Understanding house rabbit behavior is very important if you’re going to form a strong, happy relationship with your rabbit(s). Most rabbit owners allow their bunnies into their homes. Some on occasion, some have indoor rabbits that live in their homes all year round. Co-existing between rabbits and humans takes some understanding, as does living with any pet.
The interesting thing about rabbits is that they were only domesticated around 1,500 years ago. This is recent when you compare this to dogs for example. Dogs were domesticated more than 15,000 years ago.
This presents both an interesting learning curve and some problems that are tied to their lack of domestication. Sure, your rabbit is going to chew on things and it’s hard to stop that. This is a sample of their wild behavior, and a reminder of how they chew and forage outside.
Looking back at the dog comparison it’s important to remember there are other differences between the two species. Rabbits are not subservient like dogs. They are not motivated by pleasing their owners. But this doesn’t mean you can’t form an incredible bond.
Finding a balance of letting the rabbit be free and enjoying their freedom, as well as respecting your home is the balance you’re looking for.
Do Rabbits Like Living Indoors?
Most rabbits live in cages and hutches. While this is perfectly fine, it’s really going against how they lived as wild rabbits. Domestic rabbits are not wild rabbits, this much is true. But they still enjoy freedom and the need to exercise.
Having room to play, climb, explore, and run will make your bunny a lot happier than a caged bunny. They will find and claim spots for themselves to hide and feel safe. They will also dig and scratch, which I will go into later.
If you have more than one rabbit you will see an interesting dynamic of interaction between them. They will play, groom and hang out with each other. It’s a wonderful sight to whiteness, and a real reminder that these are social, active animals when allowed.
Rabbits and Social Contact
Rabbits have emotional needs that need to be met. Social interaction with other animals and humans is a great way to do this. If you’re keeping several rabbits together you should have them spayed and neutered to keep the hormones in check. This will minimize the chance of inter-fighting and other issues.
Groups of rabbits will often form their own hierarchy and segment off into groups. You will see them strengthening bonds and becoming a lot more confident over time as they socialize with each other. This is normal house rabbit behavior when they are a few of them living together.
Often rabbits will form stronger bonds with each other and even draw back from human interaction. This isn’t a bad thing, you can still play with them. But don’t be offended if they seem a lot more interested in each other, it’s only natural.
Providing Rabbits with an Interactive Environment
Just providing space alone is not enough. Rabbits need physical and mental stimulation. This means providing toys and other items for them to play with, climb, explore, and jump over. These activities challenge their mind, gives them the chance to develop more character, exercise their bodies, and makes them all round more happy and satisfied.
Most houses don’t have dirt or grass inside for rabbits to use as they would in the wild. They love digging, scratching, and playing outdoors, a simple resolution for this is cardboard. Rabbits love using cardboard to chew, scratch, and shred. I’m sure you would much sooner see them using cardboard than any of your possessions, so invest in some.
Also set up some basic obstacles where they play most. I’m not suggesting you build a bunny assault course, but it’s not hard to put some hoops and small fences for them to hop over. As you get to know your pet better, you will be better at providing what they want.
House Rabbit Behavior – How to Deal with Indoor Rabbits Digging and Chewing Stuff
Probably the most difficult factor when it comes to living with an indoor rabbit is seeing possessions in your home being destroyed. Rabbits are incredibly adorable, they have soft fur, and personalities not matched by many pets. Yet, they will often destroy items with their incredibly sharp claws and need to scratch, gnaw and dig.
Chewing, digging, and scratching is completely normal behavior to rabbits. There are some measures you can take to minimize this however, and I will cover some of the most effective ways below.
Learning How to Discipline Your Rabbit
There is only so much you can do in the way of using discipline as a deterring factor. Rabbits are not overly aware of connecting what they have done to the action you’re taking. If you see them chewing a piece of furniture you can clap your hands and say ‘no’ firmly. Much like you would with other domestic animals.
There is no point doing this retrospectively if you find something has been chewed to pieces while you were out. It’s very much an action to give the rabbit a shock at the time they are doing something wrong. Then they should tie the shock to their actions in the future.
Using Rewards to Help Train Your Rabbit
It’s usually more effective to reward a bunny than discipline them. Most rabbits react favorably to receiving a treat, some fussing, or whatever they enjoy most. If it’s treats, make sure you’re keeping their amount of treats sensible and using healthy foods. We don’t want an overweight bunny, regardless how well behaved they are for it.
So next time your rabbit chews up some cardboard or one of their toys, give them a treat or two. Follow up with some fussing and you will have a very happy and content bunny.
Provide Items for Your Rabbit to Gnaw and Chew Indoors
You should already be aware that rabbits require a constant supply of Timothy hay to eat. There should always be some available in their food area, so keep a fresh supply.
Hay provides them with fiber and protein, two very important dietary requirements of a bunny.
This Animal Dreams product is one of the less expensive bundles you can buy over at Amazon. You get 1kg in a compressed bag, so this is going to last you and your pet a long time.
House rabbits need grass mats to dig on. This is the best solution to satisfying their need to dig and scratch, and will keep your carpets and flooring safe.
You can position these in their cages, or out on your floor in an area they are likely to scratch.
I also advise using these if their cages have hard surfaces. Some cages have wire on the bottom, or just hard wood. It’s not comfortable enough to just layer hay in there, these mats make the living conditions a lot better.
Either way, rabbits can be trained to use these instead of your furniture and items. Something I think you will agree is very important.
Cardboard Play Houses and Castles
Cardboard playhouses are the best way to keep them entertained and busy chewing and scratching too. There are some interesting designs on the market, and can provide some much needed stimulation and distraction from other items.
Take a look at this castle design in the picture. How can you resist picking up one of these for your bunnies to play with? They (and you) will have hours of fun hiding and playing with this.
I have bought a similar one to this myself before and I can say firsthand they are great. Rabbits never seem to tire of playing around with them either.
Providing all of these items should keep your bunny’s claws and teeth trimmed. Their teeth are always growing, and without the necessary materials to gnaw on they can grow out of control and cause some health issues.
Tips for Protecting Your Belongings from Your Rabbits
Even the most well-behaved and house-trained rabbits can give in to temptation at times. So you should always be aware of what potential hazards you’re leaving out that they might be tempted to chew on.
I know a lot of people who have come to realize that some important documents have been destroyed, which can be a real problem. As well as wires to electrical items being chewed, breaking important items and causing costly repairs.
Always put items out of the reach of rabbits. No matter how important they are, because there is always a chance they will eat or destroy the items. Which not only does damage to the items, but could cause your pet some issues if they are digesting bits of the item.
When it comes to furniture that you cannot move out of reach there are two options. One is to use a deterrent spray, this is usually a citrus or bitter tasting spray that’s designed to taste very bad for the rabbit and make them think twice about nibbling on whatever they are nibbling.
These are very hit or miss. Some bunny’s have proven to not care at all about the flavor. So it’s worth a try, but if it doesn’t work I wouldn’t be too surprised. In this case you need option two.
While not cosmetically pleasing to most option two is to fence off areas of your home you want to keep rabbit free. You can use puppy pens or other small animal fencing. It’s quick and easy to set up and take down, and doesn’t cost too much.
Playing with Your Pet Rabbit
Rabbits love to play, anyone who owns a bunny will be well aware of this. They all have their own personalities too, so as you get to know your bunny better you will learn what kind of playing they enjoy most.
If you’re new to playing with your pet, try playing fetch. If you’ve tried throwing a stick and are wondering why they aren’t retrieving it, it’s because you are going to be the one fetching. Give your bunny a chew toy and watch them throw it, then give it back to them. This can keep some bunny’s amused for long periods of time.
Another way to play is to drag a piece of rope past them. They will jump out and try to trap it, with some rabbits chasing this around the room. So with the benefit of fun, exercise, and a stronger bond, if you don’t spend much time playing, start today.
If you have nay questions about house rabbit behavior or anything to do with this post please leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer.