In the best of circumstances, rabbits are kind and gentle creatures. However, their affable nature is on full display only when they feel entirely comfortable and safe where they are. If your rabbit is feeling threatened, they are entirely likely to bite, scratch, and run away from whatever or whoever has bothered them.
Has your rabbit been biting you? If so, you know that it’s a very unpleasant experience. That’s why we put together this guide to explain why rabbits bite, how to treat a rabbit bite, and what you can do to discourage them from biting you again. By the end of the article, you’ll have a good idea of how you can handle this undesirable bunny behavior.
Why Rabbits Bite
Rabbit biting is an emotionally driven behavior. The four most common emotions that lead a rabbit to bite are:
All rabbits require a steady supply of emotional connection and playful stimulation. If you’re not paying enough attention to your rabbit or they don’t have enough toys, they may choose to nibble at you to get your attention.
Younger rabbits are especially prone to nervous biting and chewing. When they’re feeling stressed, most rabbits will chew, nibble, and bite at anything that’s near – including you.
When fearing for their health and safety, rabbits will sometimes lash out with scratches and bites. This is particularly common if you or your child are trying to pick your rabbit up too often or too quickly.
Hormones can play a large part in rabbits’ displays of aggression. If your rabbit has not been spayed or neutered, it is more likely to display its aggression by biting and clawing.
The Difference Between Biting and Nipping
While full-on biting is uncommon in rabbits, nibbling and chewing are everyday behaviors. When it’s obvious that your rabbit is not trying to break your skin or harm you, they’re more likely trying to initiate play or get your attention. Biting should be discouraged but nipping and nibbling are perfectly normal behaviors.
How to Treat a Rabbit Bite
Because they are herbivores, most rabbits’ mouths are quite clean. This means that a rabbit bite is unlikely to lead to infection.
If your rabbit has bitten you, follow the Mayo Clinic’s advice and wash the wound thoroughly with soap and warm water. Following that, apply an antibiotic cream and a bandage to the wound.
The Mayo Clinic also advises to seek prompt medical care if any of the following are true:
- The bite left a deep puncture wound or is bleeding profusely
- There is swelling, redness, pain, or oozing (signs of infection)
- You have any worry about the possibility of rabies in the animal that bit you
- Your tetanus shots are not up to date
How to Stop Your Rabbit from Biting
If biting is a regular habit for your rabbit, consider taking the following advice from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to stop it:
- Spay or neuter your rabbit. Rabbits that have not been de-sexed are more likely to display aggression and find it harder to create loving bonds with their owners.
- Spend more time each day interacting with your rabbit. This way, your bunny will become more comfortable with your presence and stop seeing you as a threat.
- Reinforce good behavior with your rabbit’s favorite foods.
- Make sure that your rabbit’s enclosure is large enough for them to move around in, and occasionally let them explore more of your home.
- Choose a rabbit hutch that lets your rabbit enter and exit easily rather than needing to be picked up.
Creating a lasting emotional bond with your rabbit takes time, effort, and persistence. The rewards of doing so are tremendous for both human and rabbit, making it a worthwhile endeavor.
Final Thoughts on What to Do if A Rabbit Bites You
While a rabbit bite may be very painful and unpleasant, it’s not often a sign for immediate concern. Follow basic first aid steps to clean the wound, then consider why your rabbit felt the need to bite you in the first place. By examining your rabbit’s biting behaviors, you can learn how to train them to interact kindly and gently with you instead.
Related Rabbit Reads:
- Why Does My Rabbit Shake? 11 Reasons & What to Do
- Can Rabbits Swim? Is It Safe, and Do They Like It?
- Can Rabbits See in the Dark?
Featured Image Credit: Roselynne, Shutterstock