Yes, rabbits can be territorial. This will depend on an individual rabbits’ personality, as well as several other factors that can determine exactly how territorial a rabbit can be. It can be between rabbits, rabbits and their owners, or over an area or items.
Rabbits divide their surroundings into their personal safe space, public shared spaces, and anywhere owned by another rabbit or person. They might like to be the only animal in their space, or they might be happy to share with other rabbits or animals. If you invade their space, you risk an aggressive reaction from the rabbit.
But some rabbits are way more territorial than others. Check out this full post for more details.
There are a few ways that rabbits can mark their territory, their owners, or their possessions. This indicates to other rabbits and animals that whatever they’ve marked belongs to them.
If a rabbit sprays urine on anything or anyone, they’re marking it as belonging to them.
The best way to prevent this from happening is by getting your rabbit neutered. It’s better for their health and will save you cleaning urine off every surface.
Rabbits have scent glands in their chin, so when they rub their chins on items and places, they’re claiming it as their own.
This is an odorless scent that humans can’t see or detect, so overall it’s a pretty harmless way to let your rabbit mark their territory.
Domesticated rabbits will instinctively be territorial of their home (cage or hutch) where their food, toys, and bed are.
This is their safe space and they may become aggressive if another rabbit or human intrudes on their space. This may also be an issue when you’re cleaning their cage – so you might want to do that when they’re distracted somewhere else.
Signs a Rabbit is Being Territorial
Your rabbit can exhibit a variety of behaviors that indicate that they’re being defensive and territorial.
Signs can look like:
- Biting (or nipping) if your rabbit tries to bite you when you’re reaching into their cage, it could be because you’re going into their space when they don’t want you to.
- Lunging is an example of a rabbit getting riled up and it’s usually seen right before fighting or biting. You may also notice their ears are back, tail up, and their body is tense.
- Growling, hissing, and other vocal sounds are verbal warnings from your rabbit before a fight would start. You can find out more in our post all about this.
- Stomping or thumping is used as a warning that a rabbit is displeased. You should listen and heed the warning – if you’re reaching towards them or in their cage you should back off. This can also be to warn other rabbits of impending danger, but either way, it’s a sign of fear or annoyance.
- Kicking their legs behind them is a clear message to either be put down or that they’re upset so they’re kicking up dirt (or whatever is on the floor).
- Chasing is when a rabbit literally runs another rabbit or animal off their turf. This is different from playful chasing, you can check their body language to see the differences.
- Leaving urine or poop is another way rabbits claim their space. The scent will make other rabbits think twice about encroaching.
Tips for Dealing With Territorial Rabbits
The best way to approach your territorial rabbit will vary – as it will depend a lot on their personality.
- Don’t pick your rabbit up if they’re exhibiting aggressive behavior. They’ll likely fight you and could injure themselves in the process. There’s also a chance you could get bitten, kicked, or scratched.
- Choose your time wisely to clean their cage or hutch. Either when they’re elsewhere or distracted.
- Once you’ve given them food, let them eat in peace. If you try to take or move the food it could cause them to turn hostile.
- Get them neutered! This often calms them down and allows a more peaceful coexistence with other rabbits.
- Build trust and a bond. This might take some time, but if your rabbit gets used to you, they’ll be more relaxed when you’re near them. Start by just sitting nearby and offering treats, and build up to petting them and eventually holding them.
- Take them to a neutral area to bond with yourself, other animals, and other rabbits. This will allow the rabbit to focus on building a relationship without the need to protect and defend their home.