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The subject of intentional breeding or meat rabbits is prohibited. The answers provided on this board are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet.  It is your responsibility to assess the information being given and seek professional advice/second opinion from your veterinarian and/or qualified behaviorist.

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Forum BEHAVIOR Rescued bunny flinches hard when I touch him but doesn’t run away

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    • Elphy's Mom
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        Hi everyone,

        I adopted a Californian from the humane society a month or so ago. She has had her checkup and seems healthy though a bit extra chubby. She is my third rabbit in the house (my other bonded two are in the front of the house) and I also have foster rabbits in another room. She lives in the main family room and gets to come and go as she pleases but also has a little “private” area of her own in a corner with litter pan, water, bed and toys. She is social and likes pets but some approaches and touches cause her ears and skin to flinch strongly. For example, i might be petting her nose which she enjoys and then start a little Ttouch (just circles against the skin gently) and she leans into it. I keep doing it moving back between her ears. Her ears will start flinching away from my fingers but she doesn’t move and all indications are that she wants me to continue. Same if I’m stroking her back. She stays put but almost seems like she’s trying to be strong – you know – and not run off. I have spent a lot of time petting her and getting her used to being touched everywhere on her topside by feeding her little treats while I’m doing it. (My husband is an animal behaviorist and is helping me with the right technique.) My best guess based not on anything I’ve ever seen on a rabbit but only on a person is that she has some kind of nerve issue where she can’t help the flinching but doesn’t want me to stop petting. You know, as I write this it occurs to me that it looks like she’s being tickled!!! Could that be it?? Anybody ever seen this before? Her name is Fiona, by the way.

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      • pinkiemarie
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          She’s pretty! Since you’ve only had her for a month, is it possible you’re just seeing a physical manifestation of her internal struggle to trust you despite her prey instincts? Do you know what the environment she was in before was like and whether she was abused or whether she had very much human interaction?

           

          You’re right that is possible something physical is going on but I’m wondering if she’s just at the point of bonding with you where her logical brain knows that she can trust you but her emotional brain is still learning that, so her instinct still wants to run away but her higher self knows it’s ok to relax and trust you. Like humans, some rabbits are very trusting and others need more time.


        • Wick & Fable
          Moderator
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            I’d give it more time — the skin flinching can be a normal reaction for rabbits who have not yet learned what a human pet feels like and the nice consequences of it. It is a new feeling and like with anything new, most rabbits will react in an anxious and guarded way.

            The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.


            • Elphy's Mom
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                Thank you. That does seem like a possibility as well. It’s kind of a sad thought that this bunny – at approximately 4+ years old – hasn’t learned that yet.


            • DanaNM
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                It’s funny, I have a bun (Myra) who is also a Californian and I’ve learned she has VERY sensitive ears. She will sometimes flinch if I pet her ears to quickly, or try to give her cheek rubs sometimes. When I give her ears a massage she will always shake her head and scratch them after. At first I thought she might have a dental or an ear problem but the vet said her teeth and ears look perfect, so I think she’s just a sensitve gal!

                I agree with others though, your bun likely is just getting used to pets, but maybe also is just a bit ticklish. 🙂

                . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  

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            Forum BEHAVIOR Rescued bunny flinches hard when I touch him but doesn’t run away