The Basics of Rabbit Aggression: Ballistic Bunnies 101Aggressive rabbits can be scary. Rabbits bite hard, kick hard, and move fast, so it’s not unusual for owners to get intimated, or start dreaming of dumping their rabbit at the pound. So before you even approach this rabbit, convince yourself of the following principles:
1) Rabbits aren’t born mean. Ninety-nine percent of aggressive rabbits have a behavioral problem, not a genetic one. Behavior can be changed. Your rabbit is growing up; hormones are in control, and your rabbit is changing. The 4-5 month mark is the time to visit your rabbit veterinarian to talk about spay and neuter. Depending on the rabbit, there can be very little chance of having a calm, non-biting/scratching bunny after 4 months of age if not soon fixed.
2) Your rabbit doesn’t hate you. There may be a slight chance that your rabbit has taken a personal dislike to one person. More likely, she’s afraid you’re going to hurt her. Nevertheless…
3) You may be the best one who can solve the problem. Your rabbit won’t wake up one day and say, “Gee, maybe I should be nicer to Jane.” It’s the humans who have to figure out what’s wrong and initiate new ways of interacting.
4) You must NEVER hit a rabbit. This will only aggravate the problem tenfold. Your hands MUST be seen as only a source of affection, bringing hay and food, and petting/love.
Never, and I must repeat, NEVER hit or tap your rabbit for biting. He/she will never forget, and this will make things so much worse. You need to reassure your rabbit that her environment is safe and you are there to help.
Extremely Aggressive Rabbits: Bunnies Who Run With the Wolves
Some rabbits are so “mean” they seem more like predators than prey. These are the rabbits who chase you across the room and up into chairs, who sink their teeth into your tender limbs and refuse to let go, or who growl at you when you approach. They’re the rabbits most likely to be dumped or put to sleep. Unfortunately, they’re often the ones who have suffered the most in life because somewhere along the line they learned that humans, or life itself, is not safe.
If your rabbit is neutered or spayed, there can be any number of reasons he’s aggressive.
1. You must give your rabbit time after spaying or neutering. It can take up to a MONTH for your
rabbit’s hormones to settle down. (Sometimes longer for older females in my experience - Rhonda). It is by no means instantaneous, and they are sore for a few days after (especially females–give them a good 4 days without picking up or bothering them after spaying).
2. If you just got a new rabbit, he may be stressed out by the move. His last owner may have frightened him somehow.
3. If he used to be a hutch rabbit, the noises, smells, and sights of a house may be overwhelming him.
Wear gloves, long sleeves, long pants, and real shoes when you’re around him. This will protect your flesh. It will also help you keep calm.
Now start playing detective.
Watch him closely to see what provokes him. It may be your touching anything in his view. It may be the movement of your legs when you walk . It may be a certain sound–like a rattling newspaper or the vacuum cleaner. It may be your reaching out to touch him or feed him.
Whatever it is, don’t do it.
He needs to learn that you’re not out to get him. One rabbit was frightened by sleeves, having been carried by young boys in coat pockets. You never know what happened to your rabbit before you got him.
Then turn on the charm.
This is one of the key lessons many have learned is that affection works wonders on psycho bunnies. Try acting like he’s the greatest thing that ever happened in your life, despite the bandages on your hand and the boots on your feet. Give him a big hello when you see him. Greet his every act of aggression with good humor too.
When he charges your arm, say “why hello, you little pumpkin!” while calmly removing your arm from his reach. If he growls and thumps, say, “yes, you’re a BIG rabbit –I love that about you!” If he streaks across the room with murder in his eyes, simply say, “hey buddy, are you coming to see me?”
Rabbits think in patterns
Your job is to change the pattern, so he realizes that his approach provokes affection from you, not harm. Eventually he’ll associate you with kind words, nice pats, and enthusiasm for his particular personality. Don’t forget play time–toys, boxes, so he associates you with fun things!
Full article and common aggression scenarios: