When it comes to pets with behaviour problems, most of us think of barking dogs, strong-willed cats and even birds that like to bite. In this list of the usual bad-behaviour subjects, the sweet and docile rabbit barely rates a mention.
But if you’ve never owned a rabbit before or if you’re just starting out with one of these cuddly critters, you’ll probably be surprised to learn that your pet has the capacity to be one ‘vewy wascally wabbit’. And if you’re not patient enough to find a solution, your rabbit’s bad behaviour can quickly drive you up the wall.
Let’s take a look at three of the most common rabbit behaviour problems, what causes them and how you can fix them.
Common Rabbit Behaviour Problems
1. Hating being handled
Being picked up is not something many rabbits naturally enjoy. Unlike other pets which are regularly picked up by their parents, such as a cat picking her kittens up by the scruff of their neck, rabbits don’t experience this when growing up. In fact, the only time a rabbit would get picked up is when being attacked by a predator, so you can probably understand why many of our fluffy friends are less than enthusiastic about being handled by their owners.
The only way your rabbit will grow to love being handles is through experience. Starting when they’re as young as possible, teach your rabbit that being picked up doesn’t mean they are at risk of being harmed, but is instead a wonderful and exciting thing. By giving a small tasty treat and plenty of gentle pats when you pick your rabbit up, he or she will slowly come to see it as a positive experience rather than one that should be feared.
2. Inappropriate toileting
Litter training your rabbit is a point of frustration and annoyance for many bunny owners. Although many rabbits are quick to learn the intricacies of using a litter box and are also quite clean animals, some rabbits will need a little extra help to understand exactly what you want them to do.
Rabbits use urine and droppings to mark their territory, but getting your pet desexed will reduce their desire to mark every new area they find as their own. You may also need to restrict your rabbit’s access to certain areas of the home until they learn where the right spot to do their business is.
3. Chewing the wrong things
Chewing and digging are two of a rabbit’s favourite activities, so you’ll need to provide them with plenty of chances to indulge in these behaviours. If you don’t, your pet can start to do the wrong thing, such as chewing your furniture or perhaps their hutch.
The best way to solve this behavioural blunder is to make sure your pet has plenty of interesting and exciting toys to play with, chew and destroy. Toys of all shapes and sizes and that include a wide range of textures should do the trick, while you may also need to restrict access to areas where your rabbit’s inappropriate chewing is becoming a problem.
Solving Rabbit Behaviour Problems
If your furry friend isn’t behaving as well as she should, keep the following tips in mind to help make behaviour problems a thing of the past:
- Patience is crucial. Training your pet to do anything can be an incredibly frustrating and time-consuming experience, but it’s important to remain calm at all times. Your rabbit will learn what to do through positive reinforcement, so never lose your cool or try to punish your pet for doing the wrong thing.
- Check for health problems. In some cases, a change in your rabbit’s behaviour could be an indicator of a health problem, such as a bladder infection playing havoc with his previously perfect toilet habits.
- Bonding time. From biting and aggressive behaviour to being fearful of handling, many rabbit behaviour problems centre on how they interact with people. With this in mind, often the best way to overcome common behaviour problems is to simply spend as much quality time with your pet from as young an age as possible. This will help them get used to being in close contact with people in a wide range of situations, and will ensure that many potential behaviour problems never eventuate.