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bunny seems angry

Rabbits get and show anger more like humans than like dogs. (Dogs are pushovers compared to rabbits.)

Any of these can be signs of anger: growling, biting, scratching, squirming, a loud sniff, the head shake, shaking a foot, hopping away while violently flicking the feet, turning ones back to you, ignoring you, raising one's ears at another rabbit, digging, throwing things around, ripping things up, urinating, refusing to eat (see also disease). Some of them are escape behaviors.

throwing things around in the cage

The "being angry in the cage" behavior is normal behavior when rabbits are locked up. Rabbits like freedom and in general hate being confined to the cage. They may like the cage if they are free to come and go. However, I am a firm believer in using the cage as ‘jail time’ for bad behavior. It works. (see also 'RABBITS IN THE WILD / TRADITION'.)

growling

This is a warning sign that means 'stop what you are doing or you will get bitten'. Rabbits are not dogs. If you want to be closer friends spend more time with bunny. Move him into the house and rabbit-proof your home. In a cage outside you're treating him like an animal and that is how he will act. Treat him like a human and he'll be more affectionate. He'll come to you. Give him a treat for spending time with you.

biting

If you are attentive you can usually tell when a 'biter' is about to bite you by the wild look in their eye and ear position (back) [see also digging, noise, throwing things]. My 'pound' puts biters to sleep right away but even a bad biter can be reformed with a little love. Wear gloves and sleeves if necessary. Be loving and gentle and keep you hands away from the front end. I had a bad biter who now only occasionally turns his head sideways as a warning.

Usually rabbits won't break the skin with a bite.... usually rabbits will still only nip at you if they are really mad. It's like a signal. If your rabbit is actually biting you, either he has been badly abused or it's your fault. You can gentle him.

biting clothes

You are in their way. Move over already. Jeez.

loud sniff

Anger. And whites of eyes also means excitement of any kind.

my rabbit hates me

She or he does not hate you. It is a survival skill to fear you. Lie on the floor and let the animal run around you. Do this a lot. Do not pet. You could be nibbling on a piece of parsley and you could let the bunny nibble on it when she or he wants to. Give the animal a treat when you pet it. Increase contact slowly. Eventually start picking bunny up and if you do this enough bunny will get used to it.


noise

Rabbits also make noise to get your attention, to express boredom and to express their feelings, and for practical reasons such as to wake you up. Rabbits make great alarm clocks. (see also 'RABBITS IN THE WILD / TRADITION' and TOYS below.)

Rabbits really like sound. They have those huge ears. They like to make a racket. The more things you can give them to make a racket, the better. They like our music if it's not too loud. Sometimes they like the nature programs.

sleeping — us

Rabbits don't necessarily understand what is happening when we go to sleep. I've had a rabbit jump on my head and claw like a crazy person at my head. And this happened about ten times in a row the first night or two. After that he sort of figured what sleep was all about. After that he would sleep on the bed facing away from my head.

alarm clock

Before the days when my bunny was allowed to roam about freely, he could hear my alarm go off in the morning. If I didn't come and let him out right away he'd cause a commotion by knocking his stainless steel food dish out of its rack, pulling the rack off the side of the cage, and then taking the rack in his teeth would slam it repeatedly against the dish. He proved many times over that rabbits are far more intelligent and personable than they get credit for.

grinding teeth

The happy petting noise unless it's loud and then it means 'pain'.

grunting

This is usually a noise of sexual arrousal made while running around the prospective mate. May include thumping and wild tail waving.

humming and buzzing

Humming while running around, usually referred to as grunting, is a sound of sexual arousal. It apparently drives female rabbits bonzo. It is usually heard when your rabbit is running around you in circles or right before your rabbit starts biting your feet. It may also mean general excitement such as it's time for breakfast. I never heard buzzing til I got a dwarf but it's definitely the same behavior.

roar

One rabbit is to have roared like a tiny lion. "When he is chasing your feet or if you piss him off. Often he will run in circles around our feet roaring like this."

sighing

When a rabbit is held against his or her will, and they realize that struggling is futile, they will heave a sigh or two and relax.

whimpering

Submissive rabbits will whimper if somebody, who's more dominant, takes something away from them which they want very much. Occasionally I hear whimpering when a rabbit is dreaming.


digging

Every morning my rabbit digs in the rug like crazy and tries to pull it apart with his teeth. He is not eating it, just ripping it up. He makes a terrible racket and is very destructive. It is usually the same time every day--usually when it's time for me to get up. It's really like some kind of performance art. It almost looks like he is on some kind of exercise equipment.

Rabbits need to dig and chew in general for various reasons. They live underground in the wild. They dig their homes on higher bluffs if possible to avoid the water table. Rabbit dens always have 2 exits. They have elaborate tunnels where they different areas are for storing food, raising babies, and defecating. In your home, you will notice that rabbits sleep in different areas at different times of the day. That is natural.

In the house they are digging to get out of where they are (escape), to sharpen nails, as an outlet for their anger (what did you do?), boredom, a territorial display for other rabbits, and to make a lot of noise. Early morning digging is probably a helpful function to get you out of bed so they can have breakfast. Solutions: get out of bed, give a treat at a different time rather than breakfast, earplugs, less noisy digging materials. You can't fight it and it's really good exercise.

Provide good digging material. One of our rabbits has a piece of corrugated cardboard that makes a really loud sound when dug and ripped. Another has a 100% cotton rug which is ok if he doesn't eat it. Straw and hay is good if it's natural. Straw mats are bad as they are often treated with chemicals.

chewing

Provide 1x2 of pine or fur, branches from outside (check the house rabbit's site for safe plants), hay, paper and cardboard ok if no signs of actually eating it. Get some really good timothy hay (see links page).

Rabbits love to eat things that came from nature. That includes rubber, silk, viny and plastic (oil) and all kinds of other things. They cannot spit up. Some of these thing they can't digest and it will either pass or it will plug up the system and need surgery to get out. This is a faily common surgery with rabbits.

Nipping

It usually means "Cut it out!" Nipping can also be used to get attention. Sometimes it can be done out of pure frustration.

the poke

He wants you to pet him. May also want you to get out of his way or give him what you are eating.

redecorating

Rabbits like routine and don't like to have the furniture rearranged. However, sometimes it is good to move things around to give them something to do.

routine

They also like you to keep a regular routine. You may notice if your rabbit has free range in the house, that they sleep in different parts of the room at different times of the day. It's a regular circuit. They do the same thing every day.

sleeping — them

Rabbits are diurnal. Their normal hours of waking time are dawn and dusk. They take cap naps the rest of the time.

eating furniture, carpet, remote controls, clothing

Do not let him roam unsupervised. Put bunny in an enclosure of some kind where he can't hurt himself or the house.

picking rabbits up

Many rabbits only like to be petted on the floor. It is very disorienting and scarey for many rabbits to be picked up. There are various ways of picking them up...make sure their hind legs are supported to avoid stress on their delicate back. It can help to hold their ears down. Don't pick up by grapping their skin.

You just have to keep picking them up anyway to get them used to it. Perhaps give the rabbit a treat every time you pick it up. You could try sensitivity training: get it to like being petted, then get it to like being petted next to you, then get it to like being petted under one foot, then 2 feet, then with the 2 feet on your leg, etc. Very slowly, with treats, over the course of a year you can do it. You can do anything with rabbits -- if you are very patient and loving.

catching a rabbit

Avoid chasing rabbits around the house. The best way to catch a rabbit is to trick them with a treat. Then get a hold of them as gently as possible. Rabbits of course, think you are trying to kill them. Stroke them and talk with love.

Another way is to catch them at the same time every day so they will expect it...rabbits will respect it (see "Tradition'"). Another way is to trick them by blocking off one of their exits and act fast. I cover them with my whole body and then settle them down for a few minutes. After they are calm, pick them up firmly. It is helpful to have two people in a situation like this.

Do not hold onto a leg of a retreating animal, but once you have him, be firm to avoid squirming away. You are the boss. Act with confidence. If it helps, pretend you are the vet and act like you mean it.

You can try to throw something like a sheet over a running rabbit...it's hard to do it fast enough but they don't hate it as much because they can dig and it makes them feel like they are doing something and they can't see you. Or try to outsmart them and corner them in a normally open passage.

jumping

When a female jumps and kicks in the air it means that she is sexually ready. We have seen an average height of 1 feet 2 inches. I don't think jumping always has to do with sex. Sometimes it's just jumping for joy.

Most rabbits will stay within a short fence most of the time...or after they get older. I find a fence I can easily step over is usually high enough.

How do you tell the sex of your bunny?

I'm not sure about really young rabbits, but male rabbits have 2 pink balls (sacks) between their belly and their tail. Female rabbits often have a large lump on their chest, a dewlap, and nipples on their belly.

racing around the house like crazy

This is normal happy rabbit behavior. Usually trying to tell you something...at bedtime or get up time or when they want something. Be concerned if your rabbit doesn't do this...may be too fat or ill.

flopping down

Rabbit suddenly falling over onto the floor. Then possibly rolling around. Feet up in the air. Normal happy rabbit behavior though it is a little startling. Rabbit could possibly be sick from eating something so keep an eye on them.

scratching the floor (see digging)

panic running

Sometimes a rabbit can be startled and bolt when disturbed by a human, a raccoon or a noise. Usually the rabbit is deep in thought or listening to a far away noise. The sudden appearance of a human jerks the rabbit back to reality and frightens the poor creature. This causes the rabbit to run and ask questions later.

tail up or down

Rabbits use their tails for signaling danger. It also signals the state of excitement in a rabbit. When the tail is down, the rabbit is relaxed and unconcerned with what's happening. When the tail is shaking violently, it indicates sexual excitement or territorial behaviour.

laying all bunched up

Rabbits assume this pose so that they can be ready to run at a second's notice. When they are really relaxed, and feel safe, they sprawl out with their legs stretched out.

Ignoring the human

This usually means that the rabbit is not hungry, not in the mood for petting, or not alarmed about the human's presence. Rabbits will snap to attention if they want food or petting but when they are satisfied, they seem to say "Don't call me, I'll call you."

sun

Pale fur rabbits like or need to sit in the sun for short period every day for their vitamin D. Dark fur rabbits don't. Older rabbits seem to love sunbathing. Make sure they have shade if they want it.

Cages

Rabbits are real happy to get out of the cage. Jumping up in the air and clicking their heels together is "jumping for joy" in any language. Bunnies hate cages. Spend more time with your bunny. Once you spend a lot of time with your bunny he will be able to read his language without our help. IF YOU WERE IN A CAGE, would you be biting fingers?

hiding

Bunnies hide if they are afraid and sometimes if they know they've been bad.

freezing

Bunnies know that many predators only see movement well. If they don't move they may be safe. If your bunny is doing this a lot then it means he or she is really afraid of you. You are behaving badly.

whites of eyes showing

This indicates great fear and terror. Or possibly excitement.

sulking

If a rabbit can't get his/her way, the bunny will sit in a corner with head bowed, ignoring what's happening around it.

alert listening

Sometimes a rabbit will sit rigidly with ears up and eyes wide open. The bunny will also raise up a bit or stretch his/her neck to get the sound better. Rabbits don't enjoy some noisy human trying to talk to them when they are trying to listen.

sleeping on their backs

Some bunnies love to sleep belly-up on top of the couch, like they are playing dead.

rearrange furniture — us

Rabbits don't like furniture moved. Neither do birds and other animals. This is their territory. They like it the way it is. They are the same way about time: they like a set schedule just as it is in nature.

hopping away with treats

This means "This in MINE! I begged hard for it and I'm going to eat it. Go find your own treat." This is illogical because it's the human who gives the treat to the rabbit, yet the rabbit thinks the human will take it back. They get very protective of their treats and feel insecure when being watched. The rabbit will turn his or her back to the human while eating the treat as if to say, "Go away, you can't have any of this and I want to be alone!"


affection

sniffing noses

This is a rabbit's way of sizing up other rabbits and humans. They can gather a lot from the smell of another bunny or other creature. It is also a friendly gesture, much like a hand shake among humans.

licking

I think it's the dominant rabbit that receives the licking among two adults.

he doesn't need to cuddle anymore

Rabbits sometimes get less cuddly as they get older. I suppose he could be bored. He could be ill. A trip to the vet may discover something. He could need vitamins.

My rabbit was stressed for months after I moved. You can imagine that the human habit of moving homes is odd to an animal and doesn't happen the same way in nature.

It is most likely that either he is punishing you for not spending enough time with him. You know the more time you spend with a rabbit, the sweeter they get. You can also try the "treat" method, so that he associates petting with treats.

he goes under the bed ALL DAY

It is probably the only place he feels safe. Are there dogs or people grabbing at him all the time? Is he new to the house? Rabbits like other dark quiet out of the way places, that are near their owners usually, but only when they have a back exit. Rabbits like at least 2 exits out of any snooze place. The bed probably fulfills this need. Rabbits don't sleep all night like we do. Their awake times are dawn and dusk.

He might not be well if he's sleeping all day. Keep a close eye on how much he's eating and drinking. Rabbits can't be off their food for more than 24 hours. The vet can give you something to inject alfalfa slurry into his mouth with.

sitting in lap

People say you just have to keep picking the bunny up anyway. Perhaps give the rabbit a treat every time you pick it up.

traumatized rabbit

He will be afraid of you for a long time, but if you are really gentle, and really patient and let him come to you, he will eventually become more tame. Spend a lot of time in the room with him. Give him treats when he allows you to be near him. Best thing to do: is sleep all night on the floor in the same room with him. If he knows you trust him when you're entirely vulnerable, he may begin to trust you.

Rabbits in schoolrooms

I think rabbits are too sensitive to be kept like this in a schoolroom. If they get angry, they bite someone, and then are sent to the pound. The pound puts biters to sleep.

Teach children how to carefully how to hold the bunny without hurting it, how to calm the bunny, and remind him that the bunny's little back can break if he is afraid and tries to run away by kicking his legs too hard.

  1. Do not pick up the rabbit. They don't like it. Don't try to get them on your lap. Get down on the floor to pet them.
  2. Too many people, too stressful for rabbit, too dangerous for children
  3. Get the House Rabbit Handbook or another good book
  4. Give bunny a variety of food and as much freedom as possible. Rabbits hate being caged.
  5. No dogs nearby
  6. Don't chase rabbit around
  7. Rabbits want almost endless petting and companionship


sexual behavior

see grunting, humming and buzzing also (above)

chinning

Rabbits rub chins on things as part of the mating ritual along with circling the doe, dodging left and right behind her, and mounting. Also chinning is a way of marking property. Rabbits have scent glands on their chins which exude a clear liquid. Bucks have this much more than does because bucks need to mark their females. Domestic rabbits do this to claim objects as their own.

spraying

Male cats do this too. Male rabbits do this to mark their territory. They will do in on anyone they see as a threat to their mate. I had a boyfriend who got zapped repeatedly and sometimes I did too. It helps if you come into the room and immediately get down on the floor and pet the animal. Standing up in the vicinity is a real come on apparently.

I have heard that male rabbits often retain their pre-neutering behavior of spraying. It depends on what age they get neutered at.

ripping out fur

Female bunnies like to rip fur out as it has something to do with making a nest. They rip their own out several times a year.

Other fur flying amonst rabbits indicates fighting which must be stopped. They can unknowingly kill each other by infection or blood loss. Supervise and don't leave alone together.

mounting

Obviously with male on female, you are in trouble. Rabbits who are not actually mating will mount each other. Even female on female. Then it's a display of power, not sex.

(see also grunting in noises above)

shaking tail feathers

This usually has something to do with their territory being invaded by another, or by you cleaning it up or rearranging the furniture. It denotes extreme displeasure or excitement.

urinating on the bed — see rabbit proofing


partner

Some rabbits will just NOT make friends, neutered or not. They are too territorial. For this situation, you will need to keep them separated at all times. They will fight and draw blood. Some cuts can get infected and/or be very dangerous. If you keep them separated the antagonistic behavior will help keep them young, and gives them something to obsess over so they don't get bored and old before their time.

Introduce a new rabbit

You have to be careful but rabbits are social animals and probably shouldn't be alone. Make sure the new animal is not carrying any diseases by quarantining for a few days. Obviously you want to avoid pregnancy....sometimes vets can sex the rabbits wrong so be careful.

When you do introduce them, make sure it is on neutral territory. They may still fight when they get onto non-neutral territory. Rabbits often don't get along with a new rabbit. They can have vicious fights for years and can injure or kill each other. Has to do with territory and rabbits are very territorial.

Young rabbits do get picked on by older rabbits. In the wild, young rabbits have no rights until they are able to beat the older male rabbits. So part of this is perfectly normal. You take them for a ride in the car together and scare them, they might bond in the car for safety reason.

dwarf

I've always read that the dwarfs are bred to be more gentle than the big ones. I myself have a dwarf but he was badly traumatized before I got him. He's smart and understands me, he can 'fetch' but he's a biter. He will bite anyone when he's afraid.

Cat and rabbit

May be ok, depends on the cat. Cats can and do kill rabbits, especially dwarfs. I have found that rabbits don't pay much attention to cats.

Dog and cat

Same as above. Be very careful. One good shake and you have no rabbit left. I wouldn't leave rabbit alone with either dog or cat unless you are very sure.

Rabbit and small rodents

May be ok. Check for diseases. My rabbit thinks the guinea pig is his pet.

Rabbit and bird

Rabbit can catch diseases from bird shit so make sure rabbit can't eat any by accident. Rabbits will eat bird seeds but it's too much protein and shouldn't be allowed. Rabbit will probably ignore the bird unless it makes him jealous. Bird will enjoy having a rabbit to annoy—obviously it should not be a bird which eats mammals.

Rabbits together

Rabbits have a pecking order. They will love each other, nurse each other, play together. They will also fight and injure each other. If one rabbit is sick or old, he will be mercilessly harassed by the healthier animal. This seems to be instinctual survival behavior. Often the healthier animal will harass another til he becomes sick. So be very careful. They may have to be separated to ensure they both are getting adequate food, water and rest.

Cats and rabbits

Cats and rabbits get along, although some cats don't get along with anything. Some cats will kill rabbits. They should be supervised for a long time.

How do you breed rabbits?

We have no idea. Our rabbits come from the pound. If you need more rabbits please get them from the pound or the house rabbit society.


toys

Do rabbits play fetch?
What kind of toys do they like?

Rabbits love to play. Sometimes they play by themselves and sometimes they'll play with you. You may not recognise playing behaviour for what it is, though, and sometimes playing is actually anger expression or an attention-getting exercise. Playing with bunnies is sometimes similar to playing with toddlers...it's like some sort of primitive communication.

A happy rabbit will run wildly around the house or enclosure. They may hop in the air, spin in the air, and click their feet together. They may also do this to get attention. In the wild, sexual display involves one of them hopping over the over. Two rabbits may mimic sexual display (hopping around with one on top) but this is usually more fighting over who is in charge, than playing.

Rabbits like to play with: hanging strings, hanging curtains, piles of biodegradeable string, stacks of boxes to climb, open boxes, stuffed animals, things that make a lot of noise if thrown around, and females may like to tunnel in and out of sweaters and bedsheets.

Fetching

I have only known one rabbit who could or would follow something thrown for him and he enjoys this. The item is usually food so the fetching is minimal. Other rabbits find things by smell.

Some rabbits will play with a string dangled above them or with a stick held in front of them.

tunneling

Rabbits love to run through things like this, it's like the entrance to a tunnel. They can pull on them and chew on them also. Make sure they are natural material (cotton, silk, linen) and washable. Rabbits love to run under long skirts and curtains.

Umbrella

Rabbits like an opened umbrella on the floor. They can run under it and throw it around. Hours of fun. May be dangerous to rabbit and human eyes though so watch carefully how your pet plays with it and don't use around children.

Balls, bells and noise making

Hard plastic balls with bells or noise-makers inside of them. Get the loudest ones you can find. Some large bells have places you can grab with your teeth and throw. Those are great.

binder clips

A few binder clips clipped together make a loud sound when thrown. Also some waterdishes make a nice sound, as do metal cake pans. Use your imagination on this. Just make sure they are safe to play with and cannot be eaten, are light enough to be picked up with teeth and make a lot of noise.

100% Wool sweater on the floor

Some rabbits especially female, will tunnel through sweater. Make sure arms holes are expandable enough so rabbit won't get stuck in them.

100% natural cotton, silk or linen rug

They will tear these apart and dig in them. Some animals will eat the fibers and that is very bad and rug must be taken away. But some animals will be ok with a toy like this, will just rip it up and not eat it.

regarding fabric of any kind

If they eat it, it may be very bad for them. Hard to tell what rabbits can pass. If it's something organic that can break down in their stomachs, it's ok...but it's hard to tell what they can digest. Sometimes things pass right through and sometimes they don't. Fabric is not recommended -- may be ok if supervised.

Cardboard tubes, toilet paper tubes and boxes

These are a lot of fun. Care should be taken that they are not eaten though biting pieces off them and chewing and spitting out is ok. They should not have tape on them as tape will be eaten and is bad for them. A simple game of standing the toilet rolls on their ends and letting bunny knock them over is a lot of fun for bunny. It is also fun to stack boxes that one can climb on, or to have a box which one can make into a safe house by eating holes in it. Also makes a lot of irritating noise which is good in the morning.

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All text and graphics copyright 1995-2014 by Carolyn 'r' Crampton. All rights reserved.