Biting is one of the most unwanted behaviors that rabbits display.
It stems from their need to establish a social hierarchy within the social groups that they prefer living in.
Therefore, rabbits use many different tactics like biting, snorting, and lunging to form an order of dominance.
However, there could be numerous other reasons behind this behavior too.
Today, we’ll discuss why your rabbits are biting you and the steps you can take to prevent any more injuries from them.
Let’s get right to it!
Reasons Why Rabbits Bite Their Owners
It is extremely important to understand why your domestic rabbits are biting you.
While social behavior is a major reason that causes this behavior, it could be due to food aggression or stress triggers too.
Rabbits biting often leads to human injuries, which is quite problematic.
To ensure your rabbits unlearn their habit of biting, you must first determine what is causing this behavior.
Increased Stress and Hormones
One of the most common reasons you’re rabbit may bite you is because they are feeling stressed or anxious.
When rabbits feel scared or stressed, they may bite in order to try and scare away whatever it is that’s making them afraid.
This stress in your bunny could be due to a change in routine, being moved to a new home, or even being around too many people or animals.
Another possibility is that your rabbit might be experiencing hormonal changes.
For example, when a female rabbit goes into heat, she may become more aggressive and start to bite more often.
Juvenile rabbits, especially males, tend to bite due to high levels of hormones swimming about their little bodies.
If a rabbit is highly stressed out, it will bite or lunge to avoid the situation and protect itself.
They also do it to scare away predators and other threats.
How to Overcome It
Ensuring your rabbit is spayed or neutered will help immensely in getting rid of biting.
Not only does desexing rabbits stop additional hormonal production from reducing aggressive behavior, but it has other benefits too.
Desexed rabbits live better, longer, and more fulfilling lives.
They have better opportunities to bond with their human companions and aren’t as triggered by environmental stressors.
To Assert Dominance
Dominance is another common reason why rabbits bite their owners.
You may think there is no apparent reason for this behavior, but they are actually guarding their territory.
Dominant rabbits are also more likely to bite and nip on your hands.
Rabbits are very hierarchical animals, and the stronger member of the group will typically assert its dominance by bullying or even biting weaker members.
If you want to stop your rabbit from biting you, then you’ll need to show it who’s boss.
Don’t scream or run away when your rabbit bites you, as this will only reinforce the behavior. Look the rabbit in the eye, speak in a firm voice, and slowly back away.
Rabbits are more likely to bite you if you get too close to their home or their offspring.
It is a warning not to come any closer, as they will attack if you do.
How to Overcome It
The most important step in correcting this show of dominance is not rewarding it. Your rabbits are biting to get you away from them, so don’t give in.
This will only reinforce the behavior and encourage them to continue.
Instead, you should consider asset dominance back and show them you’re the group leader.
A great way to do this is to place your hand gently on the rabbit’s head and push downwards to the floor. It will make your rabbit accept you as the dominant one.
You may also want to try spraying it with a water bottle when it starts to act up – this can help to discipline it without causing any harm. With a little bit of patience and persistence, you should be able to stop your rabbit from biting you.
You can also place the rabbits back in their cage for a short time-out.
This will help them associate biting with losing their freedom to hop around and discourage aggressive behavior.
Due to Food Aggression
Rabbits have to constantly compete for food in the wild.
Your pet bunnies may have plenty to eat, but they still have the built-in instincts to defend their food.
Rabbits can become aggressive around their food, especially if they feel like they’re being threatened or if there’s not enough food to go around. This type of aggression is known as “food aggression”
Have you noticed your rabbits biting you during normal feeding times? That’s the food aggression directing their actions!
It can be confusing for owners, but you need to see things from your bunny’s perspective.
In the rabbits’ minds, their food needs to be protected at all costs, even if there is plenty for everyone.
Therefore, they end up attacking your hand even though you’re just trying to feed them!
How to Overcome It
Food aggression is often one of the most challenging behaviors to correct.
It makes up a large part of a rabbit’s natural instincts, and teaching them otherwise is not easy. However, through positive reinforcement and their favorite treats, you will get there.
You should start by moving your rabbit’s food bowl to different areas of the cage. It will stop them from associating any one place as their food territory, hence reducing their defensiveness.
Moreover, you should also help your rabbit understand that your hand offers food.
It will help them associate your hand with a positive experience and avoid being aggressive. Feed them directly from your hand and gently stroke them as they eat.
Lastly, you will notice your rabbits biting when they try to get away from you.
This is because they’re detecting danger and will react by biting, snorting, or lunging if they can’t make an immediate escape.
This behavior is commonly exhibited if people approach rabbits from a higher level or pick them up suddenly. The rabbits become fearful and try to protect themselves.
How to Overcome It
The solution to self-defensive rabbits lies in understanding their behavior better.
Learn about what actions or triggers are making your rabbits feel scared, and avoid them at all costs.
You should also make sure you only approach your bunnies from above their eye level. It allows them to see your movements better and thus not be as frightened.
Also, understand that more often than not, your bunnies are only acting out of fear.
Don’t punish them and adopt gentler means of training and teaching to form a closer bond with your rabbits.
Important Note: An Abusive Past
If you adopted your rabbits from another place, they could be displaying aggressive behavior due to an abusive past.
It is important that you ask their previous owners the right questions and learns as much as possible about their life before coming to you.
It’ll help you determine the best ways to interact with your rabbit and assure them that their new home is a safe space.
Do your best to give them their time and not invade their personal space. Only once they feel secure in their territory will they be ready to bond with you.
Extra Tips to Calm Down Your Rabbits
One of the best ways to ensure your rabbits stop biting is by making them comfortable around you.
It is essential that they feel safe and cared for.
Additionally, your rabbits should be socialized well enough that they consider you a part of their family and not a threat.
Here are a few ways you can calm your rabbits down and get them to stop biting.
- Use reward-based training with food to get them comfortable with you. Teach them to eat from your hands and let you stroke their body occasionally.
- Provide enrichment toys and plenty of exercises to keep them occupied. Also, make sure that they have plenty of chewing opportunities and a constant supply of meadow hay. This will keep them from directing their biting towards you.
- Add a pet door in their home so you don’t have to lift them up as it can make you appear as a threat.
- Watch your body language around your rabbits and keep your hands away from their noses at all times.
- Consider seeing a vet if the aggressive behavior continues. Your rabbits could be in pain or suffering from internal health issues.
In the End
It may seem like your rabbits hate you, but we promise that isn’t so!
They’re only following their natural instincts, and we surely can’t fault any species for doing so.
If your rabbits are biting you, it is important to stay patient and not give up on them.
The best way to stop rabbits biting is through a mixture of positive reinforcements and getting them used to your touch.
Make sure they feel safe in your presence and respect their boundaries.
Handling your bunnies like this will help them feel relaxed and calm while interacting with you.
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