5 mo. old messy, bad boy

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5 mo. old messy, bad boy

Postby ColoradoDean » Thu Dec 07, 2006 9:22 am

Rescued a little Holland guy three days ago. Caged 24/7 all his five months in utter deplorable conditions. He's got it made now in a quiet home with us, two adults, as lone rabbit (center of the universe), with an extremely large, custom cage for nights, free-roaming inside the house, otherwise--if he'll just work with us, but I'm having doubts.

First, to say he's a lunger/biter is an understatement. More like, he charges. I'm getting wounded pretty good, even a half-inch at my scalpline where he scraped/bit me while I was lying calmly on the floor trying to bond. He seems more receptive to my wife, at least. Fortunately, my closest friend is a vet, who has tended to our two former, dearly-missed Holland bucks who were angels in comparison, and we will be neutering quicker than I thought, and hopefully his jets will be cooled. Incidently, I've never seen a rabbit chin so prodigiously, and he's making up for lost time regarding the carpet, etc.

So here's a question: for a rabbit who has lived only in a wire-bottom cage with no discriminating concern ever, will he eventually use the litter box in his house? Right now it's all "falling" where it may in a fairly open house with no room available in which to close him in for training. I've never seen so much poop. We like a very clean house, and I sure wasn't looking to battle an alpha with possible mental problems for the next few years. I realized within the first hour that I was getting too old for this responsibilty, and I'm thinking we got a bummer, who I understand has had a rough young life, but when it gets down to him or us, I'm wondering if I have it in me to pull the plug and bail.

Thanks for any advice. Truly.
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Postby Bindi » Thu Dec 07, 2006 10:47 pm

At five months, he has hit maturity and you could neuter him- this usually calms bucks (male rabbits) down. Coupled with his upbringing, I'm not surprised he's not that happy a bunny. Work with him and I'm sure you could well end up with a right sweetie at the end. I've worked with some right terrors who have transformed, with perseverance, into soppy old boys :lol:
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Postby Ellie » Fri Dec 08, 2006 8:29 am

Bindi is right on. Also, don't forget that he's just hitting his "teen years", so his behaviour will be more "negative" now than it will be a few months down the line. Proper discipline (a squirt water bottle?), perseverance, and affection will get you through.

Good luck.
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Postby Bunman » Sat Dec 09, 2006 1:47 am

Ellie, i've read various things - is the spray to be used as a mist or stream? (Mist seems friendlier):)
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Postby Ellie » Sat Dec 09, 2006 12:24 pm

Bunman, the mist definitely seems friendlier, but sometimes you need to use the stream setting in order for it to be effective. I think it depends on the thickness of the bun's fur. Gus, for example, just looks at me quizziccally when he gets misted but stops to groom himself when he gets hit with the stream. He's not an angora nor has long fur, but he does have a thick coat.
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Postby karen354 » Sun Dec 10, 2006 7:58 am

I've got a little rescue rabbit aged 6 or 7 months,she's been shut in a small cage for all her life..
I've had her 2 weeks now & she's going to the toilet where ever she feels like it.. She's not been spayed yet hopefully that will be done in the next few weeks..
We have another house bunny & he's ace but we've had him from a baby so he knows where his litter tray is..
I'm sure your bunny will learn where he goes to the toliet..
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Postby esc » Sun Dec 10, 2006 12:28 pm

Ellie wrote:Bunman, the mist definitely seems friendlier, but sometimes you need to use the stream setting in order for it to be effective. I think it depends on the thickness of the bun's fur. Gus, for example, just looks at me quizziccally when he gets misted but stops to groom himself when he gets hit with the stream. He's not an angora nor has long fur, but he does have a thick coat.


Agreed - I think this depends on the bunny, too. The "mist" setting was very effective with Nibbles, but I can just picture Gus giving you the eye! :)
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Postby ColoradoDean » Tue Dec 19, 2006 4:14 am

UPDATE: Blue was neutered 10 days ago. He is still vicious, and I'm told by a rabbit "shrink" that his attitude toward me may probably never change now that he's taken to biting me. I've been advised to wear gloves at all times. He has only bitten my wife once and now has taken to her, allowing her to be sheriff. I cringe when I see her in the disciplinarian's role, waiting for him to snap. Her dominant role can only be temporary since I'm the one who works at home and assigned as chief wrangler.

Blue's a very smart rabbit (confirmed by the shrink), and now when told a firm "no!" he rethinks his actions (although he continues to poop where he wants, and that may never change, as well). When reprimanded, he has attacked my ankle as I've walked away some feet away and he has rounded a corner to do it. When I was at the shrink's, she found it hard to believe he was a bad boy--until he bit me the worst yet. You should have seen the shock on her face as she ran for the bandages, when normally she reprimands them first. Her involvement with hundreds of rabbits indicates that rabbits can take an instant dislike to a human (just like with us people and another person) no matter how treated; it's happened with her a couple of times.

What I'd like to offer, especially when bringing home an un-malleable rabbit older than a few weeks, is to do what I didn't do: put the rabbit in its house for a few days, with no interaction outside the cage AT ALL. I messed up by bringing this guy home and immediately letting him run because I felt so bad he'd been stuck in a tiny cage his whole life, which meant there had to be discipline from someone he didn't know, and this guy does not take kindly to being told what to do, so I was bitten within the first 45 minutes. See, we had two Holland angels before, and we had never been bitten. I'm now informed that this guy is more of a rabbit, albeit abused, and what we had before, two guys we could leave to free-roam the house even when we would go on vacation, were not normal. Any pet I have ever had has been disciplined, and they have all had wonderful lives because of it.

I can tell you this, holding down the top of his head with his chin against the carpet only a few seconds when he was bad a day or so after I brought him home--as I read in this forum as a possible help--was when things really took a major turn for the worse. Maybe you can do that with a Beta but DEFINITELY NOT with an Alpha. He came at me with a vengeance as a result. I tried using a small, rolled-up magazine to tap his fanny from there on, since my hand was getting chewed quite nicely. That, being an extension of my hand, only reinforced his resentment toward me.

Using a squirt gun full blast, 3 or 4 shots at a time with a forceful "no!" has been the only tactic. With no direct link to my hand, therefore me, it has worked to teach him to respond more favorably. Hate to say it but I could use a shock collar. They make them for rabbits? Also, the shrink said to rub baseboards etc. with a bar of soap.

Blue has two weeks to show improvement toward me, or else we are taking him to the shrink where he will be paired with another rabbit and found a home, probably to be stuck in a cage 23.5 hours a day for the rest of his life. We want a pet, not a monster. Sorry. And if that is it for Blue, that's it for rabbits.

You know that Monty Python movie where at the end there's that flying white rabbit that goes for the jugular? How ridiculous! I always thought. I had no idea there could be such a lagomorph beast.

I'll update.
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Postby Bunman » Tue Dec 19, 2006 4:28 am

Dean, can appreciate your anger & frustration. I hope a better solution can be found. As you note, he does not react the same to everyone, you don't say that he has bitten your wife, so he may be rehomed to someone he does not feel the need to attack.

IN the meantime you might confine him to a smaller area. In my experience soap is not a deterrant. Shock collars are not the way to go for a rabbit. There are people willing to take on "difficult" buns.
Last edited by Bunman on Tue Dec 19, 2006 6:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Ellie » Tue Dec 19, 2006 5:11 am

I can also understand why you're tired and frustrated. It's not easy finding a way to love or care for someone who treats you poorly in return.

You did mention that Blue gets along better with your wife. Is she willing to take on more responsibilities with Blue? Also, it can take quite a bit longer than 10 days for hormones to die down - even if he's pegged you as someone he doesn't like, his viciousness may die down in time.

I wish you well.
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Postby esc » Tue Dec 19, 2006 5:16 am

I also have a hunch that your new boy might have been abused by a man - but not by a woman.

it sounds like a really tough situation. Maybe these articles from the House Rabbit Society will shed some light on things:

http://www.rabbit.org/faq/sections/aggression.html

http://www.rabbit.org/journal/2-2/mean-rabbit.htm

http://www.rabbit.org/journal/2-12/tool ... trade.html

http://www.rabbit.org/journal/3-3/age-r ... avior.html

http://www.rabbit.org/journal/2-9/rebel-with-paws.html

Keep in mind that he *is* an adolescent, and "teenage" rabbits can be more bitey/aggressive for a while after spay/neuter surgery. They go through a developmental stage... even after surgery.

I'm wondering if he's drawing blood, or simply giving you very hard nips? if it's the latter, I've been through that (and a bit of blood, too), and have not only lived to tell the tale, but have a truly sweet-natured rabbit to show for it. The process was often very frustrating (for both parties!), but it's also one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.

I hope the links are helpful to you.
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Postby ColoradoDean » Tue Dec 19, 2006 7:10 am

Thanks, all, for the encouraging words and advice. I was just reading through HRS and saw:

When I put my hand down for my new rabbit, Jaws, to sniff she lunges at it. Doesn't she like the way I smell?"
It ain't the smell, it's the motion. Rabbits have great long- distance eyesight. Their near-distance vision isn't so great. A human hand in front a rabbit's face can be very startling. To break Jaws of her lunging habit, keep your hands above her head and away from her nose. When she looks aggravated, press her head very gently to the floor. She'll interpret this as your being the dominant bunny.



From personal experience now, I wouldn't advise that unless you're well-padded.

Yes, the little b. has the taste of my blood. Wounds on both hands, some still open after days, and dangerously close to some probably beneficial veins from like 15 bites. Even through the gloves, it can hurt for an hour. Whatever he does, he does with gusto and when he attacks, he's quite earnest in latching on and not letting go.

I have asked the previous owner about his history. Blue was "raised" by a 4H-er girl and then "kept" by the woman I got him from. It seems he may be a ladies man. He'd better get over it, because my wife can't attend all the chores necessary.

All I wanted was to help a little guy out. And that he'd be a sweet little Beta to lower my blood pressure.[/i]
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Postby Bunman » Tue Dec 19, 2006 8:11 am

Dean, i think as with kids we may not get what we bargained for - it becomes a learning experience on both sides. I hope the links are helpful or, if that fails, you could find a good rehome.
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Postby esc » Tue Dec 19, 2006 2:11 pm

I'll second Bunman on this - there even could be something organically wrong with your rabbit, and a checkup by a good rabbit vet is probably a very good idea. Rabbits are hard-wired to hide pain, but it can manifest itself in ways that t don't, at first sight, seem at all connected to physical problems.

I hope you are able to either help this guy or find a good rehome situation for him. And I wouldn't make any assumptions about him being "a ladies' man." There have to be reasons for his aggressive behavior.

On that point (possible reasons), I wonder if maybe you work with motor oil or anything at all that might (to a rabbit) have an offensive smell? My bun, Nibbles, literally attacked my feet a couple of months ago, immediately after I'd put some (new to me) moisturizer on them. She'd never bitten my feet before, and hasn't since - unfortunately, the list of ingredients on the package gave me no clue to what set her off, but something certainly did!

Also, it sounds like he might well be picking up on your feelings and reacting to them. I don't mean that as a criticism, but as a statement of fact. Rabbits seem to be every bit as clued in to human attitudes and feelings as dogs - and many other pet animals.

Edit: I'd also suggest fencing off an area just for the bun with either a puppy exercise pen or a fence made of NIC cube grids. It sounds like he's (believe it or not) overwhelmed by having so much space. Give him a smaller area to call his own, and he might (I hope!) do a lot better - neutering should help a lot, too.

One of the HRS articles I linked to says

If you just got him, he may be stressed out by the move. His last owner may have frightened him somehow. He may have never had much contact with a human before. Or, if he used to be a hutch rabbit, the noises, smells, and sights of a house may be overwhelming him. One of the best things you can do for your relationship with this kind of rabbit is to protect yourself. Wear gloves, long sleeves, long pants, and real shoes when you're around him. This will protect your flesh. It will also help you keep calm. If your skin is protected, you're not as likely to jump, squeal or flail your arms, all of which might provoke or frighten him more.

Now start playing detective. Watch him closely to see what provokes him. It may be your touching anything in his view. It may be the movement of your legs when you walk . It may be a certain sound--like a rattling newspaper or the vacuum cleaner. It may be your reaching out to touch him or feed him. Whatever it is, don't do it. He needs to learn that you're not out to get him.


I bet he is feeling overwhelmed/stressed. My girl had never had much out-of-cage time prior to my adopting her, and I quickly found that I needed to limit her space a bit, to a puppy ex-pen that I've attached to the NIC house I built for her. It helped a lot, for her and for me. Now that she's settled in and no longer so hormonal and hyper (from being a teenager), she gets a fair amount of supervised free-run time. (She's not a laid-back rabbit, though she is a lot of fun.)

BTW, the folks at the rescue where I got my bun told me that it would take her at least 2 months to start truly settling in - they were right.
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Postby ColoradoDean » Wed Dec 20, 2006 2:47 am

Thanks for all time/thoughts spent.

Regarding smells, only thing was maybe hand lotion, which I've curtailed. Never bothered my previous guys, but it always came with hour-long massages.

I believe Blue's a high-strung kid who has catching up to do from his 5 month incarceration. He continues to chin everything prodigiously to mark his territory. Even days after bringing him home, it's like he couldn't believe he could actually be in and then out and back in and out of his custom 4'X2', two-story, carpetted with sunken poopy box (pent) house/cage in our living room. Very understandable, but sad to see him do it so back-and-forth the way he did it non-stop.

Yes, I sense the little b. knows when he has me on the run. He can probably smell my fear. It's almost funny the diversions necessary so that I can service his house. And I stand there thinking I can't believe I'm now afraid of a rabbit. I have to tell my wife to watch my back, I'm going in.

Yesterday when I let him out, I offered him a small piece of grapple. He took it and bit my hand like a pit bull. Fortunately, I had the gloves on and he hung by his teeth for 5 seconds a half foot off the ground. I picked him up calmly, held him to my chest for a good 20 seconds, slipped the apple from his mouth and put him back in his house. Sap that I am, I gave him the apple 5 minutes later through the "bars" and he initially would have preferred taking off the tip of a finger. Seems to be something maybe deep-seeded here.

We've placed apple and elm twigs outside his house to occupy his mind, along with various boxes with holes cut in them, paper rollers and wrapping paper, and paper grocery bags slipped inside each other to make a long tunnel that is up to him to enlarge the small holes cut in the bottoms to make a continuous tunnel. His interaction with these things is more of an agggressive nature than play. I've had two playful guys and can tell the difference.

My dilemma is how long to keep him. If his brain is so wired now and I'm told by someone who has worked with hundreds of rabbits that it is quite possible he will always be aggressive with me, then is it not better, for him and us, to find him another home immediately? Her opinion has been seconded by two breeders and my vet friend, who incidently checked him out prior to surgery. My vet friend heads one of the top clinics in the state and tells everyone that he has never seen rabbits with the discipline and social skills of our departed Scamp and Teak. So, we have had a good history--until now.

If we do have to find another home for him, chances are it won't be cushy like with us. We understand his transformation will take time, but people are telling me he is an animal, afterall, and is this aggravation worth it?

My tactic now is to let him stay in his house "unmolested" for a few days and perhaps we will see improvement with less stress for him and us, and no disciplinary action needed.

Thanks, again, all.
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