Aggression in rabbits is typically a behavioral, not genetic, problem. If the behavior is not dealt with, it may consequently cycle into a neglected rabbit because no one wants to be a victim of an aggressive bunny.
If aggression suddenly develops in your rabbit, especially after a neutering, a veterinary examination is advisable to ensure that the rabbit is not in any discomfort.
Reasons for Aggression
- The most common scenarios for displayed aggression are with an unaltered rabbit. As a rabbit reaches sexual maturity, it usually becomes more territorial and aggressive due to unsatisfied sexual frustrations and other hormonal reasons. Territorial behavior may also increase during some times of the year such as the main rabbit breeding season of January to August in the northern hemisphere. Unwanted aggressive behaviors can include actions such as mounting, circling, and biting in the cage. Spaying and neutering can dramatically reduce aggressive behavior in an intact rabbit.
- Fear is also a common reason for aggression. As a prey animal, a rabbit's natural instinct is to flee and hide, but when cornered, a rabbit can be forced to bite out in defense. When unwanted reaching hands disappear due to their aggression, rabbits learn that biting and lunging get results that they want and reinforces the aggressive behavior.
- Change in its environment and routine can cause a rabbit do display aggression. Sometimes, a rabbit may take a scare that owners unwittingly do and consequently lose all confidence in their interactions.
- If two rabbits are kept together, territorial instincts may cause them to fight each other for dominance. Rabbits do not easily get along with any other rabbit. See Bonding for more details.
- A rabbit may accidentally bite or nip an owner thinking fingers are food or due to overzealous grooming.
- Pain in rabbits can result in aggressive behavior. A rabbit that is normally docile but starts to be aggressive should be examined carefully for a source of pain. Some common reasons are dental disease and the formation of sharp hooks on the molars or painful musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis or vertebral spondylitis.
- Deafness has also been reported as a cause of aggression. Deaf rabbits may be startled by owners coming up on them unexpectedly and sometimes their response is to bite.
- House Rabbit Society, FAQ: Aggression
- House Rabbit Society, HRJ Letters - 1998, Aggressive Rabbits
- Wisconsin House Rabbit Society, George Flentke The Biting Rabbit
- Rabbit Haven, Biting
- Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund, Biting the Hand That Feeds
- Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund, My rabbit's turned vicious - help
- House Rabbit Society, Marinell Harriman, Who Wants a Mean Rabbit?
- House Rabbit Society, Marinell Harriman, To Love a Mean Rabbit
- Zooh Corner, Dealing with the Aggressive, Nervous or Frightened Bunny
- EXtension, Rabbit Behavioral Problems: Biting
- Examiner.com, Phyllis O'Beollain, Causes of aggression in house rabbits
- Examiner.com, Phyllis O'Beollain, Working with the aggressive rabbit part one
- Examiner.com, Phyllis O'Beollain, Working with the aggressive rabbit part two
Below are some relevant videos on the topic.