Bunny rabbits are glorious little creatures with quite complex and sensitive personalities. More is known about them than ever before which is great because understanding what a rabbit needs means offering them a great life as a family pet. A rabbit's behaviour is often very amusing but this changes as they grow older and it's the early days of their lives as well as how much interaction they have with other rabbits, pets and two legged friends, namely humans that dictates how they turn out to be as adult bunnies.
The first thing you need to remember about bunnies is that they are prey animals and their instinct to run and hide if frightened or scared in any way, shape or form is extremely strong – even in domestic rabbits. However, our lovely long-eared pet bunnies boast a superb ability to interact with people but in order for them to do this, a rabbit needs to be shown a lot of patience and gentle handling from a very young age for them to be totally comfortable and at ease around people.
Your bunny needs to have lots of places they can hide in whether it's bolt holes around the home they can run to if they are "house rabbits" or boxes where they can hide in their hutch and run. If you have just purchased a rabbit or rescued one from an animal shelter, the last thing you should do is place your new pet in a wide open space because it will make them feel very insecure.
It is a far better idea to put their pet carrier in their run or room if there are to be indoor bunnies so they have something familiar in their environment which will make them more comfortable and it will help them get used to their new home without having to go through too much stress. Open spaces offer no protection for your bunny which means they will naturally feel they are being threatened. The other advantage of leaving your pet's carrier in their environment is they get used to it so when you need to take them to the vet, it's far less stressful for your bunny to be put in a carrier.
You need to think about any other animals you might already share your home with when you bring a new pet bunny home and this is especially important if any of the animals are a rabbit's natural predator. Bunnies will feel very threatened by ferrets and dogs so you need to make sure they are housed well away from a ferret hutch if you plan to keep your new rabbit outdoors.
If bunny's behaviour suddenly changes and they display signs of being stressed or afraid and they run away and hide or turn aggressive towards you and any other pets in the home, then you need to do something about the situation straight away. It's important to establish whether your bunny is not in pain first so a trip to the vet would be in order just in case they have injured themselves. If, on the other hand they are aggressive because they are scared or stressed, you would need to find out why and then rectify the situation.
You need to invest in loads of fun toys for your rabbit because they tend to get bored with them rather quickly which is why it's a good idea to keep rotating the toys on a regular basis. This keeps your pet interested in them, however, you need to keep an eye on the condition of the toys to make sure bunny hasn't damaged them in any way which might injure them. If you find any toys are in bad condition it's best to throw them away and offer your pet newer ones.
One favourite pass time that bunnies can't get enough of is digging but this can be a problem whether you have an indoor or outdoor pet. The last thing you want is for your rabbit to escape into the great outdoors so it's important to set up a sandpit of sorts using child-safe sand for them to play in. You can build a sandpit in their runs for them to dig away to their heart's content but which doesn't allow them to escape.
For indoor bunnies you need to set up an area where you can place a sandpit whether it's in a garage, conservatory or spare room – but be prepared to clean up after your bunny has had their bit of fun in it!
A rabbit considers their home to be their castle and as such get very protective about defending it whether it's from another rabbit, pet or human. In order to ward off any unwanted "visitors" a rabbit will mark certain areas of their environments which is typically by urinating and pooping as well as rubbing their chins on things, it's their way of marking their territory. These same markings also help a rabbit feel safe and secure because these pheromones reassures them.
When you approach a rabbit in their hutches, you need to bear in mind you are encroaching on their territory so it's far better for your pet to come to you rather than reach it to get them which might just result in a nip!
Bunnies need mental stimulation and they enjoy being in different environments. If they stay in the same place all of the time, they get very bored which could result in a little unwanted behavioural problems. However, you need to get to know your rabbit before you start placing them in new environments because if you do so too quickly you could end up stressing them out.
There's a fine balance when it comes to offering bunnies new environments to enjoy and you need to bear in mind that in the wild rabbits need to have an intimate knowledge of the area they live in so they can escape from predators. With this said, pet bunnies too need to get to know the various places they live in so you should introduce them to new areas slowly. Subtle changes to existing environments works well but the one thing you should never do is leave a pet rabbit in their hutches for long periods of time - this is considered quite mean and cruel.
Rabbits are far more intelligent than most people give them credit for. As such they love interacting with people and can be trained using a reward-based technique. Not only will this help them keep in great physical shape but they will benefit from the mental stimulation too. The one thing you should never do is punish your bunny if they get things "wrong" like missing their litter trays! You have to remember they are extremely sensitive little creatures and you might end up scaring your pet which could affect the bond you have formed with them.