When bunny turns a mean tooth
When bunny turns a mean tooth
The last thing a Pet Parent expects from her bunny is aggressive behavior. Rabbits, of course, are normally mild mannered, docile and loving animals. But occasionally, however, a bunny does adapt a pattern of behavior that may seem aggressive. For example, she might strike out when her Pet Parent puts her hand in the cage, or scratch and bite when her Pet Parent tries to pick her up. But does this mean you have adopted a vicious bunny?
"Rabbits are not vicious," said Bridget Fleming, who keeps rabbits and develops 4-H groups for youngsters in Hancock County, Ohio. "What a rabbit might display as aggressiveness is probably really fear."
In order to solve a bunny's problem with aggressiveness, it is important to first understand why a bunny might be acting that way. If your normally tame rabbit suddenly starts lashing out at her Pet Parent's hand, it could be that your bunny is hurt or in pain; if there is any question, you should take her to the veterinarian to find out for sure. Once you figure out what is bothering your bunny, chances are you can teach your bunny to stop taking it out on you.
Fighting out of fear
If, after given a clean bill of health by the veterinarian, your bunny continues to bite or struggle when she is picked up, the reason could simply be that she is not yet comfortable with people. If this is the case, Fleming suggests gradually acclimating the bunny to her Pet Parent's presence.
"Don't forget, you are 20 times their size, and you smell funny and look funny to them too," Fleming says. If you don't try to help bunny overcome her fear early on, the aggressive behavior may become worse. Rabbits are smart little animals. If your bunny is scared of people, she may have figured out that charging and trying to bite is a good way to get people to leave her alone. Perhaps she even thinks that she has gotten her Pet Family trained! But through love and patience, you can teach your bunny that threatening to fight is not the way to get what she wants.
Fleming recommends first just opening your bunny's cage and placing your hand near the front. Give bunny a little treat when she comes out, so she'll start associating your hand with yummy things. After a little while, she will start looking forward to your visits and wanting to spend time in your arms.
If a rabbits who enjoys the company of people still resists being held, the reason may be that she is not being held properly. "If your rabbit thinks she might fall, she will become afraid and start to struggle," Fleming explains. It is important to hold a bunny securely against your body, but without squeezing her. Just as with any other animal, there will occasionally be times when your bunny simply doesn't want to be held. When this is the case, you should probably let her hop around on her own.
Biting the hand that feeds her
Often, learned aggression crops up around dinnertime. Bunny might charge at the hand that fills the dinner bowl because she has learned that aggression causes her Pet Parent to drop the food and leave. Rabbits are smart, and in this case she may think she has figured out the key to getting a quiet, leisurely meal.
Filling your bunny's food dish when she is out of the cage is one way to solve this problem, but a more satisfying way might be to train your bunny to appreciate your food-bearing efforts. Try talking to her when you give her treats outside the cage, using a particular word, like her name or "dinner." Then, when you say this word at dinnertime, bunny will know something good is about to happen.
Even if your bunny usually welcomes the chance to be around people, there are a few situations that might cause her to become easily frightened and show her teeth. A doe who has recently given birth, or who is in a late stage of pregnancy, may attack at even the slightest perceived threat to her young. Wild male rabbits are highly territorial, and even domesticated bunnies may become aggressive if they feel that their territory is being invaded. This happens most often if the bunny is kept in a small cage, or if he is given no place to hide. Spaying or neutering your bunny is an easy way to avoid either of these problems.
Normally, rabbits are not hostile animals. Bunny aggressiveness is very often the product of miscommunication. But with patience and some education in how to think like your pet, a Pet Parent's message of love and goodwill should eventually come shining through.
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