Some rat and rabbit owners swear by their pets being best buddies while the show Peter Rabbit showcases the two as sworn enemies. So, which is it?
If you own a rat or a rabbit and you’re thinking about expanding the family with a new member of the other species, or if you let your bunnies play out in the open where they can encounter rats, you’re probably wondering the same thing; do rats and rabbits get along?
Unlike cats and dogs or cats and mice, there isn’t a generalized idea about the type of relationship that could form between a rat and a bunny.
In today’s article, we discuss whether these furry critters can live peacefully in the same place or if they’re bound to declare war when kept together. Let’s get started!
Do Rats and Rabbits Get Along?
Despite hoping for the opposite, rats and rabbits typically don’t get along. There are about half a dozen reasons why rats and rabbits can’t live together safely under normal circumstances.
While the two species have no natural feelings of aggression towards one another, each animal has its own individual character that’ll come through when you put the two in the same place. This means that misunderstandings and accidents are just waiting to happen.
For example, both rats and rabbits are fairly territorial, so they may get into fight fits to establish dominance. When threatened, both animals have no problems resorting to scratching or biting to protect themselves.
In this light, rabbits can also deliver pretty hard kicks to rats, resulting in injuries. On the other hand, rats can have the wrong idea of fun where they pull out the fur of a rabbit to make it run around.
To top all of that off, rats may also be carrying diseases -especially if unvaccinated – that can be transmitted to rabbits through scratches, bites, or infected excretions.
Why Keeping Rats and Rabbits Apart is the Right Call
After reading the previous section, you may still be optimistic about bringing together your pet rat and rabbit without issues. You may also be still considering allowing your rabbits to roam outdoors without actively deterring wild rats from your yard.
While the chances of a good outcome in both cases aren’t totally impossible, it’s far more likely that you’ll witness a negative consequence. This is simply because of the higher possibility of a clash occurring between the two species if left in the same area for too long.
Here are some examples to give you a better idea of what you’ll potentially have to deal with:
Rats and rabbits can attack each other
Neither species are above attacking one another if the situation demands it. So first, let’s discuss rats attacking rabbits.
Wild rats have been commonly reported to attack bunnies, although the victims are typically younger/smaller rabbits. Since rats can overpower younglings easier than larger adult rabbits, the former are the ones considered a potential meal and a less threatening opponent to fight over food resources with.
That said, a rat is far less likely to go after a rabbit if food items are abundant. In other words, hunger is the main driving force behind such attacks to secure more food.
Pet rats are indeed way calmer than their wild counterparts, but they can still attack with different motives. Pet rats may consider their attacks on pet rabbits a form of play, such as biting and pulling on their fur, chasing them around, or even riding on their backs.
For such delicate animals as bunnies, the distress caused by rats can drive rabbits to be scared or aloof. Also, it may cause them to retaliate.
Additionally, rats can find their way into the rabbits’ hutch and claim their space or steal their food. While a rabbit may not be bothered by sharing its food, some are quite territorial and won’t take lightly to a threat to their home, responding by scaring and fighting the rats.
As we mentioned earlier, rabbits can deliver some mean kicks that’ll seriously injure or actually kill the rat on the receiving end. Yes, rabbits can be dangerous to rats, but it’s almost always after being provoked first or as a means of protection.
This is especially true when it comes to large rabbits. Besides intimidating and kicking them, rabbits can also scratch and bite — just like rats do.
Even with all this, the incidence of a bunny hurting a rat is still pretty rare. But if the situation involves a mother rabbit defending her babies, a fight is more than likely to take place if the rat doesn’t back down.
Rats can eat baby rabbits
Despite how unfortunate or mean this sounds, it’s something that happens. Due to their greedy and opportunistic nature, rats have virtually no restrictions on what they can use as a food source.
From eating garbage to stealing food from other animals, rats will do pretty much whatever it takes when they get desperate from hunger.
This includes sneaking into a rabbit’s hutch, kidnapping bunny babies, taking them to a safe spot, and devouring them after killing them.
Such incidents have been reported by many rabbit owners. It can be very sad to wake up one day and discover this happened to your pets when you could’ve prevented it by implementing reliable separation methods.
Like we said above, baby rabbits are often easy targets for rats because they can overpower the helpless kittens (yes, baby rabbits are called kittens!).
Rats can eat bunny food
Not only are rats opportunistic and greedy when food is at stake, but they’re also one of the least picky eaters among animals. To put it simply, rats have no shame and will eat just about anything they can find if need be and even if it’ll harm them.
As such, it should come as no surprise to you that a rat can steal and munch on rabbit food if it manages to slip into the bunny’s enclosure. Of course, if you keep your pet rats well-fed, this won’t be something to worry too much about.
The problem here isn’t that the rabbit won’t want to share or will harm the thieving rat, the issue is how the excess food will affect the rat.
Eating too much will make the rat overweight and can lead to organ failure. Not to mention, some foods aren’t harmful to rabbits (such as mangoes, oranges, and bananas) but toxic to rats.
Rats can transmit diseases to rabbits
Rats are crawling reservoirs of pathogens and microbes, at least when left unvaccinated or not properly monitored. They can transmit a variety of bacterial and viral diseases to rabbits through scratches, bites, or excretions.
Here are a few examples of these diseases:
- Salmonellosis — you’re probably aware of how uncooked or poorly cooked chicken can cause salmonella, but did you know that rats can also carry salmonella bacteria and transmit them to both animals and humans?
Salmonellosis is a disease that occurs worldwide and can be transmitted from rats to rabbits via consuming water or food that’s contaminated with infected feces or urine or scratches and bites.
In rabbits, salmonellosis can produce symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, lethargy, depression, abortion in pregnant females, and even death.
- Tularemia — this disease occurs in rabbits and other animals worldwide and can be transmitted from rats to rabbits through the Francisella tularensis bacterium.
The bacterial disease can infect rabbits via direct contact with infected rats, scratches or bites by infected rats, breathing in infected particles, and consuming water or food that’s contaminated with infected urine or feces.
In rabbits, the symptoms of tularemia include fever, fatigue, abscesses, ulcers, and lymphadenopathy. However, these signs aren’t well-documented because the disease results in death sooner than can be studied.
- RBF (Rat-Bite Fever) — this disease is transmitted by rats and other rodents to other animals and humans worldwide. In North America and Europe, it’s caused by the bacteria Streptobacillus moniliformis, whereas Spirillum minue is the culprit in Africa and Asia.
This bacterial disease can infect rabbits via scratches or bite wounds, direct contact with infected rats, direct contact with their excretions and droppings, consuming food or water contaminated by infected rats’ feces and urine.
In animals, RBF can manifest as fever with some inactivity and digestive distress, but sometimes the infected rabbits will show no symptoms.
- Leptospirosis — this disease occurs worldwide and can be transmitted from rats to rabbits through the Leptospira genus bacteria.
The bacterial disease can infect rabbits via direct skin contact with infected rats, contact with their droppings, and consuming water or food that’s contaminated with infected urine.
In animals, leptospirosis can manifest in a wide variety of nonspecific symptoms such as fever and fatigue. Sometimes, rabbits will show no symptoms at all.
- HPS (Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome) — this disease is commonly caused by cotton rats and rice rats across North America and South America.
It’s a viral disease that can infect rabbits via bite wounds, direct contact with carrying rats, direct contact with their excretions, or breathing in contaminated particles.
HPS is a respiratory disease with symptoms including fever, fatigue, heavy breathing, and digestive issues in humans. In animals, however, it doesn’t make them sick.
How to Effectively Keep Your Pet Rats and Rabbits Apart
The following are some tips to help you effectively separate rats from rabbits to keep both animals as safe as possible.
- If you’re working with plenty of space, we recommend keeping each animal’s enclosure in a different room, especially when it’s nighttime and you won’t be around for several hours in a row.
Keeping their cages together in the same room without monitoring is simply giving them a chance to be curious without restrictions and practice their escape strategies without interruption.
- When you want to observe how your two pets will act towards each other, we recommend that you’re present throughout the whole duration of interaction – even if they’re seemingly getting along.
The behaviors that may spark between the two animals can be unpredictable and fights can break out quicker than you think.
- If you allow your rats to get out of their cages while the rabbits are still in their enclosure in the same room, make sure you check the hutch every 5 minutes to see if any rat has managed to slip in.
- If you allow your rabbits to get out of their hutches while the rats are still in their cage in the same room, make sure the bunnies don’t tip over the rat enclosure.
- It should go without saying, but if you let your rats and rabbits spend their play sessions in the same place, be sure to schedule them at different times.
- Also, try to switch things up where sometimes the bunnies get to play out first and other times they have to go after the rats are done playing out.
- Implement solutions to rat-proof the rabbit enclosure. For example, install mesh around the hutch to keep out rats.
- Similarly, make sure there’s no way for the rabbits to escape their enclosures whether at night or during the rats’ playtime. You can achieve this by making the enclosure high enough to prevent the bunnies from hopping over the wall.
- Make sure the locks on both animals’ cages are secure enough to not open when the animal uses its force to push through the gate.
- Keep both animals’ enclosures clean and provide enough food and water.
There you have it, a comprehensive answer to the question: do rats and rabbits get along?
By now, it should be pretty clear that it’s best not to allow rats and rabbits to mingle. Not only do they not get along, but their interactions can turn aggressive and dangerous in no time.
Rats can also steal food from rabbits, kidnap their babies when food is scarce, as well as transmit a variety of diseases to the bunnies if they’re wild or unvaccinated.
We highly recommend minimizing direct interaction between the two species and supervising them closely when they’re free to roam around at the same time.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard. I also like photographing wild birds, especially birds of prey.