Rabbits and cat living in harmony

Reader Brigette Zacharczenko, a grad student in Ecology and Evolution at the University of Connecticut at Storrs (she has an insect website), sent me some lovely photos (in an email titled “Some fluffy kitty belly for you to enjoy”) of her rabbits and new kitty that I’m posting with her permission. Her description is indented.

My fiance and I recently adopted a young cat we’ve named Milo. He’s a real charmer and I thought you’d enjoy some of these photos! We call him a cross between a ferret and a dinosaur, but we suspect he may actually be a Turkish Angora, at least in part.

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Last photo is one of his encounters with my two rabbits, Rascal and Appledot. We were worried the cat may have a “killer instinct” and go after the rabbits. He’s only ever been an indoor cat, but you never know. Turns out, it’s the rabbits who are aggressive! Milo keeps trying to be friendly, approaching to sniff, rolling onto his back, mewing softly, and patting at them gently. Meanwhile the rabbits lunge, grunt, chase, and smack him around. To his credit, Milo handles it well, and isn’t terribly deterred. I’ve heard of other households with cats and rabbits who get along, and I’m hoping we get to that point too.
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And she has a question:
I’d be interested in hearing if any of your other readers have cats and rabbits who get along, and what the adjustment process was like.

24 Comments

  1. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Didn’t Dr. Venkman tell Lenny, the mayor of New York, that this was a sure sign of the apocalypse?

    Oh, wait, that was dogs and cats living together.

  2. madscientist
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    I would never have imagined cats and rabbits living together. A hare might have half a chance (or maybe a full-grown Atlas rabbit), but the cat that owns this neighborhood would treat rabbits as snacks.

  3. Posted October 20, 2016 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    I have 3 cats and a new young rabbit who looks like a miniature lion, believe it or not. We have the rabbit in the garden in a wire mesh. The cats are fascinated by the rabbit and the rabbit is not at all intimidated by them.
    But, it’s difficult to tell if the cats view the bunny as a feast or a friend. And we daren’t run the experiment without a wire mesh between them.
    But seeing this post, we might give it a go, eventually. Thanks Brigette and Jerry.

  4. mikeyc
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    My cat is a merciless killer when it comes to mice and rats but he ignores squirrels and rabbits. Simply ignores them.

    Perhaps it’s size?

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    They can live together because they are all atheists, clearly. There’s no religion to get in the way of their harmony.

    • Posted October 20, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      Appledot (the spotted one) clearly believes she is “top rabbit” of the house, and I wonder if she would go so far as to consider herself as having a god-like position. Or at least, she’d like to be. She wants to control when she’s let out, when she eats, where she can chew and dig, when she gets groomed by Rascal, and now putting the cat in his place. She doesn’t often succeed in any of those, so she is frequently frustrated. But her dominion over the cat is stroking her ego – I’ve never seen her jump and dance so much!

  6. Posted October 20, 2016 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate the feature! As for cats and rabbits getting along, when I was growing up at one time we had 2 cats, a rabbit, and a parrot all loose in the house together (with supervision). The only ones who didn’t get along were the rabbit and parrot, go figure.

    When outdoors, the cats would catch and eat rabbits regularly in our garden. But in the house – they were absolutely terrified of our pet rabbit!

    I think it’s due to the friendliness, or at least fearlessness, of the rabbit. Even now, I’ll watch Milo approach the bunnies, but as soon as one turns to face him, and starts to chase him off, he’s off with his tail curled around his legs. Scaredy-cat!

    I suspect if a pet rabbit were to run away scared in typical “I am prey” fashion, the cat may react differently. But a bold bunny must confuse a cat. Currently, all interactions here are supervised.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted October 20, 2016 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      Milo eh. Not a reference to Catch 22?

      • Posted October 20, 2016 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

        More like Milo and Otis – no plans to get a pug, though.

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    I can’t even get two cats to get along. You think maybe only one is atheist? So which one?

  8. een
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    My neighbour has a free-range rabbit (he’s pretty safe – no wild mammalian predators in NZ). Since the neighbours got a dog the rabbit has been a bit disgruntled and now spends a lot more time in my garden – I now have to fence my vegetables off, but that’s a different story…

    I used to worry about the rabbit as my cat Larry is very interested in him, and even though they’re the same size I would often see him stalking the rabbit. Then one evening I was patting the rabbit, who was on my lawn, when Larry came up. The rabbit approached Larry, they sniffed noses, the rabbit flaunted himself for a bit and then they chased one another around the washing line.

    I didn’t worry after that, and since then have seen them solicit play from one another several times. Larry still looks predatory, and sometimes will gently bite the rabbit or tap him with his paw in play, but the rabbit is all cool with that.

    • Posted October 20, 2016 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

      Does NZ not have hawks and owls? or is it that hawks and owls in NZ have not yet learned rabbits are food?

  9. Kopper
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    I guess it’s the size. I don’t think cats would have a concept of taxonomic affiliations when picking their live meals

  10. Stephen Barnard
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    My (estranged) wife had two (maybe three — I’m not sure) cats and a rabbit, all free to roam the house. They got along well as long as the cats were well fed. One day my wife was remarking about how smart my (recently deceased) Border Collie was when Bee (the Border Collie), frustrated that we weren’t playing with her, dropped a tennis ball in front of the rabbit and waited for the creature to throw it. That was a good laugh.

    I once had to pull a lovebird from the jaws of one of the cats. It was fine.

  11. Matthew
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    We had two rabbits, four cats and two dogs.
    All lived peacefully. The rabbits were mini, so size was not the issue.

    The cats would try to play/ stalk the rabbits, when the cats would pounce, the rabbits were much too quick to be caught.

    These were young cats as well, not fat or slow. The rabbits had the run of the house, and some of the cats were out doors.

    All were well fed.

    The dogs.. The young dog was a border collie chow mix. Herding and protective.
    Once he understood the rabbits were part of the “herd” he was fine with them.. The second dog was an older beagle spaniel mix.. He did not care.

    All of the cats were introduced after the rabbits. The rabbit’s territorial possiveness meant that if push, the senior rabbit would head butt the cats across the floor, if they were too aggressive.

  12. Woof
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    We more or less fostered a lop-eared rabbit way back when… when we had 4 cats.

    The rabbit would chase the cats around and snap at them. The cats would run and jump up on something tall to get away.

    Very embarrassing. (Remember Sylvester and the kangaroo?)

  13. Claudia Baker
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    My niece has a mini bunny who has the run of the house. She also has four (indoor) cats. Each of the cats are easily twice the size, if not more, of the bunny. But the bunny definitely rules the roost.

    He’ll stamp his foot if agitated and will fake-attack a cat if he feels intimidated. That is, will run at it and the cats will back off. The bunny was introduced to the house after 3 of the cats. Only one came after him. He is small, but mighty. And, oh, so cute!

  14. Debra Coplan
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    I have had at least 12 cats with various amounts of rabbits all in the house and in huge enclosures outside.
    I never had a problem between any cats going after rabbits, but I did have a very aggressive rabbit who would chase the cats.
    I have rescued over 75 domestic rabbits and not one ever physically engaged. All free range animals-no cages. Rabbits had to be separated by fences though….

  15. Christopher
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    Never dealt with rabbits and cats together, but my ex’s mother lived with us for a bit and one of her cats used to hop into my turtle’s cage and crap in the substrate. That probably doesn’t help but it’s the best I’ve got.

  16. Gabrielle
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    I’ve only had rabbits, not cats, but I’ve had an assertive female like your Appledot (cute name and cute rabbit!) My experience is that this type of personality is pretty strong, so maybe that’s the way little Appledot will always be. At least if the cat understands that a certain level of respect/distance is required, everyone will be able to coexist peacefully. That is, as long as Appledot doesn’t physically attack the cat. I’ve had to break up fights between two rabbits, and it wasn’t pretty.
    That photo of Appledot – she looks pretty aggressive as she looks the cat right in the eye. Was she about to lunge at the cat? Whenever my rabbits were in that pose, a lunge and a little grunt were not far off, sometimes followed by a bite.

  17. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    Shoulda known. Wabbits can be vicious little buggers.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcxKIJTb3Hg

    cr

  18. stuartcoyle
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    We looked after my brother-in-law’s rabbit for a while when he was ill. One of our cats was just too scared of it to go near, the other (who is a great rat hunter) was inquisitive but not at all aggressive to it. The rabbit seemed to not care much about anything except food.

    I’m living in Queensland now, where rabbits are banned.

  19. Posted October 23, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Our rabbit would chase the cats around and try to get them to interact with her. The cats mostly just wanted to see if there was anything good to eat in the bunny’s enclosure. Everyone ran around the house in relative harmony.


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