The rabbit is one of the animals that has had the most relationship with humans throughout history. He started out being hunted, later he was raised on farms for fur and meat, and is currently one of the most popular household pets .
One of the most reported problems by people who live with rabbits is aggressiveness. In this article by Animal Expert we will talk about the aggressiveness between rabbits , understanding, first of all, what the ethology of this species is like. Find out why your rabbit is aggressive towards other rabbits below:
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- The nature of the wild rabbit
- How to present two rabbits?
- Rabbit socialization to understand natural behavior
- Aggressiveness in multi-rabbit homes
The nature of the wild rabbit
The rabbit that we currently have as a pet is a descendant of the common rabbit or European rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus , and was not domesticated until the 16th century AD.
Both the rabbit’s anatomy and its physiology are designed to prevent predation , since the rabbit is at the beginning of the food chain, behind the primary producers or plants. The areas of your brain destined for the perception of smells, sounds and images are highly developed: both your eyes and ears are placed on both sides of the head, so that you can be aware of everything around you while practicing other behaviors, such as eating .
Their smell is so developed that it competes with that of the dog, and they spend most of their time sniffing the air to detect odors. Likewise, they have a vomeronasal organ that serves to detect pheromones and thus detect their peers and relatives. This is very important if we have two litters of rabbits with different mothers, because if we put them together , infanticide could occur , a very common type of fatal aggressiveness among rabbits.
The strong legs of rabbits are prepared to help them escape quickly if necessary or to fight and establish hierarchy within the group. Adult females tend to be more territorial and aggressive with their counterparts.
The aggressive behavior has been widely studied among European wild rabbits. There is a hierarchy of dominance between females and, separately, between males. When the dominance hierarchy is established, especially in the spring, at the beginning of the breeding season, the fights are very intense. However, during the reproductive season or heat its intensity decreases. After farrowing, they stay close to their burrows and are intolerant of other rabbits. According to some studies, the average distance between two wild rabbits in a large semi-natural enclosure is 20.7 meters.
Rabbits well positioned in the hierarchy of their group are more fertile, since they have lower stress levels. The immune system of rabbits is closely related to social position.
In the wild, wild rabbits can be solitary or gregarious , cooperate or not in group surveillance, live on the surface or under the ground, they can also select an open area to live or more shrubby. Therefore, a wild rabbit can change its behavior depending on the risk of predation and, if they wish, choose a new habitat to live.
Furthermore, dispersal or abandonment of the group by new born individuals is a natural event in rabbit groups. Half of the rabbits will leave the group when they reach five months of age.
How to present two rabbits?
Ideally, it is best to introduce two rabbits that have not yet reached sexual maturity , as most aggressive behavior problems appear just after puberty.
There are several methods for introducing two rabbits for the first time. In this article we present the safest and least stressful method for rabbits as well as for humans who experience the situation.
We will start this procedure in a neutral room , where the rabbits have not been before, we will place the two cages, one next to the other. In this way, little by little, the rabbits get to know their respective smells . After a few days, we will begin to exchange the rabbits in their cages, so that each one leaves its scent in the other’s cage.
When we have done this several times and there are no signs of stress, we will begin to let the rabbits out of their cages in turn , first one and then the other. After several days, we can open both cages and let the rabbits interact freely. It is important to take into account the size of the room or enclosure, because, if it is not large enough, animals can be stressed by not having an escape route.
In addition, at this time, we must separate the cages and that they are each in a place in the room. If each cage has two holes, one for entry and one for exit, we will prevent one rabbit from cornering the other. Although both rabbits are male, one of the behaviors that we can observe is that they mount , despite the fact that they are not yet adults. This serves to mark the hierarchy, practice adult behaviors or play.
We must carefully observe the behavior of both rabbits and let them solve the hierarchy between them, stopping the process if one of the two becomes excessively aggressive and one of the rabbits bites and attacks the other.
It is important to remember that all the animal presentation processes must be carried out gradually, always without forcing the animals and knowing that they take a long time.
It is not recommended to have rabbits in pairs, of the same or different sex, in the same cage. If the rabbits are unsterilized adults , we must postpone the presentation until one month after the sterilization of both individuals. If we do not take this fact into account, it will be very difficult or impossible to put them together later, especially if we want to have male rabbits together.
Rabbit socialization to understand natural behavior
The correct socialization in domestic rabbits will depend on our ability to understand their natural behavior and inherited from their wild ancestors. Taking this fact into account, we will prevent the appearance of behavioral problems, including aggressiveness, either towards their fellow humans, other pets or humans. For this, we show you several tips:
- The cage must be wide and secureenough .
- Rabbits should be sterilizedbefore reaching sexual maturity, thereby reducing the probability that one rabbit will bite another. In addition, we will also prevent them from marking the territory, other pets or us with urine.
- We must give each rabbit a large enough spaceto carry out all its natural behaviors and can exercise several hours a day to stay healthy.
- It is ideal to have more than one rabbit and that they can relate to each other, always having made a correct presentation.
- All rooms in the house where the rabbit can roam freely must be supervisedand prepared so that the rabbit can be safe. For example, do not leave cables within reach and can be electrocuted.
- Give our rabbits toys so they can gnawand a place to dig .
- All members of the household must learn how to hold a rabbit, because if they do it wrong, the rabbit can break the spine. They should never be held by the ears.
- Daily management is important if we want our rabbits to be comfortable with us, always positively rewarding good behavior.
- Always use positive reinforcement, never hitting or punishing the rabbit.
Aggressiveness in multi-rabbit homes
The aggressiveness between rabbits should never be underestimated, much less if it appears suddenly. So, if we observe that our rabbit is aggressive towards other rabbits, we must observe their behavior and analyze whether we are offering them the necessary care for their well-being.
Any change in behavior in our pets can be a symptom of stress or pain . If two rabbits that have always gotten along start to attack each other it’s time to visit the vet, it’s the one that can best help you discover the problem.
As always, we must take into account the nature of the species. For example, rabbits become aggressive when it comes time to breed, since in the wild they must compete with other females for the best nesting site.
If we do not sterilize the rabbits that we have as pets, it is more likely that aggressive behaviors appear and that, finally, we must separate t rabbits drastically. The best thing is that before adopting a rabbit, you inform yourself properly of its ethology and physical needs, this way you will avoid future problems.