Bringing home a new bunny friend for your current bun is such an exciting moment. You have visions of the two being inseparable and grooming one another. But, when you introduce them, the reaction is anything but friendly.
So are rabbits territorial?
Rabbits are territorial animals by nature and instinctively protect what is theirs. Both wild and domestic rabbits use various methods to mark their territory, such as Chinning, spraying, fighting, and scattering poop balls in their living environment.
Are you considering adding a new bunny to the family, but you’re worried about how your current bunny will handle meeting the new addition?
This guide will provide you with all the information you need on the territorial habits of rabbits.
Why Are Rabbits So Territorial?
Rabbits are prey animals, which means they’re at the bottom of the food chain. Therefore, they have a natural instinct to protect their territory (even if they’re domesticated).
Let’s take a look at some of the facts about wild and domestic rabbits when it comes to territorial behavior:
Wild rabbits don’t have the safety of a hutch or the luxury of an enclosed playpen. These rabbits must defend their burrows from other wild rabbits and predators.
If a wild rabbit is trapped or feels like their territory is at stake, it can become aggressive.
The territorial rabbit will kick out at the other rabbit or predator with their front feet and scratch them.
Sometimes, they will even bite chunks out of their opponent. Interestingly, the female Eastern cottontail rabbit displays stronger territorial behavior than the male (especially during the breeding season.)
Domestic rabbits have very sheltered lives (literally). Your floppy-eared friend might live in an outdoor or indoor hutch, have a room all to themselves, or be free to roam your house.
Regardless, rabbits still have a natural territorial instinct.
Your bun might display territorial behavior over their hutch, living area, and any objects marked as their own (including their owners).
A rabbit might also become territorial if they feel insecure or anxious.
Are Rabbits Territorial With Other Rabbits?
Rabbits are territorial with other rabbits, especially if they feel threatened. These fluffy animals are territorial by nature.
Wild and domestic rabbits will fight one another to establish the dominant rabbit, as they have a strict hierarchy.
A dominant buck (male rabbit) in the wild will display his dominance over the other rabbits almost daily.
Domestic rabbits also follow a strict hierarchy, and it can take a couple of weeks before the buns settle in and bond with one another.
Rabbits also display territorial behavior toward one another over things like:
- Attention from other rabbits or their owners
- Food and water
- Toys and snacks
- Living environment
Did you know? Every bunny has a unique personality, and sometimes rabbits become territorial over something simply because they don’t like another rabbit.
How Do You Tell if a Rabbit Is Territorial?
Here are a few telltale signs that your bun is territorial:
Grunting and Growling
If your bun starts grunting and growling, it clearly indicates that they feel uncomfortable and are very angry.
This territorial behavior usually results from moving things around in their cage or taking a toy away from them.
Female rabbits also become more territorial when pregnant or have kindled (birthed) a litter. They may have prepared a nest for their babies and don’t want it destroyed, or they’re territorial over their newborn kits.
Another obvious sign that your bun is feeling territorial is if you notice poop balls scattered around an area in your home.
These poop balls are pretty different from the ones you clean up in their litter box.
The poop balls have a strong odor, smelling a lot like onions. Your bun will scatter these poop balls if they’re exploring a new area or when a new rabbit is introduced to the family.
One of the most frustrating displays of territorial behavior is when a bun sprays urine to mark its territory. Both male and female rabbits do this by spraying urine at a vertical object.
You may notice your bunny circling your feet, followed by a soft honking noise. This is your bun’s way of saying, “I love you.”
Most times, this is followed by an unpleasant spray of urine on your legs, and this is your bun’s way of saying “You’re mine.”
Rabbits will also spray one another to mark their territory.
Your bun will mark its territory by “chinning” objects. This is very cute to watch. They rub their chins along objects to mark them with their scent.
Rabbits have scent glands under their chins that secrete hormones a human can’t detect.
Don’t be surprised if your bun lovingly chins your hand or knee. They will also chin objects that smell like you, such as your handbag or a pillow on your bed.
How to Introduce New Rabbits to the Herd
Follow these simple steps if you’re introducing a new rabbit to the herd:
1. Keep the rabbits in two separate enclosures, but close enough so they can see and smell one another.
2. Swap their litter trays around so they can become familiar with one another’s scent.
3. After a day or two, introduce them to one another for short periods on neutral ground (preferably in a room with no hiding spots). Let the buns get comfortable with one another.
4. Provide them with hay and toys so they can get used to being in each other’s company.
5. Repeat the above steps until you notice the rabbits lying next to (or grooming) one another. This shows they have bonded.
6. It’s now safe for the rabbits to live together.
Things to Consider When Adding a New Rabbit to the Herd
Keep these considerations in mind when adding a new rabbit to the herd:
- Some rabbits won’t bond at all. If the fighting continues between them, you must separate them as they can injure one another.
- Be gentle and patient when introducing rabbits to one another, as they can become vicious if they feel territorial.
- Introducing a new bun to the herd can take 2 hours to 2 months.
- It’s easier to introduce rabbits after they’ve been sterilized, as they have a lot of hormones that may cause them to fight, especially if they’re the same gender.
- Ensure your new bunny is fully vaccinated to avoid spreading disease or parasites to your herd.
My Last Bunny Thoughts
It may surprise you that your sweet bunny can turn into a growling and angry bun when you take something away that’s theirs (or step into their environment when you’re not welcome).
You must learn to understand your floppy-eared friend’s body language and give them space when they display this behavior.
If your bun is displaying territorial behavior toward you or another rabbit often, consider sterilizing your bun. This will reduce your buns’ need to establish dominance and claim their territory.