Bunny brawls! Rabbits are cute and cuddly, but behind the fluffy exterior lies an instinct for combat that can turn deadly. When rabbits attack each other, fur flies and blood spills as they bite, scratch, and kick with powerful hind legs. Yet not all tussles are vicious fights – some are just harmless play. So how do you know if your rabbits are friends or foes? Why do rabbits attack each other, and how can you stop the slugfests? Can pairs of male rabbits bond safely, or will their hormones make them fight to the death? Let’s dive into the savage side of rabbit social structures and how to bring peace to your warren! This article reveals everything you need to know about rabbit fighting and making pairs of finicky bunnies fast friends.
Why Rabbits Attack Each Other
Rabbits are social creatures that naturally live in groups. However, putting multiple rabbits together does not guarantee peaceful coexistence. Rabbits have complex social structures and bonding rituals. When these are disrupted, rabbits may turn aggressive and attack each other. There are several reasons rabbits may fight:
In the wild, rabbits organize themselves into social hierarchies with dominant and subordinate members. The dominant rabbit gets priority access to resources like food, water and mates. When multiple rabbits are put together, they will fight to establish who is the "top bunny." This involves aggressive chasing, biting, fur-pulling and kicking.
Rabbits are highly territorial and each rabbit wants to claim its own space. Two rabbits put together will fight over territory, with each rabbit trying to defend its area. Neutered rabbits are less territorial and get along better.
Competition For Mates
Entire (unneutered/unspayed) rabbits will fight over potential mates. Two males will fight to the death competing for a female. Females will also fight viciously over a male. Getting rabbits neutered helps curb mating-related aggression.
Some rabbits are just more aggressive by nature. Dominant personalities will attack more docile rabbits. Rabbits have unique individual temperaments that may simply be incompatible, leading to fighting.
Any change to a rabbit's environment can cause stress. This includes a new cagemate. The stress may cause the rabbits to lash out at each other. Proper bonding techniques reduce stress during introductions.
Rabbit fights can lead to serious injury and death. It's important to understand the cause of aggression and take steps to avoid rabbit combat. Proper bonding, neutering, space, and handling personality differences reduces the risk of rabbit brawls.
Two Unneutered Males Fighting to the Death
Putting two unneutered (intact) male rabbits together often results in vicious fighting that can turn deadly. Here's why entire males will fight to the death:
Unneutered males are pumped with testosterone, which makes them ultra aggressive. They will ferociously fight any male that challenges their alpha status. Castration drastically reduces testosterone and makes males mellow and peaceful.
Two entire males will kill each other competing over a female in heat. Her pheromones trigger their mating instinct and they hormonally view each other as sexual rivals. Neutering eliminates this sexual frustration and competition.
Unfixed males fiercely guard their territory and resources. With two entire males, neither will back down or share space. They will bite and scratch to defend what they view as "their" cage and objects. Neutering reduces territorial behavior.
Some males naturally have dominant personalities that don't mesh well together. Two young unneutered bucks may both want to be the alpha and constantly fight for top rank. Neutering and maturity makes males less interested in power struggles.
Injuries Lead to More Aggression
As the males injure each other, it increases their aggression and likelihood of fighting. The smell of blood triggers a frenzied and potentially lethal attack. Neuter wounds don't trigger this response.
To safely bond two males, it's absolutely vital to neuter them first. This eliminates the competitiveness and aggression driving their vicious fights. Two fixed males can peacefully coexist.
Two Female Rabbit Fighting to the Death
Although female rabbits are generally less aggressive than males, two unspayed females can also fight relentlessly and wound each other. Here's why entire does may battle:
Female rabbits have social hierarchies too. Two unfixed does may continuously fight to establish the dominant bunny. Spaying evens out hormones and makes does less obsessed with status.
When a male is present, two unspayed females will fight over breeding rights. Their mating urge drives them to attack the competition. Spaying eliminates this possessiveness.
After mating, unspayed females experience pseudo-pregnancies that spike hormones, boosting territoriality and aggression. Spayed rabbits don't have false pregnancies.
Entire females fiercely guard nesting sites. With limited space, two does may battle over nesting areas. Spaying reduces this maternal territorial instinct.
Some females naturally have more dominant personalities. Two bossy does in the same space spells trouble. Spaying mellows temperament.
Though less common than male aggression, female rabbits can still inflict lethal wounds if fighting goes unchecked. Like males, females should always be spayed before bonding to minimize violence and maximize harmony.
Male Rabbit Fighting Female Rabbit to the Death
While same-sex rabbit pairs cause the most ferocious fights, a male and female duo can also turn violent in some situations:
Unneutered Male, Unspayed Female
This is the worst combination. The male is consumed with mating aggression and the female is territorial and possibly pregnant/pseudopregnant. They will viciously fight over breeding rights, space and resources.
Unneutered Male, Spayed Female
With his testosterone still raging, the male may continually harass and attack the spayed female as she rejects his advances. Neuter the male.
Neutered Male, Unspayed Female
The male is mellow but the unspayed female is territorial, maternal and possibly hormonal. Her aggression towards the neutered male can turn brutal. Spay the female.
Sometimes a specific bonded male/female pair struggle to get along once bonded. Hormones and history make them incompatible. They may need permanent separation.
A dominant female may attack a timid male. Or an active male may continually bother a lazy female. Individual personalities can create discord.
For a harmonious M/F bond, it's best to neuter the male and spay the female before introducing them. This evens out hormones and moderates aggression on both sides.
Are My Rabbits Fighting Or Playing?
When you put rabbits together, you will observe them chasing, mounting and tussling with each other. How do you know if they are merely playing or if it's real fighting? Here are the differences:
- Brief tussles, then they separate.
- No real injuries inflicted.
- Take turns chasing each other.
- Play bows and binkies afterward.
- Relaxed body language overall.
- Prolonged violent tussles with tufts of fur flying.
- Bites and scratches that draw blood and leave wounds.
- One rabbit persistently chases and corners the other.
- No play bows or binkies, instead teeth grinding.
- High tension body language, puffed up fur.
Friendly play is part of normal rabbit bonding. But relentless, injurious fighting is abnormal and dangerous. If you suspect real fighting, immediately separate the rabbits before they seriously hurt each other.
Acceptable Behavior in Rabbits
When introducing a pair of rabbits, you want to see more of these acceptable behaviors. They indicate safe, peaceful bonding:
- Sitting/laying down near each other
- Eating, drinking and grooming side-by-side
- Following each other around
- Gentle grooming and nuzzling
- Circling each other
- Play bows and binkying together
- Laying together curled up
- Light mutual grooming and nipping
- Brief tussles without injury
These behaviors show the rabbits are comfortable with each other. It means their bonding is progressing well. You can gradually increase their supervised interaction time. The end goal is 24/7 togetherness.
Unacceptable Behavior in Rabbits
These aggressive behaviors are major red flags that show bonding is failing:
- Biting that draws blood
- Prolonged violent tussling with shrieks
- Tufts of fur being ripped out
- One rabbit chasing and cornering the other
- One rabbit repeatedly mounting the other
- Grunting, growling and teeth grinding
- High-tension body language when together
These behaviors indicate real fighting, not play. Immediately separate the rabbits if you observe aggression. Reevaluate your bonding approach to identify what went wrong. Don't continue attempted bonding until the aggression is addressed.
What To Do If Rabbits Start Fighting
If your rabbits start viciously fighting, don't panic. Here are the proper steps to take:
Don’t Ignore the Fight
It's crucial to intervene at the first sign of harmful fighting. Rabbits can inflict severe wounds on each other very quickly. So you must immediately separate them. Never let rabbits continue fighting unchecked thinking they will "work it out." This can be fatal.
Make a Loud Noise
A loud hand clap or banging two objects together will startle fighting rabbits apart for a moment. You can then grab them. Avoid reaching into a serious rabbit fight as you may get scratched.
Separate Them Immediately
As soon as the rabbits disengage, quickly and calmly pick up each rabbit and place them in separate enclosures. Shut the cage doors securely. Keep fighting rabbits completely apart until they are calmer.
Assess Your Rabbits for Injuries
Check both rabbits thoroughly from head to toe looking for bite wounds, scratches, limping or other injuries. Look inside ears, under legs and in the genital region where injuries may hide. If the wounds are severe, seek emergency vet care.
Keep Your Rabbits Separated
Do not attempt to rebond the rabbits right away. Keep them securely housed in separate spaces while everyone calms down. Serious fights undermine the trust needed for bonding.
Separate Rabbits with Fencing
If the rabbits live together in a large pen, install wire fencing to divide their living space and keep them safely separated after a fight. Monitor their interactions through the barrier.
Acting quickly and separating rabbits at the first sign of harmful fighting prevents the most serious injuries. But dealing with the aftermath of a vicious fight requires patience and a return to basics.
What To Do If Rabbits Injure Each Other While Fighting
Rabbit fights can turn brutal, often leaving both rabbits with bite wounds and deep scratches. Here's how to respond if your rabbits get injured fighting:
Assess The Wounds
Carefully examine both rabbits looking for bite punctures, scratches, limping, swelling, yelps when touched, and other wounds. Check inside ears, under legs and tail for hidden injuries.
Stop Severe Bleeding
Apply direct pressure with a clean towel to cuts that are actively bleeding. If blood soaks through the towel, seek emergency vet treatment.
Clean The Wounds
Flush punctures and scratches well with sterile saline solution to prevent infection. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide or alcohol which damage healthy tissue. Pat dry gently. Apply antibiotic ointment if prescribed by your vet.
Bandage Serious Wounds
Large wounds may need a sterile non-stick bandage changed daily. Bandages must allow urination/defecation. Elizabethan collars prevent chewing bandages.
If rabbits seem in significant pain, an oral pain reliever like meloxicam prescribed by a vet can provide relief.
Monitor for Infection
Check wounds twice daily for redness, swelling, heat and pus which signal infection. Seek prompt medical treatment if infection develops.
Keep the injured rabbits safely apart in separate housing while healing. Re-bonding too soon risks re-injury.
Take severely injured rabbits to an exotics vet for assessment, wound treatment, pain control and antibiotics if indicated. Internal damage may need treatment.
With prompt response, most bite wounds heal well and rabbits can be eventually rebounded once recovered. But medical attention is crucial if wounds are extensive or become infected.
How To Stop Your Rabbits Fighting
If your rabbits are constantly embroiled in vicious fights, you need to take steps to permanently stop the aggression and create harmony:
Neuter and Spay
Unfixed rabbits are driven by raging hormones to fight. Neutering eliminates testosterone in males and spaying reduces estrogen in females. This moderates aggression in both sexes.
Proper Initial Bonding
Rushing introductions or poor bonding technique sets the foundation for conflict. Slow thorough bonding with gradients of limited, supervised interaction minimizes early tension.
Respect Unique Temperaments
Some personalities simply don't mesh. A dominant doe may never accept a passive doe no matter what you try. Know when to abandon a poor match.
Rebond In Neutral Space
After a blowout fight, rebond rabbits on totally neutral ground like a bathroom to reset the relationship and remove territorial triggers.
Try A New Partner
If rebonding fails repeatedly, the existing rabbits may be fundamentally incompatible despite your best efforts. Consider rehoming one rabbit and introducing a new partner that's a better personality match.
Consult an expert rabbit behaviorist if aggression persists despite your interventions. Be open to completely new approaches. Don't give up!
Rabbit fighting can absolutely be stopped with commitment, strategy and sometimes sheer luck finding the perfect match. The effort is well worth it to gain harmonious, bonded bunnies.
Rabbits have complex social structures that don't always translate well to shared domestic living. However, same-sex pairs or male/female pairs can successfully bond with the right preparation and precautions. This allows your rabbits the social enrichment of a compatible friend while avoiding hazardous fighting. The keys are neutering/spaying before bonding, slow supervised introductions, honoring unique personalities, and persistence. With diligence and training, even clashing rabbits can learn to resolve conflicts and coexist peacefully. The result is twice the rabbit love!