One minute you are petting your Mr. Fluffle, only to get a painful nip as a reward. A rabbit bite is often unexpected, and it can be excruciating too. So what are the reasons for a rabbit biting you?
Rabbits bite when they feel threatened. A rabbit may also bite to assert dominance when you get in the way of them and another rabbit, or if they are ill and in pain, which can make them short-tempered and likely to bite. While rabbits are domesticated, they still have wild instincts, like biting to fend off a predator or punish a mate.
Knowing why your rabbit bites are the key to preventing it, training them not to bite, and ensuring you haven’t done anything to provoke the bite. Let’s find out more.
Reasons Why Rabbits Bite
The first time your bun nips you, it may be a total surprise for you.
Just why does a pet rabbit suddenly bite you? There are a couple of reasons why rabbits bite.
Rabbits have a pecking order like most non-solitary animals. Your rabbit may nip or bite you to let you know they don’t want to be submissive to you.
It can happen when there’s food involved, or if you play with them and the game escalates to aggression.
A rabbit is a prey animal, and they aren’t naturally inclined to trust people (unless they were hand-reared).
When you get a new rabbit, it is quite common for them to nip or savagely bite you as a way to defend themselves from the big and scary predator (aka you).
Believe it or not, rabbits can become quite aggressive, especially when there’s a female of breeding age around.
If you try to separate the rabbits, you may end up with a nasty nip from your horny rabbit buck and even the rabbit doe may not appreciate your interfering in their fun. Aggression, sexual behavior, and nipping go hand in hand.
Rabbits may seem to be docile creatures, and for the most part, they are, but rabbits can also be defensive of their territory.
If your rabbit is unneutered, you may find they are defensive of their hutch and won’t let you remove members of their family or even pick them up. A bite is their way of fending you off and making their world safe.
Another consideration is that you may have handled a different rabbit or even your pet dog before petting your rabbit, only to have your rabbit smell the other animals on your clothes. The rabbit may think they are biting the other animal, not realizing they are biting you.
Playfulness Getting Out of Hand
A rabbit bites at other rabbits when grooming. While these aren’t aggressive bites, these rabbits have a load of fur in the way of sharp teeth—you don’t.
The result can be that your rabbit may nip you painfully hard when they actually meant to nibble at 4you.
Your Mrs. Fluffles may also turn into a nasty biting beast if you try to take food away from her.
Rabbits can become ferocious foragers, and if she dives into your daisies in the garden and you pick her up, she will nip you as a result of food aggression.
How to Get Your Rabbit to Stop Biting You?
The first step to getting your rabbit to stop biting you is to determine why they are biting you. You can ask yourself whether your rabbit was eating, with another rabbit, breeding, scared, or playful.
These indicators can help you determine the “why” of their biting so you can work on how to stop your rabbit from biting you again.
Stopping Aggressive Biting
If your rabbit is biting you as a show of dominance, to get you to back away, or to punish you for taking their food, it is important not to reward the biting behavior by backing away.
If you back away, it tells your rabbit that they are higher up in the biting (or nipping, in this case) older than you are.
Once the rabbit bites you, quickly assess whether it’s a dominant and aggressive bite. If yes, then respond by making a sharp hissing sound or clapping your hands sharply. Your rabbit will be frightened by this and back away.
You’ll have successfully “out-dominated” your rabbit.
If your rabbit doesn’t learn from this and gets more aggressive, you may need to resort to the next step, which is to very gently lay your hand over the top of your rabbit’s head, then press them firmly to the ground for a few seconds.
The rabbit will be incapacitated, and you will literally be asserting your authority and position in the pecking order on your rabbit.
Never be harsh or hold the position for more than five or six seconds as you don’t want your rabbit to hurt themselves by squirming.
Your rabbit will quickly learn their place and associate being dominated with any aggressive biting behavior.
Another reason rabbits often behave aggressively is when the buck rabbit has been left unneutered.
Time for the snip! Have a specialist small animal vet cut the buck’s testicular tubes and your rabbit will soon become more docile (once the hormones stop).
Stopping Non-Aggressive Biting Behavior
Not all rabbits bite out of aggression. You will know the behavior is not aggressive when your rabbit scurries away after the bite or cowers and begins to display stress behavior such as persistent self-grooming or hiding in their hutch.
For non-aggressive biting, you will need to follow a different track. Back off, give your rabbit space, wait for them to come to you, and work on bonding with them and earning their trust.
What Happens If a Rabbit Bites You?
Rabbits can bite quite severely. You may have a small puncture wound, a laceration, or even pieces of flesh ripped out (if the rabbit clenches their jaw while biting).
Bites can become infected if not correctly treated.
Large breed rabbits can inflict severe damage with an aggressive bite. When the bite is non-aggressive, there may be a bruise and nothing more.
When to Seek Medical Help?
If you have a wound that won’t stop bleeding, or if there is a large chunk of flesh missing, you may need stitches and tetanus and antibiotic injection to prevent infection.
My Last Bunny Thoughts
Rabbits are amazing pets but don’t make the mistake of believing they are weak or 100% docile. Your rabbit may bite you if you force them to accept you or if you infringe on their territory.
Never tolerate biting behavior or leave it un-rectified, but never inflict physical violence such as a slap or shaking your rabbit as they have fragile bodies and can easily be hurt.