Boxing & Grunting
Remember: Yes, bunnies can get mad. And a mad bunny can grunt, box, and, in a few circumstances, bite. No matter how badly your bunny behaves, it is never a good idea to try to physically discipline your rabbit. Not only does it not work — it can kill your rabbit. Rabbits have been designed to be easily frightened and broken; never physically discipline your rabbit. You and/or your rabbit could end up seriously hurt and your rabbit will end up terrified of you rather than your loving companion.
Rabbits use several different ways to communicate. Grunting and boxing are two forms of behavior used among rabbits to express their dislike at another’s actions.
Grunting is a rabbit’s way of expressing displeasure with whatever you are doing. If it goes unheeded, it can be the prelude to boxing or biting. When a rabbit grunts, evaluate the situation. Has my rabbit been spayed or neutered? If not, this often eliminates a lot of bad behaviors. Make sure that you have a rabbit knowledgeable vet perform the surgery. Is there another way that you can achieve what you need to without upsetting your fuzzy family member? If cleaning out their space, remove them before continuing. Most rabbits don’t appreciate their stuff being messed with. Are you attempting to place food in their housing? Try offering reassuring pats while placing food in the cage. Are you trying to pat them? It could be they just don’t feel like getting the head pat right that moment; just wait and try again later. Does bun only grunt when you reach into his/her housing? Give bun more out time and/or larger housing accommodations. If bun is grunting frequently, then it is time to unlearn the behavior.
When bun is grunting, stop what you are doing and reassure them that you mean them no harm with a calm, soothing voice. Patience is a virtue when it comes to helping your rabbit unlearn behaviors. Is bun bored and lonely? Rabbits are social animals and really enjoy having a friend of their own. A bunny date could help alleviate some of the aggression. Giving a small treat when bun does good helps to reinforce the right behavior. A treat can be a piece of favorite greens like carrot tops, parsley or cilantro. Limit giving too many fruit treats as they are high in sugar which not only can cause your bun to become obese from eating too many, but also can cause loose stools. You could give half a piece of mini sized shredded wheat (the kind without frosting) as a special treat. The buns seem to really love this once they discover it. Above all, remember that the grunting means they are not happy with your behavior not you personally.
Here’s a great little video of Vivian the Bunny, who makes ‘blanket mounds’ that she’s very protective of. Vivian’s owner tried to capture the process, but instead captured some great video of Vivian growling / grunting and lunging at the camera in obvious annoyance. We think the video is both highly entertaining and very informative!
In this corner, weighing in at 4 pounds…
Boxing is when a rabbit shifts its weight to its hind legs and uses it front paws to dig at you. This is a defensive measure meaning that you are to back off. Once again, they are only stating that they don’t like your behavior and not you personally. When they do this, make a loud noise and say “No Dig!” Be consistent and just as quick to offer praise as soon as they stop the behavior. Evaluate their play time outside of their housing and the actual size of their housing. More time out to exercise and/or a larger living space could possibly be warranted. Another route to consider is getting your bun a friend. As stated above, rabbits do so much better emotionally and physically when they have a friend to share their world with. Bored rabbits often act out in many different ways.
Check out ourlist of rabbit behaviorsand what they mean.
More information on rabbit aggression
Try Tellington TTouch
Tellington TTouch is a method of physically interacting with your rabbit to help calm and socialize them.