Rabbits are sweet and frisky animals known to be playful. They are naturally social and inquisitive and can be a joy to have as pets. But what happens when your cute and cuddly pet starts biting, kicking, scratching, or doesn’t want to be held? The answer to this question lies in understanding a rabbit’s natural behaviour.
Some behaviours may be solved by training or addressing the core problems. While some are seen as problematic by owners may actually be normal behaviour typical to rabbits. These may not be completely preventable but can be managed in a way acceptable to both you and your pet.
Read on to find the solution to your rabbit’s behaviour problems, so that you can make your experience together a happy and memorable one.
In their natural habitats, rabbits dig burrows and even dig around for food. Digging is an instinct and cannot be gotten rid of completely. Digging can get out of hand and become destructive. If not discouraged, your rabbit may start digging your carpets, blankets, or sofa and causing damage. They may even dig their way out of their outdoor enclosure.
While this behaviour cannot be eliminated, you can distract your rabbit from it by luring them away. Rabbits also dig out of boredom. Ensure that your rabbit has enough stimulation by providing toys and adequate playtime and petting. Also, provide a spacious enclosure so that your rabbit has enough space and does not feel cooped up.
Alternatively, this behaviour can also be managed by providing acceptable means of digging. You can take your rabbit outdoors and allow it to dig under supervision. Another idea is to provide a litter tray filled with compost that they can dig in. Or you can allocate boxes of hay or old cushions and pillows where your bunny can enjoy uninterrupted digging.
Aggression and Spraying
Unlike digging, aggression can be caused due to fear, hormonal changes, or medical issues. Signs of aggression like growling, hitting, scratching, and biting are more common in older rabbits.
A rabbit will become aggressive when it is defending its territory or itself. Aggression can be a sign that your rabbit is sick or hurt. It can also mean they are hormonal. Therefore it is important to carefully determine the cause of this behaviour before you try solving it.
If your usually playful and affectionate rabbit won’t allow you to pet it and bite if you try, call your vet. It may be in pain due to sickness or injury. Rabbits are fragile creatures. It is important to mark any sudden changes in behaviour so that you can treat underlying issues before it’s too late.
Sometimes your rabbit may confuse you with a predator especially if you surprise or scare it suddenly. Sometimes they can get violent when inside the rabbit carrier during transportation. In such scenarios, it may feel threatened and feel the need to defend itself. As a result, they may attack you.
This can be easily dealt with. Be careful when you approach your rabbit and be gentle when you pet or pick them up. Spend some time getting them to trust you. Spend some quality time with your bunny on the floor and let them seek you out of their own volition. Offer some rabbit treats when they approach you, so that you both form a positive connection.
Both male and female rabbits may display aggressive behaviour once they reach sexual maturity. An easy to handle rabbit may start biting, lunging, and refuse to be picked up due to hormonal changes. They will also mark their territory by urinating or spraying outside the litter box. These behaviours can be addressed by spaying or neutering your rabbit.
In the wild, rabbits chew on sticks and grass to grind their teeth down and keep their mouth healthy. Domesticated rabbits retain this instinct and will therefore chew on anything within their reach. They will chew on furniture, books, wires, and even walls.
This behaviour cannot be discouraged but it is possible to prevent or limit the damage to your belongings. The most important factor is to ensure your bunny is eating a portion of hay around the size of their own body every day. In addition, you can provide plenty of chew toys or non-toxic sticks like willow or applewood. You may also spray out of bounds areas with vinegar or a mixture of water and citrus oil. Rabbits dislike citrus smells and flavours, but it is not toxic to them.
Avoiding the litter box
It is usually easy to train rabbits to use the litter box. Most bunnies pick it up quickly within a few weeks. If your trained rabbit is urinating or defecating outside the litter box it can be due to several reasons. Defecating outside the litter box can be a way of marking territory. It can also be an emotional response to any changes in routine or even in the layout of your house. They may even be suffering from a health problem.
Spaying or neutering will prevent your rabbit from marking its territory. Ensuring you place litter boxes in different areas of the house will help acclimatize your rabbit to any changes. If you suspect illness, it is important to contact your vet as soon as possible.
To Wrap Up
Rabbits are gentle creatures and if they are showing bad behaviour, it is essential to first find the underlying cause. A pet rabbit’s behaviour or behavioural problems are a product of evolution. Most rabbit behaviours are either instinctive or biological.
There can be various reasons for your rabbit to be acting out, ranging from health-related issues to loneliness. Most importantly, it is essential to understand the source of bad behaviour to be able to find a solution to it.