Can Cats And Rabbits Live Safely Together?

baby bunny being introduced to a black and white sylvester cat


Cats are popular pets, no doubt about it. Rabbits are popular pets also, but not as common as cats. People who own these animals usually have one or the other, but not both. Is it possible to have both cats and rabbits together in the same household?

Cats are predators, while rabbits are prey, and this can be a cause for concern when trying to bring the two animals together. It is possible, however, for cats and rabbits to live together peacefully, if the situation is managed carefully. In some cases, they can even become the best of friends!

In this article, we will explore the factors that influence the compatibility of cats and rabbits and provide tips on how to introduce and manage these two pets in the same household.

Do Cats And Rabbits Get Along?

Cats are very adaptable and are known to tolerate and even bond with animals from other species. They do tend to get along better with other predatory species such as ferrets, but are they able to get along with prey species like rabbits as well?

There are plenty of examples out in the world of cats and rabbits living together, getting along, and even being best buds. However, this goes against the nature of each species and is not usually a situation that comes about under normal or “natural” circumstances.

Cats are predators by nature. They see rabbits as potential prey and will instinctively chase them. Rabbits have the natural instinct to run away from a larger animal like a cat. They are also often smaller than cats, which doesn’t help the situation at all.

These natural instincts could result in an unsafe situation for either or both of your pets if you decide to keep cats and rabbits together without proper preparation and supervision.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible for cats and rabbits to get along! I have had my own situation in the past where I had both cats and a rabbit at the same time, and all were able to co-exist peacefully.

They weren’t best friends, but the rabbit was comfortable enough that he would run around and play, using the cats as part of his obstacle course in his laps around the house. The cats had learned that he was “off limits” and would not lift a paw against him.

That said, I never trusted them alone in the room together. Oreo was a dwarf rabbit and was about a quarter of the size of either cat. The potential for harm was certainly there if the cats’ instincts were ever to overcome their training.

The take-home message here is that, even though their natural instinct, in general, is to play their respective roles of predator and prey, with careful planning, patience, understanding, and plenty of positive reinforcement training, it may be possible for cats and rabbits to get along.

Factors to Consider Before Introducing Cats and Rabbits

Compatibility

Before introducing a cat and a rabbit, it’s important to consider their individual personalities and temperaments. Some cats and rabbits may be more social or laid-back and may be more compatible with each other.

However, it’s important to note that even if both animals have a friendly disposition, there’s still no guarantee that they will get along. It’s important to monitor their interactions closely and be prepared to separate them if necessary.

cat and rabbit laying together in grass

Health Concerns

Rabbits are susceptible to certain diseases, such as Pasteurellosis, which can be fatal. Cats also get Pasteurellosis and are often carriers of the bacteria. There are also several parasites such as fleas and mites that can pass between rabbits and cats.

It’s important to make sure that the cat is not carrying any diseases that could be transmitted to the rabbit, and vice versa. A veterinarian can provide guidance on the health concerns to consider and any necessary precautions to take.

Safety Concerns

You will need to ensure the safety of both animals during the introduction process and when they are living together. In general, rabbits are fragile and can be easily injured, especially when the rabbit is smaller than the cat. So it’s important to supervise their interactions closely.

Cats can also be injured if they try to chase or attack the rabbit. A mature rabbit is capable of laying a good thumping on a cat, particularly when the rabbit happens to be larger than the cat. An aggressive rabbit could quickly kill a kitten if it wanted to.

It’s important to provide a safe environment for both animals, such as separate living spaces with a barrier in between or supervised interaction in a neutral space.

Environment

Before introducing a cat and a rabbit, it’s important to consider their living environment. Cats and rabbits can be territorial animals and may become stressed or aggressive if they feel their territory is being invaded by a new animal.

It’s important to introduce the cat and rabbit in a neutral space, such as a room that neither animal has been in before. It’s also important to provide separate living spaces for both animals, with plenty of hiding places and areas to retreat to if they feel threatened.

Introducing Cats and Rabbits

Introducing cats and rabbits can be a delicate process that requires patience, planning, and careful supervision. It’s important to understand that each animal may respond differently, so it’s best to approach the introduction slowly and cautiously.

  • Prepare separate living spaces: Make sure that each animal has a separate living space where they feel safe and can claim as their own. Each animal should have their own food, water, litter box, and hiding places. These spaces should be in separate rooms or areas of the house.
  • Swap scents: Before introducing the cat and rabbit, swap their scents by exchanging blankets or towels that they have been lying on. This will help them become familiar with each other’s scent.
  • Introduce the animals in a neutral space: When introducing the cat and rabbit, choose a neutral space that neither animal has been in before or claims as “theirs”. Allow the animals to sniff each other from a distance and observe their body language. It is usually best to keep the smaller or more vulnerable animal in a crate or kennel during this process.
  • Supervise interactions: Once the animals have been introduced and are showing curious, non-aggressive, and non-fearful interest in the other, it is time to let them interact. Supervise their interactions closely when introducing the cat to the rabbit. Keep the initial interactions short and gradually increase their time together. If either animal becomes aggressive or frightened, separate them and try again later.
  • Provide hiding places: It’s important to provide hiding places for both animals in case they feel threatened or overwhelmed. This could be a cardboard box or a small animal carrier.
  • Reward positive behavior: Reward positive behavior from both animals with treats or praise. This will help reinforce good behavior and encourage them to continue getting along.
  • Gradually increase time together: Over time, gradually increase the amount of time the cat and rabbit spend together. This could include supervised playtime or allowing them to share a room for short periods of time.

Remember, every cat and rabbit is unique, and the introduction process may take time and patience. If you are unsure about the introduction process, seek advice from a veterinarian or animal behaviorist.

giant rabbit sleeping on ground while cat sleeps in the rabbit hutch

What To Do If Introductions Don’t Go Well

Despite careful planning and supervision, sometimes introductions between cats and rabbits don’t go as expected. In these situations, it’s important to have a plan in place to keep both animals safe and comfortable.

In these situations, each animal should have its own separate living space where it is not a risk of harm or stress from the other animal. If the animals are kept in separate living spaces and have access to food, water, toys, and enrichment activities, then they can both still live comfortably and safely in the same household.

Even if cats and rabbits don’t get along at first, they may learn to tolerate or even enjoy each other’s company over time. This process can take weeks, months, or even longer, and requires patience and careful management.

The cat and rabbit will become more familiar with each other’s scent as they spend more time in the same household, even if they are kept separate.

You can assist this process by exchanging bedding, toys, and other items so the cat and rabbit can become accustomed to each other’s smell. This can help them feel more comfortable in each other’s presence and reduce the likelihood of aggression.

Body language is also important in helping cats and rabbits learn to coexist. As they spend more time together, they will become more familiar with each other’s body language and communication signals.

For example, a cat may learn that a rabbit’s thumping signals danger and back off accordingly, while a rabbit may learn that a cat’s ear position indicates whether it is feeling playful or aggressive.

Lastly, consistent behavior and management can also help cats and rabbits learn to coexist. By providing separate spaces for each animal, gradually increasing their time together, and rewarding positive behavior, the cat and rabbit can learn to associate each other’s presence with positive experiences.

It’s important to note that not all cats and rabbits will be able to coexist peacefully, even with time and exposure. Some animals may never be comfortable with each other and may need to be kept completely separate for their own safety and well-being. Only time will tell for sure.

Conclusion

In summary, introducing cats and rabbits requires careful planning, patience, and supervision. While not all cats and rabbits will be able to coexist peacefully, it is possible for them to learn to tolerate or even enjoy each other’s company over time.

By considering the factors that influence compatibility and following the tips for introducing and managing these pets, cat and rabbit owners can create a safe and harmonious household for their both pet species.

Remember, always prioritize the safety and well-being of both animals and seek professional advice if necessary.

cat and rabbit sleeping side by side

Author

  • Dr. Wendy Wilkins, DVM, PhD

    Dr. Wendy Wilkins is an experienced veterinarian and epidemiologist with over 20 years of expertise. She holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree and a Doctorate in Epidemiology from the University of Saskatchewan. Throughout her career, Dr. Wilkins has excelled in clinical practice, academia, research, and regulatory veterinary medicine. She is a respected voice in knowledge dissemination, delivering factual information in a readable and understandable manner through articles, books, and public engagements.

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