When people think of rabbits, they often imagine a frightened, delicate creature running away from danger. While that isn’t all there is to a rabbit, it’s a pretty good start. Rabbits can be frightened of many things and they will often run away from perceived danger.
But what are rabbits afraid of? Rabbits are naturally afraid of predators such as dogs, cats, and birds of prey. They can be frightened of loud noises, unfamiliar people or animals, and new objects placed in the home or yard.
To be honest, rabbits seem to be afraid of their own shadows sometimes. They are, indeed, afraid of many things, but for good reason. As prey animals, they have a naturally strong flight response, sometimes to seemingly innocent things. Below, we’ll cover some of the things rabbits are afraid of and what you can do to keep your bunnies safe, calm, and happy in the face of their worst fears.
Why Are Rabbits So Scared?
In the wild, rabbits are prey animals. Their purpose in the food chain is to be the food. They are a filling meal for most predators, and they know it.
Mather Nature saw fit to give rabbits the ability to sense danger in a variety of ways and to move quickly out of harm’s way. That makes them skittish and easily frightened. It keeps them alive.
When rabbits were domesticated, they were originally bred for human food. They were bred to be a little more docile, but not unafraid. So, those old instincts are still strong in most pet rabbits. Even though pet rabbits aren’t destined for our dinner tables anymore, they don’t know that!
What Animals Are Rabbits Afraid of?
Many animals can illicit a flight response in otherwise tame and docile pet rabbits. This is pure instinct and has nothing to do with how you’ve handled or cared for your bunny. Knowing which animals rabbits are naturally afraid of will help you make your pet bunny feel safer though.
Rabbits are naturally terrified of dogs. But that’s not just your typical neighborhood dog. Rabbits see anything vaguely dog-shaped as a threat. That can be your neighbor’s poodle, a coyote in the yard, or a wolf howling in the distance.
Even rabbits that have been raised around dogs still retain that primal fear of canines. They can recognize their dog companions as safe while still seeing the neighbor’s puppy as a potential threat.
This behavior isn’t necessarily something you want to train out of them. Though it’s not fun to think about, even the best trained pet dog can get too exuberant and end up hurting a pet rabbit by accident. If rabbits retain some of their natural caution, they can avoid those dangerous situations all on their own.
Felines are a natural rabbit predator. Between feral cats, house cats, and wild cats such as mountain lions, rabbits have a real reason to fear felines. These silent predators are perfectly suited to hunting rabbits undetected.
While it’s possible for pet rabbits to be raised with cats and become fearless of their own companions, it’s not wise to leave a cat alone with a rabbit. Not to make cats sound evil, but the hunting drive is very strong in even the laziest house cat. It’s best not to give them an opportunity to stalk a pet rabbit when you’re not looking.
Rabbits are a favorite food for large birds of prey. Think about eagles, hawks, and other big birds. They spend their days soaring above fields, searching for unaware rabbits.
Bunnies have a natural distrust of any large bird, even those in cages. Rabbits can’t distinguish between a seed-eating parrot and a red-tailed hawk. That means the sight or sound of any large bird will likely send a rabbit scurrying for cover.
If you raise large birds as well as rabbits, do your bunnies a favor. Keep the birds in a separate part of the house.
Raccoons may be cute, but they can be vicious killers. Vaguely cat-like, raccoons illicit the fear response in rabbits. Bunnies are easy prey for sneaky raccoons both in the country and in the city.
Use raccoon-proof wires on all outdoor hutches and play yards. Never leave bunnies unattended in your yard.
Weasels have been known to kill kits right next to the mother rabbit. These stealthy killers are able to slip silently into hutches and even indoor cages and kill a baby rabbit in seconds. They tend to leave larger adult rabbits alone, but a very hungry weasel can injure a giant rabbit easily.
Even though ferrets are domesticated like dogs and cats, to a rabbit, they’re no different than a weasel. Keep pet ferrets away from rabbits, and make sure all enclosures are weasel-proof with close wires and no gaps.
Are Rabbits Scared of People?
Some rabbits are afraid of people while others are not. This has to do with several factors.
First, it’s normal for very young rabbits to fear humans. This is especially true for rabbits born outside in a hutch or barn and with little to no contact with humans the first weeks of their lives.
Second, it’s normal for very old rabbits to fear humans if they were mistreated by people or if they were passed from home to home. It’s hard to build trust and bond with people if the people are always changing.
Third, rabbits can be afraid of young children. This is very common. Children are unpredictable, move fast, and are often quite loud. These are all things that set rabbits on edge.
How to Stop Rabbits from Fearing People
The best way to keep a rabbit from fearing humans is to simply give them time together. Be present, even if you’re not interacting with your bunny. Letting her see you going about your business and just being nearby will help set her mind at ease.
Rabbits need time to acclimate to humans. Their bonding doesn’t happen quickly, so give them time and space to watch you and see how safe you are.
Keep kids away from skittish rabbits. While it’s good to acclimate rabbits to humans and their weird behaviors, it’s never good to force a scared rabbit to be around kids. Save the introductions to young kids until the rabbit is older and has grown used to people.
What Else Are Rabbits Afraid Of?
Earlier, we mentioned that rabbits sometimes seem to fear their own shadows. That wasn’t an exaggeration. Rabbits have literally run away from their own shadow when the light suddenly changes around them.
They’re not dumb. They’re just cautious.
Any kind of sudden or unexpected movement can send a rabbit running. This can be something as simple as an item falling off of a shelf or as sinister as a dog jumping out from the bushes.
Limit the chances of something falling by making sure everything is secured in cabinets or on lower shelves. Keep your rabbit above the shelves so they can’t see if something does happen to fall. You can also make sure to close doors behind you to keep other pets from visiting your rabbits while you’re away.
A noise doesn’t have to be sudden to be scary to a rabbit. A loud motorcycle zooming through the neighborhood can be just as unsettling as a loud pop from a gun or fireworks. Rabbits are tuned in to everything around them, especially sounds.
While it would be impossible to filter every sound before it reaches your bunny’s ears, you can take some steps to reduce the noise. Soundproofing a room is pretty extreme, but in the city or if you have a noisy neighbor, this might be your best bet to keeping your bunny calm. You can change your rabbit’s location within the house or yard to be farther from the source of noise, too.
Rabbits are naturally distrustful of anything new or unfamiliar in their environments. Even well-tamed and gentle bunnies can become nervous over a new item in the room. It can be something as innocuous as a new coat hanging on the doorknob or the vacuum cleaner being left in the room.
If it’s not familiar to your rabbit, it can cause a fear response!
To prevent this, try not to change the room or the yard too much. If it’s unavoidable, try to introduce your bunny to the new object slowly and over time. If that’s not possible, you can put up a screen of some sort to block your rabbit’s view of the offending object, too.
All rabbits use those adorable twitchy noses to detect danger. If your rabbit can’t see or hear the danger coming, they can sure as heck smell it.
Unfortunately, something innocent and safe can cause rabbits to run in fear just by the smell. If your rabbit isn’t used to a smell, they’ll be very cautious of it. Some rabbits have been known to bolt when they smell perfume for the first time or a new dish cooking in the kitchen.
It’s impossible to predict what smells will frighten a rabbit. However, it’s helpful to know that a simple smell can cause a rabbit to run away. It can help you figure out why your bunny might be acting fearful all of a sudden.
It’s not possible to shelter your rabbits from new smells, unfortunately. The best you can do is soothe an upset bunny and let them know there’s nothing to fear when a new aroma wafts through the window.
Common Household Items That Scare Rabbits
Now that you know some general things that many rabbits are afraid of, it’s time to learn about some common household items that you may be surprised to know that rabbits often fear.
- Children’s toys. Kid’s toys can be frightening due to the bright colors, loud noises, and how the kids use the toys. It’s best to keep kid’s items away from rabbits.
- Vacuum cleaners. These loud, startling machines come out so infrequently that it’s hard for bunnies to get used to them. Yet, it’s not reasonable to simply not clean your floors. To help bunnies cope, try using the vacuum every day, even if the floor doesn’t need it. Start on the far side of the room and move slowly, staying away from the bunny cage.
- Dishwashers. Oddly enough, many rabbits fear the dishwasher. It’s not so much the dishwasher itself that scares them. It’s usually the type of dishes knocking around inside. Sometimes it’s the smell of hot, soapy water that bothers rabbits, too. You can avoid this by loading the dishwasher properly so nothing moves around. You can also do dishes by hand.
- Television and radios. Any kind of loud electronic device used to play movies, shows, or music can scare a rabbit. It’s the volume that’s the main issue, but the type of sounds can be scary, too. Sudden bass, explosions, or loud screaming are all very startling to rabbits.
- Kitchen sounds. This one surprises a ot of people, but rabbits are often afraid of common kitchen noises such as sizzling food, boiling water, a tea kettle, or dishes slamming around. Keep the rabbit room door closed or let your bunny watch normal kitchen duties from afar to help desensitize him.
- Cell phones. Unfortunately for technophiles, rabbits are often terrified of mobile phones and tablets. These devices not only flash bright lights out of nowhere, but they make scary, sudden sounds and can even vibrate so hard rabbits can feel it through the floor or table. Keep cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices away from your bunny, or turn off the scary sights and sounds.
Fear is a normal, natural part of being a bunny. It’s how they’ve evolved to avoid being eaten. Even though domesticated pet rabbits aren’t in danger of becoming your next meal, they still hang onto those deep fears. Do your best to provide a quiet, calm, and safe environment to reduce your rabbit’s fear and stress.
What do rabbits do when scared? Most rabbits will run or hop away when they are scared. Some will hide if they can find a dark, quiet place to do so. Many rabbits will thump their back feet loudly to warn other rabbits in the area of danger.
Why are rabbits afraid of everything? It’s natural for rabbits to be scared of anything new or unusual. They have an innate fear of cats, dogs, and birds of prey, so anything that resembles those predators will cause fear, too. It’s a survival mechanism.