For us humans, a violent thunderstorm represents either an impressive natural spectacle or an annoying bad weather zone.
For many animals, however, it is a true horror scenario and often triggers fear and terror, especially in our pets.
How do rabbits actually behave during thunderstorms, New Year’s Eve rockets and the like? Do they panic? Can you get your cute fur bearer used to the loud noises or help him in any other way?
Here you will find the answers to your questions. We’ll also give you some tried-and-true tips to help you calm your rabbit during a thunderstorm.
Introduction: How do the wild relatives of the domestic rabbit cope with a high noise level?
With their large, rotating auricles, rabbits can hear extremely well. Nature has not endowed them with these extremely powerful sensory organs for nothing: In the wild, rabbits are flight animals, which means they must always be on guard against possible predators such as the fox or birds of prey.
Early recognition of danger is therefore vital for the survival of these shy fur-bearers.
The wild rabbits must not miss even the smallest sound, because only then can they react quickly to suspicious noises. On the other hand, anything loud is downright terrifying and frightening to the extremely sensitive rabbit ears.
They are not able to identify the noise level of thunderstorms and the like, so they do what their instincts tell them and seek their salvation in flight.
Since rabbits in the wild have a burrow with an elaborate tunnel system, they can retreat there in the event of such supposedly acute threat situations. The tunnels they dig often extend deep underground. Shielded in this way, the noise level no longer hits them with full force. In this way, the long-eared animals calm down more quickly.
Older animals that have slowly become accustomed over the years to the thunder of thunderstorms or New Year’s Eve firecrackers also have a positive effect on the younger ones through their calmer and less fearful behavior. Within a family pack, the experience gained is thus passed on.
Are domesticated rabbits more skittish around loud noises?
In our domestic rabbits, the innate flight reflex is still strong. They feel threatened when you lean over them or make rapid movements.
They are also frightened by loud noises, because their large, sensitive ears perceive noise many times louder than we humans do. If they are exposed to this noise over a longer period of time or repeatedly, it stresses the little munchkins immensely.
Since they cannot retreat into their tunnels like their wild relatives, they are almost defenceless against the scary thunder during thunderstorms. Rabbits kept outdoors are the worst affected, as they have the fewest opportunities to escape the loud roar of a thunderstorm.
But even indoors, there are some sources of noise that harm the hoppers in the long run. Loud music and constant door slamming causes sickening stress in the animals.
Many owners don’t even notice how they keep frightening their animal housemates with this behavior.
That, which represents normal volume for a human being, is perceived by the rabbits much more noisily. How must then only New Year’s Eve bangers sound for their sensitive ears? Unfortunately, rabbits cannot make their displeasure known loudly, as is the case with dogs, for example. But they do communicate with you in other ways.
How rabbits show their fear in loud noises
Your fluffy pet has very distinctive body language. It can show fear in a number of ways:
- Your rabbit presses itself flat on the ground and completely freezes in this posture. It hardly dares to move, even the ears do not stand upright, but are laid backwards. Perhaps you know the common English expression for this: “like a rabbit caught in the headlights”.
- When your Hoppler is highly worried and frightened, he drums on the ground with his hind legs in a sitting position. In this way he warns his fellow species of danger.
- Hopplers like to hide in a dark cave-like shelter during a thunderstorm or other frightening situations. Occasionally, the head is poked out to see if the situation has returned to normal.
- Excessive preening is also a sign of stress. If your rabbit is grooming more extensively than usual, especially when there is thunder or banging, it is trying to calm itself down with this behavior.
- Some rabbits compensate for loud noises by being aggressive. They then react bitingly when they are touched or picked up.
- Often, the long ears also adopt a rigid alarm posture with ears erect, ready to take flight at any moment.
- Of course, classic trembling is also a sign of fear.
How can you ease your rabbit’s fear of thunderstorms? Tips and tricks
His wild conspecifics flee to their burrow when acutely threatened, so it is important that you also provide your pet rabbit with a place of retreat when, for whatever reason, he panics. It will feel much safer there and its stress level will drop significantly.
By all means, bring your outdoor rabbits indoors for the duration of the thunderstorm, they will thank you for it and their anxiety won’t be as great.
Your own mood and emotional state will also have a corresponding effect on the sensitive munchkins. Make sure that you are always calm and relaxed around them. They will immediately perceive that you are not afraid, and if you are lucky, they will interpret your calmness to mean that there does not seem to be any serious danger. If you talk to them quietly and calmly, they may already feel safer.
However, this is not true for all rabbits, as each is individual and unique. What works for one does not necessarily work for all others.
The motto here is: try it out and observe!
There are many other things you can do to make their time in the storm as stress-free as possible.
The following ideas should serve as an incentive:
- For example, test how quiet classical music affects them as a positive counterpoint. Melodic sounds are known to be perceived as pleasant by many animals and at the same time distract them from the negative noise sources.
- You can also try interacting with your anxious pelt during the storm by petting him or giving him a relaxing massage. Many rabbits feel safer around a familiar person, so sit or lie down next to your cuddly roommate and start gently scratching him behind the ears.
- Of course, a very tasty distraction in the form of treats is also worth a try. This way you can train your rabbit’s intelligence at the same time. Also use his natural behaviors such as digging and digging or the gnawing instinct. Suitable items to use are cardboard boxes stacked inside each other, old blankets, branches and balls. Foraging is a great way to keep your fluffy pet occupied using his innate skills so that he all but forgets his fear.
Rabbits will most likely not lose their frightfulness completely during a thunderstorm. However, you can make it as bearable as possible for them for the duration of the event. Just be with them, don’t leave the little hoppers alone, apply the above tips and you will find them a little calmer and more relaxed each time.
With patience and attention you can fight their fear, and it also strengthens the bond between you and your animals, because trust does not come by itself.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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