The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Most people get rabbits as pets because these cute little animals seem peaceful and love to play all the time. They’re also great pets for older children because they’re fuzzy and cuddly.
But even the timidest rabbit can get out of control sometimes.
This is why it’s crucial to understand your pet’s body language and address any problem before it gets more serious, as this will guarantee your bunny’s safety and the safety of everyone else in the house.
So, do rabbits bite? How can you stop a rabbit from biting?
Keep on reading because we’ll address this issue in our article.
Do Rabbits Bite?
If you have a bunny, then you know that these animals are fond of nibbling on different objects.
And it’s also likely that they might nibble on you while you’re playing together.
But in some cases, this behavior can get out of control, and the peaceful and innocent nibbling turns into painful biting that can injure a human or another pet rabbit in the same household.
In the wild, rabbits live in social groups, and they assert dominance and establish their status using different behaviors, including biting. But in the house, domestic rabbits can bite for different reasons.
- Stress is one of the main reasons why a bunny might bite its beloving owner.
- If the rabbit feels threatened, it might bite you. This happens when you’re playing rough, or it feels attacked, and because it’s a prey animal, it will bite to defend itself.
- Male rabbits are more likely to bite as they approach adulthood because of their changing hormones.
- A rabbit might bite you to keep you away from a specific area. This behavior is similar to what wild rabbits do to protect their territories and assert dominance.
- Your bunny might be showing signs of unexplained aggression because it’s sick or not feeling well. Illnesses can make rabbits more irritable, so they’re likely to bite more often.
Why Does My Rabbit Bite Me?
Despite its reputation for being affectionate and gentle, a rabbit can show some aggressiveness towards its human. So, why does your rabbit bite you?
There could be a few reasons.
- Your rabbit might not be desexed. This is the main reason why rabbits get aggressive, especially the male ones.
- You don’t have a strong bond with your bunny. If you don’t play with your rabbit regularly and suddenly approach it, it’ll most likely view you as a predator, and it’ll try to defend itself.
- Your rabbit suffers from an abusive past where it was handled roughly by a previous owner. As a result, it’ll try to bite you for protection when you try to approach it.
- You smell like food or like a predator.
- You accidentally or deliberately hurt the bunny in the past. It views you as a threat, so it will try to protect itself.
- You startle the rabbit and scare it when you try to hold it or play with it.
- The cage or housing of the rabbit is too small. Being confined in a small enclosure that doesn’t give the rabbit room to move freely is one of the main reasons why it might act aggressively and bite you.
- Your rabbit might bite you by mistake. It’s quite common for rabbits to mistake your finger for food.
What Is the Difference Between Biting and Nibbling in Rabbits?
Before trying to find a solution to stop your rabbit from biting, you need to make sure that it’s biting and not nibbling.
Nibbling is quite common in bunnies, unlike biting, which only happens in specific situations to express discomfort and stress.
It’s different from biting because the rabbit doesn’t open its mouth wide or press its teeth too hard. It’s not painful and doesn’t break the skin, although it might make some people, especially kids, a little bit uncomfortable.
With nibbling, the bunny is careful, and it doesn’t want to hurt you, but with biting, it might be extremely irritated. It views you as a threat, so it’s acting aggressively to protect itself.
Some rabbits nibble on each other in the wild to establish hierarchy, and they might do this at home if there are multiple bunnies or when they’re playing with you.
Rabbits also nibble when they’re trying to show affection. It’s the rabbit’s way of grabbing your attention or telling you that it wants to play with you.
At the same time, some rabbits nibble on their owners’ hands while playing to tell them that they’re hungry.
However, the rabbit can also nibble on your hand if it wants you away. It’s not an aggressive move, but it lets you know that it wants to be left alone.
Do Rabbit Bites Hurt?
A rabbit bite hurts, and the pain can last for days.
When the rabbit nibbles on your hand, it’s usually painless as it’s probably trying to attract your attention and play with you.
But things are different when it bites you.
Rabbits have long and sharp teeth, and they use them to cut through vegetables and green leaves. So, when they intentionally bite you, they’ll open their mouths wide and press hard, and the teeth will easily penetrate the skin.
This happens when the rabbit is extremely irritated or threatened, so it will probably hold onto the skin to cause damage because it’s trying to defend itself.
However, when a baby bunny bites you, the bite is usually painless.
Baby bunnies’ teeth aren’t that strong, even if they try to bite hard.
Are Rabbit Bites Dangerous?
Rabbit bites are uncommon and usually happen when the animal is terrified because it feels threatened. And in most cases, they’re not dangerous.
When a rabbit bites you, the teeth cut through the skin, so you’ll deal with painful bleeding that can last for quite some time.
However, the bite is never deep enough to cut through the main blood vessels or break the bones, so you won’t lose a limb if the rabbit bites you.
But in some rare cases, the rabbit might be able to bite your finger off.
In most cases, the rabbit won’t act that aggressively. It will try to bite you to scare you or tell you off, but it won’t bite you hard or long enough to chop your finger off.
You can easily tell how dangerous the bite is depending on the bleeding. For example, if your finger is bleeding heavily, then it’s more than just a nibble, and you need to see a doctor to have the bite checked.
Do Rabbit Bites Cause Infection?
Getting bitten by a wild rabbit isn’t like receiving a bite from your pet bunny.
Wild rabbits carry a lot of bacteria and diseases that they might spread to humans when they bite them. But this is not the case if you have a pet rabbit that you feed, take care of, and take to the vet for vaccinations.
However, in some cases, a pet rabbit can also carry some bacteria in its body and transfer it to a human if it bites him or her.
Luckily, most of these bacteria and parasites don’t survive in the human body, so your biggest fear would still be the bleeding that you have to deal with if a rabbit bites you. Although some diseases can potentially kill rabbits, they have no effect on humans.
Nevertheless, there are some diseases that you might get if a rabbit bites you. This is why you need to see a doctor have the wound examined, even if you think it’s superficial.
- Tetanus might affect you if a rabbit or any other animal has bitten you. The bacteria are found in the soil, producing toxins that enter the bloodstream when you’re bitten.
If you have an outdoor rabbit or got bitten by a wild one, you need to take a tetanus shot within 48 to 72 hours after the bite.
Although tetanus is a rare disease due to modern vaccines, you can still get infected. However, if you have taken a shot in the past 10 years, you probably don’t need one, even if you got bitten by a rabbit or any other animal.
- Rabies is another serious condition and can be fatal to humans and rabbits. Domestic rabbits rarely suffer from rabies, but wild rabbits might.
If you’ve recently adopted a rabbit, and you notice that it’s lazy, doesn’t play, shows signs of aggressiveness, or is abnormally salivating, it might be infected with rabies. Most rabbits are euthanized when they’re infected with rabies, so you need to keep an eye on your other rabbits if you suspect that one of them is sick.
If the sick rabbit bites you, you need to take the rabies shot as soon as possible. In most cases, it’s injected close to the bite to prevent the disease from spreading in your body.
- Pasteurellosis is a bacterial infection that domestic and wild rabbits suffer from. It usually affects the respiratory tract and can be found in the mouths of sick rabbits.
In most cases, your bunny will survive this infection without treatment if it has a strong immune system and is infected by a mild strain. However, it will be a carrier for the disease, which might transfer to you if it bites you.
After a bite, humans who suffer from Pasteurella infection will witness a noticeable swelling around the wound. In addition, these bacteria affect the soft tissues in the body, so you might deal with abscesses and respiratory infections.
If the doctor knows for sure that you’re infected with Pasteurella, he or she will probably prescribe oral penicillin for 10 days or even more.
- Tularemia is a rare yet fatal disease that affects rabbits and rodents. The Francisella tularensis attacks the eyes, skin, lungs, and lymph nodes, and sick rabbits usually suffer from general weakness, ulcers, abscesses, and fever.
When left untreated, this infection can be deadly to humans and rabbits. But, it can be easily treated with antibiotics, especially if diagnosed early.
What Should You Do If a Rabbit Bites You?
If your pet rabbit has bitten you, it’s important to determine the cause of the bite.
You might be doing something wrong if you’re keeping the rabbit in a very small cage or not providing it with enough food.
You might also be playing roughly with the bunny, even if it’s unintentional. In all cases, you need to understand why your rabbit has decided to bite you.
Luckily, most rabbit bites heal quickly, and they don’t cause serious infections.
But you won’t know that for sure the minute your bunny decides to show you some aggression.
It’s hard to tell sometimes why your peaceful pet decided to hurt you. However, even the most innocent bunny can cause a lot of harm without meaning to.
This is why you need to act promptly and inspect the wound. Here’s what you should do if your rabbit bites you.
- Prompt the bunny to let go. Although it might be difficult, you need to distract your rabbit by throwing something away or playing with your keys.
Hitting the rabbit or holding it tight will cause more damage as it will try to bite even harder.
- Put your pet rabbit back into its cage. You might find difficulty holding a feisty rabbit, but you can throw a blanket on it and grab it to protect yourself from biting.
- If you’re unable to hold the rabbit, you can leave the room and shut the door. If you’re bitten by a wild rabbit, try to distract it, leave the place, go to your car, or ask someone for help to make sure that it doesn’t bite you again.
- Examine the wound and put pressure on it using a clean cloth. Keep pressing the wound until the bleeding stops, which usually doesn’t take much time.
Although rabbits have long teeth, in most cases, they don’t bite really hard. However, if the bleeding continues, then you need to head to the hospital as soon as possible.
- Notice if there’s any swelling or the wound looks too deep.
- If the wound isn’t that deep, clean it using soapy water to prevent bacterial infections. After that, apply antibacterial cream and cover the wound to help it heal faster.
- Change the bandage every couple of days and reapply the antibacterial cream. A rabbit bite usually takes between 10 and 14 days to completely heal.
- Check for any signs of infection like a bad odor, swelling, or discharge from the wound. You might also suffer from fever if the wound is infected.
- Protect yourself from future bites while handling your pet rabbit. For example, wear gloves while you’re putting food in its cage and while you’re playing with it.
- If you see a wild rabbit in your backyard or the park, stay away from these wild animals because some of them carry several dangerous diseases.
Rabbits feed on leaves, vegetables, rough grass, and hay, so they have open-rooted teeth. This means that their teeth never stop growing to compensate for the wear.
For this to happen, the rabbit’s upper teeth have to meet the lower ones, so they wear together due to friction. Therefore, the rabbit should also be given rough food that allows chewing to wear the teeth.
Rabbits need dental checkups to make sure that their teeth are properly aligned. Malocclusion happens when the front teeth don’t meet the lower ones, resulting in inconsistent teeth wear.
The molars at the back of the mouth might also hit each other and prevent the mouth from closing, thus causing the incisors to overgrow. They’re more difficult to detect and need to be examined by the vet because they cause pain when the bunny eats, so it might stop eating to avoid the pain.
This condition is less likely to happen in the wild because wild rabbits feed on rough grass and hay, which might be absent from domestic rabbits’ diets.
If your pet rabbit has overgrown teeth, you can do the following.
- Make sure that your rabbit’s diet is full of fibers to help wear down the teeth.
- Offer grass and hay, resembling what the rabbit might chew on in the wild.
- Provide blocks of softwood and safe toys that the rabbit can safely chew on.
- Take the rabbit to the vet to have its teeth trimmed.
- Keep an eye on the bunny’s teeth to detect any new growth.
How Hard Do Rabbits Bite?
The rabbit’s bite has the force of 70 Newton, so it’s a lot less than the force of a dog’s bite. Although this is a prey animal, it can sometimes hold onto your finger and not let go because it’s extremely irritated or terrified.
This is probably as hard as the bite of a domestic cat, so although it’s painful, it’s unlikely to cause severe damage.
The problem with the rabbit’s bite is that the teeth are rather long. This means that they might be able to penetrate through the skin and cause a deeper wound.
However, this rarely happens except in very extreme situations when the animal feels extremely threatened.
A rabbit’s bite might be strong enough to cut your finger off, but this is highly unlikely to happen.
How Can You Stop a Rabbit From Biting?
After determining the reason behind your bunny biting you, it’s time for you to take action to fix this behavioral issue.
- Make sure that your rabbit feels safe and comfortable in its enclosure. If your rabbit is unhappy while sharing its cage with another one, you might need to separate them.
- Examine the enclosure and ensure that there’s enough room for the bunny to roam freely. Your rabbit is likely to become more aggressive if the cage is too small.
- Add a pet door to the enclosure so your rabbit doesn’t have to be picked up. This will minimize the close interaction, which might lead to accidental bites.
- Limit physical interaction, especially if you have an expecting or nursing rabbit.
- Make sure that your rabbit gets some free playtime out of the cage. Pick a suitable outdoor area to guarantee that it’s safe from predators and doesn’t contain any toxic plants that might harm your bunny.
- Move the food bowl to a new position in the cage every day to prevent the rabbit from getting territorial when you’re approaching the bowl to refill or clean it. You can also scatter the food around the cage.
- Never encourage this behavior. Always show your pet rabbit that you’re not happy while it’s nibbling, so it doesn’t start biting.
- Show your rabbit that you’re the dominant one. Put your hand on its head and gently push it towards the floor for a few seconds to display your dominance.
- Always approach your bunny above eye level, so it can always see your hands’ movement.
- If a rabbit bites you, make a sound to warn it. You can also give it time out in the cage, so it learns that it has done something wrong.
- Have your bunny desexed. This improves the quality of life for your pet and helps you bond better.
- Spend more time with your rabbit every single day. This will help it get used to your presence, so it won’t view you as a threat.
- Use food rewards to encourage your rabbit to play with you. Snacks and treats will make your bunny enjoy the time you spend together.
- Make sure that you understand your rabbit’s perspective. Although rabbits aren’t aggressive, your pet bunny might bite you if you are messing with its home or threatening its babies.
- Approach your rabbit with caution; if the rabbit is still not used to you, avoid startling it because it will accidentally bite you to protect itself.
- Never punish or hit your rabbit, even if it bites you. Any aggression on your side will lead to more aggression on the bunny’s side.
- Avoid handling the rabbit roughly. Instead, teach your kids to be gentle with this adorable animal.
Rabbits are cute pets, but they can sometimes bite you for lots of reasons.
Although a rabbit’s bite isn’t typically dangerous, it can be painful. Moreover, some diseases can be transferred through the bite.
You need to understand the reason why your rabbit is biting you and find a solution to the problem to help fix this behavioral issue.