One of the great wonders of the internet is the sheer variety of cute and cuddly animal videos out there. Every kind of puppy and kitten, and even unlikely friendships between critters and people.
One man raised a buffalo from a calf and it was his best friend. There’s a dog that is best friends with an emu! Heartwarming stuff, and funny.
But I have always wondered about some of these pairings. Some of the animals seem pretty at odds with each other in nature if you know what I mean.
Take rats and rabbits, as an example. Do rats and rabbits really get along?
Rats and rabbits may get along when raised together, but they should never cohabitate or be left alone together. Rats tend to be more aggressive, and will attack rabbits or bunnies if they are hungry or feel threatened, while adult rabbits can injure rats with a kick.
This is one of those situations where the answer is “technically yes, but practically no”. This is not to say that your pet rabbit and pet rat you raised from birth alongside each other cannot get along or even be friendly, but there is always the possibility of disaster if you aren’t careful.
We’ll tell you all about it in the rest of this article.
Are Rats and Rabbits Natural Enemies?
Rats and rabbits are not sworn enemies in nature, but they don’t get along and definitely don’t cohabitate.
Rats can and will prey on bunnies in the nest, and potentially even sick or injured adult rabbits. Rabbits are also known to be carriers of a disease that is fatal to rats – tularemia.
This means that even if a rat didn’t initially see a rabbit as prey, being in close proximity to one could be deadly.
Rats are also much more aggressive than rabbits, and will attack them if they feel threatened or are simply looking for a meal.
Adult rabbits can likewise defend themselves if they cannot run away or are feeling territorial by kicking with their powerful hind legs.
While they may just keep their distance and remain wary of each other, encounters with bad outcomes can and do occur in the wild, usually in favor of the rats.
Can Domesticated Rats and Rabbits Get Along?
On the other hand, the relationship between domesticated or pet rats and rabbits usually looks quite different.
For one thing, both rats and rabbits are prey animals, so they tend to be skittish around anything that moves quickly or looks like it might eat them.
However, when raised in captivity and in good conditions both can become quite tame and accustomed to both people and other animals, even ones that might normally be a threat to them.
Rats and Rabbits Can Get Along Under Some Circumstances
If you have both a pet rat and a pet rabbit, you can expect them to coexist peacefully under most conditions, even if they aren’t best buddies with each other.
So long as each has its own secure enclosure and sleeping area, food, water and enrichment materials you shouldn’t have any issues.
However, raising a bunny and pinkie together (together meaning being brought up alongside each other, not kept in the same cage) they are much more likely to be friendly, within reason.
This is a much better bet for friendship between the species than introducing a pet of one species to the other later in life.
But You Should Always Keep an Eye on Them
No matter the circumstances of their upbringing, you should never keep a rabbit and rat together unsupervised, or allow them unfettered access to the other.
If you have to leave them home alone together, make sure each is in its own secure enclosure with no chance of escape.
Rats are excellent at squeezing into even the smallest spaces, and can easily sneak into a typical rabbit cage to pillage food (or worse) at will if so inclined. You cannot allow that to happen.
Best case scenario, it is going to stress your rabbit the hell out. Worst case scenario you could end with a dead rat or dead rabbit, maybe both.
Both Rats and Rabbits Can Be Territorial
Make sure both rat and rabbit, no matter how friendly, have their space. Both species are territorial by nature, and even the best of friends can have a falling out if one feels its territory is being encroached upon.
This is especially true for rabbits, which tend to be more high-strung than rats, and also particularly a problem in the case of intact males.
Even in the case of the friendliest, tamest domestic animal they still need a space to call their own where they feel safe and in control of the environment.
Allowing another animal to enter that space, particularly when both species are “prey” in the wild is going to create stress.
Rats May Prey on Bunnies and Hurt Rabbits
And now for the bad news, or rather a grisly warning: You can never trust a rat around baby bunnies.
This is because even the friendliest of rats can attack and kill bunnies easily if given the chance, especially if the rat is male and has a significant size advantage.
There are plenty of recorded instances of rats taking bunnies right out of their nests in the wild. Yes, rats eat seeds and all sorts of other things, but you know what else they eat for sure? Meat, and meat that cannot fight back is always best when you are a rat.
This ties in with the caution above to always ensure you keep rats and rabbits securely locked up when you aren’t immediately present to supervise them, no matter how well they may seem to be getting along.
Rabbits Can Kick and Injure Rats
Now, you’d think that rabbits would usually be on the losing end of hostilities with rats and you’d be right most of the time, but it should be pointed out that rabbits aren’t defenseless.
They have powerful hind legs designed for kicking, and they can use those legs to good effect when startled or threatened.
While a single half-hearted kick from a rabbit isn’t likely to do major damage, if the rabbit gets in a good solid hit it can break the rat’s back or neck, or cause severe internal injuries that will be fatal. If you care about your rat you should keep them away from your rabbits, too!
Try to Prevent Intrusions and Food Theft
It is also worth pointing out that rats and rabbits both will generally try and eat each other’s food if given the opportunity.
This is another thing that will lead to friction between them, as all animals can become food possessive under the right circumstances, particularly when males or females with young are involved.
Don’t let them eat freely in the same area, and make sure to keep their food bowls in their enclosures safe so they can’t steal from each other.
And in point of fact, never feed your rat rabbit food or vice versa, as rabbits and rats have very different nutritional requirements.
What is good for one will likely be insufficient for the other, and feeding the wrong food can cause all sorts of health problems down the road.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.