Taking on the responsibility of rabbit owner can be likened to being a parent. Adopting and caring for a rabbit can be a tasking but rewarding role. It is more than getting a pet or someone to play with when you’re bored, you’re giving an animal a home; a place of belonging; a haven. When we choose to do this, we cannot expect them to come perfectly well-mannered, we have to put in the work to get what we want.
We have to ensure that we help these animals be the best they can be. Eliminating undesirable observed behaviours will be both beneficial to the bunnies and their owners. At the end of the day, we all just want to be proud parents.
Bunnies display certain behaviours ranging from severe insecurity to bad chewing habits, to laziness, to out rightly biting their victims. These actions are all responses to their environment. Rabbits are not naturally predisposed to having undesirable behaviours, they develop these traits as they grow and if left unchecked can become difficult to correct.
One thing to note is that changing your bunny’s behaviour is up to you. You’re the one who gets to spend time with them, so it’s your responsibility to correct them.
Whenever you notice traits you cannot condone, develop a response that is peculiar to the undesirable action. Rabbits are smart animals, they can learn to understand the relationship between cause and effect; if they act in a certain way, they get treated in a certain way.
- Provide alternative environments where rabbits can display these behaviours whenever you see them acting like that in places you don’t want. For instance, does like to dig, especially the ones who have given birth to kits. When you see the bunny digging in an unwanted area, you can simply take it out to the garden or park where they may play.
- You can take your bunny for long walks or organise play dates with other bunnies to help it burn off excess energy, especially if you notice your bunny is bored. Rabbits are social animals and they love to explore their environment. If your rabbit is a natural loner, it might enjoy watching other animals have fun; that way it is also having fun. There are toys you can introduce to your rabbit if you notice them chewing or scratching furniture around the house.
- Clip the nails of your rabbit if you notice they scratch more often. You should also bunny-proof your home if you don’t keep your bunny in a cage. Some bunnies are very energetic; they can circle the house for hours without rest. These restless bunnies should be tricked into resting. There is soothing music that can induce sleep in rabbits. You can also restrict their movement by putting them in a confined space for a while, long enough for them to settle down.
- Talk to your rabbit regularly if you notice they are always nervous, scared or watchful. Talking to them can have a calming effect on them. Do not make the mistake of picking them up, substitute that with stroking them. Don’t invade their space if you notice they are always hiding out around the house; underneath tables and chairs. Rabbits can show nervousness by thumping loudly with their feet or acting startled whenever someone walks in on them. Also, when their eyes are bulging, its often a sign that they are nervous.
- Avoid introducing them to a lot of new activities too soon. This action can spook them and cause them intense stress. This stress can result in aggression as a coping mechanism. Rabbits need to be handled with a lot of patience and care. If the environment is too unstable and they are finding it hard to keep up, it can have a devastating effect on them and this wouldn’t be pretty for you. Loud noises make bunnies jumpy, so if the new activity involves loud noises, it can really spook the rabbit, causing it to either flight or fight.
- Litter-train your bunny if you notice undesirable litter habits. Rabbits aren’t dirty animals. They can maintain a good hygiene if they are taught to do so. They can be taught to use a litter box, instead of peeing everywhere and anywhere. First step is to get them a litter box that is the right size and height; there are several to choose from online. Place a mat underneath the litter box; place their hay box next to the litter box; spray paper towels around the box and create a confinement around the boxes to restrict their movement. The idea is to get the rabbit used to the box and to see that area as the litter area. When the rabbits eat from the hay box while sitting in the litter box, it can do its business there and still eat its poop afterwards as it is gathered in one area. This will help create a controlled environment for you and the rabbit.
Be patient with your bunny as you may have to repeat this action over and over again before they get the message.