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If you’ve never been bitten by a rabbit, consider yourself lucky. It hurts like hell. Luckily, I don’t think they’re particularly dangerous, so just look after it like it was a cut.
Rabbits don’t have the same kinds of bacteria in their saliva that a lot of omnivorous/carnivorous animals have, though obvs keep an eye on it.
In my experience, rabbits are either biters or they’re not. Most aren’t, but the ones that are can be difficult to convince to give up man flesh.
I’ve only had one biter, and I think it was a behaviour that was accidentally taught to her, but my god, did she like to bite us. And not a nip – she had a 95% chance of drawing blood.
Rabbits bite when they reach sexual maturity
The most common time rabbits start to bite is when they reach sexual maturity.
They’re mad at everything, and they’re full of hormones that have no place to go.
Get them fixed as soon as you can.
Not only will it reduce the aggression (though it could take a few weeks) but it’ll make them generally more docile.
Bear in mind that the amount of behaviour change you see varies from rabbit to rabbit. Some rabbits calm down completely, others just a bit.
I mention learned behaviour later in article, but I just want to touch on it here.
If you’ve ever had an old dog castrated, you’ll know that fixing an older dog often doesn’t do a lot to modify behaviour (especially humping) because what once was caused by hormones is now a learned behaviour.
The sooner you have your rabbit neutered, the less time your rabbit will have to settle into new behaviours (as long as they’re older than six months or so).
Rabbits bite when they’re frightened
Most of the rabbits I’ve known have lunged, claws first, if they felt threatened, but some prefer to bite. I guess it depends on where the rabbit thinks their strength is. Cats are often the same – most like to scratch, but there’s always one biter.
If you think your rabbit bites a lot, consider your behaviour around them. Do you pick them up? Enter their territory, make loud noises?
Rabbits rarely bite for no reason (they’re just not saying what that reason is), but if you can isolate the cause, you can try to reduce the chances the rabbit finds itself in a situation where they’re going to bite.
Any time your rabbit is scared or unsure, they may arm themselves with their teeth. This is why if you’re forced to put your rabbit in a scary situation, take treats.
If your rabbit bites when you pick them up, stop picking them up.
If your rabbit bites when you go to pet them, pet them from above (rabbits don’t like things coming towards their face). Let them know you’re there, and scratch between their ears.
Rabbits can be taught to bite
Often we reinforce behaviour without realising. Whilst humans know what behaviour is appropriate when, it’s more difficult for animals to know (plus they don’t care).
One of our rabbits (Isobel the biter) used to live with cats, and it seems that they communicated by biting each other.
She also lived with children, so maybe they picked her up a few times too many. We don’t know.
Anyway, she bit a lot. When we were playing (she liked to chase us, which was terrifying before we realised it was a game) she’d try to bite our feet. Any petting session ended with an affectionate bite, and then she’d be hurt when we’d stop.
I genuinely don’t think she meant to hurt us, at least after a while. She was a sweet girl, but MAN she had sharp teeth.
If a puppy bites you, you’re meant to squeal so that the puppy knows they’ve hurt you. It’s how they learn (oh, and their littermates would probs have bitten them back, but I can’t recommend that).
Let me tell you – this does NOT work on rabbits. I’m sure it would terrify nine out of ten rabbits.
It did not scare mine.
I swear Isobel used to find it funny when we squealed. She’d look us dead in the eye for about five seconds and then go in for another bite.
It would have been funny were it not so painful.
I tried telling her off with the tried and tested stern-but-not-loud ‘ah ah!’ and she just looked at me as though I was mad.
Rabbits bite when they’re in pain
This is more for if your rabbit suddenly starts biting you. It’s not that common in domestic rabbit,s but it certainly can happen.
That being said, your rabbit is more likely to bite you if you touch whatever part of them is in pain. Suffice to say- don’t touch it again to check – get them to the vet.
Wild animals bite when they’re in pain because they’re on their guard.
Rabbits bite when they want attention
Oh yeah, this is a thing.
And you know the worst part? It’s really hard to get them to stop.
If you pay them attention, they’ve won, and showed them that biting works.
If you ignore them, they’ll keep biting you and it freaking hurts.
This is normally just a bit of a nip, but it still hurts! Rabbits have sharp teeth!
The best thing you can do is get up and move BUT
That is how your rabbit will train you to give up your seat to them.
Sometimes rabbits just…bite
Maybe they’re in a bad mood and fancy biting someone. Don’t tell me you’ve never felt like that.
If your rabbit bites you unexpectedly, it’s worth giving them a quick check over to make sure they’ve not hurt themselves.
This is more common in unfixed rabbits, so there’s yet another reason to get your rabbit neutered or spayed.
One of my rabbits bit one of my friends once. She’d never bitten before and never did again. Clearly there was something shifty about him that she didn’t like. She adopted at 18 months, so maybe he smelled like something negative she’d experienced before we got her.
He did cheat on his girlfriend ten years later, so maybe Alice was a clairvoyant?
Either way, she didn’t like him at all.
Rabbits bite when they’re playing
Rabbits nip each other when they’re playing, especially if they’re chasing one another about. Sometimes a bit of humping with some nipping thrown in goes down.
I suppose it’s a compliment when your rabbit nips you in an effort to get you to play with them, but I wish they’re, like, tug on the hem of my jeans with their paw or something.
If you have a biter, you have my sympathies.
Whilst I don’t think you can teach them not to bite, you can teach them that you’re not going to do anything that will make them want to bite you.
It can be difficult not to react negatively when a rabbit bites you aggressively, but remember that they know they can’t actually beat you in a fight.
They’re scared, and they’re trying to ward you off.
Try to work out what you did to upset them (the fact you were close enough to be bitten suggests you go too close, but yes, I have been bitten when trying to fill the food bowl).