We strive to offer opportunities for education in house rabbit care from an introductory level to the rabbits in our care are spayed/neutered before being made. sibilities you should know to take good care of your pet rabbit. Supplies Needed. • A solid-bottom cage. Don't get a wood cage, because rabbits chew wood. If your rabbit stops eating, or if his poops are smaller or fewer, take immediate action. Rabbits who do not poop or eat in 24 hours are in danger of dying. (pp.
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Basic Rabbit Care. Diet: A sound rabbit diet consists of fresh hay, good-quality pellets, and fresh vegetables. Anything beyond this considered a "treat" and. Vet care can be expensive so we encourage all adopters to obtain suitable Please don't be tempted to open the rabbit carrier on the journey home or try to. rabbit care This basic care guide will help you keep your pet healthy and happy. Brother Wolf thanks you! Rabbits are amazing pets and just like a dog or.
Both free-range rab- fare. Passive postures that characterize unpeeled willow and other suitable material. Saunders Last your vet for advice if you are unsure what applies but not least, you can see their personality and in your country. She became irritable and began to attack the cats who also lived in the house.
It shows how on the surface Peter Rabbit seems to convey a moral message that is in accordance with the norms and values of the Victorian society in which Potter grew up. Yet, to the contrary, it argues how through her illustrations Potter conveys a different message: In order to place the story in its proper context, I will first briefly explain the view on childhood in Victorian society.
The Victorians considered childhood as a unique phase of life. Ideally, children lived a life separated from adults. Materially the child wanted for nothing; the nursery was a treasure trove of toys and the child was dressed in the best clothes.
However, the caretaker's primary task was to keep the child separated from its parents. Emotionally, as patriarchal Victorian society demanded, children were not supposed to express themselves.
For their own moral good, children were to be silent and obedient: The child was a hardship, an obstacle to adult pleasure, and a reminder of one's baser self. Potter's upper class parents held on to this view to the extreme. Her parents' control over their daughter lasted until Potter was well into her thirties; they not only repressed her as a child, but also prevented her from socially interacting as an adult.
As a result, Potter had a complicated relationship with her parents and developed a profound desire to escape from her constraints, which is represented in many of her tales.
Potter was very well aware of this. She was a an artist, but at the same time she was a businesswoman. Therefore her story had to appeal to both children and adults. Potter had clear ideas on what the book should look like: Also, the book contains little text, mostly only one often short sentence per page, while every text page is followed by a page with an illustration.
As mentioned earlier, for its content Potter had to consider the ideas that ruled her society. Yet, the illustrations show a different story. Peter Rabbit is told by a third-person, omniscient narrator. Apart from a few lines of indirect speech by Mrs Rabbit and Mr McGregor, the narrator is the only one who speaks; Peter and his sisters do not utter a single word. Her subjectivity becomes clear in the illustrations, which play a significant role in the impact the story has on its readers.
The illustrations give a deeper meaning to the text and allow the reader to fill in what the narrator does not tell. They are obedient to their mother and do exactly as they are told. In the illustrations the three sisters always appear closely to each other or to their mother. One of the first illustrations in the book exemplifies the separation in behaviour and character between Peter and his sisters: Yet, Peter does not care about the possibly deadly consequences of his actions.
Potter, Beatrix. The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Penguin Group, While in the text the narrator objectively relays the actions, with the illustrations Potter evokes feelings of sympathy and endearment for the little rabbit.
After feeling sick from eating too much lettuces, French beans and radishes, Peter goes looking for some parsley to relieve his stomach-ache. Although the exclamation mark indicates a sense of urgency, the text remains objective.
Yet, in the accompanying illustration, compared to the imposing and cross looking Mr McGregor, the little rabbit looks vulnerable, as if Potter wants to show her readers that Peter is no match for the dangerous human.
In the next illustration Mr McGregor chases Peter while waving a rake, intending to catch and hurt him, which portrays Mr McGregor even more as the antagonist fig. In the events that follow, Peter gradually loses his human qualities and he is brought back to his natural state, the rabbit he actually is.
The shoes and clothes he wears are symbolic for the constraints Peter experiences. Once he has shed them, he is able to be his rabbit-self and escape. First he loses his shoes, allowing him to run faster: Yet, by wriggling out of his jacket, Peter is able to escape again. He is now a little, cuddly rabbit facing the dangers of a threatening human, turning him from a naughty boy into an innocent victim and at the same time into the hero of the story.
Potter evokes pity for Peter from her readers in the illustration where she portrays him standing against a door in the wall, looking desperate and lost, accompanied by the following text: Peter asked her the way to the gate, but she had such a large pea in her mouth that she could not answer. She only shook her head at him.
Peter began to cry. Through the illustrrations Peter does not only become the victim of a big bad human being, but also the hero of the story. All rabbits should rorist, I always recommend getting a rabbit that is be registered with a veterinarian and have their at least a few months and preferably over 1 year necessary vaccinations. At the time of writing, vac- old. Then you will have a rabbit that might have cination is neither necessary nor legal in some calmed down a bit, that might not have as great a countries, i.
Norway, due to the lack of particular need to chew and explore all your furniture and diseases. In other countries it is strongly advisable which might cause less frustration.
Already neu- but not legally required e. UK and USA. Contact tered grown-ups are also easier to litter-train. Last your vet for advice if you are unsure what applies but not least, you can see their personality and in your country. Preventive health care is neglected in rabbits, as revealed in the PWA Report. We hope this Many people wonder whether they should have a book will help rabbits by having more enlightened male or female. Rabbits are individuals, and gender and responsible owners.
However, one can see the differences between the sexes when hormones affect the animals. Choosing a Rabbit Un-neutered does might suffer from pseudopreg- Once you are convinced that a rabbit will be a suit- nancy while in heat, and consequently become able pet for you, you must find out where to obtain more volatile in mood during such periods.
This an appropriate animal. You also need to consider hormonal-related behaviour will cease after neu- whether you want a baby or an adult, male or tering, and aggressive tendencies and the need to female, one or two. There may be several not fixed. It does not matter if a rabbit is purebred or not, Rabbits adopted from an animal shelter or rescue as long as one is not looking for a show rabbit. However, all rab- If you intend on having only one rabbit, it does bits are equally beautiful, have similar needs and not matter whether it is a male or a female.
However, if acquiring two babies, one must be Broadly speaking, the larger breeds tend to absolutely sure of their gender, as they quickly have a shorter lifespan than the smaller.
Smaller become reproductively capable and mature. Small breeds, such as not necessarily able to accurately determine the sex Polish and Netherland dwarf, may be unsuitable for of very young rabbits, even if they claim to be able a household with small children who may wish to to do so. Conversely, the larger females and ended up with five extra kits some breeds and giants may be too big for a young months later.
One should therefore arrange a veter- person to pick up. Therefore, if you have small chil- inary examination of your rabbits in time to protect dren in the house, do not choose one of the small- against unexpected pregnancy and neuter both as est breeds as your companion rabbit. A child will soon as possible. Adopt a larger rabbit instead as they often seem to be calmer and How many rabbits? Rabbits are naturally sociable and it is strongly Rabbit breeds can be divided into five categories, recommended to keep them in pairs.
However, if and the mixtures will naturally have recognizable for some reason you have a single one, it should be ancestry and look fairly similar. There are various able to live indoors with the rest of the family.
Having rabbits in pairs will relieve choosing a breed. It is therefore neutered and bonded friends.
However, if you helpful to know the estimated adult size of the already have a rabbit in your household and want rabbit s to plan the housing for them. They may benefit from hybrid vigour 6 or at least the dilution of certain extreme features such as mandibular prognathism,7 mean- Breeds ing serious malocclusion leading to an under- There are many different rabbit breeds, and shot jaw. The American Rabbit Breeders Association avoid fur tangling and matting.
Photo courtesy of Ken Kitamura, Toronto, Canada as companion animals unless one is dedicated to Breeders providing the necessary daily grooming. Rabbits Those interested in a specific breed may consider with unnaturally long fur have no chance of main- contacting a reputable breeder. A quality breeder taining a clean and tangle-free coat on their own. Only social and well-balanced individuals should be bred from, Acquiring a Rabbit and a serious breeder should also be able to tell you about the different personalities and never raise Rehoming and rescues more than they have a ready market for.
There are an alarming number of abandoned and Unfortunately, anyone can breed rabbits and call homeless rabbits in need of new homes around the themselves a breeder, simply by starting with a world, and we therefore strongly recommend con- male and female. Although Breed societies and companion animal.
Numerous rabbits in need will governing show organizations exist for example also be privately advertised, because of allergy, ill- the British Rabbit Council in the UK , they do not ness or other unforeseen events. Many of them are inspect or approve breeders, so be aware that their also neglected and forgotten after their owners advice or standards are not necessary welfare have grown tired of them.
Regardless of the under- oriented and based on science. Always make sure lying cause, many of these rabbits will be advertised to gather information from reliable sources. Ask to see how the rabbits are living, including They are all individuals.
Their living conditions should be clean For those in Canada or the USA, please look at and spacious enough to exercise and be active in http: It is also important to know whether the site for adoptable pets.
Photo courtesy of Ken Kitamura, Toronto, Canada early age, otherwise they may find human contact of vets, owners and pet-shop employees in recent distressing. The advantage of buying from a breeder as A recent study investigated the knowledge and opposed to a pet shop is that one can see where attitudes of rabbit owners at the time of purchasing they come from. You can, by watching their par- the animal. The respondents revealed a lack of ents, see how big the kits will grow as adults.
Unnecessary changes of companion on impulse were less willing to neuter environment and diet may lead to an upset diges- the rabbit than if they had thought it through in tion and other stress-related ailments, especially at advance.
The sale of animals over the counter can there- fore be said to be one of the main challenges to face when working to raise the status and welfare Pet shops of the species. Many rabbits are purchased on impulse. People see a cute rabbit in the store and bring it home without Bringing the rabbit home knowing what is required for giving the little animal a happy and healthy life.
The knowledge and When the rabbits have moved into their new standard in many pet shops has unfortunately been home, let them become accustomed to their new poor, and customers have consequently received surroundings, sounds and smells. Remember that inadequate or wrong advice about their new they are a prey animal and naturally cautious and companion animal, although with increased education alert.
The rabbit will then get accustomed to your smells, movements and sounds, and become more and more comfortable with you and its new surroundings. When Available at: November He is now a content and social, archive.
Emilie Buseth, Norway pdf accessed 25 February Do not force yourself Welfare assessment in pet rabbits. Animal Welfare on them and keep in mind that they need to figure 18, — Give them time. Veterinary Clinics of Sit down on the floor and spend time with your North America: Exotic Animal Practice 7, — The rabbits 6 Spencer, R.
Journal of Heredity 72 4 , — Manning, P. If there are children in the and Newcomer, C. Academic Press and always provide the rabbits places they can hide Limited, London, pp. Veterinary Record 13 , With cats, dogs and horses, problematic tendencies in the animal have, to a greater extent, been attempted to be corrected through training, learning and adaptation, while in rabbits the prob- lematic behaviour is looked upon as either a defect in the animal or is seen as something quite expected.
Unfortunately it is considered normal for a rabbit to sit silently and be listless rather than seeing this as a clear sign of depression, disease, pain or lack of ability to do anything else. Photo courtesy of Marit Emilie Buseth, Norway iour, something of which we will learn more later in the chapter. Rabbits learn by use of by a horde of noisy and unpredictable tiny people.
If unable to manager of the popular visiting farm mistakenly flee, the rabbit will react by pressing itself against the interpreted as aggression, and for that the rabbit ground, becoming stiff with fear and making itself had to pay with his life. As a last opportunity it may attack.
Rabbit Behaviour, Health and Care 29 M. They do not bark when excited or scared, they do not meow when feeling hungry or offended, and they do not display obvious signs of discomfort. Their silent behaviour has developed as a result of the rabbit having Interaction between rabbit and human — Liselotte enemies on all sides.
As a sought-after meal they and Even. Photo courtesy of Marit Emilie Buseth, must always be alert, be as quiet as possible and not Norway attract attention. They communicate primarily through smell, but also have a visual body language and subtle expressions we humans can learn to not have to be carried around, lost, picked at and understand or at least pay attention to.
He was scared — and he defended himself. It is highly regrettable that petting zoos, which Abandonment Due should teach children about animals and how to to Natural Behaviour interact with them, are not aware of their responsi- Behaviour problems seem to be the most common bilities and show us how to treat various animals reason for the abandonment of animals.
Behavioural according to their natural needs. Just as with rab- issues, such as aggression, destructiveness and lack bits, children will also learn from their experiences. He moved into a collective with the surrender of animals to shelters. Undesirable three girls in their twenties. In make them aware of the need to provide for the the evenings he often jumped up on the couch to individual rabbit, cat or dog.
As with all species, rabbit behaviour is also influ- He gained control over his own body, which is enced by genetics. The parents should be confident essential for a rabbit to feel safe.
Genetic condi- with a rabbit companion with access to free roam of tions in combination with favourable, fortunate the house. And he has, since the day I rescued him, experiences is thus a good starting point for never shown any kind of aggression or frustration.
A rabbit that does Aggression in Rabbits not accept being lifted or carried around is after all just behaving like a rabbit. It is no coincidence that rabbits that are perceived Early handling seems to reduce fearfulness as aggressive are usually those living in cages.
Bad experiences will naturally enough in the cage or picking up the rabbit. This is not an Defining aggressive behaviour Aggression is derived from the Latin word aggredi strange rabbits, when it is rather an expression of meaning to attack. These characteristics clearly also suffer from misconceptions in this respect.
Jokk, Amos and Pentti behaving like rabbits in their great run. Many so-called aggressive rabbits misunderstood the species is. Fortunately it is easy appear to have severe tooth issues or ailments to both prevent and correct such behaviour. As is the case with humans, other animals will Most of what they are doing is thus motivated by also be more irritable during illness, and rabbits in the desire to preserve life.
Kits that bounce, run in pain will of course defend themselves against being all directions and throw themselves about in sudden lifted or having further injury inflicted. Their best to hide the fact that it is in pain or is injured. When rab- minimize its chances of being seen and eaten. It bits pop straight up into the air they are able to will not want to attract unnecessary attention by escape predators that hunt their underground bur- revealing itself as being weak and therefore the rows.
The rabbits build secret exits in the roof of easiest target in the group. This is also why your tunnels, which allow them to escape by powerful house rabbit will pretend that it is strong and jumps straight up in the air. The pursuers, however, healthy, even if it has been in pain over a period which are not as skilled at such vertical leaps, run of time.
This can result in both nervous and aggres- straight ahead and thus end up without lunch. Like the above-mentioned play activity, aggres- It is important to know whether the problem sive behaviour can also be understood in terms behaviour is due to physical conditions or not. When a rabbit per- If there is a physical problem present, this must ceives a situation as threatening, it will defend itself be treated before behaviour problems can be in one of the following ways: Rabbits will try to be invisible and remain perfectly still.
However, if the perceived Resource-related aggression danger is too close, they will try to run away and hide. They will only attack when there is no route Rabbits are dependent on both obtaining and of escape available.
They must defend The rabbit may feel vulnerable if it is experiencing their territory, their mates and their position within direct assault against the body, but also if someone the hierarchy, as well as their access to food. By is depriving it of important resources such as terri- being aware of this we can more easily understand tory, food, partners and hierarchical position. In the wild, rabbits must eat the most nutritious The four most common causes for aggressive behaviour4 food first in case they suddenly need to escape a fox.
It is also apparent that our domesticated rab- Pain from illness or injury. They may also attack the hand Redirected aggression. Not surprisingly, such food aggression is mainly Pain a problem for rabbits kept in cages, and a good Changes in behaviour may be motivated by differ- piece of advice is simply to provide the food when ent ailments, and a rabbit that suddenly becomes the rabbits are free range.
Rabbits living in cages aggressive should always be offered a complete or small enclosures must be allowed freedom of health check. These rabbits will want to put the bowl of pellets in different places often show a fear-related aggressive behav- from time to time.
However, it is not recommended iour, due to situations that provoke fear, such as scary hands, loud noises or unfamiliar fac- to be in a position where one must withdraw the tors, which rabbit owners misinterpret as hands in fear, since the rabbit learns that such an aggression during feeding. If you have a multiple rabbit themselves invisible or run for safety when in per- household, it is therefore advisable to sprinkle the ceived danger.
If they cannot escape the threat, daily ration of pellets on the floor, instead of pro- they have to resort to plan B, which is to attack. This is to prevent any chasing As is the case with resource-related aggression, and squabbles at the dinner plate. A common problem rabbit is present. Many people find that rabbits are terri- and bite the person trying to lift them. They also protect conditioning. Classical conditioning is a learning their position or rank in relation to other rabbits, theory that says that animals learn by using associ- but also against humans and other animals.
The rabbit sees the impact of various events Neutering will make these rabbits more manage- and thus learns by past experience. This means that able, as then hormones will not enhance their if it has an unpleasant experience of being lifted and behaviour. An old hutch is standing in the big run.
Those wild. It was malevolent.
It was impossible to who tell me about similar conditions for their approach it, it only attacked. When I tell people about writing this book, they I often get messages about impossible and gladly share their own experiences in relation to aggressive rabbits who attack. However, by giv- rabbits.
These movement, as well as the opportunity to choose so-called intractable animals were deprived of whether they want to be groomed by you or life and had to spend a life in solitude, often not, owners are surprised by the positive result. People to prevent or improve such conditions.
The rabbit has learned that running around in the Redirected aggression cage does not help, as he will be picked up regard- As with humans, frustration in rabbits might reach less, since it is impossible to get away. He therefore a point where it needs an outlet. Frustration as a begins to bite the hands that try to catch him. This result of being chased, being in pain or being seems to work well, for the hands disappear and the unable to obtain a certain resource, might result in rabbit can stay in safety.
He learns that biting is an agitated rabbit that bites an innocent bystander. Eventually he will the frustrations, feelings and impulses on people, attack as soon as the door to the cage is opened, animals or objects that are within range, or are and the rabbit is thus now perceived as aggressive.
It is like when someone has had a tral stimuli may trigger fear and attack. The rabbit really hard day at work and the resultant frustra- needs to respond to anything that may indicate a tion is taken out on innocent store employees or predator or an unpleasant situation. When they family. Rather than express the anger in ways that learn the sequence of events, they will gradually could lead to negative consequences, as in a quar- realize a chain of causal relationships and know rel with a dominant animal, the rabbit instead that it is smart to attack as soon as someone expresses its anger towards an individual or object approaches the cage, turns on the light or opens a that poses no threat, such as a subordinate rabbit door.
These seemingly innocuous stimuli thus pro- or a carpet. Such a waste of a life and Rabbits can show aggressive tendencies when the lack of opportunities to experience pleasure is they feel pain, and one must therefore rule out sad, as it is all about a scared and nervous animal.
My rabbit is aggressive! Lotte was apparently an aggressive rabbit and the rabbit had lived most of her life in a carrier should therefore be euthanized.
She was abso- and was being grabbed when least expected. The rabbit was biting her. Several members said that where to obtain reliable knowledge and wel- euthanasia was the best solution. Nobody found out that bit, and brought her home with us. She decided for herself when it was time to leave the car- rier, and she explored at her own pace. She of course showed no aggressive tendencies, and the next day she was already curious about her new humans.
She was less afraid of our hands, and we were even allowed to pet her gently on her forehead. As is the case for many neglected rabbits she was also hormonal, but she was neutered within a few days, and her obvious hormonal behav- iour ceased.
She was also longing for company and was Lotte is living happily with her two companion delighted when she finally got two rabbit friends rabbits. Photo courtesy of Marit Emilie Buseth, in a wonderful home for life.
Norway Dixie and Dexter are free-range house rab- toward something other than what actually bits. The door to the office is closed; otherwise triggered the annoyance. The cats were pun- they have a whole floor at their disposal.
The ished for the room being closed. Yes, Dixie became with no problems, but when they lost access friendlier, and the cats were once again to their own room, there was trouble. Although the litter tray and hay dispenser were placed in the living room, the loss of their room especially affected Dixie.
She scratched at the door and clearly expressed her frustration. She became irritable and began to attack the cats who also lived in the house. She chased her former friends downstairs, would no longer cuddle with her human and was generally in a bad mood. Not only was the door to the room shut, it was also occupied by another rabbit.
Little Pea had to stay there in anticipation of another foster home. Due to lack of space, he had to take over the popular room, something for which Dixie had not given permission. She was obviously frustrated and offended. One sees in these cases examples of dis- Dixie, the queen of the house. Avoid lifting or imposing cuddles on place. Radiographs of the spine, abdomen and them, but let them sniff around, examining the jaw should be included in a veterinary check, room and get an overview of the situation.
Gently stroke with fracture or brittle bones. A rabbit with a sed- them on the head while providing a treat, but let entary history in a cage will often develop a them run away if they choose to. Be patient, and deformed spine, making it painful to be lifted. Some might never understandable. Rabbits who have had little accept being lifted, but by respecting this you opportunity to move about should be offered may eventually be allowed to pet a formerly training by gradually extending the range they frightened prey.
Gradually the muscles and Treats should only be provided in these training bones become stronger, and the rabbit will be in sessions, so that the companion animal learns to better shape. One must never forget that rabbits are prey. All types of punishment or unintended reinforce- They should always have the opportunity to ment of inappropriate behaviour should be flee, as rabbits have a need to feel that they can avoided.
It is the desirable behaviour that should be be in charge over their own bodies. If they do rewarded. Available hiding places, freedom of of being lifted should not have to be picked up and movement and to feel in control over their own held constantly.
Let them, as previously shown, be feet and limbs are thus essential for a rabbit to able to jump in and out of the base themselves, so feel safe. This will make them free range in the house, either in a room or other more likely to embrace new positive behaviour confined area.
If the base is a rabbit cage, they patterns.
They will dependent on lifting them in and out of the cage. If react with fear, even in situations where they do the cage is on the floor, this is easy to achieve by not actually have anything to be afraid of, and leaving the cage door open. Once they have previously learned that aggres- sive behaviour is appropriate and functional, they must be given the opportunity to learn that they have nothing to fear and consequently do not need to attack.
The method outlined above shows in a simple way how the rabbit can build up a sense of control and thus learn how to be more secure towards their caretaker and general situations. Learning in a hutch It is not advisable to have rabbits living in cages without accompanying runs. However, this is unfor- tunately still a common way to keep rabbits, and it Harald inspects a human while Petter relaxes.
Rabbits are perfectly capable of understanding the outcome and see the connections of various events, and experiences are therefore essential. As a result of a causal association the rabbit might have learned that seemingly neutral stimuli may trigger fear.
If your rabbit becomes scared when you approach the cage, you should therefore only open the door and put some treats into it — preferably with gloves, so you do not need to pull your hand back if you are attacked. Repeat this until the rabbit is comfort- able with you approaching and opening the cage door. Gradually try to pet the rabbit on the back, preferably with a soft brush, while providing some treats.
This should be repeated in the same manner until the rabbit is confident and calm with the situation. Next step might be to carefully lift the rabbit above ground. Gently put the animal down again and reward it at once. It is important to get a gradual process and not proceed to the next step until the rabbit is confident at the level you are at.
If you move forward too quickly the rabbit can be more anx- ious again. When you finally reach the point where the rabbit tolerates being picked up, you When Bella and Lillos became free-range house rab- should continue with the amplification of good- bits, they became more confident and outreaching. Photo courtesy of Marit Emilie Buseth, Norway Animal charities such as the RSPCA generally anything else that could enhance her nervous receive numbers of animals showing signs of behaviour.
Instead, they were elated the day they poor husbandry. Many of these show anxiety, saw a rabbit with pointed ears and long body but by using positive reinforcement, rabbits sneaking around the living room exploring. The seem more secure and at ease after a while. She had been these people walking around.
As the weeks went rescued from a farm with an absence of con- by, she was more often out investigating, she cern for the little rabbit, and had lived her life in sought out the foster parents who sat on the floor, a dirty hutch. She had now been through a and got some cuddles and treats. After a few check-up, been neutered, and given an months she jumped up on the couch and begged enclosure she eagerly watched over.
The door for grooming, which meant they could also more was always open so that she was able to walk easily investigate the claws and body. She hid in the going, and it shows that it is important to be small cave and guarded her new area. Some rabbits can spend years trying to Her foster parents accepted that they had to recover, depending on the trauma, while others be patient, and they never tried to lift her or do are relatively keen and secure after a few days.
She have been perceived as aggressive rather than was in poor condition and very nervous of hands. Instead she learned that these hands She could lie down next to her foster parents if were not so dangerous after all. She could just flee they were sitting on the floor, but ran away as if they became too intimate and scary.
Lucy was soon as they approached her with their hands a bright student, and after a few days she played and tried to touch her. It is likely that she would happily and gave her foster parents permission to attack them, if she had not had the opportunity to pat her on the back.
Today Lucy is a harmonious escape, and the frightened rabbit would thus rabbit, living happily with her rabbit friend. Other Fear-related Behaviour care of them, as they might be afraid of being alone. It is obviously best to let them live with a Aggression is thus mainly a direct or indirect conse- fellow member of the species, but one should quence of fear.
Other behaviours may also be nevertheless spend much time with companion rab- motivated by fear, although not necessarily per- bits and teach them to be safe and harmonious ceived as problematic for the rest of the household. For example, a rabbit that never runs out on to the floor might just be scared. A healthy and contented rabbit will be exploratory and curious, since it is How Housing Affects Behaviour part of their nature to explore different areas.
Wild rabbits show a high degree of activity, and if your Rabbits are often confined in unsuitable hutches, rabbit does not make use of the opportunity to something that can deprive them of the oppor- sneak around, one should make the room more tunity to behave naturally.
Physically, a following accessible to the rabbit. Carpets on the floor and frustration might lead to digestive ailments and dis- some cardboard boxes or tables to hide under are eases, while mental stress may result in apathy and often all that is needed to make the rabbit feel that depression. Rabbits unable to be active or to experience Single rabbit kits may also tend to be clingy and pleasure will inevitably spend much of their time follow their people around. This can of course be sitting still.
What else is there to do? Such apathy perceived as very cosy, but can at the same time be may well be explained by learned helplessness, a an expression that the rabbit is timid and needs term in psychology explaining when animals learn closeness and a sense of security.
Often these rab- that they cannot influence the situation. Experiencing bits are taken from their mother and siblings too a lack of control might lead to the apparent failure early, and it is therefore important to take good to respond in future situations.
However, a passive and leth- argic rabbit is not a cheerful rabbit. They should be investigating, be curious, active and alert, they should dig and chew, jump and run at full speed and throw themselves on their side in total relaxation. Anyone living with a free-range rabbit is aware that they have a fuller behavioural repertoire and seem happier than those kept in cages. Photo wider variety of behaviour and level of activity than courtesy of Katarina Vallbo, Sweden those being kept in a conventional hutch?
The researchers and are thus more flexible in terms of when they concluded that the rabbits had far better welfare in are awake.
It is shown that rabbits living with artifi- the pen or run-around system than in the hutch cial lighting will be influenced and develop slightly alone, and that the pen system was the best option deviant circadian rhythms compared with those to exert their natural behaviour. A hutch is them to relax while the remainder of the family is not enough! A relaxed rabbit will often rest on its side or belly with hind legs well stretched out.
They may also sleep with both the front and rear legs well rolled under the body. A rabbit who falls asleep may twitch, have fluttering eyelids and look as if dream- ing. Some snore, others are quiet and some look quite dead. However, all sleep lightly, and if they become aware of a hazard, they are gone in a flash. It may sound obvious, but sur- prisingly many believe there is something wrong with their rabbits when in fact they only behave like Torsan digging in the garden.
Photo courtesy of rabbits. They will have a need to dig, whether in a Elise Lier, Norway corner of the kitchen, in the garden or in a card- board box. Rabbits also tend to taste wires, and Rabbits are creatures of habit. They eat and sleep some help themselves to book covers and mould- at roughly the same time every day, they will soon ings in the process.
This is something of which one learn when the household gets up in the morning, must be aware, but there are also practical solutions when they tend to come home from work, that to such challenges, so that both rabbits and humans they often sit on the sofa watching TV at night and remain satisfied.
Read more about rabbit-proofing when it is time for pellets. You will also see that of the home in Chapter You will see that they have approximately the Rabbits will graze about half of the time they are same behaviour as their wild predecessors, since awake.
The con- needs and behaviour to any extent. Wild ferred activity, which also prevents boredom. In good time before serv- ing, actually one hour in advance, they eagerly run around, especially two of them who sit and stare into the closet where food is being stored, and they appear pretty stead- fast.
Similarly, I hear of other rabbits that also are very concerned to maintain routines. Rabbits that are offered a diet based on grass and Balder and Frigg are best friends. Photo courtesy hay exhibit less abnormal and stereotypical behav- of Marit Emilie Buseth, Norway iour than rabbits who eat large quantities of con- centrated supplemental feed. One should not utilize the supplementary food properly, both with bathe or wash rabbits.
If they are dirty and suffer from a stinky bottom, one must gently regard to behaviour and physiology. Studies sup- flush and clean the area with lukewarm port this contention by showing that evening meals water, cut off any dirty fur, clean up their prevent undesirable behaviour, such as chewing on litter tray and improve their diet and condi- the bars, destroying furniture etc.
Read more tions. A healthy rabbit with a grass- and hay- about nutrition in Chapter 6. They groom themselves and their part- ners persistently, and the hygienic animals will not need our assistance to stay clean. Such Rabbits are naturally active animals. Domesticated mutual care relaxes, and strengthens the bond rabbits also need to channel this energy, whether between, rabbits.
They demonstrate affection while through running around, jumping up on a table, grooming each other, and if you receive attention digging or chewing. They do not chew on fur- niture for grinding their teeth, as many seem to believe, but to explore the world through taste and texture, to build up strong muscles of the jaw and because it is fun.
The action itself is also carried out with the incisor teeth, not the cheek teeth, and has therefore no effect in keeping tooth length short read more about grinding movements of teeth in Chapter 5.
Rabbits also like to dig. Instincts help wild rabbits to create underground tunnels and burrows in nature, and this urge to dig, organize and arrange is still held for our companion rabbits. This is evi- dent when your rabbit sits on the parquet floor, digs under the couch and makes holes in the garden or goes mad inside a cardboard box. A healthy and confident rabbit will often be active.
Rabbits living in adapted pens along with one or more of their own species have significant welfare benefits com- pared to those housed alone in cages. They also exhibit less stereotyped and aggressive behaviour when they have better living conditions.
By living There is a lot going on in here! Photo courtesy of with other rabbits, they will have the opportunity to Katarina Vallbo, Sweden satisfy needs and behaviours they cannot possibly find an outlet for in solitude. Nervous rabbits also seem to increase in confidence when supplied with a rabbit partner.
Rabbit Appeasing Pheromone RAP may be Many observe that the rabbits run around in the used to calm down stressed and nervous rab- morning. Why dash around the apartment or yard? Pheromones are released and seem to Do they play? Do they exercise in order to stay fit? Probably it is a combination of the above. However, what is certain is that the rabbits seem to be enthusiastic, and socially housed rabbits seem to run in some kind of procession or parade.
At night you will see the corresponding change in activity level. They will run and use their bodies, explore cardboard boxes, jump up on the couch, sneak around the house and occasionally take some well-earned breaks. Communication Rabbits are intelligent animals. They are aware of Lars chinning a straw. We should, municate and influence the behaviour of other however, be aware of their subtle, visual body lan- rabbits. Chemo-signalling through the urine and drop- Rabbits need rabbits for communicating satisfac- pings makes it possible to communicate with torily.
They will signal and understand each other passers-by of the same species, signalling both primarily by the use of smell. Pheromones, which gender and ranking within the group. Different Presses itself against the ground: A submissive Exposes its back-end: If the rabbit turns his rabbit will make itself as small as possible so as back-end towards you this may mean that you not to appear threatening. A frightened rabbit have insulted him. Either the be tensed and its eyes pushing outwards.
The rabbit warns that it will attack. Ears held backwards with opening held into the The rabbit will try to sort things out in advance body: Indicates dissatisfaction. It should be noted that Shakes its head: The rabbit may be irritated; while sleeping, many rabbits also keep their ears either it senses an unknown odour or has been held backwards in the same way.
A satisfied rabbit. Pushes with its snout: The rabbit may push on Ears pointing forward, low body and sneaky-like your foot or hand to get your attention and to movement: A curious rabbit who is on a discovery be petted. In the same manner, when it has had mission. It may also try to Stands on its hind legs and looks about: An alert tell you that you are in its way. Nipping or biting: This might mean that it wants Licking humans: The rabbit is grooming you — this you to move.
The rabbit may also ask to be left is a sign of affection. Baby rabbits Moves nose quickly back and forth: Shows will also nip and taste different materials. Sniffing calmly indicates a Presentation: The rabbit will present itself by relaxed rabbit whereas quicker movements sticking its head out at you, laying its chin on the mean that the rabbit is aware.
This to be petted. The rabbit would like to be stroked disappears after neutering. Rubs its chin on objects: The rabbit marks what is Runs around in circles: One rabbit may run cir- considered to be theirs. New areas especially cles around another rabbit, or even your foot, must be explored.
Rabbits have scent glands while humming softly. This is called therefore after neutering. Throws itself onto its side: The rabbit is relaxed Nips out her own fur and builds a nest: Female and quite satisfied. Sign of stress. It is both frustrating and tire- Need for improvement in the environment and some for the rabbit.
Neutering inhibits this behav- living arrangement. Stands on its hind legs: The rabbit is alert, atten- Tidies up: Many rabbits love to grab and throw tive and is getting an overview. The tail is under their chins. Rabbits also spread information usually erect, and it should be regarded as a warn- by leaving business cards in the form of droppings ing signal. The rabbit may attack. A sound that may resemble an glands under their chin and the anus.
For example, when it sonal information. The toilet, which is situ- Grinding teeth: When the rabbit is grinding its ated outside their actual burrow, tells other rabbits teeth, it is a symptom of pain.
The vides information about its residents. Males with high position in the hierarchy will Can be heard when grooming the rabbit. They will therefore be able to spread their scent over larger areas than the Few people will hear a scream from their rabbits.
The females seem to spend I have however; when we have rescued rabbits, more time in the toilet, they groom themselves and I have sometimes heard the heart-rending cry. It is consequently spread their smell. The males, in par- traumatic to be caught, and the rabbits are probably ticular, will also urinate directly on selected does or afraid of being eaten. Fortunately there is no real partners; an example of hormonal marking that will danger for these rabbits, and most of them relax cease with neutering.
Rabbits also have a visual expression. Different positions on the body and ears will have a specific meaning, and since it can be frustrating for everyone Behavioural Needs and Welfare not to be understood, you should try to read the I approach the question of welfare based on rabbit as well as possible. Rabbits with engineered whether the animal is able to perform natural features, like lop ears, will be less able to communi- behaviours.
However, all natural behaviour is nei- cate by the means of ear position. Rabbits who ther necessary nor desirable for our domesticated look more like their wild predecessors, with moving and hopefully safe rabbits. One example is flight and standing ears, will find it easier to express reactions due to real or perceived predators, themselves in this way. It is therefore important to dis- tinguish between different types of behaviours The sound of a rabbit and needs.
They have, however, cer- very important. Researchers distinguish between tain sounds they use in their communications. The ultimate and behavioural needs. The ultimate needs best known is probably the characteristic thumping. The close to fellow members of the species. Animals others in the colony perceive the warning signal, have thus both ultimate and behavioural needs that and can as a consequence run and hide. Rabbits also express themselves through other In the wild, ultimate and behavioural needs will sounds: A rabbit will both move The rabbit scream: The high and piercing and interact with others whilst out grazing.
The sound is needs are taken care of. Photo courtesy of Marit Emilie Buseth, Norway twigs and stones. Two abandoned rabbits had multi- plied, the mother was hit by a car and killed, and we had to save the remainder before the autumn set in. The kits, who were 3 to 4 weeks old, already seemed to have basic knowledge about rabbit behaviour.
They popped into the burrow imme- diately when a warning was stamped. The father watched over his twig kingdom and three chil- dren. Although he was quite confident and contact-seeking, we would not take him before the little ones were safe. Hans, as we called him, often sat 4 or 5 m away from the mound and had an overview of the situation. When we approached one of the kits, he always thumped. Photo courtesy of Instantly the kits were safely back in the twig pile.
Marit Emilie Buseth, Norway Similarly, one can see that house rabbits will alert each other. Although there is no immediate The animal charity in Norway Dyrebeskyttelsen danger of being attacked by hawks in an apart- has repeatedly experienced how good the rab- ment, rabbits are careful animals. Rescue operations thump following perceived hazards, whether are far more challenging when there are more they are alone or in a group, and rabbits living in rabbits involved, since rabbits constantly make big farming or breeding systems can similarly trig- each other aware of what is going on.
If one begins This was particularly evident when we had to to stomp, this consequently rubs off on others, rescue a rabbit family that had settled in a pile of and finally the whole farm stomps in anxiety. Read about iour.
The abnormal is taken as the normal, and it is social needs of rabbits in Chapter 4. They ing good welfare. If performance of such needs is will jump or sniff around, eat hay, lie stretched out prevented over an extended period of time it might and have harmonious contact with people and other lead to frustration and ultimately suffering.
However, many are subjected to stress, and Experiments have confirmed how important it is to it is important to recognize the signs of such behav- have an outlet for certain behaviour and that this is iour so that one can improve the situation. For example, an experi- There are many who do not know that an animal ment examined burrowing behaviour in laboratory is also experiencing stress and suffers as a result of mice.
However, stress in rabbits is often a reaction to equal regardless of whether the mice had access to the lack of stimuli, poor housing conditions, boredom, previously constructed burrows or not. This sug- travelling, having to attend a show, intimidating gests that the mice need to dig and that the possi- surroundings, unfamiliar animals, absence of oppor- bility for doing so is important for their welfare.
A study revealed that calves and poor husbandry in general. The abnormal suck- situation. When they do not get to live out their ing behaviour of the calves and the digging mice natural needs and are prevented from having a shows that an animal can be highly motivated to normal life, the rabbit tries to cope with a life perform behavioural needs.
Personal hygiene and care may cease, or they might pluck out their own fur and groom themselves constantly. These different symptoms of stress- Stress related challenges must be taken seriously.
When rabbits lack control and are Many wonder why rabbits are behaving as they unable to express their natural behaviour, they are do. They notice rabbits gnawing and tearing the likely to develop abnormal behaviour. A depressed mesh of a cage, and think that this is normal for the rabbit will seem apathetic, a frustrated rabbit might species and that there is nothing to worry about. Repetitive and seemingly coping methods to manage their lives.
Strategies meaningless behaviour like the above example is for dealing with such inadequate living conditions considered stereotypical and problematic. Skipping may be reduced responsiveness or stereotypical back and forth in a small cage, circling around their behaviour. Stereotypies are behaviour patterns that own body and plucking fur from themself may be are repetitive and have no goal or function, such as examples of a rabbit who tries to deal with an bar biting or circling in the cage.
Such abnormal abnormal situation in captivity. Fortunately it was summer, so many of the ani- mals lived outdoors, and with flexibility and com- mitment, Fuzball also got to stay in her home. He actually ended up having most of the main floor available, and seemed delighted about his new living situation. Indeed, he had to share the floor with four cats that went in and out as they pleased, but he accepted the cat situation.
Fuzball always wanted to be a part of what happened and showed himself as a social and friendly rabbit. He did not eat walls or taste any furniture either, and had obviously bene- Fuzball, a misunderstood rabbit. Photo courtesy fited from a more stimulating environment. He had, cor- Fuzball was found in a basket with cushions. Despite good intentions, the living prised shop assistants. He The Norwegian animal charity Dyrebeskyttelsen needed company, the ability to run on anything was contacted and the lost property got a tem- other than a smooth floor, as well as cardboard porary room in a foster care.
However, after a boxes and chew toys he could destroy. However, He tore off the wallpaper, made holes in the wall, like all rabbits, he just needed a social and and was given to someone else who also experi- stimulating life to be happy. The rabbit was thus Fuzball is by the way still a happy boy, living returned to Hege, who led the rescue operation. One cannot compare prey species with carnivores. We recognize the Rabbit play looks beyond definition. Vigorous amusing activity when we see a cat who enthusias- body pirouettes and head flicks may look like some tically tries to catch a matchbox dangling from a kind of convulsion but is actually a rabbit having piece of string, or when dogs are play fighting with fun.
Running around at high speed or twisting the their caretaker. However, in other animals, it may head and body in opposite directions are examples be more challenging to recognize and determine of rabbits demonstrating enjoyment.
Are they whether it is play or other behaviour that is playing? I would say so, and so would most people observed. Rabbits will not hunt balls or chase rolls observing such contented individuals. Not all rabbits of toilet paper, and because of that many people jump in the air when delighted, some are content perceive them as boring animals.
Kittens take the hunting licence test when fighting with curtains, dogs are learning how and when to use aggression when play fighting with their caretaker, and rabbits, on the other hand, are practising their abilities to escape predators, when zigzagging or turning around in mid-air. The impressive body control and flexi- bility rabbits are developing is crucial throughout their entire life.
We thus see that play has long-lasting positive effects on the development of animals, but it also provides immediate results, such as confirm- ation of the social order and physical fitness.
Rabbit play. Photo courtesy of Elise Lier, Norway Some forms of play can simply be under- stood as evolutionary behaviour, while behaviour is a prime example of one of the three other play cannot be said to have any pur- categories of non-human play: In the evening, when I have seated as running, leaping, shaking, twisting and other myself comfortably in the sofa, Melis sneaks seemingly erratic movements, and is typical for up to a table.
She is very well aware that it species subjected to predation. A rabbit having a is forbidden to gnaw on this furniture, and binky, or simply just a head flick, is thus playing. When I finally get up to stop her, she animal acquires food. This means that a predator runs joyfully and twists in the air. It is as if she is laughing out loud. When I sit back down, may use a live animal as a toy, like when a cat she sneaks up once again, and according chases and tortures a mouse without killing or to Melis, it is just as much fun every time eating it.
I am forced to get up. Most people are familiar with play-fighting in dogs, both with the care- taker and other members of the species, and because of their outgoing behaviour and close relationship with humans, dogs are known as eager and enthusiastic animals.
Because of this, many people find it easier to interact with a cat, dog or even a rat. Their predatory play may include the caretaker to a greater extent than is the case with rabbits.
This is likely the reason why a significant number of chil- Even goes haywire. Photo courtesy of Marit Emilie dren become disappointed and bored with their Buseth, Norway rabbits, and makes this knowledge a key issue to prevent abandonment. Play will only occur in a stress-free environment.