This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.
Yes, rabbits can just be naturally angry, just how you can get the odd random angry cat.
But don’t always assume anger as a personality trait can’t be worked on.
I’ve had an angry rabbit.
It ain’t fun.
But angry usually comes from somewhere, and whilst you may have to accept that your rabbit is never going to be a sweet, cuddly ball of fluff, you can usually get the rabbit to a place where you’re not actively frightened of them.
It sounds ridiculous to be frightened a rabbit, but they can be! Especially if your rabbit is big (and some rabbits are big). They have teeth, claws and strong hind legs, so if they’re mad they have the weaponry to back it up.
I should mention though, big rabbits TEND to be way more chill than small ones. I think small dog syndrome applies to a lot of species. Our big rabbit (French lop) was just the exception that proves the rule.
First, check that your rabbit isn’t in pain/stressed
A lot of animals lash out if they’re in pain or feeling vulnerable. Prey animals are especially likely to do it because they’re toast if a predator gets wind of an easy target.
This can be hard to do if your rabbit won’t let you near them, so I recommend outsourcing this task to a vet. Most vets are open to deal with savage rabbits, since rabbits are fairly easy to (literally) pin down.
Actually, our demon rabbit was an angel at the vets. They let her explore the room and the vet has open toed sandals, so I was watching Isobel like a hawk. She was a star!
The vet may notice something you haven’t. It incredible how many angry rabbits are deaf, and are constantly on their guard.
It’s hard to diagnose deafness in rabbits, but behaving as though your rabbit is deaf (i.e. make sure you’re not sneaking up on them) is good practice around angry rabbits.
When it comes to actually getting an angry rabbit into a vet box, I recommend leaving the box in the pen with treats in and waiting until they get in by themselves.
There is 0 point in getting yourself bitten unnecessarily.
We always suspected that there may have been a medical component behind Isobel’s aggression, but unfortunately she died before we could get to the bottom of it. The problem with big rabbits is that they have health issues directly resulting from their size, and don’t tend to live as long as smaller rabbits.
Again, this is a massive generalisation, since some giant breeds live into their teens. It is worth considering when you’re looking for a bunny though. If you’re after a calm rabbit though, giant breeds are a great choice (Isobel just hadn’t had a great start to life for a variety of reasons).
Consider your rabbit’s previous home
There’s a chance that your rabbit was abused or neglected, which has let to their distrust of humans, but they may also have been using to playing rough, and don’t understand that you don’t think being bitten is fun.
Isobel used to live with cats, and cats (if you didn’t know!) have fur. Therefore what felt like a playful nip to a cat feels like a full-on bite to a human.
It took us a good few months of having Isobel to realise that whilst she was definitely frightened and defensive around humans, she LOVED attention.
Every now and then we’d get a playful head shake after she’d chased us into our cage (we had to box the sofa in because she wanted to climb on our knees and bite us), and she love love LOVED getting head scritches (but only strictly between her eyes or behind her ears, otherwise she’d bite).
I know that it’s frustrating when you have a pet that doesn’t behave in the way you think they will.
It can be even harder nowadays that we can see other people’s perfectly behave pets on Instagram and Facebook. We just need to remember that it isn’t our pet’s job to perform the way we want them to.
Try to understand the world from your rabbit’s perspective
Rabbits have been domesticated for a long time. Over this time, their brain’s have changed so that they’re calmer around people.
BUT for every rabbit that’s happy to flump on the knee of their caregiver within ten minutes of meeting them, there’s four others that refuse to come out of their hidey hole and will fight back if forced to.
Yes, some bunnies love exploring on harnesses and giving kisses to their caregivers, but that isn’t a behaviour that a bunny would naturally show. So those rabbits are the exception to the rule. That’s why they have a thousands-strong Instagram page.
All most rabbits want is somewhere safe and dry to live, and food. Some love to petted, whilst others would prefer you didn’t – like how I’ll tolerate a hug, but I’d rather people didn’t touch me.
When you first get your rabbit, they have no idea what’s in store for them. Humans are HUGE and stomp around and are pretty scary.
They don’t know whether they’ll be fed every day, or if they’ll be in the pot next week.
Whilst rabbits don’t actively think like this (that we know of!), their instinct dictates that they need to be on their guard.
How strong that instinct is varies from rabbit to rabbit.
Some rabbits will always hate the vacuum, just like some will 100% think they can fight a dog.
Socialise with your rabbit without endangering yourself
As I mentioned before, we created barricades so that Isobel could free roam. When she was in her pen, I’d sit in a chair and pet her.
If I went in her pen, she’d attack my feet, so I’d have to wear wellies. Feeding her gave me the reflexes of a cobra.
If you’re worried about getting bitten, try stroking your rabbit with a long handle brish or back scratcher or something.
It’s up to you to teach your rabbit that you’re not going to hurt them. Your rabbit will continue angry behaviour unless you can convince them that it’s unnecessary. Even something as simple as talking to them gently every time you go past can help them learn to relax around you.
Ask your vets for stress relief remedies
Aaaand, if all else fails, we turn to drugs.
At the moment, there aren’t many hormonal treatments for stressed rabbits BUT as the popularity of house rabbits soars, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.
My boyfriend and I volunteer at a local animal shelter, and they put hormone infused collars on all their dogs to reduce stress. You can also get those plug-in things for dogs and cats.
One of our friends fosters bunnies, and she recommended regular old Rescue Remedy Pets for stressed rabbits. If you think something like would help your rabbit, consult your vet for help with dosage.
Before medicating your buny (even herbally) make sure that your rabbit’s space is stress-free. Make sure that they have somewhere dark to retreat to (I have a very high-tech set up of two cardboard box, which Holly chewed the backs out of, and is now mad she can’t sit in top of them without them collapsing).
Other animals are likely to be a source of stress to rabbits, so reduce contact with dogs and cats UNLESS you think that your rabbit demonstrates relaxed behaviour around them. I’ve seen one too many videos of dogs grooming rabbit to recommend they always need to be separated.
It can be extremely difficult living with a very angry rabbit. If anyone knows of any Facebook groups (or subreddits) that deal with these issues, please leave me a comment.
Such groups are invaluable sources of information. Head tilt groups were so so helpful to us when Daisy was sick, if only because they convinced us to keep advocating that she not be euthanised unless she was either in pain or stopped eating/drinking.