Rabbit Behavioral Problems: Introduction

Companion Animals June 09, 2011 Print Friendly and PDF

A rabbit needs to express normal species-specific behaviors regardless of the environment it is kept in. Rabbits are prey animals and naturally live in social groups. Because rabbits are prey animals, they tend to be on alert for danger at all times. They may hide or mask signs of illness so as not to draw the attention of predators. In social groups, rabbits regularly participate in a variety of different activities. One example is the excavation of burrows to alleviate a fear of predators. Foraging (seeking) for food is another behavior that wild rabbits spend a large amount of time completing. Additionally, mutual grooming is typically seen in social groups. Domestic rabbits still need to take part in these instinctual behaviors, but being kept in a cage presents a problem for proper expression of these actions. Rabbits naturally need social contact with other rabbits or with humans. Rabbits housed together are more likely to display normal behaviors and have lowered stress levels. Rabbits that are inappropriately paired may exhibit unwanted aggressive and mating behavior, so proper introduction is essential.

Although actions such as digging, chewing, and barbering are natural behaviors, they can pose an annoying problem for rabbit owners. Rabbits may begin to practice these instinctual behaviors on the surrounding environment. The behavioral misunderstanding between rabbits and humans can harm your relationship with your rabbit. Owners need to be aware of natural behaviors of rabbits to understand the reason for the unwanted behavior. In addition, owners should know how to prevent and prepare for these behaviors before they become a major problem.

The most common behavioral problems observed in rabbits include:

Many of the behavioral problems in rabbits can be alleviated by providing healthy alternatives to the unwanted behavior. If rabbits are supplied with proper enrichment, attention, and environment, they will begin to direct the unwanted habits into proper behavior that can be entertaining to watch as an owner. Some ways to provide proper enrichment for your rabbit include:

Connect with us

  • Twitter
  • Facebook

Welcome

This is where you can find research-based information from America's land-grant universities enabled by eXtension.org

LOCATE

USDA / NIFA

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.