10 ways to Recognize Depression in Rabbits

depression in rabbits

Rabbits are usually very energetic and social animals. They will be happy to play and hop up to you or toss around their lovable toys. However, sometimes when the needs of our pet rabbits aren’t met, they fall into grief and depression. Your rabbit might be depressed without you even noticing it. By taking a close look at your rabbit’s behavior, you’ll be able to learn if your rabbit is bored, lonely, and depressed.

Rabbits that become depressed will usually sit around without doing anything for most of the day. They will often lose interest in grooming, eating, or even socializing. Some rabbits who become depressed will even resort to aggressive behaviors, such as swatting and biting.

The fact is that many house rabbits are prone to depression because we caretakers don’t know the symptoms to look out for. You can learn what could be causing your rabbit to feel so sad and also learn the signs of a depressed rabbit. Then, once you understand the source of the symptoms, you can make changes for your rabbit to help them become a happy bunny again and cheer up.

Signs of depression in rabbits

Rabbits can’t speak, right? so they can’t tell us when they are depressed or unhappy. Instead, we have to watch their body language to determine how our rabbits’ are behaving and feeling. While some symptoms of depression seem to be similar to the other species, others are more unique rabbit behaviors. We need to learn what behaviors to look out for so that we can help them feel better and understand our rabbits. 

It’s also important to understand that many of the rabbit’s behaviors listed can also be signs of other conditions. Your rabbit could just have a bad mood for a day. So it’s important to consider the context around your rabbit’s behavior too. Think about how many of these signs they are showing, how long they’ve been behaving this way, and even the environmental conditions that are likely to cause depression in rabbits.

1. Lack of energy and curiosity

While most rabbits are curious and energetic about their environment, a rabbit who gets depressed is likely to sit around all day. They won’t be interested in socializing, toys, or even in treats. Instead, they’ll spend their day sitting in the same place, doing nothing. They often choose to stay put even when their enclosure door is open and won’t get much exercise. However, the rabbit will become more withdrawn and closed off from the world around them. 

This behavior is worth looking into even if you don’t think your rabbit is depressed. A lack of energy can be a subtle symptom of many different rabbit diseases. It’s best to take your rabbit in for a check-up to be sure there are no underlying bad health conditions causing your rabbit to be less energetic. 

2. Lack of appetite

depression-in-rabbits
Image by Heidelbergerin from Pixabay

Another common sign of depression in rabbits is a lack of appetite. Most rabbits love to eat. They’ll be chewing on hay all day long, or hopping all for a chance to get that yummy treat. But a depressed rabbit will begin to lose attention in these once-loved parts of their lives. They may only eat a small portion of their daily hay meal, or not even finish their pellets for the day.

A lack of appetite is a symptom of depression that can be a sign of other serious illnesses. If you notice your rabbit is not eating at all, then this is an emergency situation and you should seek an immediate vet.

3. Fur pulling 

Rabbits may start pulling at their fur causing bald spots on their body if they are depressed or stressed. This could be from overgrooming as a rabbit tries to keep themself quiet. It is also a way for a bored rabbit to stay occupied.

Fur pulling is also a common behavior of pregnant rabbits. If you have a female rabbit who has never been spayed, then they may be plucking fur from their dewlap (the flab on their chest that looks like a double chin), chest, and front paws to line their nest. Check with your veterinarian to know if your rabbit is pregnant, and in the future, you’ll want to get your rabbit spayed to prevent this behavior and other reproductive illnesses.

4. Not grooming

Alternatively, a stressed rabbit may end up not grooming at all. By nature rabbits are diligent self-groomers, keeping their coat shiny and clean. However, a rabbit who has lost interest in their life may also lose interest in their upkeep and cleanliness. Their coat will become shaggy and dull, and they may also stop cleaning any poop or urine stains from their fur and bottom, even if their living environment remains clean.

5. Persistent destructive behaviors

While all rabbits will chew and dig on objects to some extent, a 

 a bored or depressed rabbit is often much more persistent in their efforts. They’ll persist to go back and try to chew on the piece of furniture you shoo them away from, or even snap at you when you try to stop them from digging into the couch. This constant behavior is one way that is the result of a bored or depressed rabbit and shows their frustration.

6. Unexplained aggressive behavior

Most of the time rabbits are cheerful and gentle creatures. They rarely resort to aggression. However, a depressed rabbit is much more likely to become grumpy and moody. They will bite at anyone who tries to touch them, biting, and growling to don’t let people touch them.

Rabbits’ aggressive behavior can also be as a result of fear or territorial instincts. Rabbits who have not been spayed are more likely to show aggressive behavior, especially around areas where they feel ownership, such as their enclosure. Rabbits who feel corned or afraid may also lash out to try to get you to stay away. But, if your rabbit’s aggressive behavior doesn’t seem to suit into either of these two explanations, it’s likely that your rabbit is feeling bored, depressed, and frustrated.

7. Pacing

While less common, rabbits pacing behavior can be a sign of depression and anxiety. This is when a rabbit seems to restlessly move forth and back for a long period of time, usually over a small area. This type of body language can be often found in rabbits who are bored and live in an enclosure that is small for them to meet their needs.

8. Avoids social interactions

Rabbits that completely refuse to come out and play and avoid social interaction may also be suffering from depression. Sometimes this behavior is simply the result of fear and you need to give your rabbit time to trust you. However,  sometimes this is because the rabbit has been left alone for a long time that they’ve become depressed and no longer seek to satisfy their social needs.

9. Hunched posture

A hunched rabbit is similar to a loaf, but your rabbit will not look comfortable. They will be upon their front paws a little bit to try to avoid pressing their belly into the ground. Their eyes might also be squinted, rather than the typical wide bunny eyes. This kind of hunched posture is generally related to a sick bunny, and it’s one of those very subtle signs that your rabbit might need a visit to vet or medical attention.

This position is also related to stress and depression because of the behavioral changes that rabbits go through. A rabbit who is moving around less and eating less is more likely to have digestive problems as well, causing them to feel more comfortable in a hunched posture than a normal rabbit loaf.

10. Smaller fecal droppings

Rabbits who are depressed or stressed will often start to have smaller fecal droppings. Normal rabbit poops can be from the size of a sweet pea to the size of a chickpea. So you have to compare the size of your rabbit’s new droppings to the size they used to be from the same rabbit. A decrease in size can indicate stress or illness.

A rabbit whose droppings are only temporarily smaller is likely fine. They may have been stressed out by something. You have to take a look for a consistent decrease in the size of the rabbit poops. This indicates long term stress in your rabbit’s daily life, which can simply result in depression.

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