My Rabbit Is Biting Me All of a Sudden
See files for Rabbits
Rabbits are popular domestic pets thanks to their docile and playful nature. However, in certain situations, these little animals may become aggressive. When they are truly distressed they may even bite their caregivers.
In this AnimalWised article, we're going to explain the causes and solutions as to why your rabbit has started biting you all out of a sudden. Aggression in rabbits is common and has its solutions. Continue reading to find out more!
Aggression in rabbits
Although rabbits are known for being docile and playful animals, just like any other animal, they can get aggressive in certain situations.
For example, in the wild, rabbits need to be able to escape from predators. Although, they are very calm and alert in general, if a life threatening event presents itself, a rabbit must be able to react quickly and aggressively in order to survive. If we take a look at a rabbit's anatomy and physiology, it is completely designed for a rabbit to be able to escape predators.
In the wild, rabbits may be aggressive in the following situations:
- When approached by a predator
- To establish dominance in a community, especially
- After giving birth and protecting their bunnies
So, how does this relate back to our domestic pet rabbit? Domestic rabbits still have the same needs and habits of a wild rabbit, they simply adapt to the new circumstance. This means that they will also become aggressive when they feel that they are in a life-threatening situation, when spring comes around and they want to insert dominance in order to mate successfully and female rabbits that are protecting their new born bunnies.
With this being said, if our pet rabbit isn't in these situations, why would they become aggressive? Or better yet, why would they begin aggressively biting their caregiver?
Why your rabbit is biting you all out of a sudden
We've already established the reasons why your rabbit may become aggressive in certain times, relating it back to their wild ancestors. However, why would your pet rabbit bite you all out of a sudden? Here are the main causes:
They haven't bonded with you yet (main reason)
Each rabbit has their own personality and past. They will each take their own time to get used to their new home and their caregiver. If you try to force yourself onto them or handle them when they aren't comfortable with you yet, you will cause them to feel threatened and stressed. This will lead to them biting you as a defence mechanism.
Instead, try sitting down near their cage and hold out food for them, perhaps lettuce or a small piece of fruit. Allow them to come to you and don't make any sudden movements that can scare them. Remember that rabbits are very alert animals and sensitive to any movement, as they are designed to be this way in order to survive in the wild.
Be patient with them and allow them to get used to your smell and your presence. Play with them and train them to do tricks through positive reinforcement. This way, they will become comfortable with you and build a bond with you. Learn more in our article about tips for raising a rabbit.
They're not spayed or neutered
Whether your rabbit is male or female, it's best to get them spayed or neutered. This way, you won't need to worry about them reproducing and they will also have a more balanced temperament all year round.
As we've previously mentioned, male rabbits may get aggressive near spring time to insert dominance. This is an innate behaviour that male rabbits do in order to mate with female rabbits. Domestic rabbits will still have this behaviour and so they may bite you or destroy certain objects around your home.
To prevent this, you can spay or neuter them. Having two female rabbits instead of two male rabbits or one female and one male, will be better for a balanced temperament. Two female rabbits will get along well in the wild and also in a domestic environment.
They are stressed or irritated
Rabbits will get stressed for different things. Each rabbit will have their own level of tolerance. For instance, one rabbit can feel stressed or irritated when their caregiver is cleaning their cage or adding more hay. They may bite the caregiver in order to express how they feel invaded in their own space.
Others may not feel stressed in this situation but perhaps feel the same way in another situation. One of the most common causes for a rabbit feeling stressed or irritated is not getting enough time outside of their cage for exercise and mental stimulation.
Rabbits are very playful and energetic animals. They need plenty of time to play in the garden, hop around the house and spend time in nature. Make sure you can provide this before adopting a rabbit. If not, they may get stressed, become aggressive and even get sick.
They had an abusive past
When adopting a rabbit from an animal shelter, we'll need to consider the rabbit's past experience. Some may have had a good experience whereas others may have had aggressive owners or people that simply didn't provide them with their basic needs.
This may be why your rabbit is in a defensive mode, they are simply scared the same thing will happen. For traumatised rabbits, we need to be very patient and gentle with them. With time they will learn that we aren't a threat. They'll learn that we provide them with all their needs and that we would never force them to do something they don't want to do.
Similar to bonding with your rabbit, you'll need to spend time with them but always allow them to come to you, never vice versa. Slowly, you will see their attitude change and they will recover from past traumas. This way they will begin to trust you and consider you family.
How to stop them from biting you
Depending on the cause, there are a number of things that you can do for them to stop biting you. The first is learning to patiently bond with them and allow them to come to you. This applies for new rabbits, traumatised rabbits or stressed rabbits.
Next, you need to make sure that all of your rabbit's needs are met. Time outside, play time, balanced diet, hygiene, social time, rest and environment. When these basic needs are not met, rabbits can begin to feel stressed and experience behavioural issues that may lead to them destroying furniture or biting their caregivers.
Lastly, if you notice your rabbit gets aggressive around mating season the best way to balance out their temperament is by neutering them. This way you will also avoid your rabbits reproducing.
To best bond with your rabbit, watch this Youtube video by Lennon The Bunny on how to bond with an aggressive rabbit.
Does your rabbit hate you?
Your rabbit doesn't hate you, rabbits simply feel frustrated or stressed at time. Rabbits are very alert and sensitive animals, they need to be like this to survive in the wild. So we need to keep this in mind when interacting with them at home. Here are some signs that your rabbit is distressed (but doesn't hate you):
- Grinds their teeth
- Thump (sometimes also for attention)
- Tenses body
When this happens, simply give your rabbit some space and try to determine what the issue might have been in that situation. Do they want to spend more time outside? Are they hungry? Do they want you to give them some space? All we know is that they are communicating how upset they are about something.
Treating a rabbit bite
Rabbits don't generally bite hard unless they are truly scared and feel threatened. However, if your rabbit has bitten you deep enough for you to bleed, treat this as you would treat any other cut or small wound. Follow these simple steps:
- Clean it with soap and water.
- Apply an antibiotic cream to avoid getting an infection.
- Now put a bandaid on it.
If the wound is really deep or appears to have an infection, it's best to go see your doctor to get it properly examined and treated. Nevertheless, this is very uncommon as rabbits prefer to escape the dangerous situation before biting. They will only bite aggressively when they feel they are threatened and cannot escape.
If you want to read similar articles to My Rabbit Is Biting Me All of a Sudden, we recommend you visit our Basic education category.