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Dealing With An Aggressive Rabbit

What can be done to minimize a rabbit's aggressive behavior?

By Caroline Charland
Posted: April 13, 2010, 5 a.m. EDT

Q: I have a Satin Angora, female rabbit that is almost 1 year old. Her name is Gidget. I have had Gidget since she was 6 weeks old. I have had other angoras in the past, but never one that is aggressive. Gidget "attacks" my hand when I open her cage door, "grunts" when I pick her up (or try to). She doesn't bite, just jumps and bats at my hand. Gidget has a large cage (30 by 30 inches) in our kitchen/family room, toys, a bed and a litter box (she is litter trained). She is allowed out of her cage to hop around frequently and play, but when I try to pick her up to return her to her cage, she is aggressive again. She has been well treated, and we do not have small children in our home who might have abused her, etc. I groom her every three months, and while she isn't particularly fond of being groomed, she isn't aggressive during grooming. What's up with this behavior, and how do I change it?

A: I get calls and e-mails about this quite often. The first question I always ask is: Has your rabbit been spayed? You didn't mention that in your e-mail, so I assume she hasn't been. I find that when a rabbit isn't spayed or neutered, it is a lot more territorial, especially about its living area.

Hormones play a big part in rabbits being aggressive. They feel like they have to protect their living area and do so by lunging, grunting, boxing with their front paws and sometimes even biting when someone comes near.
 
I suggest that you have your rabbit spayed by a rabbit-knowledgeable veterinarian. Female rabbits tend to get uterine cancer, so spaying your rabbit could prolong her life, too. After the spay, it can take a few weeks for the hormones to die down.

I also suggest increasing the size of her living area. I find that the smaller the living area, the more a rabbit wants to protect it. Plus rabbits need a large living area. I recommend nothing smaller than 4 feet by 4 feet of floor space — plus lots of run time out of the pen like you allow already.
 
I have had rabbits come into our Bunny Bunch rescue and sometimes even after being spayed and living in a large area they are still aggressive. What I find works in such cases is bonding the rabbit to another rabbit. I think they feel safe and they love to have company.

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Reader Comments
THANKS
D, D, MN
Posted: 1/7/2011 5:48:31 AM
This is really helpful!!
Thank you Carol.
Hedy, Arcadia, CA
Posted: 8/25/2010 3:00:47 PM
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