Bunny cage-rattling
December 8, 2006 2:50 AM   Subscribe

How to stop a bunny from shaking his cage with his mouth?

One of our bunnies, Bob, has taken to shaking the bars of his cage with his teeth whenever he wants attention and/or food. He has always done this, but it used to be an infrequent occurance, and lately has become something he does practically every time I enter his room.

I fear I've unintentionally encouraged this behaviour. I get up early to go to work and feed the bunnies before I leave the house. I think the rabbit has learned to associate being fed with this cage-rattling greeting.

My husband thought of one possible way to discourage him: he thought maybe if we tapped his nose whenever he did it (not hard, not to hurt, just because touching his nose always seems to annoy him) that it might act as a disincentive.

Does anybody have any effective ways of stopping this behaviour? We're afraid he's going to really hurt his little mouth.
posted by joannemerriam to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
does the bunny have enough things to chew/gnaw? He may not think so.
posted by bilabial at 4:10 AM on December 8, 2006

does the bunny have enough things to chew/gnaw? He may not think so.

No, I know what the asker is referring to, and it's not a lack of opportunity to chew. It's a desire to get attention. When my rabbit was younger, she would shake her water bottle to make an annoying sound when she wanted out.

Unfortunately, I don't think there's a good solution beyond changing cages. I'm convinced that you can't modify a rabbit's behavior. But you also probably don't have to worry about it either unless the cage is rusty or sharp, in which case you should get something different anyway.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:24 AM on December 8, 2006

I'm convinced that you can't modify a rabbit's behavior.

Well, you can teach it that rattling its cage gets it food.
posted by mendel at 4:35 AM on December 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

As I type this, one bunny is gnawing on her cage, one is sleeping, and the third is munching on some hay. The chewing one is doing so because she wants to go visit the sleeping one. But then again, she's the jerk bunny.

Our cage rattler has, in the past, used her rattling technique to unlock her cage.

If you wish to change behavior, there's always the squirt gun. Our buns hate it and we're too much a bunch of softies to use it with any conviction. But if you can keep up with it and resist the accusing little stare you'll get after you use it...

Our littlest bun went through a rattling phase recently, but then I built him a bigger cage and he stopped. If you wish to build a bigger cage for cheap, google up Neat Idea Condos/ NIC Condos for information.

Also consider bracing the cage where your bunny is chewing. You can use some pressboard (the kind with the holes in it often seen in home workshops) and zipties to add a solid wall that's hard for little mouths to nibble on.

Changing the cage location/layout will also disrupt your bun' patterns of behavior. Just make sure not to reinforce them once he gets the lay of the new land!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:42 AM on December 8, 2006

Well, you can teach it that rattling its cage gets it food.

It's not conditioning, at least for my rabbit. My rabbit is very old, still very occasionally does it, and has NEVER been rewarded for banging her bottle-- we remove the water bottle for a little while when she bangs it and certainly don't let her out when she does it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:44 AM on December 8, 2006

I second the NIC condo idea... a bunny who is otherwise entertained won't rattle his cage (at least enough to annoy you), and if you give him more space to run around and play, he won't be bored as often.

Also (forgive me if you're a responsible rabbit owner, but I have to ask), are your bunnies getting enough time outside of the cage? "Out" time will also keep them entertained and satisfied.

If you're sure it's just a matter of conditioning, just stop whatever was reinforcing the rattling: change the feeding times or wait until he's done rattling to feed him. If that's not feasible, make a loud noise (clap, stomp your foot, say "NO" very sternly) at him when he rattles. If the noise doesn't work, the squirt bottle idea might work. I don't know about the nose taps, there's a fine line between what kind of negative reinforcement a rabbit will heed and what kind he'll just resent you for (more here, see the fourth full paragraph specifically).

Finally, if you need more ideas check out etherbun over on Yahoo groups, there are a lot of really helpful people over there.
posted by AV at 5:17 AM on December 8, 2006

One of my bunnies does it sometimes, too. We just don't reward him with any attention or food. Sometimes if he's being particularly bad we'll thump the floor, which is a warning behavior to bunnies, and he usually stops at that.
posted by cabingirl at 5:19 AM on December 8, 2006

As Sting said, "If you love somebunny, set them free".

Sorry. Does the bunny bite the cage in a particular place? Is there a way of making its taste unpalatable?
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 6:08 AM on December 8, 2006

My rabbit usually stops rattling the cage bars after she realizes she's not getting any attention. I do try to let her out as much as I can but she'll always rattle at least a little to indicate her cooped-up displeasure. I've never been concerned that she'll hurt herself because she stops fairly soon. If your bunny is doing it for awhile even after no attention, maybe you should consider if there are other factors she is trying to get your attention.
posted by pinksoftsoap at 7:04 AM on December 8, 2006

can't you weigh down the cage so that it becomes impossible for the rabbit to shake it? it's a rabbit, not an ox, so I really think it's feasible
posted by matteo at 7:26 AM on December 8, 2006

I don't have a permanent solution, but we sometimes throw a dishtowel over the part of the cage where the bunny is rattling and it tends to confuse her or throw her off enough that she stops. I think bunnies are smart enough not to do it so much that they hurt their mouths, but I could be wrong.
posted by nevers at 8:08 AM on December 8, 2006

You could try a shallow dish with water on top of the cage where it likes to rattle, so that a little water would slop down on it when it rattled the cage.
posted by jamjam at 9:10 AM on December 8, 2006

How big is the cage? He probably wants OUT. Rabbits need lots of stimulation. Does he get supervised outside of the cage play time every day?
posted by agregoli at 9:20 AM on December 8, 2006

He does get time out of his cage every day - generally about an hour, and several hours each weekend day. He will actually run inside his cage to rattle the bars and then run back out again, so I don't think that's it. I think he just likes making a loud noise, being the center of attention, and getting food.

The real problem is that I have to feed them when I get up since I am gone for about ten and a half hours after that (on weekdays), and I can't stomp at him (his "bedroom" is above the bedroom of our downstairs neighbours) at that time of day. We could try stomping at him during the day when they are awake though, and we can try the bigger cage.

I really like the dish of water idea, because he really hates water and it's a quiet way to discipline him, AND I don't have to even be there, so if he's doing this to annoy the other bunny when we aren't home (which is a possibility as he lives to annoy the other bunny) it might stop that too.
posted by joannemerriam at 2:36 PM on December 8, 2006

In case you're still reading, keep in mind that the increase in rattiling may be symptomatic of a teeth issue. Rabbit's teeth grow all their lives, so it's really important to provide various things to chew and various types of food to help them keep their teeth worn down. My bunny is quite fond of green maple wood, timothy cubes, willow twigs and cardboard boxes. He gets timothy hay and bunny brome with pellets and fresh vegies as a supplement (these different foods provide up and down and side to side chewing action). If you're already feeding a varied diet and your bunny has plenty of other things to chew on, then I'd say the rattling is probably a learned behavior and the bowl of water might be a good idea...
posted by oneirodynia at 7:20 PM on December 15, 2006

Thanks oneirondynia. When we kennel them for Christmas with the vet, we'll ask them to check his teeth, just in case. He should have plenty to chew on but you never know.
posted by joannemerriam at 8:55 AM on December 16, 2006

« Older Is it safe?   |   I want a new theme, one that does what it should. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.