Over the last year, I have built a beautiful bond with Rosie, my pet mini lop rabbit.
After a weekend away, while my cousin looked after Rosie, I was surprised when Rosie wouldn’t come out of her cage upon my return.
When I tried to cuddle my furry pet rabbit, she suddenly began to shake and tried to jump out of my hands.
Worried, I tried to check her for signs of injuries or illness as this fearful behavior was so unlike her. When I didn’t see any outward signs that could explain her sudden shyness, I really worried.
I contacted a rabbit breeder, who shared some potential reasons why my rabbit was suddenly scared of me and what I could do about it.
Why Is My Rabbit Scared of Me All of a Sudden?
When a rabbit begins to act fearfully, it may indicate they have had a bad experience, or that they suddenly smell or hear something that scares them.
Rabbits may become fearful of familiar things when they’ve been made to lose trust in the familiar or if they have been isolated for longer than usual.
Signs Your Rabbit is Scared of You
I noticed several signs my rabbit was suddenly scared of me.
She began to:
- Hunch with her ears flat on her body
- Show bulging eyes
- Nip at me when I picked her up
- Eat less than normal
- Lick herself compulsively and is pulling out fur (and she wasn’t pregnant)
Reasons Why Rabbits Become Fearful and Scared
There are many reasons why rabbits can suddenly become fearful in a situation that had previously been of little concern to them.
Most of these reasons are rooted in the truth that rabbits are prey animals, and they will always be innately fearful of anything that could potentially threaten them.
While you may have conditioned your rabbit to accept the way you handle them, they may suddenly become fearful if someone else handles them roughly.
Suddenly being put in a situation they had previously felt safe in but now don’t, your rabbit can become confused and fearful.
I discovered that my cousin had accidentally dropped Rosie when he was changing her bedding over the weekend, and now Rosie didn’t feel safe being handled.
Even though she hadn’t been hurt when he dropped her, she had been frightened.
Rabbits can be trained to accept noises, but sudden noises will always be a concern to rabbits.
If you have always kept your rabbit in a quiet area or your house is quiet, but then you suddenly get a loud dog that barks often, your rabbit will become afraid.
You can even train your rabbit to like music, but if you suddenly change your album to a different genre of music, your rabbit may become fearful and react in a scared way.
Also read: Do Rabbits Get Scared of Thunder?
In the wild, rabbits are easily hunted by faster-moving prey.
If a rabbit sees sudden movement and doesn’t react fast enough, they are another animal’s dinner.
When fast movement is suddenly introduced to your rabbit’s home, they may become very upset and fearful.
Your rabbit may be scared they are going to be eaten by the fast-moving thing you have in your home.
Introduce small children and other pets gradually to your rabbit as having a fear reaction can be harmful to your rabbit.
If your rabbit suddenly gets a fright when your neighbor’s child runs into your yard to fetch their basketball, your rabbit could have a heart attack and die.
My little Rosie had smelled a new scent on me when I came home, and she didn’t like it one bit.
I had been playing with my extended family’s large dog before I came home. Rosie had smelled the dog on my clothes, and she reacted in fear.
I smelled like a predator, so in her mind, I was the predator.
Be careful of suddenly introducing new smells to your home. If you suddenly decide to burn incense, your rabbit may only smell the burning scent, which could remind them of fires.
A Break in Routine
Rabbits, like many other pet animals, rely on their humans for everything they need.
The routine of feeding, grooming, and playtime is what structures the rabbit’s life.
If you suddenly neglect to feed your rabbit a meal, they may become worried, and worry can turn to fear.
When you later return to feed them, they may become afraid and be difficult to work with.
When rabbits no longer feel like they can count on their routines, they will believe there is something very wrong with their world.
A Bad Experience
Whenever you allow someone else to work with or look after your rabbit, it is important to only leave them with someone they are familiar with and who knows how to handle rabbits.
Whenever people aren’t responsible, your rabbit may have a bad experience.
Bad experiences may include being looked after by someone who is loud or moves suddenly, scaring your rabbit.
Perhaps the person who looked after your rabbit dropped them or chased after them when they escaped from their cage.
If the person responsible for looking after your rabbit didn’t feed them when they were supposed to, this could also cause anxiety and make your rabbit mistrustful of humans.
Lack of Companionship
Rabbits bond with another rabbit or with their fur-parent, and this bonded pair are inseparable.
When I had bonded with my Rosie, I hadn’t considered that she would be lonely and afraid when I wasn’t there.
While vets recommend that both rabbits come in when they need to perform surgery on one rabbit, I had forgotten this and needed to take steps to ensure Rosie never felt abandoned again.
If your rabbit suddenly becomes aggressive or angry, consider whether they aren’t coming into the season, and the rush of hormones is overwhelming to the doe’s system.
Her fear response can include trembling and salivation. But this kind of behavior can also result from boredom or loneliness.
Rabbits don’t handle being in new and unfamiliar places. The rabbit breeder told me of the time he had taken his pet rabbit on a short road trip with him.
While his rabbit was normally sweet and loved to cuddle, she became anxious and wouldn’t leave her cage.
While she had his company, she didn’t feel safe in strange places like hotel rooms, diners, or parks she’d never been to.
She was suffering separation anxiety because she had been separated from her familiar world and had to face strange places that didn’t feel right to her.
How to Regain Your Rabbit’s Trust After They Become Scared of You
There are several ways to regain the trust your rabbit lost in you.
The first step is to realize that sudden fear isn’t something your rabbit can control.
Telling them they know you and can relax isn’t going to help. Instead, you need to take several steps back. You need to bond from square one.
Return to the Normal
The first step is to try and have as much of a normal routine for your rabbit as they are used to.
If you used to sit with them while they eat their greens in the morning, then do so again.
Even if your rabbit is unsure and apprehensive about you, simply continue with their routines as quietly as possible.
Routines give your rabbit some familiar ground so they can stop stressing.
When your rabbit is stressed, they release the hormone cortisol. This hormone makes it so your rabbit can’t think normally. It triggers overreactions and fear-based reactions.
Tone It Down
Next, be sure to tone everything several rungs below what was normal for your rabbit.
Speak softer, move slower, dim the lights, and simply wait for your rabbit to relax. Don’t assume they will accept you because they previously had.
Offer your rabbit their favorite vegetable treats by hand. Hold out carrots, slices of apple, or some fresh spinach for your rabbit to munch on.
When they start eating, hold the treat, but make no move to touch them.
Don’t try to pet your rabbit just yet. Simply hold the treat and wait.
When your rabbit seems to be peaceful, you can gently scratch its forehead with a finger, but don’t try to pick them up yet.
Each day, your rabbit will trust you more and allow you to be closer again.
Some shared activities you and your rabbit enjoyed together before they lost trust in you may still remind your rabbit that they can trust you.
If you previously enjoyed watching TV together, then put on your favorite show and sit quietly until your rabbit seeks you out.
Listening to music together may also help your rabbit relax. If they enjoy a particular type of music, then play it softly when your rabbit is calm.
Should your rabbit become anxious, turn the volume down further.
Rabbit Scared of Me – FAQs
Why does my rabbit suddenly run away from me?
If your rabbit runs away or seems scared of you, they are having a fear reaction.
Your rabbit’s prey instinct has kicked in, and they are stressed. Should your rabbit’s body language tell you they aren’t happy, chances are they may actually be angry with you.
How do you calm down a scared bunny?
A scared bunny may require some special interventions to help reduce its flightiness. First, calm yourself down.
Take a deep breath and then several more as you give your rabbit some time to also calm down.
Move slowly, use low sounds, and simply wait for your rabbit to come to you.
How do you tell if my rabbit is scared of me?
If your rabbit suddenly becomes scared of you, there will be several signs including:
- Lack of appetite
- Nervous behavior
- Frantically looking around with eyes popping more than usual
- No longer using the litter box
- Licking herself wet in patches
- Rushing to avoid you
- Not coming when offered a food treat
It took some time to get Rosie to trust me again, and now I take her with me instead of leaving her at home if I need to travel.
I find that she’s far more accepting of new places than of staying behind.
With some precautions like covering the cage and making sure her environment is familiar with her blankets and toys, she is much more relaxed than if I leave her behind at home with a stranger.
After all, I am home to her, so as long as she’s with me, she won’t suddenly become scared of me.
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