How To Tell If Your Rabbit Is In Distress (Common Causes and Tips To Avoid Stress)

Rabbit In Distress

Rabbits are excellent partners. That is why for the past year, the increase in caring for rabbits has been growing rapidly. However, unlike the usual pets like dogs and cats, caring for rabbits is a little more complicated.    

According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the lifestyle of rabbits is more complex because their digestive system is more vulnerable than other animals. That is why most owners neglect their pet once it becomes sick because they don’t know what to do. 

Distinguishing if your rabbit is sick is important to avoid further complications in its body. But at times, knowing that your pet has problems is hard because rabbits have an impulse to conceal their discomfort. But there are general signs you can see obviously when your rabbit is sick, one of which is stress.   

Usually, rabbits’ stress causes are a painful wound or an uncomfortable position. However, a more serious concern can arise when your rabbit gets stressed. If you want to know more about this topic, keep on reading. 

If you want to know more about the Signs of a Sick Rabbit, Click and read this Article: Signs That Your Rabbit Is Sick

Rabbits Stress

Like humans and other animals, rabbits can get stressed too. This is a natural reaction of every species because of several reasons. One of them is discomfort or a painful feeling. Or they might be stressed in their surroundings. 

Despite whatever reason, as a responsible owner, you must ensure that your pet will not get stressed because it leads to some risk. One report stated that the rabbit could suddenly exhibit negative behaviors due to stress. For example, they will not eat or sleep too much because stress directly affects the rabbit’s health and welfare.  

Making your rabbit feel safe is not a completely impossible task. If you notice your pets sitting out in the open rather than under tables, boxes, or chairs, they feel secure and safe. This will prove true if you notice them lying with their legs spread out or splayed out from behind. This means they are comfortable, not caring about other elements in their surroundings. When your rabbit starts to relax in their environment, laying out in a position similar to somebody enjoying a good sunbath, you know that you have a secure and happy rabbit.   

Common Causes of Stress in Rabbits


One of the key factors affecting your rabbit’s mood is its environment. Like humans, if we don’t like our surroundings, we tend to get anxious because we are uncomfortable. The same goes for your pet. 

In a special issue published by MDPI, a messy environment impacts an animal’s welfare. That is why farm animals experience a different type of stress due to environmental changes like transportation, selling off the animals, weaning, and forced breeding. 

If it is your first time caring for a rabbit, you must ensure that you provide your pet with a safe shelter to make them feel safe and avoid other complications.

Dietary Changes

It is a common misconception that a change in the diet only leads to digestive issues in rabbits. However, sudden changes in food also contribute to your pet’s stress. 

The National Library of Medicine (NIH) says that animal eating routine is important because it builds adaptivity in their lifestyle. So, if you suddenly change their routine, it can trigger your pet’s neurobiological adaptation and can lead to stress.  

When this occurs in your rabbit, it can also promote compulsive behavior. NIH added that this behavior is associated with insulin, metabolism, and other appetite-related hormones in animals. 

The stress can result in obesity in rabbits because they will start to change their eating habits. Rabbits will eat more and get addicted to food even if it’s not nutritious for their digestion.

Obesity is bad for rabbits because their bodies are full of unwanted fats that can hinder their daily activity and affect their heart function. Therefore, hypertension and heart attack are more likely to develop in fat rabbits. 

In another case, rabbits can also lose their appetite because of the sudden change in their diet. Due to the stress of the new eating routine, your rabbit will refuse to eat; hence, their body will not receive nutrition. Rabbits cannot survive for a short time without food since rabbits are herbivores and they mostly forage for fiber-rich food that helps their metabolism. 

Loud Noises

Rabbits love to have a relaxing and quiet environment. That is why if there are loud nearby, it leads to the distressed rabbit. PBS Specialist Pet Travel says that rabbits are sensitive to their sense of hearing. Loud noises like shouting, fireworks, traffic noise, and loud music are all unsuitable for your pet. To avoid this, ensure your pet’s cage is away from the streets where cars are prone to beep.

You can also provide them with a blanket whenever there is a party in your household so that they can find a relaxing position underneath. When caring for a rabbit, you need to consider many things, so it is important to consult with doctors and other experts on handling your distressed rabbit effectively.  


Long term confinement is another factor contributing to rabbit distress. Most pet owners only think of their animals as pets, so caging them for a long period of time is usually not a concern. This confinement however, raises the rabbits’ stress level, as the NIH claims.

Wild rabbits naturally live in big groups. This helps them to hunt and keep themself social. Now, if you plan to adopt or care for a rabbit and isolate them from others, it will trigger its negative hormones to feel bad about itself. You must socialize your pet with other animals because a happy rabbit is healthy.       

Pregnant/Ready to Give Birth

Like in other species, pregnancy is something to get stressed about. This also applies to rabbits. 

Hormonal change is one of the common causes of sudden changes in the behaviors when a rabbit is producing a litter. According to NIH, maternal behavior is always seen in rabbits, especially during birth. That is why you can also notice that a pregnant rabbit can suddenly become territorial and aggressive. This instinct is natural to all animals because they become protective of their litter.

In addition, stress during an early stage of birth is an important thing to keep an eye on as it might affect the result of their birthing process.

The early process is painful for them because of the contraction of their stomach. You will notice that they grind their teeth and sometimes become vocal due to the painful stress. If an hour passes and your rabbit has not yet birthed her litter, visit their vet immediately.  There might be a problem that needs the assistance of an expert.             

Post-birth stress can also occur in your pet if they undergo a birthing process but do not have a litter. In this time of your pet’s life, ensure that you are there to support and care for them.  

Underlying Disease 

Rabbits are good at hiding when they have an illness. So it is your job as an owner to ensure that you notice all possible symptoms that your rabbit has an underlying disease. Stress in rabbits might come in many forms. They will not start eating, sleep a lot more than usual, or become lethargic all of a sudden.

Painful Wounds

Another reason for your rabbit to get stressed might come from a painful wound. Rabbits are sometimes active, and accidents can happen to them. If your pet happens to have a wound, it is quite painful for them, and they will get distressed about it. Unlike humans, who can talk, rabbits cannot tell you that they have a wound in their body. They will probably just grind their teeth and produce stressful noises to tell you they are in pain.     

If your pet suddenly becomes stressed for an unknown reason, thoroughly check their body to see if accidental cuts are hiding inside their fur. 

Sometimes rabbits can also get a cut from fighting other animals. It is crucial to socialize your pet first with a new animal or rabbit if you want to put them together in a single cage. This practice will avoid aggressive behavior and fighting that can cause wounds in rabbits.      

Evaluating Pain in Rabbits

  1. Moderate to average pain
  • grinding of teeth
  • Vocalizations
  • Aggressiveness
  • Disinterest 
  • Reduction in the intake of food and water 
  • Body leaning against a wall 
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  1. Severe or persistent pain
  • Decreased feces production
  • Lack of response to stimuli
  • Loss of muscle volume (prominently seen in the back limbs)
  • Stools stuck around the anal area
  • Weight loss
  • Malnutrition
  • Lethargy
  • Harsh teeth grinding.  

Read More: Definitive Guide to Your Rabbit’s Health

How To Know Your Rabbits Is Stressed

Observe the Rabbit’s Behavior

Healthy and happy rabbits are often calm. So one way to tell that your rabbit is stressed is by looking at their behavior. Stress can result in sudden behavioral changes in the pet.  

If your pet is naturally active and playful and suddenly becomes quiet, it can mean that something is wrong with them. According to the RSPCA, if a rabbit is stressed, it’s common for them not to pay attention and hide from their surroundings. They want to be all by themselves and not be disturbed.  

But it does not mean that you should not monitor and keep an eye on your pet. When the rabbit is not moving at all, it’s time to bring them to the vet already. Extreme distress can result in different complications so, do not overlook a severe rest period for your pets.

Harsh Tooth Grinding

Soft tooth grinding in rabbits is natural. Sometimes they do it to express happiness or satisfaction. However, harsh tooth grinding can be a sign of pain in rabbits. It can also mean that your rabbit is distressed due to the pain. You must examine the body thoroughly to know if the rabbit has an underlying wound or cut in their skin. 

Abnormal Breathing 

Abnormal breathing is one of the visible symptoms of discomfort or distress in rabbits. You can notice this in your pet if they are gasping for air. This can also happen due to an increased and rapid heartbeat. However, rapid breathing is also a sign of other illnesses. It’s best to consult your pet’s doctor to determine the root cause. In that way, the vet can provide proper medication if needed. 

Shaking their Body

If the rabbit is constantly shaking their bodies, it can be a sign of distress. Most animals shake their body to ease tension and stress. It is a common behavior in dogs, cats, and rabbits. Look for the cause of the shaking in your pet’s body. On some occasions, it can mean something like nervous system issues.      

Moreover, your pet can also shiver continuously because of nervousness. Ensure you are near your pet and calm them down before leaving them alone.       

Tips to Avoid Stress in Rabbits

Ensure a Safe and Relaxing Shelter

One of the common stressors for rabbits is their environment. You must ensure your pet is living in a relaxing shelter. Provide bedding that your pet can get comfortable with. Also, regularly clean their space to avoid bacterial infections. A clean space will promote happy hormones in your pet.    

Moreover, you must know your space when coming to their cage. Animals are naturally territorial and will get stressed and aggressive if you enter their cage without notice. You must consider their animal instinct when it comes to these things. You can call their name near their cage and then put them to calm the rabbit. 

Provide a Good Diet

A good diet is also important for making your pet happy. Rabbits’ digestive systems are more sensitive than others, so it’s crucial to know what food your rabbit can and cannot eat. Feeding your pet a balanced diet will promote a healthy body and avoid stress from feeling sick whenever they consume new nourishment.  

 Avoid Picking Your Rabbit Up

Most rabbits do not like getting picked up, especially if the person does not know how to properly hold a rabbit. Although rabbits are friendly animals, proper introduction is an important process. This will help your pet get familiar with you and other people who will attempt to pick them up.

In addition, look for signs if your rabbit likes to be picked up. Rabbits have different characteristics. Some like to play with people; some are introverted and do not like companions. To familiarize yourself with your pet, you can start by sitting next to him, stroking him, and playing with him. Since you are going down at his level, your pet will feel secure rather than being picked up and swung right into the air by somebody tall in his eyes.

Avoid Making Loud Noises

When doing things at home, such as mowing the lawn, vacuuming, or doing anything noisy; it is recommended that you do it away from your rabbit’s cage. Rabbits’ ears are sensitive to loud noises, which is why sometimes they get stressed in a loud environment. 

But some things are unavoidable. That is why you must introduce your rabbit to some of the daily noises in your household.  You can slowly introduce the rabbit to things in your home, such as vacuums and other noisy equipment. You can turn it on for a few seconds, turn it off, and turn it back on again. Then you can slowly increase the time they are exposed to the sound. Later, they will be so used to it that they will no longer notice it.

Key Takeaways

  • Taking care of rabbits is challenging. That is why it’s important that you keep an eye on them every day. As an owner, you must know if your rabbit is in distress or has an underlying disease.
  • Rabbit is good at hiding their pain. You need to look closely to know if your rabbit is feeling distressed.
  • The common causes of stress in rabbits are their environment, dietary changes, loud noises, confinement, the rabbit is pregnant, underlying diseases, and the rabbit might have painful wounds.
  • Observing your pet will help you know if they are under stress. However, it is also important that you know the root cause of why they become distressed in the first place. This will help you and the vet doctor assess the rabbit’s right treatment. 
  • Here are the things that will help you know that your rabbit is stressed; harsh tooth grinding, abnormal breathing, and shaking of the body.
  • A safe space will make your pet comfortable and relaxed. Hence, stress will unlikely happen to the rabbit.
  • Providing a good diet also contributes to your rabbit’s mood. Know the foods that will make them happy and healthy.
  • Avoid picking up that rabbit and making a loud noise near your pet and its cage. 
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