How To Tell If Your Rabbit Is Depressed?

Categorized as Bunny Facts Tagged
A rabbit with eyes opened while trying to rest. This shows that it's worry of its environment

Last Updated on August 2, 2021 by Rei

The signs that a rabbit is depressed are when they lack appetite, over/not grooming, lethargy, aggressiveness, pacing, seclusion, and tensed posture.

While the most common reason rabbits get depressed is due to small cage, not enough exercise, boredom, lack of social interactions, death of a companion, and if your rabbit is sick or is in pain.

Now that I’ve given you the gist of the article, read on as I discuss those reasons in detail and what to do about them:

Signs of sad/depresed rabbits

Sad rabbit inside a cage without excercise.

Rabbits being depressed are one of the most detrimental and often dangerous conditions a rabbit could have. Depressed rabbits would often develop dangerous habits like not eating. This in turn could lead to GI stasis, which is dangerous to rabbits if not treated.

It’s why depression should be taken seriously by rabbit owners, it’s up to us to make their life as happy and comfortable as we can.

Here are the most common signs that your rabbit might be depressed:

Lack of appetite

Rabbits, being grazers, would not stop eating suddenly or have a low appetite without any reason. Their stomach relies on them to eat in order to induce movement. Without constant eating, their GI tract could stop moving which could lead to death if not treated.

If your notice that your rabbit is not eating the same amount of food per day, you should take that seriously and do anything you can to fix it.

You should also go to a veterinarian and get proper advice on how to handle it.

Overgrooming/Not grooming

Rabbits are meticulous cleaners and would spend a significant amount of time grooming themselves. However, when your rabbits start to overgroom to the point where your noticing patches of hair are missing, your rabbit might be frustrated, stressed, or depressed.

In contrast, not grooming is also a sign of depression in rabbits. As I said rabbits are meticulous cleaners, if you notice that your rabbit is not grooming themselves, find out what’s making them unhappy and improve their living condition.

Lethargy

Rabbits in the wild are naturally energetic creatures and would spend hours exploring, playing, and running around looking for food.

If you notice that your rabbit is suddenly lethargic, bring them to a veterinarian to make sure that everything is fine.

After your veterinarian cleared your rabbit for anything serious, improve your rabbits living conditions and allow them to spend hours exercising and playing.

Aggressiveness

Are you noticing that your rabbit is suddenly aggressive to you or to other rabbits? Is your rabbit suddenly displaying destructive behaviors to things around your house or their cage?

Depressed rabbits would often show signs of frustration and channel those emotions by biting either you or the things around your house.

Pacing

Depressed rabbits would often Pace back and forth inside their cage. This behavior is usually caused by a small cage or lack of exercise.

Seclusion

Rabbits are naturally social and like to explore their environment. Depressed rabbits would often shut themselves out by hiding in their cage or somewhere dark.

Tensed posture

A rabbit that’s normal and relaxed would stretch itself out whenever they’re resting.

The opposite is true for depressed rabbits, they would have tense body language and would sit hunched almost like they’re cautious of you.

Reasons why rabbits get depressed

Rabbit inside a cage with a hunched body language.

Small cage

The most common reason why rabbits get depressed is due to small cages. Rabbits in the wild spend their days exploring and grazing. They have the whole forest to explore and wonder.

If you confine a rabbit in a small cage for long periods of time without giving them enough exercise, there’s a high chance that your rabbit would get depressed sooner or later.

Lack of social interactions.

Another reason why rabbits would get depressed is when they don’t have enough social interaction with either you, their owner or preferably, another rabbit.

Boredom

Rabbits require lots of stimuli to be happy as pets. Make sure that you’re keeping your rabbits busy by providing toys. The best way to make a rabbit happy is to simulate what they do in the wild.

In pain or sick rabbit.

Rabbits who are in pain or sick would often show all the signs of depression, like tensed body language, secluding themselves, aggression, lethargy, and lack of appetite.

That’s why it’s always a good idea to bring your rabbit to a veterinarian whenever you notice any changes in their behavior.

Death of companion

The death of a companion rabbit could also trigger depression in rabbits if you don’t allow them to grieve properly.

Oftentimes, when one of the pair gets sick and they die in the veterinarian’s office, most owners would leave the body there without letting the other rabbit grieve properly.

As morbid as it sounds, you need to show the dead body of the deceased rabbit in order for the other rabbit to properly process what happened, you need to leave the body for at least 4 hours before disposing of it.

What to do if your rabbit is depressed?

Rabbit biting and playing with a toy.
“Roxie Rabbit Plays Fetch with a Pink Poodle Swizzle Stick” by archiemcphee is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

First thing you should always do when you notice any odd behavior is to bring your rabbit to a veterinarian. Your rabbit might be suffering from certain conditions that need medical help.

Trying to solve the problem without a veterinarian’s clearance is risky because most of the symptoms of depression is also a symptom of a sick rabbit.

Here are some of the things you can do to help with your rabbit’s depression:

Provide toys

As I said earlier, rabbits that are bored would often get depressed because, unlike wild rabbits who are getting a lot of stimuli from nature, pet rabbits are often confined in small cages and lacks the required stimuli.

Best toys for rabbits to help with depression:

  • Willow balls
  • Willow bridge
  • Willow sticks
  • Wooden dumbbells
  • Twig Tunnels
  • Ka-Bob Chew Dispenser Toy
  • Toilet paper rolls

Improve living conditions

Improving your rabbit’s living conditions means taking a good look at the way they’re currently living. Is their cage/hutch size appropriate and big enough for them?

Do they have access to food and water whenever they want? Is their cage clean? Is your rabbit getting enough exercise?

Get your rabbit a companion/second rabbit.

Another thing you can do to improve your rabbit’s mood is to get another rabbit as their companion. This is especially important for rabbit owners who are always at work.

Rabbits require social interactions in order to be happy. Consider getting your rabbit a companion if you won’t be able to give them yourself.

Give your rabbit time to exercise.

Rabbit running in a field having an excercise.
“Feral bunny rabbit, Woodland Park, Seattle, 08/17/06” by Mike Baehr is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Rabbits are not meant to be kept in small cages all day. In the wild, rabbits would spend their days running around looking for food and avoiding predators.

Give your rabbits at least 4 hours of exercise each day.

Conclusion

The best way for pet rabbits to be happy and healthy is to mimic what they do and have in the wild. Rabbits need social interactions, enough exercise, and lots of stimuli in order to be happy.

Confining a rabbit in small cages for long periods of time with little to no social interactions would cause severe depression, which is dangerous when your rabbit stopped eating and eventually develop GI conditions like GI stasis — which could lead to death.

Cite this article:

Bunny Horde (November 14, 2021) How To Tell If Your Rabbit Is Depressed?. Retrieved from https://bunnyhorde.com/depressed-rabbit/.
"How To Tell If Your Rabbit Is Depressed?." Bunny Horde - November 14, 2021, https://bunnyhorde.com/depressed-rabbit/

Sources and further reading