Help! My Bunny Is Being Mean!

Believe it or not, most of the emails that I receive are about behavioral issues. Unfortunately, you are never going to have that perfect bunny that can perform all sorts of tricks, or play games, and/or snuggle up with you. Rabbits are mysterious creatures that come equipped with all sorts of personalities and it is up to you, the pet owner, to be patient and see all the greatness that your little bunny has to offer! Many pet owners that I have spoken to tell me that their rabbit is being "mean" or that their bunny hates them. I put the word mean in quotes because rabbits are not born mean. What pet owners are experiencing from their rabbits is aggression. Because aggressiveness is not genetic, but rather a behavioral problem, there is a pretty good chance you can change your bunny's attitude with a lot of time and patience! So put those negative thoughts out of your mind about your bunny hating you because most aggressive rabbits are acting out in fear, not hate.

Having a defeatist attitude about changing your rabbit's behavior is not going to do you or your bunny any good. Rabbits are not going to change their behavior overnight, you have to be the one to take the initiative and start spending time with your pet to see what is triggering the aggressive behavior and figure out new ways to interact with him/her.

Rule #1: NEVER HIT YOUR BUNNY! Like I said your rabbit is not acting out because he/she hates you but he/she is afraid of you! So hitting your rabbit will only make the situation worse. You have to make sure that he/she feels safe in his/her environment.

Rule #2: It is often recommended that you get your rabbit spayed/neutered if he/she is having behavioral problems. You can normally tell if your rabbit hasn't been altered if he/she is circling your feet and nips or bites your ankles. Circling of the feet means bunny love, but the nipping means sexual aggression. Altering your bunny is ultimately your decision and to be honest, this doesn't always work when your bunny is being overly aggressive.

Rabbits can be extremely territorial, make sure you designate a spot that is only your bunny's space to roam around in. I would also advise you not to stick your hand in your bun's cage, while your rabbit is still in there. The chances of you getting bit or scratched are very high when you are unwelcome in their home.

Realize that rabbits can only really see well from their side, so it would be wise if you approached your rabbit from the side. Try not to act like a predator, meaning, don't crawl up to your bunny or make any fast and sudden movements. Bunnies are startled easily!

In the rabbit world a hierarchy or specifically speaking, a pecking order exists. When you pet a rabbit you are making a statement that your bunny is the dominant one. This is what you have to accomplish with you rabbit, you have to let your bunny know that he/she can trust you.

When first approaching your bun, I would recommend wearing gloves, pants, and a long sleeve shirt. When your rabbit starts to trust you and you start to trust yourself not freak out you can take them off. Be calm and don't try to pet your rabbit right away. Just sit near your rabbit and remain still or make your actions slow (speak softly, watch a television program on the floor, or do a word puzzle if you can't be still or bear the absolute silence). Let your bunny hop around you and sniff you up and down, but do not touch your rabbit just yet! When your rabbit sits comfortably in front of you, then you know it is okay to pet him/her. Be sure to keep your hands above his/her head and away from his/her nose. If and when your bunny starts to get aggravated, you will avoid being bitten if your hand is above the nose, this is especially true if your experiencing lunging from your rabbit! If you think your rabbit is going to lunge, sometimes gently pushing down on the rabbit's forehead can break the lunge mentality.

Like I said before, your rabbit is not going to change overnight. This building of trust can take weeks before you see a complete turnaround in your bunny's behavior! So be patient, give calm positive attention, educate yourself with learning bunny signals and continue to love your bunny!