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QUESTION: Hi, I have 1 Netherland dwarf rabbit and she's around 15 weeks old. When we first got her she was lovely, playful and affectionate. But recently she has been VERY aggressive, and when I go to pick her up from her cage to let her go for a run, she makes a strange 'whining' noise and at first I thought she was scared, but when she was  running, I went to her gradually, and she bit my hand REALY hard and broke th  skin, but even when I pulled away she was still latched on. I put her away immediately, but now I'm scared to get her out again. I don't know what to do and what is causing this, she hasn't had any of her vaccines yet. Also what age should I get her spayed, but I don't even know whether I should keep her now and I need some advise.

ANSWER: Hi Kayleigh
Don't panic! You have a normal young bun whose having her hormones start to kick in. They do become very territorial, you reaching in at her corners her and she defends herself. Make sure you do not have to pick her out of her cage to go for a run, she should be able to get in and out of her own accord. Her cage should be her safe spot, somewhere she knows she can go and not be fussed by humans. Tiny Nethies in particular are known for getting defensive towards giant human hands!

So first make sure she can get out of her cage on her own, ideally the cage should be permanently open as cooped up buns are more frustrated in general. Have a read of this site so you can read her body language, let her come to you for affection, don't go to her and inadvertently corner her.
http://language.rabbitspeak.com

She can be vaccinated now, and I recommend it ASAP as this mild wet winter means the nasty bugs that transmit VHD and myxi have not been killed off and there have already been myxi reports! She can be spayed at 6 months old.

Be patient with her, don't get cross with her, she's just being a bunny! They own you remember, not the other way round ;)

Cat

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you, I got her vaccinated last Wednesday, and she is doing fine. The thing to do with the cage though is that , other members of the family don't want her to be a house rabbit so we will have her in for the winter, so I thought it would be cruel not to let her out for a run inside so I can't really allow her to go in an  out of her cage  as she pleases and also her cage is on a high workshop. She hasn't been biting recently and she is being good but because  she is so small I don't want to let her go just anywhere in the house as I get scared I might lose her. But thank you for answering my questions the answers are valued, but please can you give me some advise regarding the cage. X

Answer
Hiya
Good on the vaccination.

With the cage, being up high and unable to get in and out, the only interaction she's going to have is hands lunging in at her. Good she's calmed down but it's still a risk you'll end up with a hand aggressive bunny.

I would recommend moving her cage to the floor and a corner of a room. Use some puppy pen panels around the cage to build her a little area of her own. The panels should be at least 2ft high or else she'll jump over. You can use an old bedsheet fixed with clothes pegs over the top if she's adventurous and wants to jump out.

Keeping rabbits in cages is a daft old thing really, it's like trying to keep a cat in a cage, just not a happy medium for an animal designed to run and jump. Rabbits can run up to 30-40mph. The cage idea only happened when people were keeping rabbits for food. It's very old fashioned.

Good luck!
Cat

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Expertise

I can answer questions around the welfare of pet rabbits, basic health queries including gut stasis, diet worries, bonding questions and the proper welfare standards around housing rabbits (i.e. no wire floors, no small cages and they should be kept in properly bonded de-sexed pairs in very large enclosures). I cannot answer showing questions nor complex breeding issues as I do not agree with either, seeing the other end of the story in the world of rabbit rescue.

Experience

I have two 7 year old rescue rabbits and volunteer for a well established rabbit rescue here in the UK, both physically doing cleaning out etc and I am also their events and awareness co-oordinator, helping educate the general public on proper rabbit keeping, this means I have to ensure all information I give is correct and matches current welfare standards.

Organizations
I belong to the RWAF (Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund) and volunteer for a major rabbit rescue.

Education/Credentials
I have no formal education on this subject, however read everything I can to keep up to date with current welfare standards and health problems. Both my rabbits have sensitive guts and constantly keep me on my toes.

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