While rabbits are gentle pets…
They are still capable of biting their owners.
It can be shocking when your bunny bites you.
What happened? What went wrong? Are they mad?
To know what’s going on with your bunny…
Read on and find out:
- 17 reasons why rabbits bite you.
- 11 tips on how to stop a rabbit from biting.
- Whether rabbit bites are dangerous or not.
- When should you take your rabbit to the vet.
- Whether you should tolerate this behavior or not.
- And a lot more…
Why does my rabbit bite me?
Your rabbit might bite you if they’re in shock. The fear can cause them to act on impulse. It’s an act of defense. Territorial rabbits can also bite if you’re in their space. Sometimes, they do it to show dominance too. In some cases, they will also bite when they’re upset.
17 reasons why your rabbit bites you all of a sudden
#1: To show affection
As weird as it may sound, some rabbits might bite you out of affection.
It’s kind of like “kissing”, but instead of licking you, they bite you.
Most rabbits will nibble on you as soft as they could.
However, if they’re not sure how strong their bite is, they might get used to biting you too hard.
It can be more common in baby rabbits since they’re still unaware of their bites.
When left ignored, they might carry this habit until adulthood.
You will know if this is the case when they withdraw right away.
When they see or hear you in pain because of their bite…
It shows that it wasn’t their intention to hurt you. That’s why they get surprised by your reaction.
Reading tip: How to tell if your rabbit likes you?
#2: They can smell food on you
They might also bite if they can smell food on you. It’s why they tend to bite your finger.
The smell of food stays on your hands.
Even if you can’t smell anything, keep in mind that their nose is far stronger than ours.
They have over 100 million scent cells. Compared to humans with about 7 million scent cells, their noses are more sensitive.
A study claims that bunnies rely on their sense of smell at all times.
So if they can catch a whiff of some leftover food in your fingers…
Biting can occur.
Their eyes are also different from ours. There’s a chance that they didn’t know it was your finger too.
They only thought it was food for them to chomp on.
“What happens if a rabbit tastes your blood?”
Some people tend to ask about this. No, your rabbit won’t like the taste of your blood.
Even if they bit you and had some of your blood in their mouth, they won’t turn into a vampire-like pet.
Bunnies don’t like the smell of blood. To them, it means danger.
They are also herbivores, so they will only stick to eating their hay.
So don’t worry, your bunny won’t hunt you for blood.
#3: They’re traumatized
Some rabbits can also bite due to trauma. It’s more common in bunnies who already had previous owners.
In some cases, wild rabbits captured to become pets can also have trauma.
Trauma is not the same as your regular shock or fear. It doesn’t go away in a matter of minutes.
So, a traumatized bunny can be hard to handle. Though, it’s not impossible to heal.
You can tell if your rabbit has it by paying attention to their body language.
Here are some signs of trauma in rabbits:
- Stiff muscles.
- Dilated pupils.
- Rapid breathing.
- Screaming or other weird noises.
In severe cases, a bunny can show all these signs.
If you think your rabbit has trauma, be patient with them.
As their guardian, you can be their therapist. Help them heal. One or a few bites is nothing.
A traumatized rabbit needs help ASAP. Consult a vet for tips.
#4: They might be sick
When bunnies don’t feel well, they can turn aggressive too.
It can show that they might be in a lot of pain. It can be the case if your rabbit never bit you before.
It can be hard to spot diseases in your bunny, so any strange acts should get noticed right away.
A study states that bunnies will hide illnesses as best as they can.
It’s part of their nature as a way to survive.
Since biting is unusual for your bunny…
It will tell you that something might be wrong with their health.
Before things turn worse for your bunny, know the common signs of a sick bunny.
Here are signs that your bunny might be sick:
- Loss of appetite.
- Wanting to be alone.
- Making weird noises.
- Changes in their poop.
Always check your bunny’s behavior to know if they are still fine or not.
Don’t forget to check out: 21 Effective Tips To Treat A Sick Rabbit At Home (How-To)
#5: They’re angry
Angry bunnies can turn aggressive too. It can happen if they’re upset about something.
It can be because of you or something else. There are a lot of things that can frustrate a bunny.
And when it happens, they might choose to lash out at you.
Yes, this type of behavior shouldn’t be tolerated at all.
Even if they look cute when they’re angry…
Letting them keep their bad habits will bite back at both of you later on.
To prevent them from getting angry, know what makes them mad.
Here are 11 examples you can avoid:
- Feeling lonely.
- Being ignored.
- Surprising them.
- Picking them up.
- Having a small living area.
- Holding them for too long.
- Living in a messy environment.
- Eating the same food over and over.
- Touching their belly or other parts they’re not used to.
Even if you’re not the cause of their anger…
A lot of other things can still earn their fury. Even the smallest things can make them mad.
But of course, it all depends on your bunny’s personality.
Most of them won’t hold a grudge. So don’t worry, they’ll be in a good mood again in a few minutes.
When boredom hits, bunnies can act naughty too. This is why they might bite you out of nowhere.
They might do it to say, “I’m bored!”.
Boredom can frustrate them. After all, rabbits are active animals.
They love having fun and exploring. So if your rabbit has run out of interesting things to do, they can be angry at you.
As their guardian, they think you can help them.
Other than biting, they will also show other signs of boredom.
Here are a few examples:
- They follow you around.
- They try to investigate everything you do.
- They pick things up and throw them in the air.
There are also times when they will grunt at you. Grunting is another way for them to communicate.
So if they grunt at you and then bite you, it’s a sign that they’re bored or upset.
Note: Boredom is unhealthy for your rabbits. It can lead to stress or depression, or both.
#7: They want to play
Following reason #6, bunnies will bite as a way for them to play.
It’s natural for rabbits to give each other a gentle bite as a playful gesture. Most of the time, it shouldn’t hurt at all.
It’s more common for a baby bunny to bite you to play.
It’s like saying, “Come on, let’s play!”, if they feel bored.
You will know they’re being playful if they bite you then make a run for it.
In a way, it’s like they’re teasing you too. “Aha, I bit you. Now, what are you going to do? Catch me if you can!”
Though they are prey animals, many rabbits like to play tag.
The little chase game keeps them active.
You can find rabbits running and chasing after each other for fun.
Sometimes, a rabbit can even chase a big dog for laughs. They will bite first to make the other “player” chase them.
But even if it’s a cute thing to watch, don’t let them bite too much. Otherwise, they’ll get used to it.
It can turn into a bad habit.
A stressed bunny can also show aggressive behavior. Due to the stress they feel, they can’t help but misbehave.
They will bite you as if to say, “Leave me alone”.
When they feel this way, they tend to distance themselves from anyone.
Many things can cause stress for a rabbit. Even if you think that you got all their needs covered, they can still become stressed.
Here are 7 factors that can cause stress in bunnies:
- Unclean room.
- Other animals.
- Annoying odors.
- Pain from diseases.
- Noisy environment.
- Too much handling.
- Boredom and loneliness.
Warning: Too much stress can make your bunny sick. Keep them away from these factors to avoid the worst.
Other than biting, a stressed bun will also do other things such as:
- They stop eating.
- Lunging towards you.
- Trying to hide from you.
- Stomping their rear legs.
- Their muscles are always tense or stiff.
- Chewing things they used to pay no attention to.
- Making weird noises such as grunting or screaming.
These 7 signs can also be a sign of loneliness or depression.
It can also hint at an underlying disease that puts them under stress.
Continue reading: 19 Alarming Signs That Your Rabbit Is Stressed + What To Do
#9: They do it out of curiosity
Bunnies are always curious. It’s part of their nature.
It’s thanks to their strong sense of smell and hearing.
When you can hear and smell everything around you so well…
Wouldn’t you be curious too?
Despite their small bodies, they can have big energies when it comes to investigating.
Yes, you can think of them as little hopping detectives.
They will bite out of curiosity which means that they don’t mean to do it.
For example, if you’re wearing new clothes with a brand new scent…
Your bunny can get curious about it. “What’s this smell? It’s so unfamiliar. Can I eat this? Who are you? Are you my parent?”
Bunnies don’t see things the same way that we do.
Wearing anything new that changes your shape, scent or figure can confuse them.
When they’re hungry, biting can be common too.
They’ll try to do anything to keep their belly full. When their tummy is empty, they can become grumpy.
Once it reaches that point, your rabbit might resort to using force. They’ll bite your hand as if to say, “I demand some food”.
Even if you feed them well enough, some bunnies can want more.
Don’t underestimate their tiny bodies. They can still have a big appetite too.
But since biting can be risky, this behavior needs fixing.
If possible, try to give more food to your bunny. As long as it won’t make them overweight, then it should be safe.
If you will increase their food intake, you should still keep it balanced.
Any imbalance in their diet can lead to issues in their digestive tract.
As a tip, don’t rush it by giving them extra food in one day. Try increasing the food in small portions each day.
This way, their tummy won’t be “shocked” by the sudden changes.
If your bunny is female, they can bite if they’re pregnant.
It’s common for pregnant animals to become a bit grumpy and rabbits are no exception.
They will do what they can to protect their babies.
But even if your rabbit has never mated with anyone…
They can still think that they’re pregnant. This is a phenomenon called “false pregnancy” a.k.a “pseudopregancy“
This can happen to humans too. But for bunnies, it’s common in lonely female rabbits.
Stress, boredom, or lack of companionship can cause this issue.
But don’t worry. Research states that this problem will go away on its own.
For bunnies, it can last for 16 to 18 days.
After that, your bunny will be back to normal. Though, it can be alarming if it happens again.
Keep reading to know how you can prevent this.
You might also want to know: Why do rabbits move their bedding?
#12: Territorial behavior
Rabbits can also be protective of their territory. This is common in adult bunnies if they are still not spayed or neutered.
You will notice this if you come close to a certain space…
Then they will run to you and bite you.
It’s their way of saying, “Back off, this is my spot”.
Even though most rabbits are sweet, they can be problematic too.
Once they claim a space, it can be hard to get them away from it. They will not lose interest in it as long as their hormones are active.
To know if they are being territorial, there are also other signs you can notice.
For example, they rub their chin against everything in the said space.
“Chinning” is a way for them to leave their scent. It’s their way of saying, “This is mine now, it’s got my scent on it.”
Another example is when they pee and poop everywhere too.
Doing so is their way of “expanding” their territory.
To fix this chaotic behavior…
Spaying and neutering is the answer.
#13: To show dominance
As mentioned in tip #12, unspayed or unneutered bunnies can be troublesome.
In this case, they will bite you only to show dominance.
Research points out that bunnies show aggression to improve their social ranking.
This is why they tend to “bully” one another. Even though they’re domesticated, this is still part of their nature.
They will bite as if to say, “I’m the boss here, got it?”.
But other than biting, they will also do other things such as:
- Staring at you.
- They try to claim your belongings.
- They try to push you out of your place.
If you think this is the case, visit your vet. It’s time for them to get fixed.
If your rabbit keeps showing aggression, you can learn more about it here:
#14: They’re trying to mate
Still related to #12 and #13, bunnies will bite when trying to mate.
When bunnies mate, they will mount the doe and sometimes, bite their neck or the nape area.
They do this to hold on so they don’t fall off the female’s back.
Sometimes, they also do it to force the female into submission.
But one thing to note is that even female rabbits can do this too.
According to this research, rabbits of the same gender will mount each other too.
So no matter your rabbit’s gender, they might do this to you.
For example, they might try to mount your foot. If they’re struggling to hold on, they might bite your leg.
This can happen as long as the bunny stays unfixed.
#15: To ask for attention
Biting can also be a way for rabbits to say, “Pay attention to me!”.
Even if you already give them lots of love and affection, some bunnies will want you all to themselves.
Some of them can be attention-hoggers. Think of them like cute, spoiled children.
They’re demanding attention in a naughty way. This is because they think it’s okay.
Rabbits can learn that some things can get them what they want.
As mentioned, they’re like kids and they can be as smart as one.
For example, if your rabbit bit you then you reacted…
They can realize this and think, “Oh, so THAT is what can get you to notice me. I’ll do it again.”
They can also think that biting is funny if you smiled or laughed after they did it.
Though they are smart, they can misunderstand many things.
Make it clear for your bunny that biting is not good at all.
Read on to learn some tips on how to correct this behavior.
#16: By accident
Sometimes, biting can happen for no reason other than it’s only an accident.
They might try to nibble on you as a way to show affection, but then, it turns into a hard bite.
They thought it was light but then they lost control.
Another example is when you feed them with your hand.
Hand-feeding them can invite a lot of accidental bites.
They might also mistake you for someone else. Many things can make them bite you by accident.
It’s normal and it happens to a lot of pet rabbits.
If it’s only by mistake, don’t worry. If they saw or heard you react negatively, they can remember it.
After that, they will learn to avoid biting you too hard again.
#17: Fear or shock
The most common reason for rabbit bites is fear or shock.
They are sensitive animals… and they can be jumpy too.
They get scared by a lot of things. Even the smallest sound can make them alert and nervous.
You can’t blame them, since they have strong senses after all.
But because of this, they can also act out of impulse.
For example, if they heard a sudden noise while you’re holding them…
They might bite you too hard and then freeze on the spot.
Some rabbits will hold on tight if the fear makes them unable to move.
It can also happen if you catch them by surprise. Picking them up too fast can lead to bites.
Always let your bunny see you approaching so they know it’s you.
Further reading: 13 Things Rabbits Do When They Are Scared (Behavior)
“Are rabbit bites dangerous?”
Most rabbit bites are not dangerous for your health. It’s rare for them to cause a problem.
But for your safety, you should clean the bite wound right away. Disinfect it to avoid infection.
If you’re curious about diseases you might get from a rabbit bite, here are some examples:
- Rabies (rare).
- Tularemia (rare).
In rare cases, you can also get tetanus and other issues such as:
- Fungal infection.
- Parasite infection.
If you’re concerned, see a doctor and a vet.
How do I get my bunny to stop biting me? 11 tips
#1: Positive training
You can teach your rabbit to stop bad habits like biting.
With enough positive training, your rabbit can be well-behaved again.
This is crucial since bunnies don’t respond well to negative or forceful methods.
For example, shouting or ignoring them can only make the problem worse.
It’s like adding fuel to the fire.
Note: NEVER hit your bunny to “discipline” them. It can lead to trauma. It will not fix the issue.
What you can do instead is give them treats and praises.
Teach them the right thing to do by telling them to stop. Get up and walk away from them when they bite you.
Most of the time, they’ll stare out of confusion.
Make them follow you and if they do, give them a treat. Praise them too. Use a gentle tone of voice. Your rabbit will notice that they get rewarded for not biting you.
Keep doing it until they get the message. This can work on other issues too.
If you need help, you can seek professional rabbit trainers.
#2: Help them relax
If your rabbit feels stressed…
You need to make them feel relaxed again.
Give them things to do, play with them, give them treats or find them a friend.
You can also consider going out with your bunny to take their mind off of stress.
Make sure they stay in a peaceful room.
If they’re sick, get them the medicine they need so they can feel better.
There are many ways to help them de-stress. As long as you know your bunny’s personality, it can be easy for you.
If you know the things that can cause them stress, it’ll make it easier for you to avoid it too.
If you want to know more, read this article: How to reduce stress in rabbits?
#3: Keep everything clean
Dirty spaces can make a rabbit grumpy.
It can also make them sick which takes us back to being grumpy.
Sick bunnies will have behavioral changes. This is why cleanliness is crucial for a bunny.
When you clean their room, make sure to use scentless products.
Cleaning products such as wax or air fresheners can be toxic for them.
At the same time, it can also irritate their nose.
Move them out of the room for the meantime. Let everything dry and wear off before taking them back to their room.
When their surroundings are clean…
Bunnies can feel fresh and happy too.
#4: Spay or neuter them
Spaying and neutering will fix a lot of problems for your bunny.
It can stop their territorial behavior and their need to be dominant. They will also stop trying to bite you as an attempt to breed.
This will fix and keep their hormones in check.
As a bonus, it can also help improve your rabbit’s lifespan.
By spaying and neutering, you can remove the risk of cancer. Rabbits can also get reproductive cancers.
This is why this method is beneficial for them.
So if you have no plans on breeding them, consider this option.
Most rabbits reach maturity as soon as they are 3 months old.
Consult your vet to schedule the best time for doing it.
#5: Get them a companion
You can also consider getting them a friend.
As social animals, rabbits love being around someone they’re close to. They like bonding with someone at all times.
If they’re lonely, having a buddy can fix a lot of problems.
They will be too focused on their new best friend to even think about biting you or such.
Of course, it won’t work right away.
Whenever you introduce new pets to each other, it can take time.
Though bunnies can get along with other animals…
It’s still best to get another bunny instead. They get along the best.
#6: Keep them entertained
Don’t let your bunny feel bored. As mentioned, boredom can make them misbehave.
To keep them happy, there are many ideas you can try.
For example, you can buy chew toys that can keep them busy.
A digging mat can also be fun for them. If not, you can make a DIY digging box too.
You can also consider expanding their room so they have more space to explore.
Bunny-proof your whole house if possible.
If there are more safe places they can get to, there will be more things that can capture their interest.
#7: Give them treats
Another way to entertain them is to give them treats.
This will also help get rid of a hungry grumpy bunny.
Instead, they will become happy bunnies.
But handing them treats all the time is repetitive and can get boring.
To spice things up, you can hide treats around the house.
Keep it in corners that your rabbit can reach. If you’re able to, make them dig for it by covering it with hay.
This will stimulate their mind and nose. They’ll have a lot of fun hopping around searching for treats.
It’s like they’re on a little treasure hunt.
#8: Provide them enough attention
Sometimes, all your rabbit wants is your attention.
Even if you keep them entertained, it’s still different when you spend time with them.
It’s more special when they feel connected with you.
This is because they are social animals. When they bond with someone, it’s a strong, deep bond.
They’ll always want to be around you.
If you’re their favorite person, you can expect them to do what they can to make you notice them.
If you’re able to, spend more time with them. If you’re not busy, try to let them hang around you.
Even if you’re doing something, give them a quick head scratch if they come to you.
They only bite if they feel ignored.
So try to notice them as much as you can.
#9: Avoid causing anxiety
As stated earlier, rabbits can get scared a lot.
This can cause them anxiety which leads to biting.
So to prevent this, make sure they always feel safe.
Keep them in a peaceful room away from loud noises.
Always let your bunny know that you’re approaching. Don’t catch them by surprise.
If you will pick them up, let them see your hand above their head first.
This way, they won’t panic and bite you out of fear.
If your rabbit keeps being anxious, something else can be bothering them.
For safety, consult a vet.
#10: Keep them away from other animals
If you also own other pets that they don’t get along with, try to keep them away too.
It can be bad for your bunny if they’re always exposed to other animals they’re not friends with.
Warning: Too much fear can lead to a heart attack. If your bunny isn’t bonded with your other pets, it’s safer to keep them apart.
The scent of predators can also make them feel uneasy.
They can also catch diseases from other animals.
For example, a bacteria some dogs can carry won’t be too harmful to dogs. But for rabbits, it can be life-threatening.
This is why it’s crucial to consider tip #5.
#11: Take them to the vet
In case you’ve tried everything and the problem persists…
There’s a chance that your rabbit might be sick.
Something is wrong that keeps making them act out of normal.
Only a professional can give them the help they need. Don’t hesitate and take them to the vet immediately for their safety.