Rabbits can get depressed for a bunch of reasons, and there are a few key signs you should look out for in their behavior. Some of the most common signs are if your rabbit is hiding away, not moving much, not eating, and altogether acting out of character.
Check out the rest of the article to find out what other signs of depression you can look out for in your rabbit. And once you recognize the problem and identify the cause, you can try a few things to cheer them up – you can find out some useful tips on how to help your depressed rabbit later in the article.
Signs of Depression in Rabbits
Though these issues can be from different illnesses, one or more of these signs could indicate that your rabbit has depression.
- Lethargy (low energy, not moving much).
- Hiding (secluding themselves away, shying away from contact).
- Not wanting to socialize (especially if they’re usually more social).
- Lack of appetite (if they aren’t tempted with even a treat, it’s a major sign that something isn’t right. Speak to a vet if they haven’t eaten for several hours as this could lead to a fatal condition called gastrointestinal stasis).
- Pacing (if your rabbit is repeatedly walking up and down their hutch or cage, it’s a sign they aren’t comfortable relaxing).
- Biting (this aggressive behavior could be them trying to bite you, the bars of their cage, or just about anything. This obsessive behavior is a sign of your rabbit not being happy).
- Overgrooming (an anxious or stressed rabbit might obsessively groom, to the point where they end up with bald patches).
- Hunched over (if your rabbit is sitting hunched over, and they aren’t laying down and relaxing then it could be a problem. A happy, comfortable rabbit will flop onto their side).
Why a Rabbit Might Be Depressed
Rabbits are complex creatures with emotions that can be affected by so many factors. There will always be an underlying issue or reason for their sadness, and once you’ve worked it out you’ll be able to start helping them.
Some common reasons for a rabbit’s depression are:
- Trauma (if they’ve lost a companion or bond-mate).
- Something wrong around them (if a predator or environmental factor is causing them distress).
- Stress and anxiety (a rabbit experiencing stress long-term can become depressed. Being cooped up and stressed can take a toll after a while).
- Routine change (rabbits are creatures of habit so moving house or switching up their routine can stress them out).
- Boredom (rabbits need attention and mental stimulation. Without any, they’ll get bored and fed up).
- Lonely (without a companion, rabbits will crave attention from their owners. If they don’t get enough they’ll suffer from too little attention and social interaction).
- Illness (a sick rabbit can have similar symptoms such as not eating and lethargy, but a rabbit can feel down if they’re feeling unwell too).
- After surgery (you might notice that your rabbit is mentally suffering after they’d been neutered or any other operation. They’ll smell differently and feel out of sorts from a trip to the vet).
- Seasonal depression (it’s possible for rabbits to be depressed in the cold, dark winter. This is made worse if the rabbit doesn’t get a lot of natural light).
How to Help a Depressed Rabbit
If you’ve identified signs in your rabbit that point towards depression, your next job is to try and help your rabbit feel better.
A lot of these methods are designed to directly combat one of the reasons why a rabbit might be depressed, so you might find that some of the ways to cheer them up won’t be appropriate. You should judge it based on why your rabbit is depressed.
To cheer your rabbit up:
- Get another rabbit (this is effective if they lose a bond mate, as they’ll find it incredibly difficult to live alone. You’ll need to introduce them slowly and get a rabbit of a similar age and size and make sure they’ve been neutered for the best chance of them living together without any issues).
- Spend extra time with your rabbit (your rabbit needs plenty of time and attention from you, especially if you just have one rabbit. Ideally this will be a minimum of two hours per day).
- Change their surroundings (even just taking your rabbit into a different room or outside can grab their interest. One step further is letting them explore the new place as long as it’s rabbit-proof).
- Change their food (this might be enough to persuade them to eat. New rabbit-friendly treats might get them eating again).
- Get your rabbit toys (rabbits need a lot of mental stimulation. If they’re bored, new toys can spark interest and distract them from their sadness. This is especially good if you’re leaving them alone).
- Make sure they have enough space (a lot of rabbits spend the majority of their time in cages or hutches, so if they don’t have much space they’ll find themselves cramped and desperate to get out and stretch).
You could also take your rabbit to the vet for a check-up. Though there’s little they can do for depression, they can assess if any pain and discomfort is causing their depression.