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The Rabbit's Nature
The rabbit by nature is a prey animal. Every sudden movement or noise can be indication that they are about to become dinner for another animal. Those rabbits that adapt to our world to protect them and provide food, water and shelter for them can become much more trusting and allow us to hold them and handle them, but their instinctive nature will not change.

Although many think rabbits are silent they are not. They can grunt, growl and squeal. It’s important to remember that many breeders keep their rabbitries quiet and free from visitors because of disease but also because rabbits are more comfortable with routine. Even rabbits that are used to an owner’s dog may become frightened by a strange dog.

Bonita is hiding between sofa and the wallThe rabbit’s large ears funnel sounds that could be a threat. This same keen hearing can tell an impatient rabbit on the other end of the row that you have started feeding! Rabbits have sensitive skin and can be quite tender when picked up. However rabbits also can bite and scratch especially if they feel threatened or are unhappy. Even a two pound Netherland Dwarf hurts when they put those little teeth into your arm! Some rabbits will also attack other rabbits that come into their territory.

Females (does) can be particularly nasty in this. New breeders are warned to always put the doe into the buck’s pen for breeding, never the other way around. Territorial does can injure or even kill a buck that is trapped in their cage and cannot escape. There are pairs that live together, but the introduction of them is important.

The flight instinct of the rabbit can make them “wiggly” to hold onto. Holding a rabbit to trim toenails, for example, is something that needs to be done but rabbits must be taught to accept it. Rabbits use body language much more than verbal language.

Some animals if they feel threatened or territorial will strike at you when you reach into their cage. One way to handle this is taking a towel, carefully getting into the cage and quickly throwing it around the rabbit to hold securely but not forcefully.

Children should be taught to handle rabbits quietly. No running near the rabbit or boisterous motions will help the rabbits be much more accepting.

Don’t hit your rabbit for discipline. As a prey animal that is ‘cornered’ it only verifies that there is something to defend themselves from and makes things worse. This creates a habit that could have been changed with the towel to a bite or attack which was prevented. Of course no one likes to handle an animal of any size that is a nasty little monster, so these rabbits are often not handled and that can mean not getting the care they need.

Bucks that circle your feet when loose are being amorous and may nip. Watch the ears – ears up indicate interest while ears flat against the body with tension in the shoulders indicate aggression. Rabbits startled by something new or threatening may thump their feet in warning. Some rabbits rub their chin on you as a means of marking territory.

The rabbit is a fairly silent animal without the barking or calling of other animals, but they maintain a very clear communication if we understand what it is! The rabbit’s nature doesn’t change with size.
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