Jealousy in rabbits: Causes, signs and proven countermeasures
Probably few people associate the feeling of jealousy with a rabbit. However, the animals repeatedly show behaviors that indicate exactly this jealousy.
Can rabbits be jealous? And if so, how does it manifest itself?
In this article you will find the answer. We’ll also give you some tried-and-true tips on how to properly deal with a jealous rabbit in order to defuse the situation.
Can rabbits get jealous at all?
Yes, rabbits can become jealous. This species is very sensitive animals that have a wide range of diverse emotions. So jealousy is not uncommon in rabbits.
But what is the reason for this jealousy?
Rabbits belong to the herd animals and therefore long for belonging and harmony. So it is not surprising that rabbits become jealous when they feel disadvantaged – after all, at that moment they no longer fully belong to the group.
Since your rabbit in the wild depends on his fellow rabbits for his own survival, jealousy is a natural instinct that clearly tells your rabbit that if he is abandoned, he is in great danger.
After all, expulsion from the group would be life-threatening!
Consequently, your rabbit will do everything it can to get more attention and increase its sense of belonging.
But does this jealousy refer only to his conspecifics or also to humans?
We will clarify this in the following section.
Are rabbits jealous of people?
It is quite possible for your rabbit to become jealous when you talk to another human in his presence. However, only if you have a good relationship and consequently an emotional bond with that person.
Rabbits have very fine antennae for any emotion and will therefore immediately understand if you show increased affection to a human. In such a situation, it is not uncommon for your rabbit to react with jealousy – after all, he himself would like to be the center of your life, entitled (in his opinion) to your attention without competition!
Possibly you will observe this phenomenon also in relation to your child!
If you have a good bond with your rabbit and you have offspring, your rabbit may well react jealously to your baby – even if he is not normally the jealous type.
Especially in the mother-child or father-child relationship, emotions are particularly strong and your rabbit will feel them and react accordingly.
When and why are rabbits jealous of other rabbits?
If you keep not just two, but three or more rabbits together, then there may be further splintering within the rabbit group, creating multiple subgroups.
Since rabbits are extremely social animals that show great interest in forming deep friendships, rabbits that feel left out will also react jealously to conspecifics.
In addition, your rabbit will not like it at all if you give attention to another rabbit.
Jealousy is also a common consequence in this case.
You will often observe this behavior when you want to integrate a new rabbit into your existing group.
The new rabbit will be perceived by one or the other colleague as a troublemaker that needs to be eliminated. For this reason, socialization should always be approached with a lot of time and management in small steps. If you simply put the new animal into the enclosure with the others, then a quarrel is inevitable – and this quarrel can even end fatally for the new addition.
Rabbits are very territorial and can become extremely aggressive if an intruder suddenly appears in their territory.
Therefore, make sure that your rabbits can slowly get used to the newcomer by separating an area of the enclosure for the new rabbit. This will allow the animals to see and sniff each other, but will prevent biting.
After a few days or weeks, when the animals are cuddling together through the fence or you feel for other reasons that the newcomer is accepted, you can let the animals together again and again for a few hours on a trial basis under supervision.
Nevertheless, the animals should be separated overnight at the beginning, since an escalation during the night hours would probably go unnoticed by you.
What causes jealousy in a rabbit?
The reasons for jealousy lie deep inside your animal and are very instinctual.
Jealousy in both humans and animals is nothing more than fear of loss.
This fear of loss occurs when your rabbit feels left out and is convinced that it cannot survive on its own.
It is only understandable that your rabbit will do everything in its power to prevent the loss of its caregiver or partner in order to ensure its own survival.
To achieve this goal, your rabbit will sometimes resort to very brutal methods and enforce its will with its teeth. This survival instinct can never be completely trained away, because in the wild a lonely rabbit would be doomed to die.
Jealousy as a protective mechanism is deeply in the genes of animals.
In order to better understand and help your animals, it is necessary that you even notice the jealousy in your rabbit. For this reason, we will now tell you four signs that are typical of jealous rabbits.
4 Signs: How to recognize jealousy in rabbits
- your rabbit nudges you with his nose
If you are actively engaged with another human, or even another rabbit, and your pet has the opportunity to make contact with you, chances are he is demanding your attention by nudging you with his nose.
It may also curiously place its paw on your knee or simply hop onto your lap when the opportunity presents itself.
Either way, you can be sure that your rabbit wants only one thing from you at this moment: your undivided attention!
Rabbits are quite capable of understanding what they are allowed and what not. After all, these are very intelligent animals.
If you observe your rabbit deliberately doing something that it is not allowed to do, then this behavior could be due to jealousy.
- your rabbit becomes aggressive
Aggressive behavior that is based on jealousy is primarily seen among conspecifics.
If your rabbit is jealous of his mates, it is not uncommon for this to show through aggression and in extreme cases even biting.
If you observe such behavior, you should definitely intervene and separate the animals.
If it is a one-time thing, where you know what triggered the biting, you can put the animals together again as soon as the trigger has been removed and the tempers have calmed down.
If such fights occur frequently, then you should urgently consider whether it would not be for the good of all if you look for a new home for one of your affected rabbits, or found a new group in which your animal can find harmony and connection.
Not all rabbits are suitable in character to be kept in large groups. These animals are happiest with a single partner animal.
- your rabbit treats you as if you were air.
Yes, your rabbit can also be resentful when they feel neglected.
Your rabbit treats you like you’re air and doesn’t respond to your calling or coming, even though they always have in the past.
Can jealousy lead to behavior problems?
As mentioned earlier, jealousy can lead to increased aggression. Also, jealousy increases stress levels and makes your pet more susceptible to illness.
It is enough to have one animal in a large group that likes to pick a fight or two to upset the entire group balance.
If the jealousy is directed specifically against you, then it can happen that your rabbit bites without you being able to do anything about it.
Especially if your rabbit is jealous of your child, be careful! Children are even less able to judge your rabbits’ behavior and there may be increased anxiety if your pet attacks your child out of nowhere.
5 Tips: Here’s how you can combat jealousy
- treat all your animals the same
It is perfectly normal to have a special pet among your rabbits that touches your heart. However, you should make sure that you do not favor this rabbit, otherwise it can become a target for its peers.
Treat all your animals equally and give each animal individual attention and affection.
You should also not discriminate between your rabbits in terms of food. Each animal has the right to the same food as the others.
- pay attention to a good group constellation
Whether and how well a group harmonizes always depends on whether the characters of the individual group members fit together.
Therefore, make sure that the characters of your animals harmonize so well that none of your rabbits comes up short and feels left out. Rabbits that are regularly oppressed by their peers over a long period of time are more prone to jealousy if you do not give them your undivided attention.
Depression is not uncommon in these cases either!
- meet the needs of your rabbits
If your rabbits cannot meet their absolute basic needs, this condition will have negative effects on your rabbit’s state of mind in the long run.
Stressed and unhappy animals are much more prone to behavioral problems than balanced rabbits.
In addition, contented rabbits are more relaxed overall. This applies to human behavior as well as the behavior of their peers.
4) Let your rabbits sort out the hierarchy themselves (as long as it doesn’t get out of hand!).
Each group member has his fixed place and therefore also his fixed rank.
From time to time it can happen that one of your rabbits wants to test whether it can “work” its way up in the hierarchy.
This behavior is completely normal and should not be stopped by you, as long as there is no blood involved and your animals calm down by themselves after some time.
If you don’t give your animals the opportunity to discuss their ranking every now and then, tension and jealousy will build up between the parties involved – and sooner or later it will escalate.
- castration can lead to more tension in bucks
Especially un-neutered bucks tend to fight each other, because they perceive each other as competitors.
If you would like to keep two or more bucks together, it is highly recommended that you have them neutered. Neutering changes the hormonal balance and as a result there is also a change in temperament.
As a result, your rabbits will become more relaxed and will no longer see each other as rivals – thus jealousy will disappear all by itself.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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