Posted: September 13, 2010, 5 a.m. EDT
Q: Two of my family’s rabbits are showing aggression. My family has several pets, including two female rabbits and one male. When we got the rabbits, we were told they were all male. We only realized two were female after one had a litter. Unfortunately, the babies died. We then separated the male rabbit from the females. The females live together in a hutch and the male has his own cage. At night, we let the females loose in our back yard for playtime. The aggression occurs when we try to catch them to get them back to the safety of their hutch. We’ve tried offering treats or sitting in the yard quietly and waiting for them to approach, but they always run away when we reach for them. Our only way to catch them right now is to corner them and grab them. They’ve recently begun growling and rearing up on their hind legs aggressively when cornered. What can we do to prevent this? I don’t know if it matters, but we rotate the pets in the yard. The dogs get let out for playtime, the male rabbit has his own playtime and the two females have playtime — all at separate times.
A: Oh gosh, this is not good. There are a few things that can be done here. First of all I would suggest that you have the females rabbits spayed and the male neutered. Once they are spayed and neutered, give them a few weeks to recover from the surgery and let their hormones die down. Having the rabbits spayed and neutered will also make them calmer. Plus you have no danger of unexpected litters. Female rabbits have a high chance of getting uterine cancer if they are not spayed, so there are several reasons to get this all done.
After the spay/neuter, bond the rabbits together so they can live together in one big area. Make sure you read up on bonding so none of the rabbits get hurt. I suggest setting up an exercise pen in the house so they can be protected from predators and the weather. Having them in a large pen indoors not only protects them, but it also gives you the chance to get to know them better and spend more time with them.
If you want your rabbits to have run time outside, build a large protected area for them. Make it big enough for them to run around and have fun, somewhere you can go inside and sit with them. This way it will be much easier for you to get them to come to you when it’s time to go indoors.
When you feed your rabbits pellets, hay or healthy treats, make a clicking sound with your tongue. The rabbits will associate the noise with food and come running to you. This way it will be easier for you to get them without having to chase them and scare them. You can also use a clicker to make the noise.
Most cages are much too small for rabbits to live in, even if it’s just for nighttime. Once your rabbits are running around the yard, they just don’t want to go back to living in a cage. Exercise pens indoors make much happier bunnies.
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