Rabbits are such adorable animals that it isn’t natural to think that they can behave aggressively. But they are prey animals and need to survive in the wild. So do rabbits bite and why do they bite their owners?
Rabbits can bite. Some of the reasons a rabbit bites is because of its instinct as a prey animal or the bunny to feel unwell, anxious or stressed, territorial, or needy. Sometimes a bite can just be an accident too or a love nip.
Let’s look at the reasons your bunny may bite you, how to treat a rabbit bite, and what you can do to prevent your bunny from biting.
Reasons Why a Rabbit Bites
There are various reasons why a rabbit can bite, most of them aren’t purely aggressive:
Acting on Instinct
One reason why rabbits bite goes back to the nature of rabbits in the wild. They are prey animals, and getting away from a predator or an attacking animal means survival in the bunny’s world.
So if a rabbit is restrained, picked up, or chased, they’ll feel threatened and want to either hide or lash out – with a bite or kick. Your rabbit may also revert to their natural instinct to bite and defend themselves when they are subjected to a noisy environment or fast movements.
Feeling Unwell, in Pain, or Other Medical Issues
If your rabbit is feeling sick or is in pain, they may try to hide it. In the wild, if a rabbit shows weakness, it is pretty much dead meat because it is easy for a predator to prey on an injured or sick rabbit.
So your pet rabbit will have the same instincts, even though you just want to love and care for your bunny. If you reach out to your bunny to dress a wound or pick them up for a visit to the vet, your rabbit may bite you.
It is just instinct and a defense mechanism; your rabbit didn’t bite you on purpose.
Sometimes your rabbit may accidentally bite you.
Rabbits don’t have a clear close-up vision. So if you offer your rabbit a treat, it may mistakenly bite your finger thinking it was a piece of carrot. Similarly, an incoming hand or arm may be mistaken for a predator.
When you play with your pet bunny, they may want to playfully nip you. But then they get carried away and bite you instead.
A Love Nip
When you groom or pet your rabbit, they may want to “return the attention” and playfully nip you. This is just affectionate behavior or mutual grooming.
When bonded rabbits groom each other, they nip each other.
Nips aren’t painful and they don’t break your skin’s surface. So just sit back and enjoy the attention from your fluff ball bestie.
Unaltered rabbits are usually quite territorial. You, the rabbit owner, may be bitten when the bunny wants to protect what they see as their territory.
An example would be that a doe may bite you when you try to pick up one of the kits – the mommy rabbit simply wants to protect her babies and, as a result, bites you to say “stay away.”
Your bunny may feel like you aren’t giving them enough attention or that they don’t have enough toys, so they may bite or nip you to get your attention.
Rabbits are very social and need a steady supply of stimulation and emotional connection.
Feeling Anxious or Stress
When rabbits are stressed or feel anxious, they are prone to chewing and nervous biting. They may bite other things around them, and if you are close enough, they’ll bite you too.
What to Do When a Rabbit Bites You
If your rabbit has bitten you and their teeth have broken the skin, here’s how to treat a rabbit bite:
- Clean the wound with a wound-cleaning solution (or wash with a gentle soap and warm water)
- Dry it gently with gauze or cotton make-up pads
- Apply an antiseptic cream
- Wrap with a bandage or wound dressing
However, go to your medical healthcare professional or nearest emergency room if:
- You haven’t had a tetanus shot or it isn’t up to date
- The wound is bleeding a lot and is deep
- There are signs of infection like swelling, pain, oozing, or redness around the wound
- You are worried that the rabbit may have rabies (e.g., the rabbit isn’t yours or it is a wild rabbit)
Other things to do when your bunny bites you:
- Don’t hit or kick your rabbit.
- Coax the rabbit back into its cage or hutch where it can feel safe.
- Think about why the bite happened.
- Take steps to avoid your rabbit biting you again once you know why the bite happened.
- Make amends by spending time with your bunny when you’ve both calmed down. Bond with your rabbit to reinforce the safe, trusting, and caring relationship you have.
How to Keep Your Rabbit From Biting?
Follow these steps to keep your bunny from biting you:
Method 1: Look for Signs of Being Scared
Rabbits may bite as a defense mechanism, but if they are scared, there will be signs.
Look out for:
- Rabbit eyes that are widen open
- Ears that are on alert
- A stiff body that’s ready to pounce
- A puffed-out rabbit coat
If you see any of these signs, back away. Leave your bunny alone for now.
And if you do need to handle your bunny to take them to the vet, for example, then burrito wrap your rabbit and wear long sleeves and gloves for protection.
Method 2: Spray or Neuter Your Rabbit
Spaying or neutering your rabbit gets rid of territorial behavior. Your rabbit will also be less likely to act aggressively and bite.
Method 3: Interact More With Your Rabbit
Bonding and interacting more with your rabbit ensures your rabbit feels more comfortable around you.
With this familiarity comes a feeling of safety, and a rabbit that sees you as a friend who is safe won’t be likely to act out and bite you.
Method 4: Reinforce Good Behavior
Reinforcing good behavior with treats and attention is a good way of teaching your bunny what is okay and what isn’t.
Is a Rabbit Biting Dangerous?
If your rabbit playfully nips you, it isn’t painful and won’t break the skin. However, if a rabbit bites you, it can be dangerous as rabbit teeth are strong. In the wild, rabbits also latch onto the skin they’ve bitten, inflicting even more damage.
So if your rabbit bites you and holds on, it is serious and you may need medical treatment.
It’s never nice when a rabbit bites you, but in a bunny’s world, that is how they survive. Knowing why your rabbit may bite you is essential to know what you can do to prevent rabbit bites in the future.
Give your rabbit a time out. You should calm down too and treat the wound. Reflect on why the bite happened, and take the right approach to ensure your rabbit feels safe, which decreases the chances of them biting again.