Danville Express

Living - October 12, 2007

The Pet Vet says... Dealing with a 'crazy rabbit'

by Dr. Heidi Strand

Q. I have a house rabbit and for the past five days now, she has been driving us all crazy. She will follow us wherever we go and nip at our feet and ankles or legs. She will even stretch up and nip at our hands and arms as well. Or if we are sitting down, she will climb up on our laps and be calm for a few minutes as she lets us pet her and then she will start licking our arms and or hands and then she will start nipping and sometimes it is quite painful. She has put holes in all of our couches. She has chewed up a few telephone cords and other wires as well. Will spaying a rabbit help control some or all of these behaviors? Also, do you think my rabbit would benefit from a companion (another rabbit)?

A. You don't say whether this is a new rabbit for you or if your rabbit was once house trained and now is acting out these bad behaviors. If she was once a good rabbit and her behavior has changed suddenly, you may want to have her examined by your veterinarian to rule out a medical problem.

It's true that spaying can help with aggressive behaviors such as biting. And the older a rabbit gets, the less they will chew. But it sounds like your rabbit may not be properly house trained. It's normal for rabbits to want to chew, and if left unsupervised they don't know they're not supposed to chew on couches and electrical cords. If you want to have a house rabbit you will have to either encase the cords in heavy-duty plastic or block them with furniture. Providing appropriate things to chew on and places to burrow, such as a cardboard box filled with hay, will help redirect her. Many people confine their house rabbit to a cage or small area when they are not able to supervise. Or consider confining her to a rabbit-proofed area with a baby gate.

When you are holding her, try to make it for short periods of time at first, because rabbits often respond to overstimulation by biting. You can reward good behavior (not biting) with treats such as raisins and apple slices. If she does bite, put her back in her cage and try again later.

Until your rabbit is spayed, she will definitely NOT do well with another rabbit. I would recommend that you wait to let her adjust to her current situation before adding another bunny to the mix. Rabbits generally like having a companion, but she will probably spend less time interacting with her human companions.

The House Rabbit Society has a lot of good information about house training rabbits at www.rabbit.org

pstyle:taginfo>-Dr. Heidi Strand is a veterinarian for the East Bay SPCA in Dublin. She has lived in the Tri-Valley for 10 years with her family and an assortment of four-legged friends. Questions can be mailed to 315 Diablo Road, Suite 100, Danville 94526; or e-mailed to hstrand@eastbayspca.org. Her column runs every other week.


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