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Thread: First time help needed.....

  1. #1
    New Kit
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    Default First time help needed.....

    Hi,

    I am looking for some advice and help with my rabbit - it's my first time having a rabbit and I want to make sure I am providing the best care possible.

    I bought my rabbit Alfie on Saturday - he's a 6 month old Netherland Dwarf Rabbit. I thought as a first time rabbit owner I should go for one a little older, rather than one a couple of weeks old. The breeder I got him from said he had been raised being handled daily by adults and kids and had been raised around dogs so he was friendly and relaxed. When I took him home he seemed understandably nervous, so I put him in his cage and let him get adjusted. It's a big cage, with everything he needs and we let him just relax in there. I tried to take him out so that he could run around and play and get some exercise but he totally freaked out when I went near him. Not wanting to scare him, I left him in the cage and let him smell my hands and then stroked him a little.

    I figure it's normal for a rabbit to be nervous to begin with, but he seems to be getting more and more aggressive..... to begin with he would let me stroke him, but now if I try he lunges at my aggressively and tries to bite. Last night he got me and bit hard - it bled quite a bit and is still throbbing this morning. I'm now really apprehensive about putting my hand near him but I don't want us not to bond just because of this.....

    He does need to be neutered, and I have an appointment for him in 2 weeks, but is there anything I am doing wrong? or anything I should be doing that I am not? I want to take him out so he can run around and get exercise but I don't want to traumatise him by pulling him out of the cage if he doesn't want me to..... is it better to hold off until he lets me pick him up, or do I just do it? Is it my fault? - Have I done something wrong to upset him and make him aggressive?

    Really welcome any help and advice!!

  2. #2
    Wise Old Thumper
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    Hello there and welcome to the Forum. Rabbits which are kept in cages do not like us putting out hands in in order to do cleaning or pick the rabbit up. He is scared and so on the defensive. Can you allow him to hop out on his own, it is early days yet so he will need more time to get used to his new home and new owner. When he is hopping out the best way to bond is to sit on the floor and let him come to you. Maybe have a healthy treat to give him. It is a slow process and most rabbits do not like being handled. You have to love them on their terms! Let us know how this progresses, there is usually someone around to help you.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for replying tonibun! His cage is on a table so he can't hop out on his own - his cage with his previous owner was at the same height and they picked him up daily to let him out for exercise so I thought it would be ok. Should I change this?

  4. #4
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    May I ask what cage you have? Lots of cages sold as suitable for rabbits are nowhere near large enough. How are you picking him up?

  5. #5

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    Welcome to the forum

    Seconding the above - your bunny needs to be able to hop out when he wants to rather than be reached for.

    Have you looked at the housing section - generally cages aren’t suitable for rabbits to be confined in and they can become very cage territorial and angry if confined. If he’s an indoor rabbit lots of people use puppy pens around the cage to give a larger permanent area and rabbits tend to like this a lot!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Babsie View Post
    May I ask what cage you have? Lots of cages sold as suitable for rabbits are nowhere near large enough. How are you picking him up?

    I got a cage which I was told was suitable for 2 dwarf rabbits so I thought it would be ok for one - the dimensions are 51 x 120 x 58cm - is that too small? it's a bit bigger than the cage he was in before and the breeder said he has never been aggressive before.... I contacted her this morning and she said that her 7 year old was able to pick him up daily and he would never fuss or anything.....

    In terms of how I am picking him up, I have been putting my hand in at eye level/in eyesight and then letting him sniff my hand first and then slowly reaching over to pick him up with the intention of using one hand underneath the chest/front legs and one hand to cup the bum/back 2 legs. I never get that far though cause he freaks out.......

    The breeder said he was probably just adjusting and to give it a few days..... does that sound likely? should I just wait and see? is there anything I should be doing differently in how I attempt to pick him up/pet him?

    He seem very relaxed the rest of the time - he is eating well, drinking fine, and is exploring in his cage and laying down relaxed with his feet out behind him (which I read is good, right?) it's just whenever I come near that he seems to panic..... maybe he just doesn't like? hope not!

  7. #7
    Warren Scout HouseOfRabbit's Avatar
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    If you think about it from his point of view it's more trust issues; rabbits are prey animals so are naturally wary then add in a strange person trying to pick him up (which rabbits hate) and a strange cage with no where to escape to then you'll get what you describe.

    What you need to do first is sort out the accommodation, a cage on a table isn't enough as rabbits need plenty of room to hop around. This video is good one to watch - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vvlb-prX4I .

    Building trust will come with time (and food) as well as letting him decide what interaction he has with you. Atm he's associating you with being caught all the time hence the panic. There's been a few threads on bonding with your rabbit so have a rummage through the forum.

    Oh and finally the primary rule of dealing with rabbits - you aren't in charge, they are

  8. #8
    Wise Old Thumper MightyMax's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sophieanne View Post
    I got a cage which I was told was suitable for 2 dwarf rabbits so I thought it would be ok for one - the dimensions are 51 x 120 x 58cm - is that too small? it's a bit bigger than the cage he was in before and the breeder said he has never been aggressive before.... I contacted her this morning and she said that her 7 year old was able to pick him up daily and he would never fuss or anything.....

    In terms of how I am picking him up, I have been putting my hand in at eye level/in eyesight and then letting him sniff my hand first and then slowly reaching over to pick him up with the intention of using one hand underneath the chest/front legs and one hand to cup the bum/back 2 legs. I never get that far though cause he freaks out.......

    The breeder said he was probably just adjusting and to give it a few days..... does that sound likely? should I just wait and see? is there anything I should be doing differently in how I attempt to pick him up/pet him?

    He seem very relaxed the rest of the time - he is eating well, drinking fine, and is exploring in his cage and laying down relaxed with his feet out behind him (which I read is good, right?) it's just whenever I come near that he seems to panic..... maybe he just doesn't like? hope not!

    Welcome to the Forum

    Just to top up the info you've already been given, I thought I'd point you in the direction of some helpful websites.

    This first one gives a lot of info on housing:

    http://www.therabbithouse.com


    General info:

    https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk


    Both are full of info for a good browse around

  9. #9
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    I'm really sorry that you have been sold this unsuitable cage: not your fault at all - it is the manufacturers and retailers at fault.
    The Housing section has some really good ideas, although we've had trouble with Photobucket so not sure whether the pics are still available.
    Basically, the minimum space recommended by the RWAF for outdoor rabbits is a hutch of 6ft x 4ft with a permanently attached run of 8ft x 6ft x 3ft high, so an indoor rabbit needs the same space, albeit a different set-up. A lot of people buy the very largest dog crate and then attach a run to it.
    Don't forget that breeders are coming at this from a different angle and their priorities are different.
    Rabbits should always have access to their run - ie should not be shut in the dog crate, without access to their run unless it is for their own safety and then only for a very short time. They are crepuscular and so the time they are most likely to be most active is at dawn and dusk. Many rabbits are still running around at midnight, and they need to be able to do so.
    When I had my outdoor rabbits, they never wanted to even sleep in their hutch but would be out in their run whatever the time or whatever the weather.


    You could certainly use what you have as a 'base' to be used as the hay filled litter tray, and then attached to a run made of panels.

    So I think you have a collection of problems which have added up to one big one. None is your fault, but you can take steps to improve things.
    First of all, I would put his present cage on the ground and open the door so he can hop out to you. Sit on the floor and let him explore the space and you. Don't attempt to touch him.
    Next, very important, is to improve his housing.
    Is he large enough to be castrated (have his testicles dropped).

    I hope I haven't put you off! The RWAF website gives lots of good advice on housing, food (importance of good quality hay rather than loads of pellets) neutering, etc.

  10. #10
    New Kit
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    Thank you everyone for the advice!

    Based on what you have all said I am not sure I am going to be able to keep him..... we just don't have the space to put up the kind of permanent run that you're talking about..... I have plenty of space outside but we have SO many foxes in the area, I am way to scared to put him out there....

    Babsie, in answer to your question, he is 6 months old - I have an appointment for him to be neutered in 2 weeks.

    I'll take some measurements tonight any see if there is anything I can work out, but it sounds like I'm going to have to find him a new home where he can have the set up he needs........

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