Not all unneutered rabbits act aggressively, however, sex hormones in unneutered rabbits can trigger territorial and dominance aggression in females and males. If you want to prevent aggressive behavior from occurring as your rabbit reaches sexual maturity, neutering or spaying is a good place to start. However, aggression can be caused by other factors, including improper or inappropriate handling or illness-related pain. The good news is that aggressive behavior in rabbits can usually be curbed with appropriate human intervention.
Neutering Your Bunny
You do not necessarily have to neuter your bunny to prevent him from becoming aggressive, but neutering can help curb aggression. Rabbits may start displaying aggressive behavior as a result of developing hormones as they physically mature. A desire to mate can cause your unneutered bunny to display aggression toward other rabbits and humans. Most bunnies need to be neutered when they reach approximately 4 months of age.
The Sexually Mature Rabbit
According to House Rabbit Society, sexually mature male rabbits may display an assortment of aggressive behavior during mating cycles. The most common signs of sexual maturity in a male include circling you, mounting you or trying to bite you. Females (does) defend their territory more intensely at this time, displaying cage aggression by charging you as you enter the cage. If these behaviors occur, discuss spaying or neutering your rabbit with your veterinarian.
Aggressive behavior is often a side effect of mishandling. Aggressive behavior includes grunting, thumping, nipping, charging and biting. Rabbits can be territorial and some do not tolerate humans entering their living space. If a rabbit interprets you as a threat, he will likely bite you. Rabbits do not see well up close and may bite you if they think you're another rabbit or food. Sick rabbits may also act aggressively when they are in pain. Usually this type of aggression erupts suddenly. Bring your rabbit in for a veterinary exam if your previously docile rabbit suddenly becomes aggressive.
Handling Your Aggressive Bunny
If you have ever attempted to correct your bunny by hitting him, he is likely to behave more aggressively in the future, says House Rabbit Society. Your hands must represent and provide positive reinforcement to help turn aggressive behavior around. Deliver hay and gentle petting to reinforce the bond between you and your rabbit. Spend several minutes daily stroking your rabbit from the top of the head toward the back. Use long, slow strokes. Should your rabbit bite, train yourself to resist flinching to demonstrate that aggressive behavior doesn't work, House Rabbit Society advises.
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.