Have you every heard a bunny growl?
I can’t believe that I’ve been so easy on my Rome rabbit that he now has the audacity to growl at me!
Both rabbits have been growling at Tony for a while. Paris growls at Tony because he attempts to pat him while he’s eating. The growl is to say, “My food! Get away and stop bothering me while I’m eating.”
Rome growls at Tony every time he takes his shoe away from him. Yes, Rome acts very much like a dog in many ways, one of which is he enjoys chewing Tony’s shoes. “Not your shoes.. MY TOY!!”
They didn’t growl at me unless I was attempting to groom them (they hate the brush) and get annoyed at my persistence but even then, it was more like a grunt than anything else and it was only after many attempts at dodging and running away from the brush. The lunge is usually at the brush, not at me.
That is, until yesterday. Paris is still the same, he still grunts but that’s as far as he goes with us. I used to think this was pretty bad but not anymore. Not after Rome’s behaviour yesterday.
Rome thinks he’s top dog, alpha wolf and yesterday, his grunt turned into a growl and what sounded like barking!!! How very dare he!
Rabbits live in a hierarchy and it seems that Rome has nominated himself as the head. Tony and I who he once held in high regard (he used to lick/kiss our noses) have now dropped down to the bottom rungs of rabbit existence. We no longer get kisses or any form of affection and instead get demands.
Whenever we ask Rome to do anything he doesn’t want or tell him off for doing something we don’t like, he vocalises his anger at our insubordination.
I find it a bit scary. These bunnies are so weird. I’ve never had vocal bunnies before. I’ve never had bunnies willing to bite me to put me in my place either but these guys will lunge, bite and growl just to express their displeasure and believe me, it’s not due to any kind of anxiety from mistreatment or abuse. They just like to throw their weight around and show dominance.
Speaking of which, Rome is a 1kg ball of fluff. I am 50 times his weight. I could sit on him and crush him and yet, he lords over us.
After he eats, he likes to get groomed. So if you don’t groom him after he’s eaten, he bites on the fence to get your attention. Once he has your attention, he gives you a look. The look is “I’m ready for my pat now.” and he’ll wait patiently for you to turn up to sit next to him in his area. Once you’ve done that, he walks around and picks a place where he wants to plonk down. He will then sit there and expect you to pat him. You then pat him until he doesn’t want a pat anymore which he will indicate by sitting up and walking away.
That’s the process. If you stray away from any of this what you will get is incessant fence biting and depending on how annoyed he gets because you made him bite the fence for ages / sit and wait for ages, he’ll either bite your ankles to reprimand you, make you pat him for even longer, or both.
That’s not all. You MUST feed him, pet him, play with him FIRST. You are not allowed to pay any attention to Paris beforehand. It’s ok though because Paris knows the procedure and sits patiently waiting for his turn.
If you don’t go by these rules, Paris gets antsy (hell hath no fury like Rome’s scorn and Paris knows it) and Rome gets vicious. Rome’s fence biting becomes loud and he’ll push and pull the fence violently which scares Paris and he will just keep doing this until you go to his area. After which you get the normal punishment – he will bite your ankles or make you sit with him and pat him for ages or both.
Stick with the rules and feed him / groom him first and nothing happens, he’ll happily chill out while you spend time with Paris. Sometimes he’ll bite the fence as if to say “OK I’ve changed my mind, I want more patting before you go and feed Paris… HEY!! It’s still my turn!!” but if you ignore him at this point, he’ll understand you’ve gone by the rules and will stop biting the fence and just go and sulk.
Have you seen a rabbit sulk? Rome is genius at it. He even gives you a look and turns his back to you before lying down, pretending to lie down and love life but really he’s keeping an eye on you to make sure you see him doing it. Amazing. There ain’t no sulking like a Rome rabbit sulking.
So why did he bark yesterday? Because he ran under the bed, his new place to hang out. It was all fine until he decided to bite under the bed. He’s done this before. I yell “HEY! Stop it!” and he does.
Yesterday however he didn’t. I yelled “Hey! Stop it!” he stopped for all of 1 second and went straight back to biting the bed. “HEY!!! ROME!!! NO!!” STOP IT!!” to which he stopped to look at me and then continued to bite the bed. “ARRRGHHH!!!! STOP!!! NO! No biting the bed!”
At this point I should explain that he is actually under the corner of the bed that is up against the wall and therefore difficult for me to get to. I had to jump onto the bed and put my arm between the bed and the wall to get to him and you know what he did when I did that??
He lunged at my hand and barked. Yes. He produced 3-4 loud, deep guttural sounds one after the other then lunged at my hand and I got scared (and then angry). I had no idea what to expect but felt that it was the warning before a bite. I couldn’t believe he actually threatened to (and he would follow through if I persisted) bite my hand.
That was going too far. Even dogs don’t lunge at their human companions while barking. We don’t ever hit them so threatening to bite me is very insulting. I growled back at him which didn’t stop him from biting the bed or scare him in the slightest.
So I got the vacuum cleaner out and turned it on to scare the crap out of him. It’s the only thing that got him out from under the bed. I’m annoyed that I had to resort to the vacuum cleaner.
It’s very inconvenient to pull out of the cupboard and carry around to where he is and then plug in. By the time I do all of that, God knows how much damage he’s done to the bed. I can’t see because the damage is next to the wall underneath the mattress.
Where did I go wrong? Maybe I’ve been too gentle on him and now he thinks he can get away with anything but where’s the half way mark with discipline when he ignores yelling?
I make loud noises sometimes by thumping, clapping or hitting the floor or bed to startle them but he just ignores me.
I remember one time back when I was a kid, our pet rabbits got under the fence, ran over to the neighbour’s yard and ate all their flowers. When my neighbour came out and saw them, he took off his shoe and started whacking them, he managed to whack one rabbit on the back, one on the bum and another right on the head.
The one that got hit on the head never let anyone touch her ever again and would run away from all humans. 😦 It did however, get the job done because the bunnies never ran over to his yard from that point on.
I don’t want to do that. We never hit our bunnies. Paris has responded to my yelling. Now I don’t need to yell at all. I just have to say “Paris, I’m watching you!” and he’ll stop but Rome is something else.
He is combative, vocal and dominating, all 40cm of him including his ears 😉 and he knows we wouldn’t hurt him so is taking full advantage of this.
It’s now clear to me that I haven’t given him clear and appropriate (for him) repercussions for his bad behaviour. So I’m not letting him in the room anymore for starters. Give them an inch and they take a mile.
This cheeky one needs to learn some manners and I now have to start getting creative with how I enforce boundaries. I must somehow convince him (and myself) that “He’s not the boss of me!!”