Rabbits get depressed. It surprises many rabbit owners to see their pet acting sad. I suggest you learn the symptoms and causes of depression in rabbits. In fact, I get asked by rabbit owners all the time about rabbit depression. So, why is my rabbit depressed?
What Symptoms Show My Rabbit Is Depressed?
Why is My Rabbit depressed? It could be for many reasons such as seasonal change, boredom, loneliness, changes, fear, sickness, poor diet. Your pet rabbit’s depression can be hard to diagnosis. It’s easy to miss depression symptoms in rabbits. Here are some symptoms to watch for in your rabbit.
Lethargy-Rabbits have lots of energy. They’re playful and enjoy running around. If your rabbit is listless or shows no interest in play, she may be depressed.
Hiding-If your rabbit hides in one corner of her cage, she could be depressed.
Lacks social interest-Rabbits are social animals. They love playing with other rabbits and being petted by humans. If your pet rabbit shows no interest in social interactions, this is a loud warning that she might be depressed.
Loss of appetite-Your pet rabbit munches on hay and her food throughout the day. If she isn’t eating or refuses her treats, take notice.
Pacing-When a rabbit walks in circles inside her cage, she is fearful, anxious or depressed.
Biting-Rabbits chew on hay, twigs and other wooden objects to keep their teeth trimmed. If your rabbit chews the wrong things, like the bars to her cage or bites you, this could be a sign that she’s depressed.
Over grooming-Rabbits that are fearful or depressed can over groom to the point of baldness. Rabbits groom themselves a lot, but if you see lots of fur on the bottom of her cage, she is over grooming.
What Causes Rabbit Depression?
Rabbits get depressed for a variety of reasons. If you think your rabbit is depressed, consider these causes for depression in rabbits.
- Seasonal changes- Seasonal changes affect all mammals. For instance, less light in the winter can cause depression in rabbits.
- Boredom-If your rabbit has nothing to do, she may get depressed.
- Loneliness- Rabbits are social animals. They need interaction with other rabbits or people to stay healthy and happy. If your rabbit’s partner dies, this increases her loneliness. Rabbits who lose their bunny friends are prone to depression.
- Changes in your household-Rabbits are sensitive to changes in your home. Whether it’s someone moving out or someone moving in, your rabbit may experience depression or sadness at the changes.
- Fear-Because they’re prey animals even domestic rabbits have a fear instinct. Loud noises, change or being held wrong scare rabbits. This may lead to depression.
- Sickness-Depression is often the first symptom that your rabbit is ill.
- Teeth- Your rabbit’s teeth grow her entire life. Chewing hay keeps her teeth trimmed down. If she’s not getting enough hay, her teeth become overgrown. Overgrown teeth cause pain lack of appetite, loss of energy and even eye problems.
- Breed-Certain rabbit breeds are more energetic than other breeds. Calmer breeds of rabbits have a more laid back manner. Knowing your rabbit’s breed characteristic helps you determine whether she’s depressed.
- Altering your rabbit-After spaying or neutering, your rabbit may experience some depression. This is common but doesn’t last long. With all the hormonal changes occurring in your rabbit’s body, it depresses her. She may act lethargic, have less of an appetite and seem a little sad. These symptoms may last for a few weeks. If she doesn’t come out of her depression after three weeks, call your vet because she could be sick.
- Poor diet-Your rabbit needs a good diet to stay healthy. Depression is sometimes a symptom of a poor diet. A poor diet causes lethargy, weakness and lack of desire to play. A healthy diet strengthens your rabbit’s immune system to fight off illness. Give your pet rabbit plenty of hay such as timothy hay or meadow hay, fresh leafy green vegetables and fresh water. Only give her fruit once in a while since it’s so sweet. A healthy diet ensures a healthy digestive system.
How To Help A Depressed Rabbit?
If you think your rabbit is depressed, take her to a vet for a check up. This is important since depression is often the first symptoms of sickness in your pet rabbit. Because they’re prey animals, rabbits hide their pain to fool their predators. If your vet gives your pet rabbit a clean bill of health, assume her depression is because of something else. Here are some suggestions to help your depressed bunny.
Another bunny-If you think your pet rabbit is depressed due to loneliness, get another bunny. Rabbits do well in pairs. They play together, groom one another and keep one another from getting lonely. Rabbits are very social, having a rabbit friend can offset loneliness.
More playtime-If boredom is making your rabbit depressed, spend more time playing with her. Rabbits love to knock things over. Set up some plastic bowling pins and allow your bunny to knock them over. She’ll love it. Another game bunnies love is “steal.” Hold a piece of apple or a chewable toy in your hand. Allow your rabbit to steal the piece of apple from your hand. Take your rabbit outside, allow her to hop around your yard and graze on the grass. Build a play area for your pet rabbit to keep your rabbit safe and predators out. Never leave your rabbit alone in your yard even if she’s inside a fenced in play area. Predators may try to climb into the play area or she could escape.
Bigger place-A too small cage or hutch depresses a rabbit. Your rabbit should be able to stand up , turn around and stretch out in her cage or hutch. Lack of space prevents a rabbit from playing and exercising. Attach a small fenced in play area to the outside of your rabbit’s hutch. Put a little door in the hutch so your rabbit can come and go as she pleases. Extra space will cheer your rabbit up and offset her boredom.
Change surroundings-Rabbits are smart. They need lots of mental stimulation. Allow your rabbit to explore new areas in your house or yard. Teach your rabbit to walk on a leash. Rabbit harnesses make it easy to leash walk your rabbit around your yard or on the sidewalk. Be aware of any dogs or cats in the area. Rabbits bolt if they think a predator is nearby. Give your rabbit new treats such as bits of fruit or fresh vegetables she’s never had. Create homemade toys from paper towel tubes or cardboard boxes. Your rabbit can chew these or throw them around or crawl around inside of them.
How Do I Choose Toys For My Rabbit?
Rabbits are playful animals. Give your pet rabbit fun good toys to ease her boredom and depression. Rabbit toys are easy to buy or make. Here are some suggestions for fun rabbit toys that will keep your bunny happy and healthy.
- Balls-Wicker balls are a favorite for rabbits. They enjoy rolling them around or chewing on them.
- Cardboard boxes-Rabbits love to crawl through cardboard boxes. Smaller boxes are fun for rabbits to throw around. Plus, they love to chew the cardboard which trims down their teeth. Just be sure the boxes are clean inside.
- Treat toys-You can hide treats like bits of fruit or favorite veggies inside these toys. Your rabbit must figure out how to get the treat. This is good mental stimulation for you rabbit and lots of fun.
- Go on a hunt-HIde treats such as apple pieces or raisins around a room and let your rabbit hunt for them.
- Jump around-Put small step stools or boxes in your rabbit’s play are for her to jump up on. Boxes work well too, be sure they’re stable so your rabbit won’t fall.
- Small Hay feeders-Stuff hay inside a paper towel or toilet paper tube for your rabbit to pull out. She will love munching on the hay and chewing the cardboard tube, too.
Offer your rabbit different toys every few days to keep her life interesting and mentally challenging.
Can Rabbits Die Of Depression?
Rabbits get very sad, even depressed, when they lose a partner because they’ve spent hours together sleeping, eating, grooming and playing with their bunny friend. Weeks after your pet’s friend has died, she may be withdrawn or hide refusing to play. Some rabbits who have never been aggressive, suddenly display aggressive behavior towards their owners. They may bite or nip at them. Other rabbits want to be held more and may follow you around. A grieving rabbit may stop eating or eat very little. Your depressed rabbit may hide and refuse to play. Be patient with your bunny, give her time to adjust to her new life. Usually, the best thing for a rabbit who’s lost her partner is to find another partner for her. Your rabbit may take some time to adjust to the new partner, but some rabbits adjust faster than others. After she adjusts to the rabbit friend, she’ll be back to her old self.
If your rabbit refuses to eat or drink for a long period of time, this can be serious. Eventually she may starve to death. If your rabbit hasn’t eaten for several days, contact your vet to get her checked. Your rabbit’s depression may be caused by an illness.
What Other Reasons Do Healthy Rabbits Suddenly Die?
● Moving your indoor rabbit outside-Store bought rabbits should stay indoors. Because they lived in a store for the first few weeks of their life, they’ve adjusted to inside temperatures. Rabbits are sensitive to temperature fluctuations, so being removed can kill them. Also, extreme temperatures that are too cold or too hot can kill a rabbit.
- Deadly fly strike-Fly strike, or myiasis, occurs when a fly lays its eggs on our pet rabbit. The eggs hatch into maggots. Once the maggots eat the rabbit’s flesh, death is quick. Flies are drawn to feces and urine, so keep your rabbit and her surroundings clean. Put up a fly trap near your rabbit’s hutch or cage to keep flies away. Feed your rabbit a healthy diet of hay, fresh vegetables and fresh water.
- Fear-Rabbits frighten easily. Loud noises like a dog barking or screaming can cause a heart attack or put your rabbit into shock which leads to sudden death. Keep your pet in a quiet room. Keep pets and young kids away from your rabbit’s cage so she will feel safe.
- Injured from improper holding– Young children shouldn’t hold your rabbit. If a child drops your bunny, it could break her neck or back. Rabbit’s bones are fragile, it’s easy for them to break bones. It’s best to keep young kids away from your pet rabbit.
- Injury by another pet-Pet dogs or cats may kill your pet rabbit. Large dogs scare rabbits. Never allow your dog or cat to be in the same room or yard with your rabbit. Injuries are apt to happen. Certain dog breeds hunt rabbits, so it’s impossible to train them to be gentle around your rabbit.
- Poison-Rabbits can die of poisoning. She may not show symptoms at first, but if you notice a discharge from her eyes, mouth or anus, she may have eaten something poisonous. She may not have an appetite or want to drink water. If you suspect that your rabbit at something poisonous, don’t wait, call your vet. Sources of poison include: pesticides, dishwasher liquid, cleaning supplies, garden chemicals.
- Swallowing something-Rabbits nibble on anything. Get rid of all broken glass, broken toys or pieces of plastic containers. If your rabbit ingests a sharp object, it could tear or puncture her insides causing internal bleeding and death. If you think your bunny swallowed something, take her to your vet immediately.
Is My Rabbit’s House Making Her Depressed?
A rabbit’s hutch or cage is her home. She eats, sleeps and rests in her home. If your rabbit’s cage or hutch isn’t right, she’ll be depressed. Rabbits are clean animals. Change her litter box daily so the cage won’t smell. Remove wet or smelly straw bedding and replace it with fresh bedding at least once a week. Give your rabbit plenty of hay to chew on to keep her teeth trimmed down and her digestive tract working well. Be sure your rabbit’s hutch or cage is well ventilated. If she lives outdoors, place her hutch under a shade tree or on your porch. A clean, sweet smelling cage will make your rabbit happy and keep her healthy.
Is My Rabbit Lonely?
If your rabbit is lonely, it may also depress her. Loneliness is normal for a rabbit. Your pet misses you while you’re at work or during the night. In the wild, rabbits were with their rabbit community all the time. It makes sense that your rabbit gets lonely since you are her “community” If your rabbit has a companion rabbit, this will help offset her loneliness. Females often do well on her own, but can become territorial, not wanting another rabbit in her area. If you’re not sure if your rabbit is lonely, here are some symptoms of loneliness to watch for:
Is your rabbit trying to tell you something?
Your rabbit may nudge you or nip at you. This means she wants you to pet her or play with her. She’s trying to get your attention. If she’s doing this, take some time to play with her, pet her or hold her.
Is she destroying things-If your rabbit is lonely, she may become angry and hyperactive. She may chew on your furniture upholstery, or tear your carpet. She may chew on her feet or toes. This is a dangerous self destructive behavior that needs to be addressed. Give her extra attention and play time to see if this helps stop this behavior. If not, get her checked out by the vet to make sure she isn’t ill.
Is she pulling out her fur-Lonely rabbits can pull out their fur causing bald areas on their fur. Rabbits groom themselves all the time, but fur pulling isn’t healthy. If you find a bunch of fur on the bottom of your rabbit’s cage or hutch, she may be fur pulling.
She may withdraw– Rabbits that are lonely and depressed withdraw. She may refuse to play or be held or hide in a corner of her cage so you can’t reach her. Try to give her some space. Once you coax her out, hold her and pet her. Give her extra attention. If she doesn’t recover from her withdraw, you may want to take her to the vet. She may be getting sick.
Rabbits are gentle, sensitive pets. They get depressed from loneliness, boredom, illness, and other things. As a rabbit owner, you need to know what depression looks like and how to help your rabbit get out of her depression. Helping your rabbit feel safe and happy will improve her health. Lots of playtime and attention plus a clean, airy home and fresh foods will help your rabbit come out of her depression.