In the wild, rabbits must be on the lookout for threats at all times because there are many predators ready to attack. Domestic rabbits still have the instinct to be on high alert, and sometimes even something small can stress them out.
Rabbits are sensitive, and many things can cause signs of stress in their little bodies. However, there are just as many things you can do to prevent those stressful situations from occurring. Unfortunately, not everything has an obvious cause, and that’s when a trip to your vet is necessary.
To help you identify what might be causing your rabbit to stress out, we’ve listed some possible reasons below.
The 12 Things That Stress Rabbits Out
1. Being Outside
Rabbits in the wild live outside, so it might be surprising to you that this could be a point of stress for your pet rabbit. However, the environment is entirely different, and rabbits actually spend most of their time tucked away in their burrows, away from the outside world and any form of danger.
Being outside exposes your rabbit to uncontrolled noises, different temperatures and smells, and different animals that they may see as a threat. Although your rabbit is safe in their hutch outside, it’ll feel less stressed indoors. If you don’t want their cage in the center of your home due to its smell, you can keep it in the garage or shed as long as it’s a suitable environment for your rabbit.
2. An Uncomfortable Environment
If your rabbit doesn’t feel safe, isn’t comfortable, or doesn’t have their needs met, they’re going to become stressed out. Rabbits want to feel safe and secure, so add materials such as hay, shredded paper, or straw that they can burrow in and find extra warmth in.
Rabbits don’t like to live in filth or be around bad odors, so it’s important to change their bedding and clean out their hutch regularly. They also need consistent temperatures to avoid overheating or getting too cold. Place them in an area that is sheltered, out of the way of direct sunlight or a draught.
Of course, access to food and water is a must to keep anyone happy, not just your rabbit. They need high-quality pellets, vegetables, and hay in their diets.
If you notice your usually calm and happy rabbit suddenly acting up, it could be a sign of illness. They might be suffering from gastrointestinal problems and are feeling uncomfortable in their stomach, or they may have a dental issue that you can’t see and are struggling to eat.
Uterine tumors, head tilt, and respiratory tract infections are other illnesses that are commonly found in rabbits. If you notice unusual behavior, look out for other symptoms such as a lack of appetite, drooling, not passing stools, bloody urine, and lethargy. If you notice anything strange, take your rabbit to the vet for an examination.
4. Spontaneity and Change
Like most pets, rabbits aren’t huge fans of change, and too much spontaneity doesn’t excite them. Even small changes around the home can bother your sensitive rabbit. Getting a new pet, having a baby, and going away for a holiday can stress your rabbit out. Rabbits become attached to their owners, and when they’re away and being looked after by someone else, they may show signs of stress.
The best thing you can do to lower or prevent your rabbit’s stress is to set up a daily routine. When they know what they can expect, they feel more in control, which gives them confidence. Feeding, exercising, and bedtime should be around the same time every day to help your rabbit adapt and relax.
5. No Personal Space
As social as rabbits are, they need their own space to feel safe and secure. They love having little places to hide where people can’t see or interfere with them. Although cleaning their area is necessary, try to avoid disrupting their area often. This means that you should wait for your rabbit to approach you before picking them up instead of lifting their bedding to find them.
Also, avoid having people crowd around your rabbit. This will make them feel cornered and stressed out, as they always want to have an escape route mapped out. Having the freedom to move wherever they want to without feeling trapped will keep your rabbit happy and stress-free.
6. A Stressed Owner or Companion
Rabbits are sensitive animals and can pick up on your emotions as well as the emotions of others. They bond with their owners emotionally and can understand the emotion they’re feeling and even share in it.
The same is true for bonded rabbits. If one feels sad or stressed, it can cause the same emotion in the other rabbit. It’s important to be aware of your emotions when handling your rabbit so as not to affect their emotions. Also, ensure that whoever (children or visitors) is handling the rabbit is calm and gentle. If they’re not, your rabbit will pick up on it and want to get out of their hands, which could cause injury.
Many people want to treat their pet rabbits the same way they do their cats and want to constantly hold them and walk around with them. This is especially true with children. However, rabbits don’t enjoy being held often as it stresses them out.
Rabbits can often feel threatened when a person towers over them to pick them up, as it can feel similar to being snatched up by a predator or feeling trapped. They’ll often scratch, kick, and try to get out of a person’s arms if they don’t feel safe.
Instead, sit down and allow your rabbit to come to you. It may take some time before they get used to being handled and when you do pick them up for a cuddle, make sure you’re being gentle and calm. Avoid passing your rabbit on from one person to the next because this will stress them out.
8. Loud Noises
Your timid rabbit isn’t going to feel relaxed with loud noises around them, especially if they’re sudden, unexpected noises. It’s going to put them on high alert and leave them feeling threatened. Rabbits are often stressed out around children for this very reason – they tend to be noisy and unpredictable. It’s essential to teach your children how to respect their rabbits and be kind to them.
Thunderstorms and fireworks, as well as a loud television, traffic, and vacuum cleaners, are all things that can stress your rabbit out. Place them in an area that is out of the way from a lot of commotion and noise. A quieter, peaceful environment will have a much better effect on them.
9. A Lack of Trust
If you’ve only had your rabbit for a short while, it’s likely that they don’t trust you yet. Just like with people and other animals, trust takes time and develops through consistency, gentleness, and bonding with your rabbit. It’s overwhelming for your new rabbit to have to adapt to a new environment, sounds, smells, pets, and people. Give them the space and time they need to adapt before forcing interaction.
There are ways to gain your rabbit’s trust slowly. You can sit nearby and allow them to approach you when they’re ready, and you can offer them some yummy treats. They’ll soon know that you’re not a threat and start to feel more comfortable around you.
The same is true for visitors—they’re unfamiliar to your rabbit, and forced interaction may stress them out. Ask your visitors to wait for the rabbit to approach them before touching and picking them up.
Rabbits get bored and need mental and physical stimulation. Bored rabbits get stressed, depressed, and sometimes aggressive. Allowing them to run around freely in a secure room at least once a day will provide them with exercise and will prevent boredom. It’ll also help them keep the extra pounds off.
When your rabbit is in their cage, give them toys to play with that they can chew and tug on. You can also hide pellets around their enclosure because rabbits love foraging, and it keeps their minds stimulated. Placing new, interesting, and safe objects around your rabbit will also cure boredom, as rabbits are curious by nature. Giving your rabbit lots of attention will help them bond with you and prevent boredom.
If you only have one rabbit, you’re going to have to give your rabbit extra attention because they’re social animals and need interaction. Rabbits bond with their owners and can feel lonely when they’re away or too busy. However, it’s recommended that you always have more than one rabbit together and never one living on their own.
If your rabbit has a rabbit companion, it’ll also prevent boredom as they’ll be able to play together. Rabbits also bond with each other, groom each other, and provide companionship that is special and unique. It is what they’re used to, after all, as rabbits live together in big groups in the wild.
12. Sexual Frustration
Aggression and stress are often the signs of a sexually frustrated rabbit. It can be amplified when in close proximity to a rabbit of the opposite sex. There are a few things to help them through their sexual frustration, such as keeping them distracted with new toys and areas to run around in, but it’s comfortable for your rabbit.
The best solution to help your rabbit out with their stress around sexual frustration is to get them spayed or neutered. That’s right; you can get your rabbit fixed. Getting them fixed will remove all the hormones that cause your rabbit to want to mate, as well as all their stress and behavioral issues. You also never have to worry about your rabbit falling pregnant.
How Do I Know If My Rabbit Is Stressed?
It’s relatively easy to tell if your rabbit is stressed or not because they’ll be acting differently from their usual self. Here are some signs to look out for:
How Can I Reduce My Rabbit’s Stress?
The best solution to reducing your rabbit’s stress is by avoiding things that cause them to stress out. Keep them in a quiet area with a consistent temperature, allow them to approach you instead of invading their personal space, give them mental and physical stimulation, and form a daily routine that they can feel safe and confident in.
When your rabbit is showing signs of stress, talk calmly to them. If they allow you, you can cover their eyes with your hand and stroke them through a stressful, loud noise or another factor that you don’t have any control over.
If your rabbit is stressed out and you can’t find the cause for it, take them to the vet, as their stress might be the result of an illness or dental problem that needs to be treated by your vet.
Rabbits are wonderful companions to have, but they are sensitive and can get stressed out easily. There are plenty of reasons why they might be showing signs of stress, such as loud noises, overheating, over-handling, invasion of space, boredom, being kept outside, and experiencing change. If your rabbit is stressed out, you may notice that they’re extra jumpy, squeal when handled, are shaking, showing signs of aggression, and are breathing heavily.
If your rabbit is stressed and you can’t identify the cause, take them to the vet, as there might be something wrong with their health.
Featured Image Credit: Mandz11, Pixabay