Your rabbits’ behaviour can offer important insights into their emotional and physical health. With the help of clinical animal behaviourist Rosie Bescoby, we explore three problem rabbit behaviours and advise on how to tackle them.
No matter how well you know your bunnies, there may be times when you are unable to decode their behaviour and body language. In this Q&A, we look at the reasons behind some common rabbit behaviours and suggest solutions for managing them.
Q: My bunny is prone to overeating. Is there any way I can prevent this?
A: One reason why rabbits overeat is boredom, so encouraging bunnies to work for their food will keep them mentally healthy and help to use up excess calories at the same time.
For example, you could try hiding dandelion leaves inside an empty cardboard tube. Or why not place pellets in a sealed cardboard tube that has small holes poked into it? That way your rabbits will need to work out how to get the pellets to drop from the tube, ensuring they use a little more energy during their mealtimes.
Q: My rabbits seem to chew on everything. How can I stop them?
A: Chewing and nibbling may seem like destructive rabbit behaviour, but it’s actually a very natural instinct for all bunnies. To house rabbits, for example, wires and cables feel like small tree roots, which they’d naturally chew while digging a burrow in the wild.
Chewing is also to do with their teeth: bunny teeth never stop growing, so chewing helps to wear them down. An obvious solution to stop rabbits chewing is to keep things you don’t want chewed or nibbled out of your rabbits’ reach. You could also give your pets a good selection of safe things to chew on, such as untreated apple, willow or pine branches.
Q: My rabbits can sometimes act aggressively towards me. What can I do to prevent this?
A: Rabbits usually show aggression towards humans (and other rabbits) because of pain or fear, or because they want to defend their territory. Their reactive behaviour can include nipping, biting and thumping their feet loudly on the ground. Some rabbits scream when they’re afraid, which can be unsettling.
Approach your rabbits quietly and calmly, taking care not to startle them, and always handle them gently. If your rabbits don’t seem to enjoy being handled, sit or crouch down beside them and let them come to you – a handful of leafy greens can help to gain their trust.
Sudden changes to your rabbits’ behaviour can be the first sign that they’re feeling poorly or in pain. Rabbits are very good at hiding pain, so if you’re concerned, arrange a check-up with your vet.