Rabbits are relationship-focused animals. It’s vital to a pet rabbit that it feels understood. Rabbits communicate using body language, and apologizing is a good example of this behavior.
Rabbits are usually keen to make amends, but can be stubborn. A rabbit can hold a grudge for hours, or even days. You may need to separate your pets until they have re-bonded.
Do Rabbits Fall Out with Each Other?
The union of two bonded rabbits is unlike many relationships. When two rabbits bond, they are usually friends for life. They will appear inseparable and do everything together.
While your rabbits would not be without each other, they can fall out on occasion. Usually, this is a temporary issue. Once an apology has been issued and accepted, normal service will be resumed.
There are a number of reasons why bonded rabbits may have a disagreement. Rabbit expert Jana Brock explains how to tell the difference between a tiff and a fight. Common triggers of quarrels between bonded rabbits include:
- Fighting over territory. Rabbits are territorial by nature. If two rabbits share a hutch, they’ll both consider it their own. This can lead to minor ‘turf wars’ over certain parts of the hutch.
- Fighting over dominance. Every rabbit pairing establishes a hierarchy. One rabbit will be dominant, and the other submissive. A submissive rabbit could make a play for dominance.
- Too much time together. Bonded rabbits like to spend all their time together. Even bonded rabbits need some time alone to sleep or relax.
- A new addition. Adding a third rabbit to an established pair can cause stress. Who will be the dominant party in this trio? Will there be enough food? What is everybody’s territory?
Do not allow a rabbit squabble to escalate to a fight. This can result in injury, and permanently damage a relationship. Separate your rabbits temporarily, but ensure they can still see and smell each other. They will soon be keen to apologize.
Do Rabbits Apologize by Touching Foreheads?
Rabbit behavior can often be puzzling to pet owners. Many body language cues of rabbits can be mistaken for something else, including apologies.
When a rabbit wants to apologize, she will approach her mate. She will drop her head and rub it against that of the other rabbit. The two animals may also rub noses. If you are unfamiliar with this, it may look like renewed aggression.
This is not the case. Rabbits put their heads together to apologize. Both rabbits should hold this pose for a few seconds. If one rabbit walks away, they are not ready to accept the apology yet. Separate the rabbits, and try again later.
Rabbits apologize to other pets and humans this way, too. If your rabbit has annoying your cat, for example, she’ll likely apologize afterward.
Rabbits do not seek to please human owners. All the same, your pet loves you. She doesn’t want you to be mad at her. Your rabbit may push her head against you to offer an olive branch.
If your rabbit does this, show that you forgive her. Hold the pose and offer petting or a favorite treat. Your rabbit must know you are back on good terms.
How Do Rabbits Forgive Each Other?
A successful rabbit apology will involve the touching of heads for a few seconds. After this, it should be business as usual. The rabbits will go about their day as though nothing happened. Grooming will also likely take place.
Grooming is critical to rabbit communication. It’s the easiest way to identify the dominant and submissive dynamic in a rabbit pairing. The dominant rabbit will expect grooming from the submissive pet on demand.
If the dominant rabbit allows herself to be groomed, your pets are back on good terms. It’s an acknowledgment from a rabbit that she was in the wrong.
You may also notice your rabbit crouching, and making herself smaller. This is another cue of submission. Your rabbit is saying, “I understand that I was wrong. I know my place in the hierarchy.”
Watch the grooming carefully at first. There is a slim chance that it could turn to a fight again. This is unlikely, though. Grooming is a sacred ritual for rabbits and comparatively intimate. A rabbit will not allow a subordinate to groom her if she fears for her safety.
If your rabbits cannot get along after a fight, you’ll need to attempt re-bonding. Completely separate them from a while, and start the bonding process from scratch.
Your rabbits will realize that they missed each other. They will apologize and move on. Sadly, this is not always the case. If your rabbits will not re-bond, they can no longer share a living space.
How Do I Apologize to My Rabbit?
There may come a time that you need to apologize to your pet. Rabbits are proud. It’s easy to inadvertently cause offense. If you do so, apologize as soon as your rabbit will allow. There are numerous ways that you could accidentally offend your rabbit. These include:
- Accidentally inflicting pain. Your pet will already be convinced that everybody and everything wants to hurt and eat her. You need to dissuade this notion, not cement it.
- Ignoring cues for attention. She will approach you and nudge, lick or nip your hand for attention. Ignoring this is a significant social faux pas for rabbits.
- Cleaning a hutch. You are doing your rabbit a favor by cleaning her hutch. She may not see it this way, though. Many rabbits consider hutch cleaning an invasion of the territory.
- Petting another animal. Rabbits are bossy and a little insecure. If you have been playing with another animal, your pet will not like it. She will not be shy about letting you know this.
- Not sharing food. If your rabbit runs free, she will likely show an interest in your dinner. Rabbits are food-focused animals. Sadly, most human foods are unsafe for rabbits. She may not understand this, and think you’re just being mean.
Thankfully, it’s comparatively easy to earn a rabbit’s forgiveness. Do not attempt to place your forehead against hers. You are bigger than your rabbit, and this will frighten her.
Instead, offer a raisin or similar small treat and some petting. This will be enough to calm your rabbit down. If the offense was significant, she may sulk for a while before allowing you to apologize.
Do Rabbits Hold Grudges?
A rabbit can be as stubborn as a mule if she feels that she has been mistreated. As The Language of Lagomorphs explains, there are sliding scales to a rabbit grudge. This could last for quite some time.
- If your rabbit glances at you then looks at the floor, she wants you to notice. She is saying, “I see you – I just don’t care.”
- If your rabbit waits for you notice her then walks away, she is annoyed. Any apology may be refuted at this stage.
- If your rabbit turns her back on you, you’re in big trouble. She won’t even look at you. She may also kick her heels in your direction.
- If your pet also folds her ears down, she is seriously offended. She is refusing to acknowledge your existence. This mood could last for days.
These behaviors could also be displayed toward another rabbit. Enhanced aggression is also a risk in these cases. If one rabbit is holding a grudge, it’s best to separate your pets for a while.
Eventually, a rabbit will get over her grudge. She will approach you for a peace offering. You may need to make the running here. Your rabbit will likely feel that she was in the right. She is expecting petting and a treat by way of apology.
No pet owner ever wants to see rabbits fall out. The bond that rabbits share is one of nature’s most beautiful things. Disagreements can happen, though. As long as an apology is offered – and accepted – it’s nothing to worry about.