Aggressive rabbits: reasons for problem behavior

Rabbits are actually peaceful animals. If the animals show aggressive behavior, it is not uncommon for one or more problems with husbandry or handling to lie behind it. Read more about the reasons and what you can do about it here.

In many cases, when rabbits become aggressive, it has to do with handling and husbandry – shutterstock / Romeo Andrei Cana

In many cases, when rabbits become aggressive, it has to do with handling and husbandry – shutterstock / Romeo Andrei Cana

In nature, aggression is part of normal rabbit behavior. It serves to protect against threats. Different if a rabbit lives as a pet. Then the coexistence of conspecifics or of humans and animals is severely disturbed by aggressive behavior.

What is aggressive behavior in rabbits?

This is how a rabbit signals that it is disturbed:

● Big ears
● Leap forward
● flapping forelegs
● Biting
● Growls

If humans or animals then withdraw, the long-eared bat may chase a little further behind. If the troublemaker does not keep his distance, the aggression will continue.

Two behaviors, on the other hand, are often misinterpreted in relation to aggressiveness. On the one hand, when the animal circles its owner, emitting growling noises and jumps or bites the feet of the person. The background here is a sexual motivation, which can often be observed in rabbits kept individually. Also, when a rabbit screams, it is usually not a sign of defensiveness or aggression. The animal expresses great fear or pain through this extreme form of spoken language.

Prick-eared rabbits in particular have a clear body language.  – shutterstock / Africa Studio

09/12/2018 – 2:28 p.m

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Possible reasons for aggressive behavior in rabbits

When rabbits behave aggressively, it can be for one of the following reasons:

● Hormones going haywire
● Lack of employment and boredom
● Solitary husbandry and otherwise inappropriate husbandry
● Bad experiences
● illness
● Not enough space

Avoiding aggression in rabbits: tips

When adopting a rabbit, it is first important to establish trust so that the likelihood of aggression is minimized in the first place. In particular, shy animals need a longer-term approach. Gradually acclimate the animal to a carrier with hay or treats. This allows you to bring the animal from the cage or enclosure to an open area to let it run.

The trust that the animal develops for the box will also help you with transport to the vet or when travelling. If your rabbit is hand-feeding without any problems, you can start picking it up occasionally to lend a hand with things like grooming.

The best possible housing conditions are the basis for rabbits to feel comfortable and not behave aggressively. In addition to an enclosure that is large enough and offers enough opportunities for activities, aggressive animals in particular need company.

Whether another rabbit that matches your character or the integration into a group: The animals involved should first be gradually brought together in an unfamiliar place. Only when the animals get along, for example in the kitchen or in the bathroom, do they go to the permanent enclosure together. Check that all animals eat afterwards and that none of the rabbits are isolated. If problems arise over the long term, you may have to change the composition of the group.

You may also be interested in these rabbit related topics:

Rabbit Socialization: Problems and Solutions

China disease in rabbits: symptoms of RHD infection

Rabbit escape: how to catch it again

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