Even though rabbits are capable of climbing, they are not known to be particularly fond of heights.
However, it is essential for you as a rabbit owner to know if rabbits suffer from fear of heights and how to recognize it in your pet.
You will find out in this article!
Truth or myth: Are rabbits afraid of heights?
Yes, rabbits have a fear of heights.
This fear is genetically predisposed, just like many other fears.
However, rabbits are not primarily afraid of falling from a great height, but they get very panicky as soon as they can no longer feel the ground under their paws.
This type of panic also shows up clearly when you hold your rabbit.
Just holding your rabbit causes it to go into shock and may even cause it to go completely crazy.
But what is the cause of this great panic, in which situations does it occur and can this fear be overcome somehow?
All this you will now learn in the coming sections.
Reasons for rabbits’ fear of heights
Rabbits are naturally flight animals.
For this reason, it is perfectly understandable if your rabbit panics when it is at a great height.
Because at that moment, your rabbit’s escape options are severely limited.
As long as your rabbit has all four paws on the ground and its surroundings are spacious, your rabbit can act immediately by escaping if danger suddenly appears.
However, if your rabbit is in a small, fenced area, on a hill, or even lifted into the air, it will not be able to escape.
It doesn’t matter if there is a real danger at that moment or not: just the knowledge that your rabbit would not be able to escape now is enough to make it panic. It will do everything to be able to move freely again.
However, there is another reason that will cause the rabbit to panic when it is lifted into the air.
Birds of prey!
Yes, there are indeed some large birds of prey that will not shy away from chasing rabbits, grabbing them and flying off with them to later consume them themselves or feed them to their offspring.
Your rabbit has only one chance to escape from the attacker: It fights back as hard as it can in its panic, hoping the bird of prey will drop it and it can escape to safety.
If your rabbit didn’t fight back, it would most certainly die and serve as food for the bird. Not a smart move in this case to stay calm and wait.
For this reason, it is not surprising that rabbits absolutely do not like it when you lift them up – this action instinctively reminds the animal of a bird of prey and triggers the panic and flight reflex.
What do we learn from this?
You should really only lift your rabbits when it can’t be avoided. For example, during medication administration, an examination, etc.
In order to keep the stress for the animals as low as possible, it can be helpful if you sit on the floor during this time, so that the animals do not have to be held quite so far above the floor and you give your rabbit a possibility to lean on you in some way. This support creates at least a little bit of security and literally gives a little hold in this hopeless situation.
How does fear of heights manifest itself in rabbits?
Fear of heights can manifest itself in different ways.
It also depends greatly on what the overall situation is.
A rabbit sitting on a high platform or on the vet’s table will behave differently than a rabbit that is just being lifted into the air.
It would not be very wise for the rabbit to start fidgeting and running when it is on a high platform – with this behavior, it would simply plunge to its death for sure.
Instead, you will be able to observe how your rabbit will carefully look down over the edge of the platform at several points.
At this point, the whole body will move back and forth a little bit – your rabbit will try to estimate the height and think about whether it can dare to jump down.
If it does not dare to jump in one place, it will look for another place and there again consider whether a jump would make sense.
There are also animals that go into a kind of shock paralysis here.
They are aware that they can’t get away at the moment, which is why they press themselves very flat against the ground with their bellies, taking cover from potential enemies.
If you lift your rabbit, it will start to kick and fidget – this is also a clear sign of fear.
If, on the other hand, you just hold your rabbit while he remains standing with all four paws on the ground, he is more likely to go into a kind of shock stupor. If you lift your rabbit while it is sitting, it will tend to be calmer than if you lift your animal while it is standing.
So you can assume that the intensity of the panic kicking is definitely related to the height.
At what height does the fear of heights occur?
There is no general answer to this question.
Naturally timid rabbits will become afraid much more quickly than braver members of their species. However, as a rule of thumb, your rabbit will jump down anywhere it can jump up on its own.
Keep in mind that your rabbit is a very small animal, and one meter of height may seem much higher to it than it does to you.
If you want to build several levels in your rabbit’s enclosure, it makes sense to connect these levels with the help of wide ramps. This will make it much easier for your rabbit to move from one level to another, and it will feel much more comfortable at that height – knowing that it can go back down at any time.
Have you ever wondered if the fear of heights in rabbits can be trained away with the help of a special training, just like many fears in humans?
If so, the following section may be of interest to you.
Can I train my rabbit not to be afraid of heights?
Let’s make it short and sweet: No, the fear of heights can never be completely trained out of rabbits!
This means that your rabbit will never find it a pleasure when you lift him up.
It doesn’t matter if your rabbit knows how to lift from an early age or not. Also the relationship to your animal plays in this case as good as no role.
Lifting and height are always connected with an immense stress for your rabbit!
The fear of heights is so deeply anchored in the genes that your rabbit will panic every time – if this instinct could be easily trained away, it would be absolutely life-threatening for your rabbit in the wild!
All you can do is make sure that your rabbit is confronted with these fears as little as possible:
Connect higher places in the enclosure with ramps
. Lift your animal only in extreme emergencies
Be content to watch your animals and feed them by hand. Possibly practice a trick or two through clicker training.
Attempts at therapy are not appropriate here – in fact, in the worst case, you will completely destroy the trust between you and your rabbit.
A rabbit that is constantly picked up will hide from people. In the course of this, your pet will also become afraid of you and avoid you.
And you really don’t want that, do you?
Therefore, accept your rabbit’s fear of heights and be considerate of these instinctive fears.
Your rabbit will thank you for it.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
I take great pride in being the best possible author and giving you the knowledge that i have on all different types of animals!
I have spent a lifetime learning about pets and animals, and have worked in the pet and vet industry for over 20 years now!
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