Dealing With Destructive Rabbit Behavior

Rabbits are cute as heck, everyone agrees. And it’s true. But rabbit owners know that their little friends have natural behaviors, some would say instincts, that can make them destructive.

Rabbits are no respecters of property, so you have to be vigilant. Letting them out of the cage to enjoy running around is important for their health and amusing for their owner. But left unsupervised, they’ll usually get into what the owner would call trouble pretty quickly. The rabbit would call it having fun.

So, the first tip is just to keep an eye on them. No need to frighten them by harsh words or rough handling when they start to chew on the furniture or electrical cords. Just move them away, back into the cage for a little ‘timeout’.

Rabbits will chew on just about anything. Protecting your belongings by wrapping table legs, moving cords out of the way and so on is a good idea. But giving the rabbit an acceptable alternative helps improve your odds of not going crazy watching the rabbit. A variety of toys made of hard rubber or plastic are a good option.

Rabbits also like to dig. They do, after all, live in little tunnels and caves (called warrens) in the wild. If they’re outside playing, it’s best that you be outside with them. Not only do they have the instinct to move earth, which can be annoying, they also like certain kinds of plant and flower. Not good for your garden.

Since male rabbits in particular are like most mammals, they will likely be calmer if they’ve been neutered. Spaying is the procedure for females. With lowered testosterone levels, they’ll be less likely to fight any other males around when a female is present. Note, though, that there’s a difference between fighting and playing. Like other mammals, rabbits enjoy a bit of running around and jumping at one another just for fun.

Related to that is their tendency to mark territory by urinating and spraying. When rabbits reach sexual maturity they acquire a strong urge to mark their territory. Most often that’s done by urinating, but defecating in a certain spot is also sometimes done to mark territory.

This can be a problem with dogs, too, but dogs rarely do so indoors. Domestic rabbits, because they tend to spend so much time indoors, are more likely to stain the carpet.

Sometimes the behavior is encouraged or increased by stress. Rabbits evolved in an environment where they served as prey for many species. The species survived by becoming, like deer, very alert to danger and ready to run at the slightest hint of trouble. Urinating is one response to that. This is as true of female rabbits as of males. Having them spayed or neutered about 4-6 months of age, before they become sexually mature, is one way to minimize the problem.

Providing them with an environment as free as possible of startling events is another. Rabbits are often acquired as cuddly pets for small children, but a child’s high voice and boisterous behavior can make the rabbit nervous. Supervision of children when they’re with the pet, along with instruction about how to handle them, can make both parties happier.

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