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Previously docile bunny now aggressive after being with other people?

22 9:45:27


I rescued a 9 week old bunny from a friend who adopted him and decided a week later she didn't want him anymore.  I have had him since he was 9 weeks and he is now almost 6 months old.  Ever since I have had him, he has been the most lovable, docile bunny I have ever met.  He would constantly be nudging your hand to pet him, binkying, lounging around, and being the epitome of a happy, lovable bunny, even after being neutered.  Since rescuing him, I have been working with a rescue organization and after denying (literally) 23 people for various reasons, I thought I had found the perfect home!  Numerous house visits and questionnaire's later, it was time for me to drop him off with her (a 28 year old woman living alone but would only be gone when going to school).  Two days after dropping him off, I find out that she left him with her boyfriend who has a rabbit also to go on vacation.  This other rabbit apparently didn't get along with my little Wolfe too well and I can only imagine what happened when he was over there.  I expressed my concern to his new mother but ultimately decided it was an innocent mishap and she didn't realize how it may affect him.  Three days after her return from vacation, I get a text message late at night from Val, the woman I was working with at the rescue, she is very worried about Wolfe and the recent heat and even though he was being kept indoors, it was getting extremely hot where he was.  I knew the woman had air conditioning and when Val asked me to text his new mother, I quickly did to get to the bottom of things.  After an hour or two of texting, and me wanting to go pick him up tonight but her being too "tired", we decided her boyfriend would bring him over first thing in the morning at 9 am.  11:30 the next day and finally he shows up with bunny in hand.  Immediately he starts threatening me and calling me names and would not let got of Wolfe until I literally had to pry him from his hands (he was in a carrier).  Since then, Wolfe, who was previously the most innocent, sweetest thing I have ever met is lunging and growling!  I could not believe it the first time he growled at me and went in to bite my hand, it broke my heart.  He's not totally aggressive, we can still pick him up, pet him, and he still seems happy, it's just the sudden, totally random lunging, growling and biting.  My sweet little boy experienced so much fear and who knows what else that he was now showing aggressions when I used to be able to lay him on his back and rub his belly.  I'm assuming this may have something to do with being with the other bunny but am not totally sure as the behavior both his adopter and her boyfriend have displayed since has been returned is nothing short of insane. Have you or do you know anyone who has had this experience?  Is there something other than the adopters I'm not seeing that could have caused his sudden change in behavior?  Most importantly, is there any way I can somehow relieve him of his little bunny PTSD?  I hate to think he lost all of his innocence so quickly.

Dear Lauren,

Sorry for the delay in answering.  A series of ridiculous emergencies came up, and I'm only now able to address AllExperts.  :(

First off, I have to say my heart aches for poor Wolfe.  I know you must be relieved to have him back, even though he is now acting aggressive and fearful.  It could be a combination of the onset of puberty and bad treatment at the place he was, but the fact remains that now he need very gentle care.

I have to wonder if when he showed any degree of aggression or "misbehavior" at the new place he was disciplined physically.  This is not only cruel and Victorian, but it just backfires with rabbits and makes them MORE aggressive.  They are not like dogs, and I wonder if that boyfriend was an (unwitting) culprit here.  

But that's over, and now you have to regain Wolfe's trust. (Maybe this is a sign he should stay with you.  The aggressive bunnies often turn out to be the most intelligent and wonderful, once they are over their fear.

I think you already know never to meet his aggression with any physical punishment.  Instead, as hard as it might be, just gently place your hand on the top of his head and stroke him.  This is the behavior of a dominant but gentle companion, and he will calm down if you do this.  

It could take weeks or months.  Hard to say, as each individual is different.  But I think you might find the tips here useful:

I'm so relieved that you got Wolfe back from those people.  It's so hard to know if even the nicest-seeming folks are really what they appear to be.  Wolfe is very lucky to have you.

Take care, and good luck,