of our adorable little kitten, I’d share a few of our attempts to make this transition work.

A close-up of a black and white kitten's nose.
  1. Our first choice would have been to keep Oreo and Cookie in separate areas of the house as much as possible, until they were ready to get along. But as our condo is a whole three rooms and 700 square feet, that wasn’t entirely feasible. We did, however, make sure to let them sniff each other for a bit while Oreo was still in the carrier when we first brought him home, so they at least knew there was another animal present before jumping into a meeting.
  2. Cookie has her pen, and that’s her space when she doesn’t feel like roaming the living room. We made that clear with Oreo, but Cookie also did a pretty good job of that herself. She chased him away from the doorway anytime he got too close from the start, simply with her little growl. (And if you’ve never heard a rabbit’s growl, believe me when I say it’ll throw you off. Cookie’s is short, almost a grunt-growl, but loud. It’s a surprise to anyone who hears it. Including Oreo.)
  3. If Oreo does get too brave with Cookie’s pen, we get him out, then distract one or both of them with something else. We do the same sort of thing if there’s an incident outside of the pen. Oreo’s play style is different than Cookie’s, and involves a lot more paw movement. She doesn’t like it, ends up growling at him, he gets scared and either runs off or bops her on the head, which just leads to more aggression on both sides. So we prefer to just cut that all off before it can get too far.
  4. When we can, though, we focus as much as possible on rewarding positive behaviour. When the two of them are good together—no raised paws, no growls during an encounter, that sort of thing—they each get a small treat.
  5. Night is the biggest struggle. Oreo can see in the dark better than Cookie can, which means she gets nervous when she can hear him but not see him—a struggle made worse by his mostly black fur. It leads to a lot of thumping if he isn’t either distracted by something else, or in the bedroom with us. Our solution was to keep him in the bedroom for the first little while, until his fascination with her wore off a bit. He’s getting better now, so we’re starting to test him out. It seems to be going well, so fingers crossed we can continue to allow him his night-time freedom.

Admittedly, one thing that makes the getting-along transition easier is my working from home right now, and James’ hours are adjusted. While my zoom meetings can be a bit of a struggle if I am here on my own, overall it’s going alright. And I’m hopeful that Oreo and Cookie will be getting along well by the time we’re back in the office full time.

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