All you need to know about fighting rabbits.
April 8, 2020
There are several indications in rabbits that you misunderstand as if they are fighting.
Misunderstanding bonded rabbits’ behavior towards each other is concerning.
If you stop your pet rabbits imagining they are fighting while they were merely playful, you will unnecessarily stress your pet rabbits.
By knowing why your rabbits are fighting, you can prevent them from injuring themselves, which is what I am going to discuss in this post precisely.
Rabbits are prey animals and do not show aggression at all.
But if your pet rabbits, even your bonded pet rabbits start fighting with each other, it is the rabbit guardian’s responsibility to interpret why they are fighting and how to prevent it in the future from happening again.
Without knowing the reason behind the fight, you cannot rebond the rabbits ever again.
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- Why do rabbits fight with each other?
- Do rabbits fight to the death?
- How to know your rabbits are fighting?
- Should I ignore when my rabbit fights?
- How to stop rabbits fighting?
- How to prevent rabbits from fighting?
- Rebonding rabbits after a fight.
- Why do rabbits fight in spring?
Why do rabbits fight with each other?
Rabbits are soft furry animals. Being quiet and cuddly doesn’t mean they can’t be aggressive.
Rabbits are very territorial, and likewise wild rabbits, domestic rabbits like to build dominance if there are several rabbits in your house.
Rabbits will generally fight to establish dominance.
Assuming you own a single pet rabbit. One night before going to bed, you decided you will bring a new bunny friend for your pet rabbit. Doing so is an excellent idea. However, you adopted a new bunny and brought it home only to find out that your older bunny is trying to mount the newcomer.
You see, as I have told earlier, rabbits are territorial animals. Once they see a newcomer inside his/her territory, the rabbit will attempt to establish dominance.
They establish dominance by mounting on each other.
Therefore it is said to follow rabbit bonding steps before you place two rabbits inside a hutch.
Bonding rabbits are essential. And bonding two strangers requires a neutral territory.
Rabbits are susceptible to smell. When you place a new bunny in the older rabbit’s territory, the smell of the newcomer will bother the older rabbit.
As a result, the smell of the newcomer in the older rabbit’s territory will trigger a fight.
In most cases, the older rabbit will mount the newcomer. Mounting is a way of fighting.
The scenario will be worse if you introduce unneutered/unspayed rabbits.
Rabbits fight when their hormone level is high.
If you introduce unspayed/unneutered rabbits, it is likely they will start fighting someday.
Understand the fact that neutering/spaying a house rabbit is essential.
It is not only to prevent rabbits from fighting, as well as to keep your rabbits healthy.
Adopting a single rabbit or a pair is a pleasure. Nevertheless, I reckon you are not willing to breed rabbits.
You may say what if you adopt a pair of female rabbits. So there will be no problem with rabbits giving birth. Many rabbit owners are not willing to spend money on spaying/neutering as it is expensive in places.
Owning a pair of unspayed female rabbits will stop your rabbits from breeding, and you can call yourself a proud owner.
But one beautiful morning, you wake and notice signs of injury in one of your female rabbits.
Can you guess what happened?
You rabbits might have been fighting while you are sleeping in peace.
Can you guess what might have triggered the fight?
The probable reason for your rabbits to fight is the presence of a high level of hormones in your rabbits. The reason for being too hormonal is your female rabbits are unspayed.
As they don’t have a way to keep their hormone level at normal, they are anxious. I believe you can already understand what may happen when you hold two anxious animals inside a cage for a long time?
They will fight and will injure each other until you stop them and keep them separate.
The same circumstances will follow if you decide to raise two male rabbits together.
Male rabbits might even fight with each other to death.
Raising rabbits in a small cage is the most sickening thing a rabbit guardian can do.
Any responsible rabbit guardian will not prefer to keep its pet rabbits in a small cage.
Keeping rabbits in a small cage that restricts their comfortable movement will upset a rabbit.
An upset rabbit will get grumpy. Unable to move inside a small cage because there are several rabbits inside the cage will cause gatherings to fight.
Even if the rabbits are bonded, and the cage is not comfortable enough for one grumpy rabbit, the grumpy rabbit will push the other rabbit to one corner of the cage.
If the rabbit has signs of injury and is scared to move at all within the cage, then you can guess your rabbits are fighting because the space you provided is not enough.
Not enough space means the rabbit has a lack of freedom and exercise too.
Rabbits need to run around, hop around to exercise, and remain healthy.
Not able to run and exercise, the rabbit will try to spend their extra energy on other rabbits. Pet rabbits may find fighting as recreation. However, if your rabbits are fighting, either recreational or not, you must stop them.
Because if they have injuries, you will have to visit the vet and spend time on their treatment.
Hence I always say to raise rabbits in a free-range environment. If you can’t raise rabbits in a free-range environment, at least try to construct a running space for your pet rabbits attached to your hutch.
Rabbits will fight due to changes in their environment.
Assuming you took my previous suggestion and decided to place your rabbits in a free-range environment abruptly.
Yet you have contributed to another fight in your pet rabbits. I am not saying it is happening inevitably.
But a sudden change in the rabbit’s environment can cause stress in rabbits.
Perhaps you liked raising your rabbits inside a hutch in your garage. One beautiful morning you chose to bring your rabbits indoors and let them play in the living room.
What may happen is, caged rabbits will be overwhelmed by their freedom.
Now, the rabbits will be determined to establish dominance and mark their territory.
And in the process of doing so, even bonded rabbits may start fighting.
Not just that, a sudden change in the environment will change a rabbit’s mood. As a human guardian, you may not interpret their mood correctly.
Sick rabbits will fight.
I believe anyone might understand why a sick rabbit will fight. If you can’t guess, let me explain it to you.
It is usual for any creature to be unhappy when they feel sick.
Similarly, rabbits don’t feel happy when they are sick, and they feel irritated by the presence of other rabbits.
Rabbits usually do not show any signs of sickness until they can’t hide it anymore. Rabbits are fighters. I don’t mean they like fighting with other rabbits, but they fight their pain all by themselves. They do not wish to show weakness.
AS a result, when a rabbit is sick and feels very weak, the rabbit tends to fight with other rabbits inside their running space.
A sick rabbit prefers to be left alone; hence the rabbit may feel annoyed by a companion rabbit. To avoid further disturbance, the sick rabbit will fight other rabbits and keep them away from him/her.
They will fight if they feel a threat from predators.
Threat from predators is a more common factor in wild rabbits. Domestic rabbits raised indoors have very few danger from predators.
However, placing rabbits outdoors even inside a hutch makes them weak to predators.
But once a rabbit senses danger, the rabbit will fight. I am giving this example because no matter what the threat is if any rabbit feels a menace, the rabbits will surely fight.
If they feel a threat from a new rabbit in his/her territory, the rabbit will fight.
Do rabbits fight to the death?
Yes, rabbits fight to the death, but it is not as common as you may think. Wild rabbits may fight to the end more commonly than house rabbits.
Fighting to the death in rabbits is possible if the rabbits are unneutered and unspayed.
The probability for two unneutered male rabbits fight to the death is higher than two unspayed female rabbits.
And domestic rabbits are always suggested to be de-sexed before adopting.
If you can’t de-sex rabbits before adopting them, then de-sex them as early as possible after you bring them home.
However, the wild counterpart is neither neutered nor spayed.
Therefore more prone to fighting with each other to the death.
All the reasons mentioned above for rabbits fighting with a high level of hormone can contribute to a deadly fight in rabbits in the wild.
How to know your rabbits are fighting?
To understand whether rabbits are fighting or not is quite complicated.
Some behaviors of rabbit affection are similar to a rabbit fighting.
Therefore it is often confusing. Rabbit guardians interfere, believing they are preventing a fight where they only block the rabbits from being affectionate.
So understanding the difference in rabbit behavior is crucial. Only a rabbit guardian can understand it better when their pet rabbits are fighting, and when they are loving.
However, there few general signs for rabbit fight comprehension, such as:
- Biting fur;
- Biting ears;
- Swiping with claws;
- Bumping nose;
Rabbits fight in different ways depending on the situation and their motive behind the fight.
Mounting is a common way of showing aggression to establish dominance.
Biting fur and ears is a common sight if two rabbits are not happy together. Consider nipping as a way of fighting as well as displaying affection.
Nipping is the most complicated sign to interpret. A rabbit gently bites another rabbit to present the love it has for the other rabbit.
AS well as this soft biting can also initiate a fight in rabbits. So it is the rabbit keeper’s judgment that will stop rabbits from fighting and not prevent them from loving.
Lunging at another rabbit, or bumping at each other is also very common among unbonded rabbits. A rabbit may bounce at another rabbit if the rabbit feels irritated.
While accommodating rabbits in a small cage, a rabbit may lunge and bump the other one to one corner of the cage and create space within the enclosure.
If rabbits are swiping with claws at each other, that’s when a fight can become deadly. If rabbits are throwing punches at each other, you must intervene before the rabbits severely injure themselves.
Should I ignore when my rabbit fights?
As I said, you must intervene when your rabbits are throwing punches and swiping claws at each other. Not just that, if your rabbits show any signs of aggression towards another rabbit, it is your duty to prevent the situation from escalating further.
Although rabbits will not always kill each other during a fight, indeed they can injure each other severely.
That is why never introduce a rabbit abruptly without following the bonding stages first.
In a situation, if you notice where your bonded rabbits are not going well along with each other, you can immediately step in and place two rabbits in two different cages.
How to stop rabbits fighting?
You can stop rabbits fighting by separating them. If you notice two bonded rabbits are struggling, then you must scare them by making a loud noise.
Like you can call them loudly by their name, which might scare them off and leave each other.
Most of the time, scaring them off with bang works because rabbits are sensitive to loud noises.
If their fight continues and either one of the rabbits is not willing to give up, you have to use your hands to pull them apart.
Before doing so, you must wear gloves. Rabbits don’t usually bite their guardian. However, if the rabbit is in a severe fight and you try to pull them apart, your rabbit might dig its teeth in your fingers. Similarly, while trying to pull them apart, you can get swiped by their claws.
Regardless of your rabbit does this intentionally or not, you must wear gloves before you step into a rabbit fight.
How to prevent rabbits from fighting?
Rabbits may start a fight for many reasons. Knowing the reasons behind a rabbit fight will enable you to prevent more conflicts in the future.
I have explained above why rabbits may fight with each other. It is easy to understand why a rabbit fights a newcomer. Hence, bonding rabbits is crucial.
But if bonded rabbits are fighting, unless the rabbit guardian figures out the reason, you will fail to prevent injuries in the future.
If you notice your bonded rabbits are fighting because one of the rabbits is sick, then it is essential to take your ill rabbit to the vet.
If you understand your rabbit is fighting because it is stressed. Figure out ways to keep your rabbits stress free in the future.
A rabbit will be stressed if it doesn’t have enough exercise.
A bigger hutch with a setup of sufficient running space will enhance the rabbit’s mood.
The rabbit will be happier, healthier, and likely stay away from future fights.
Nevertheless, changing your rabbits’ territory frequently and abruptly will cause stress in rabbits. So do not relocate your rabbits often.
Finally, rabbits fight and mount to establish dominance. If they feel a newcomer as a threat in their territory, they will fight. Your old rabbit will not accept the new rabbit easily without proper bonding takes place beforehand.
Without bonding, the older rabbit will attack the newcomer and try to eliminate any kind of threat.
If the new rabbit is submissive quickly, then it is okay. However, it is not always the scenario. If the newcomer doesn’t submit, then the fight will continue and escalate to deadly conflict.
Rebonding rabbits after a fight.
Rebonding rabbits after a fight is not ideal. Yet, if you are willing to rebond your rabbits after they fought and separated, you must be extra cautious.
Introducing them again may trigger a fight suddenly. But once rabbits are separated, they forget each other very soon.
Being apart, rabbits quickly forget it’s partner’s smell. And separating a bonded rabbit pair after observing aggressive behavior, rebonding them is quite tricky.
Rebonding separated rabbits after a fight brings back a bonded rabbit to stage one.
Yet, I can’t assure you that these rabbits will remain bonded without having a conflict again in the future.
What do you have to do once your rabbits fought and were separated?
You have to set and X-pen for the rabbits and keep them close. Close enough, they can get used to their smell, far enough so that they cannot reach for each other.
And you have to do this in neutral territory.
If you do not follow the steps in neutral territory, you will contribute to a territorial dispute?
Because if you start the bonding process in one rabbit’s territory, the boss rabbit in that territory will not be very welcoming of the new rabbit.
Remember, as I said, they will forget each other’s smell?
Therefore the newcomer will be seen as a threat in the territory.
As well as do not rush the rabbit bonding steps, especially after a fight. Because rushing through the steps might not provide sufficient time for the rabbits to rebond. As a result, when you place two rabbits together, they may start their fight suddenly again.
It is further common than you may imagine. Initially, after rebonding, rabbits may fancy their companionship. However, similar conflicts like in the past may trigger a deadly fight in your rabbits.
You may wake up one day and find out one of your rabbits is severely injured, and even worse, a rabbit is dead.
Why do rabbits fight in spring?
In general, rabbits tend to fight when their level of the hormone is high. Spring is the peak time for rabbits to mate. Hence in spring, rabbits in nature have a high level of hormone.
Rabbits in the wild are intact, and with a high level of hormone present in rabbits, they act more aggressively than healthy rabbits.
I am not saying the high level of the hormone is abnormal during spring. It is the wild rabbits’ natural behavior.
However, if you see your bonded rabbits are fighting in spring, the likely reason for that condition is the high level of hormone. Therefore it is suggested to neuter and spay domestic rabbits before adoption.
Unneutered/unspayed rabbits fight with each other more often than neutered and spayed rabbits.
Neutering and spaying a rabbit will keep the rabbit hormones in balance. With a balance in hormone production, domestic rabbits are less likely to act aggressively.
Neutered/spayed rabbits will be less hormonal even at their peak mating season. Hence a fight in bonded rabbits is not expected.
Neutering/spaying a rabbit not only prevents them from fighting, but it is also easier to bond with de-sexed rabbits.
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