Quantcast

Help Support RabbitsOnline:

ashi_may

Member
Joined
Aug 25, 2020
Messages
7
Reaction score
6
Location
Oxford, UK
Hello!

Last September I rescued two young male rabbits, Binky a rex rabbit, and George a orange lion head (I’ve attached a picture of them cuddling together!) Upon adopting them I was told they had been bought for a young girl who had watched her old rabbit die, but she found having the two new ones too much as she was still deeply upset about her rabbit.

For the first few months they were incredibly loving, Binky would often come and give both me and my partner kisses and seek out our attention. George was more aloof and would only tolerate the occasional head stroke but would often come running when it was dinner time. They lived free roam, and we used a puppy pen to fence off half of the kitchen for them at night.

However around the end of November they seemed to become incredibly skittish and very nervous around people. We shared our flat with another person, who they had also gotten along well with, but towards the end of the tenancy she became rather off with my partner and I. We moved into our own flat at the beginning of December where we currently live.

Until about January they were incredibly well litter trained, even if George had accidents now and again, but now George seems to have gone downhill and doesn’t seem to make an effort to use either of the litter boxes we have for them, especially for peeing. Since November Binky has gotten worse in his attitude towards my partner and I.

We have always made a point of only picking the two up to trim their nails and for essential health checks and at first both tolerated it, but now Binky will scratch, bite and fight the entire time making it difficult to trim his nails or check him over. Food bribes do not work, setting him on a table doesn’t work, blankets do not work - he has chewed through them all! They often run whenever we walk by and thump their feet and it’s become upsetting!

We have tried everything with them since December, we sit and read on the floor, we have certain phrases we say to them when we come into the living room to announce we’re coming, we try to be as quiet and softly spoken as possible, we offer them treats as bribes, but I haven’t seen any improvement whatsoever- if anything it has gotten worse!

The only improvements we saw were when both my partner and I had very hectic work schedules (working away from home) and so we asked his Godmother who has had rabbits for 26 years to look after them for a week and a half. They seemed to mellow out and on the days my partner visited George even let him have a cuddle. I think his Godmother Wendy must have given off good rabbit lady vibes, because once they were back they were back to avoiding us.

The only thing I can think of is that maybe our old housemate was horrible to them when we weren’t around, which may have changed their opinions on people in general?

Has anyone else experienced their rabbit growing LESS fond of them over time? It’s become very upsetting as they were so lovely before - not to say that animals can’t change, but it’s almost worse knowing that Binky used to seek me out to give me kisses and now avoids me at all costs! I wouldn’t even mind had they been aloof from the get go as I know rabbits are not always affectionate and had fully prepared for this on adopting them.

They often binky and flop so it seems that they are quite happy being left to their own devices, and I’m more than happy with this, but the peeing on the floor and fighting against us when we try to trim their nails and health check them is becoming an issue and every day is starting to feel like an uphill battle and an endless cycle of feeling like they’re getting used to us and then back to them thumping and running away.

I’d appreciate any insight or advice that anyone might have!

Thank you!
 

Attachments

ashi_may

Member
Joined
Aug 25, 2020
Messages
7
Reaction score
6
Location
Oxford, UK
I forgot to add that we got both boys neutered incase that is important! George was exceptionally good at spraying up walls pre-snip 😂
 

Mariam+Theo

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2018
Messages
2,432
Reaction score
2,139
Location
Tennessee
They are super cute bunnies! I'm sorry you are having so many issues with them.

I think they are stressed which is turning to fear.
First, you moved. The new place had all new smells and spaces that the rabbit had never smelled or seen before. You also said that y'all just moved away from your housemate and they probably had a bond with her. Do you really think that she would have abused your rabbits when you weren't there? Could you ask her if she ever hit them, excessively held them, etc.?

Secondly, I think your work scedules have something to do with it. Rabbits normally have super strong bonds with their owners, so you not being there is probably stressing them out. How much time do you spend with them?

Third, how often did you hold them when they liked you? I have one cat that loved people when she was a kitten, but since everyone held her she now hates being touched. Do you think something like that might have happened with your rabbits?

Lastly, I think they have too much freedom. Since they have so much room they are able to avoid you. If you make it where they only have 1 or 2 rooms they will be forced to be in the same room as y'all. After the bond builds then you can add more space.

When you are bonding with them, put them in a puppy pen (so they can't avoid you) and sit on the floor so you are at their level. Try to avoid holding them as much as possible, and only touch them when they come to you. Read a book, get on your laptop, scroll on social media, etc. Keep a treat in your lap so that when they get brave enough to come over to you, they will be rewarded. After at least 20 minutes, let them back out. Do that until it is not needed anymore.

 

ashi_may

Member
Joined
Aug 25, 2020
Messages
7
Reaction score
6
Location
Oxford, UK
They are super cute bunnies! I'm sorry you are having so many issues with them.

I think they are stressed which is turning to fear.
First, you moved. The new place had all new smells and spaces that the rabbit had never smelled or seen before. You also said that y'all just moved away from your housemate and they probably had a bond with her. Do you really think that she would have abused your rabbits when you weren't there? Could you ask her if she ever hit them, excessively held them, etc.?

Secondly, I think your work scedules have something to do with it. Rabbits normally have super strong bonds with their owners, so you not being there is probably stressing them out. How much time do you spend with them?

Third, how often did you hold them when they liked you? I have one cat that loved people when she was a kitten, but since everyone held her she now hates being touched. Do you think something like that might have happened with your rabbits?

Lastly, I think they have too much freedom. Since they have so much room they are able to avoid you. If you make it where they only have 1 or 2 rooms they will be forced to be in the same room as y'all. After the bond builds then you can add more space.

When you are bonding with them, put them in a puppy pen (so they can't avoid you) and sit on the floor so you are at their level. Try to avoid holding them as much as possible, and only touch them when they come to you. Read a book, get on your laptop, scroll on social media, etc. Keep a treat in your lap so that when they get brave enough to come over to you, they will be rewarded. After at least 20 minutes, let them back out. Do that until it is not needed anymore.

Thank you for replying! When we moved we were aware that rabbits don’t like change, so we made sure to set up their “home base” with all their toys and didn’t wash any of the fabric items so that they all smelled familiar. They never spent a lot of time with our old housemate apart from when she would eat dinner at the kitchen table and maybe say hello to them. We did ask her whether anything had happened (even just them becoming spooked) when they became extremely skittish in our old flat very suddenly, but she insisted nothing had happened, however we can never be sure whether or not that was true sadly.

Our work schedules are not as hectic as I may have made them seem! That was the only time I have worked from home, that happened to be a one off where I had to cover for someone else and I only work part time (with that one instance being the exception!) as I’m also currently studying at University. So during term time I tend to leave the flat at 11:30 in the morning and return at 16:30. I usually have one lecture a day and spend a little bit of time in the library, but I have Thursday and Friday off so I’m at home. My partner works in theatres and so his hours vary but he’s usually at home for a good portion of the day, the only time he’s ever away is when he works at a different theatre where it’s easier and cheaper travel wise for him to stay in the area for a day or two (it beats having to get up at 3:30am to get there in time!).

As for picking them up when they enjoyed our company, again we refrained from doing so unless it was necessary as I know that prey animals instinctively hate being picked up, and I didn’t want to put them through any stress that could have been avoided. When people came over we even asked them not to pick them up despite how cute and cuddly they looked! My last rabbit also was not fond of being picked up, but she loved being petted and would often come and lay next to me for some fuss, which is what I half expected with these two given how loving they were to start!

When we’re home we spend most of our time in the living room which is the same area that we let the bunnies free roam, as we only have a one bedroom apartment. They are also allowed the hallway, kitchen, bathroom when we let them free roam which are all relatively small, but the living room is quite big. Every morning I spend half an hour, or more if I can, sitting with them whilst I give them breakfast when they will usually allow me to pet them lightly. Once I come back from university I open up their puppy pen which has a portion of the living room penned off to let them roam and I will spend time sat in their “area”. Then when we feed them in the evening we will hand feed them their vegetables, which Binky enjoys much more than George who is a bit of a fussy eater. My desk is nearby their penned off area and our sofa is too, so even if we’re not directly interacting with them they can hear and see us.

Whilst nobody is home and overnight we put up the puppy pen across the end of our living room and we open it for most of the day if we’re at home. Binky likes to zoom up and down the hallway and George will always come over to the sofa to investigate us and boop our feet with his nose. I’m beginning to wonder whether putting them in the dog crate with a blanket over that we currently leave open for them to rest in - which they love - would be good for giving them a bit more routine? I’m very torn on this issue as I don’t like the idea of trapping them as I know they’re crepuscular and so they’re likely to be quite active in the early morning (thankfully we can’t hear them from our bedroom if they are!) From everything I’ve read there seems to be a split on dog crates so I can’t make up my mind! I don’t want to try it out only for them to hate me more for it! If they spent overnight in the crate it would also mean that if there was an emergency we could easily remove them was another thought I had.

I really am stumped! I love them dearly and some days they have good days and others they don’t, and I’m beginning to think this may just be it!
 

Mariam+Theo

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2018
Messages
2,432
Reaction score
2,139
Location
Tennessee
I don't think it would be a good idea to put them in the dog kennel at night. It is such a small space that they would be confined to.
About their behavior, I'm not sure why they don't seem to like y'all. I know @Hermelin dealt with an aggressive rabbit that had trust issues, so maybe she will have advice?
 

ashi_may

Member
Joined
Aug 25, 2020
Messages
7
Reaction score
6
Location
Oxford, UK
I don't think it would be a good idea to put them in the dog kennel at night. It is such a small space that they would be confined to.
About their behavior, I'm not sure why they don't seem to like y'all. I know @Hermelin dealt with an aggressive rabbit that had trust issues, so maybe she will have advice?
We decided against putting them in the crate overnight as we don’t think it will help them warm up to us and it seems awfully mean!
 

ashi_may

Member
Joined
Aug 25, 2020
Messages
7
Reaction score
6
Location
Oxford, UK
A little bit of an update: the last few days have been much better, they have seemed more receptive of treats and much less skittish. They have both been letting me stroke the top of their heads a little bit, but I don’t want to push my luck by trying to pet them more than that. Binky will move his head away or push my hand away when he’s had enough, but they’re both seeming more interested in us.

I think it’s just going to be slow progress, but these last few days have been very hopeful and have made us feel like it’s not a lost cause!

We would still appreciate any more advice anyone may have, but things are looking much better!
 

Remy The Rabbit

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2020
Messages
200
Reaction score
160
Location
USA
Really sorry you have to go through this with your bunnies. Remy was a lot like this when I first got him too, he was skittish, warmed up to me, and then was skittish again. He hates being picked up and I stopped trying to work on it with him because he just is frightened by it and I want him to be happy!

What I did was actually ignore him. I'd let him out (he was in a cage at nightime, now he just kinda roams around in the room at night) and then walk away. He seemed to be confused by it, would approach me then back up and run around. Eventually, he would come up to me more and nudge me. I still ignored him. He got really annoyed and would run around me and demand for attention. One time I even got his food out and held it while ignoring his presence entirely. I gave in and pet him after a day or two, and he was fine with it, as long as he got his food. Not sure if this will work in your situation, Remy is a difficult rabbit to understand sometimes and I'm not sure what aspect of ignoring him (the no touching, the looking away, the sitting far away from him) made him warm up to me.

@Mariam+Theo gave some good advice, you could ask @Hermelin, and maybe @JBun if you are stumped. I only ignored Remy for a day or two though, not long enough that he just didn't care about me at all.

Another piece of advice is find something that each one of your bunnies LOVE or used to love in this case. Whether that be treats, getting pets, feeding time, a certain toy, etc. If the only way they can get it is through you and your partner, they'll have to make room for you in their daily schedule again, and start to cuddle and give you kisses once more.

I'm not an expert, and I'm sure others will have great answers as well! I understand how you feel, Remy and I went through this cycle a lot until I got the hang of it, don't give up! :D

Take care and best wishes ~
Remy The Rabbit​
 

JBun

Jenny - Health & Wellness Mod
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
Joined
Sep 10, 2012
Messages
9,307
Reaction score
4,057
Location
Utah, , USA
Do you know how old they were when you first got them? Also, how long ago were they neutered? Did the change of behavior happen mostly when you moved to your new place, or did it seem to start before you moved?
 

ashi_may

Member
Joined
Aug 25, 2020
Messages
7
Reaction score
6
Location
Oxford, UK
Do you know how old they were when you first got them? Also, how long ago were they neutered? Did the change of behavior happen mostly when you moved to your new place, or did it seem to start before you moved?
They were around 4 months old when we rescued them and they were neutered on the 3rd of October last year, so around 10 months ago. The change of behaviour started about a month before we moved, so about a month after they were neutered.
 

ashi_may

Member
Joined
Aug 25, 2020
Messages
7
Reaction score
6
Location
Oxford, UK
Really sorry you have to go through this with your bunnies. Remy was a lot like this when I first got him too, he was skittish, warmed up to me, and then was skittish again. He hates being picked up and I stopped trying to work on it with him because he just is frightened by it and I want him to be happy!

What I did was actually ignore him. I'd let him out (he was in a cage at nightime, now he just kinda roams around in the room at night) and then walk away. He seemed to be confused by it, would approach me then back up and run around. Eventually, he would come up to me more and nudge me. I still ignored him. He got really annoyed and would run around me and demand for attention. One time I even got his food out and held it while ignoring his presence entirely. I gave in and pet him after a day or two, and he was fine with it, as long as he got his food. Not sure if this will work in your situation, Remy is a difficult rabbit to understand sometimes and I'm not sure what aspect of ignoring him (the no touching, the looking away, the sitting far away from him) made him warm up to me.

@Mariam+Theo gave some good advice, you could ask @Hermelin, and maybe @JBun if you are stumped. I only ignored Remy for a day or two though, not long enough that he just didn't care about me at all.

Another piece of advice is find something that each one of your bunnies LOVE or used to love in this case. Whether that be treats, getting pets, feeding time, a certain toy, etc. If the only way they can get it is through you and your partner, they'll have to make room for you in their daily schedule again, and start to cuddle and give you kisses once more.

I'm not an expert, and I'm sure others will have great answers as well! I understand how you feel, Remy and I went through this cycle a lot until I got the hang of it, don't give up! :D

Take care and best wishes ~
Remy The Rabbit​

I gave the ignoring tactic a go last night and I think it worked! I put down their food and blatantly ignored them and Binky seemed rather offended and came right over and nudged my arm before he went and tucked into his food. George followed him and gave me a little sniff before going back to his favourite spot.

The treat strategy has been working wonderfully, for a while they seemed to lose interest in treats - or at least taking them from us and so we’d started just leaving them for them to eat in their own time when we weren’t looking, but this week we’ve been making a real effort to only give them treats if they come to us for them and this morning they both came running over to me when I came into the living room! Maybe they’re finally coming back around to us - fingers crossed!
 

JBun

Jenny - Health & Wellness Mod
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
Joined
Sep 10, 2012
Messages
9,307
Reaction score
4,057
Location
Utah, , USA
Because of when you saw this change of behavior happen, it's likely it had to do with them becoming adults, being neutered, and with the move to new territory. A combination of things happening all around the same time, and all pretty normal changes and behaviors in rabbits.

When rabbits change from baby to adult, they can become less attention seeking, less affectionate, more independent, more opinionated... a bit like humans :p Then add on top of that them losing their hormones, which for male rabbits those hormones normally add to the affection and attention seeking behavior, then losing that and no longer having that constant drive to find a 'friend' can cause a big change of personality as well. Plus you moved at this juncture in their life, which meant a complete change of territory for them. Lots of big changes for them.

As you build your bond with them, remember that your relationship with them as adult rabbits is likely to be different than it was when they were young. All part of the journey when having rabbits as pets and getting to know these unique little animals at each stage of their life.

Food is always a good motivator for animals. Seems like it's working and you are making progress. If you haven't seen these links yet, they can be very helpful in better understanding how rabbits think and behave, and how to better bond with them.
 

Remy The Rabbit

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2020
Messages
200
Reaction score
160
Location
USA
I gave the ignoring tactic a go last night and I think it worked! I put down their food and blatantly ignored them and Binky seemed rather offended and came right over and nudged my arm before he went and tucked into his food. George followed him and gave me a little sniff before going back to his favourite spot.

The treat strategy has been working wonderfully, for a while they seemed to lose interest in treats - or at least taking them from us and so we’d started just leaving them for them to eat in their own time when we weren’t looking, but this week we’ve been making a real effort to only give them treats if they come to us for them and this morning they both came running over to me when I came into the living room! Maybe they’re finally coming back around to us - fingers crossed!
That's great! Glad to see it helped! :D
 

Latest posts

Top