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Cage aggression

Understand why your rabbits behave the way they do - and what you can do about it.
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Cage aggression

Post Number:#1  Unread postby Anntann » Thu Sep 16, 2010 8:04 am


Has anyone here ever cured a rabbit of cage aggression? and if so..how?

I've got a new rabbit (BIG French Angora doe) who is VERY territorial about her cage. She's just fine once she's out. I can handle her, drag her fat self over to the grooming table, pluck, do nails, etc. (I haven't tried to turn her over yet...waiting until I build up some muscle :roll: )

This doe will lay her ears back and do a small lunge toward my hand when I go in to get her, tho. Or if I bring greens, etc. (even when I add food to her crock). She hasn't gotten really violent yet...it's more of a warning thing..and it works! :eek:

Will working with her daily help? Bringing treats? Or should I treat her more as I would a food aggressive dog....with firmness and dominance?

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Re: Cage aggression

Post Number:#2  Unread postby MaggieJ » Thu Sep 16, 2010 8:39 am


Two of my does are mildly aggressive. Alice, only when she is pregnant and only with me. Rosemary lunges from time to time, much as you describe, but I find it happens when I am in a hurry and move too quickly. Most of the time she is fine. Neither is vicious.

If your doe is fairly new, I suggest you continue to work with her. The fact that she is fine out of the cage indicates to me that she is not aggressive by nature. There may be something about a hand coming in when she is in close quarters that scares her or upsets her.

What level is her cage at? I seem to remember that Truckinguy had problems with a doe whose cage was on the floor but solved it by putting the cage up on a rack so the scary hand was not coming from above, like a hawk or owl.

She may also do better in a floor pen where the boundaries are further apart. It seems clear that she feels threatened when she has no place to go to get away from that scary hand.
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Re: Cage aggression

Post Number:#3  Unread postby ladysown » Thu Sep 16, 2010 8:50 am


how long have you had her?

If less than a couple of weeks I'd give her more time.

Move slowly but don't stop (wear a glove if you need to)... every time you stop it reinforces that she's right to lunge because the scary/threatening/bad thing leaves.

Give her some greens and give her a bit of a back rub.
Bribe her with food if you need to.

IF it continues past a month I'd be more inclined to give her a quick pin to the cage floor to remind her that she's not boss...from you comes all good things and respecting that might be a good idea. (it's like applying mild disciple to a mouthy child). :)
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Re: Cage aggression

Post Number:#4  Unread postby Anntann » Thu Sep 16, 2010 10:11 am


I should have said in my OP...I've only had her for a few days. Her previous owner/breeder told me up front that she was cage aggressive..and that she'd only sell her to someone who knew this rabbit wasn't a "pet". The first couple of days she was fine...no problems with aggression. But now, I figure she's realized this new place is HER HOUSE and she's starting to defend it.

She's at waist level (on a 30" high table). I don't MIND her defending her house. Just hoping I can make her less likely to go for my hand.....I'll keep trying the soft soap approach. She DOES seem to like back rubs..it's how I calm her down on the grooming table when she thinks she's had enough of this hair pulling. :D

She's obviously not had hand treats before. The breeder told me she got a dandelion leaf once a day...and I've found out she LOVES hay. holy moly. She's also become very very fond of mulberry leaves. Finally figured out that carrot ends are for EATING not for throwing around like a ball, too! :razz:

__________ Thu Sep 16, 2010 10:11 am __________

btw, if what I'm doing doesn't work, I"ll just turn Mike loose on her. That man can tame down the anyone, I swear. He even has Chocolate Bunny coming up to him for treats and lets him pick her up and give a tummy rub. :roll:

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Re: Cage aggression

Post Number:#5  Unread postby ottersatin » Thu Sep 16, 2010 2:25 pm


Hello Anntann,
I believe that you are going about it correctly.
I for one do not believe in wearing gloves when handling rabbits.
That is giving into your fear[s]. This is what the rabbit wants.
You are the Alfa and cannot allow any of the rabbits in your charge
to be the Boss rabbit. I would go in with assurance if you must,
pin the rabbit to the cage floor until it gets the idea that YOU are in charge.
You might get a scratch or two and you might even get bit.
DO NOT show fear of your rabbit. If the rabbit does not lose it's aggressiveness
within a short while then there IS no room at the Inn!
In most cases they come around.
Good luck!
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Re: Cage aggression

Post Number:#6  Unread postby Brody » Thu Sep 16, 2010 6:53 pm


I handle all rabbits daily - like it or hate it or fear it (a LOT of the time it's fear based)

I really don't think dominating a prey animal helps much except perhaps to terrify it into submission - not a relationship I want with my animals ...
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Re: Cage aggression

Post Number:#7  Unread postby eco2pia » Thu Sep 16, 2010 7:27 pm


I'm with ladysown, be sweetness and light, the treat bringer, wear gloves and long sleeves if it helps your confidence, and administer the (gentle but firm) smackdown if it comes to biting.

There is nothing wrong with a scruff squash if the wee beastie bites. Chronic biting gets her the stew pot at my house, so the pin to the cage floor is a mercy, really!

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Re: Cage aggression

Post Number:#8  Unread postby ladysown » Thu Sep 16, 2010 7:54 pm


My general approach to fear lungers... so not the true I dislike you intensely reactive rabbits...but the ones that are scared....

I am the bearer of all good things. I come in mid-range into a cage (food first)... so not too low, not too high...just high enough that they think...okay something is coming in and isn't sneaking in or coming in too fast so the rabbit thinks "it's going to eat me"... My idea is to get the rabbit thinking...oh...it's food and it smells like lady. :)

I'll do that for up to a month...which gives them LOTS of time to just chill out. Learn my smell.
after I've given that time and they aren't chilling out they go into a special cage and hubby dear takes over for one-three weeks he feeds and waters, gives back rubs. ALL I do is talk and talk and talk and look see..I bring bread crusts. :)

By the time I take over again, bunny has usually learned by then that I'm not to be feared. That calmness is a good thing and gets you backrubs while that lady talks to me. :) I've rarely had to pin an animal but have done so about oh six-eight times in almost 5 years. Each time has been short and sweet and a basic reminder of...DON"T BITE ME OR ATTACK ME because I CAN eat you! I bring GOOD THINGS remember? Bunny has 90% of the time said...okay...I'm cool, I might grumble, but I'll stay in my own corner. :) I'm fine with that. :)

You remain nasty...and I know what to do with you. You don't stay.. I have a young child who helps me care for bunnies... you bite him or scare him badly...you don't stay here, you just don't. I don't budge on that. Protective mommas are up too high for him to reach so that's not even an issue - and they get a pass because they have wee ones to mind.
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Re: Cage aggression

Post Number:#9  Unread postby akane » Thu Sep 16, 2010 9:10 pm


50/50 here. Amako has always been mildly aggressive when in her cage. She'll carry on the whole time you are around the rabbit cages. Thump, grunt, squeak, lunge... but she never developed an intent to bite so we just tell her to chill and toss her a flax cookie when we open the door. She drags it in the back corner and mostly leaves us alone. If she's being too bratty a quick pin over her shoulders and a sharp "quit it" and she decides to retreat with one last thump. I've known Amako was a spoiled brat since day 1 but she really isn't dangerous and is quite intelligent so reasoning with her is easy enough. Bring treats, remind her that we aren't going away just cause she says so, and she gives up pretty readily.

Yuki though moved on to drawing blood a few days ago and I'm running out of ideas. Last night my attempts to pin her so I could get and fill her pellet dish cost me a finger. We now have a piece of cardboard by her cage to hold in front of her face. If she's not pregnant I think she's run out of excuses.
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Re: Cage aggression

Post Number:#10  Unread postby Brody » Sat Sep 18, 2010 7:18 am


the cardboard is a good management technique while you figure out a plan
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Re: Cage aggression

Post Number:#11  Unread postby Anntann » Sat Sep 18, 2010 2:41 pm


Something else I wanted to mention....Chocolate Bunny, my attack rabbit. She regularly gets picked up now when she tries to attack. Not held hard, or pinned down...but just picked up and held and nose rubbed. It's tricky because she WILL try to bite the arm. But she's gotten better about attacking when I go into the colony. She just stays away. Every chance I get I do try to pick her up, tho. I don't think she's EVER going to be a tamed "hi, I'm your buddy" rabbit...and I'll never be able to trust her NOT to bite. BUT....

with Aztec, my cage aggressor, it's a very different "feel". Once she's picked up, she's fine. No anger. No aggression. It's pure territorial. If I put a hand in her cage, she's all "ears flat back, fangs out, in lunge position". I've started picking up her crock (which has a handle) and pushing the feed in her face when I fill it :D She IMMEDIATELY puts ears up and settles down. I'm also stuffing in hay through the side of the cage. (it's 2x4" wire) and handing various treats in through the sides. So far I haven't lost a finger, and she's not getting WORSE...always a plus :D

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Re: Cage aggression

Post Number:#12  Unread postby Brody » Sat Sep 18, 2010 3:35 pm


yup - seen that before

where the rabbit is FINE away from thier space - very very typical parrot issue actually - one thing we do with naughty parrots is keep changing up their environment - new things to fuss at, chew explore
a box one day a basket the next
a mirror one day a swing the next

what I do when I need to do lots of of envirnomental change ups is have a box with a bunch of different things in it - and simply rotate through it - I don't have time to think about it so i keep it handy and that reminds me to switch it up

:)
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Re: Cage aggression

Post Number:#13  Unread postby Anntann » Sun Sep 19, 2010 3:51 pm


OH! I like that. She does seem to like to have things to toss around and sort of "bully". Mama-san rearranges furniture..this doe destroys it. toilet roll tubes with hay, wire balls, small cardboard boxes, maybe a grapevine ball! ooo. I could do that. Make things new....

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Re: Cage aggression

Post Number:#14  Unread postby Brody » Mon Sep 20, 2010 4:38 pm


yup - give her something to think about while you are habituating her to being handled and you being in "her" space :)
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