Rabbits are very popular pets in the UK, and they have been for decades. In fact, a recent survey from PDSA has shown that 2% of UK adults own a pet rabbit. Although they are a popular choice, rabbits actually have quite complex needs and need constant care and attention in order for them to thrive and live to a good age.
In this article, we are going to discuss the complex behavioural traits of a domestic rabbit. It’s these traits that will often make them seem nervous, frightened, aggressive or shy. It’s important to understand your rabbit’s behavioural traits and how you can work with them to make them feel comfortable in their surroundings.
Rabbits are instinctively shy animals that often seem nervous and prone to hiding. This is because they are a prey species, so in the wild they would be hunted by predators. When you first bring your rabbit home, it is important to let them settle into their new surroundings before you try handling them often. Try to keep any noise levels down and gradually build-up your contact with them. Shyness in rabbits can often be mistaken for loneliness (it might be a good idea to get a second rabbit to keep them company).
If your rabbit is starting to show any signs of aggression such as biting or grunting, it could be because of any of the following reasons:
- May feel threatened
- May not trust you completely yet
- Becoming territorial from not enough human interaction
- They may be maturing and should be neutered
- They are stressed
Aggression could also be a result of a poor match with another rabbit. It’s best to pair a neutered female with a neutered male as this is usually the most successful pairing.
If your rabbit is being particularly destructive and nibbling things they shouldn’t, it may be a sign that they are bored. Just like humans, rabbits need plenty of things to keep them occupied. From foraging and exploring to jumping around, it’s worth providing them with plenty of interesting objects and toys like tunnels, platforms, willow toys and space to dig to keep them stimulated and happy.
Despite their timid natures and natural instinct to hide, rabbits can become bossy when it comes to defending their territories or when they want something. This is particularly true of house rabbits so if they nip you or grunt at you, it’s best to ignore them and stay out of their way. Eventually, they’ll get used to not getting what they want, especially if it’s food.