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As mentioned here, the new guinea pig is affecting my rabbit's behavior.

However, until a few days ago, all behavior changes were traditional territorial cues.

Two days ago, my female rabbit (who seems bonded to me slightly more than her bond mate) started acting very quirky. Rather than hanging and following me around, she seemed to actively try to avoid me aside from a few minutes per day. At one point I came into the room she was in, sat down, and said her name, which caused her to get up from her flopped out position and move to the room on the opposite side of the house! ... I just figured she was feeling poorly.

However, when she started chasing her bond mate, I decided to hold her for a bit to distract her, and she immediately started purring (not out of the question, but usually I have to have her in my arms for at least 20 seconds). She's currently moulting, so I also began to pluck her. After about 5 minutes I hit a sore spot and she started to strugle like she would like to be put back down. However, once I got a better grip on her she'd continue to purr, even while I only plucked instead of petting.

She also seemed to be actively looking for mischief: chewing on things she normally has no interest in; taking large chunks of paint off the book shelf and trying to eat them; eating the strips off the sides of my shoes; etc. I gave her a Timothy cube and the destructive behavior stopped. However as I'm writing this she's trying to climb out of the condo into the storage area next to it, and this reminds me that she's been climbing the furniture all day (waiting for me on the arm of the couch closest to the door while I was out).

About a week ago she started becoming more aggressive about making it to the right food bowl first (we have 3 scattered throughout the house to keep them guessing), and somehow is able to get to the top of a 4 floor condo that I built for them faster than I can dispense them (making it very difficult to place kibble in the bowl). However, as of 32 hrs ago, both rabbits have been extremely kibble focused, and the female is now standing on top of the food bowl and prairie dogging over the top of the condo. Even stranger, and what spurred me to post was that 10 minutes ago she tried to leap over the top floor barrier at the small cup of kibble I was carrying. Fortunately, she got her back legs hooked in the barrier and fell back to the top floor.

Could any of the following really be just a bonding thing?

  • Reckless climbing and begging?
  • Disturbed by my presence?
  • Very happy when picked up?
  • Chewing on unusual things?

Is my rabbit suffering from brain damage? (she had lead poisoning 2 years ago)

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    Blackwell's consult doesn't list brain damage as a consequence of lead poisoning, which isn't a conclusive statement, but indicates that it wouldn't be common at the very least. – John Cavan Mar 1 '14 at 16:21
  • @JohnCavan there is little doubt that lead causes bran damage; I guess a better question is do the effects continue past treatment, which there seems to be some evidence that there may be some long term propagation – virtualxtc Mar 2 '14 at 0:16
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    Human effect isn't necessarily true for rabbits. At any rate, as I said, not listed in a vet manual, but that doesn't mean not possible. – John Cavan Mar 2 '14 at 0:42
  • Wow, the only study I found was done 50 years ago, and basically says the same thing; they couldn't assure a correlation. – virtualxtc Mar 2 '14 at 5:12
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As you have not given any hints suggesting anything remotely biological (i.e. she is not sick). I assume that the cause is psychological. This answer is based on experience I did not researched for references.

It sounds like the make up of the bonding is shifting. This is not unusual, when adding a new rabbit, and may be occurring because of the new guinea pig. When you add a new member into the family the family dynamics change, sometimes in vary strange ways.

When we attempted to add a fourth rabbit (Tigger (neutered male) to our existing trio Harmony (spayed female), Lyra (spayed female), Baxter (neutered male) - (Trio in order of dominance) Lyra was overly aggressive to Tigger, the other two were fine with him being there. Harmony would "protect" Tigger by chasing Lyra away, when Lyra was aggressive. Prior to the attempted addition, Lyra was beginning to show aggression to Baxter, more rabbits in a warren can sometimes lead to an overall calmer interaction between all. So adding Tigger to the established group rather than keeping him a single made sense.

After sometime (weeks?) the situation with Lyra was getting worse, so we tried creating a bond with Tigger, Harmony and Baxter. This failed miserably, on the first visit without Lyra, this took Harmony out of the protector role and she started acting aggressively towards Tigger.

After much discussion (and due consideration for personality), we tried the girls as a pair, and the boys as a pair. Everything worked out fine. The failed transition into a foursome or a different trio, that had spent weeks getting nowhere was over. The transition into two pairs occurred smoothly in a mater of hours.

The girls settled down immediately into a stable group. The boys coexisted peacefully for weeks, then Baxter was very sick for a while and the bond between them grew stronger, they now snuggle and groom each other more.

In answer to "why would she do this?", the group dynamics of bonded pair of rabbits is being disturbed. You will need to work through the situation, using personality and behavior clues to guide you.

While this answer focuses on bunny to bunny interactions, all the territory and bonding behaviors are impacted. This example is used for clarity in defining some of the unusual observations. For those unaware a two girl bunny bonded pair, who are not siblings is considered the hardest pair to create.

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  • Interesting story. However I'm not sure it answered my question about recklessness. I'll try to rephrase it. – virtualxtc Mar 1 '14 at 14:44
  • @virtualxtc, Only a vet can determine if your pet is having a biological incident. If it is not biological, given the scenario you describe, it could be related to a territory disputes and that is my best guess. But your right it is just a guess. Nothing else suggests it's self. – James Jenkins Mar 1 '14 at 23:12
  • any idea how to make the question better so that people don't have to guess? – virtualxtc Mar 2 '14 at 5:13
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    @virtualxtc, There is not a lot of documentation on rabbit psychology. Any answer is going to be best guess. You have provided a good profile of the behavior and contributing items. Have you looked at any of the sites offer rabbit body language translations? There may be some subtle cues you have missed. You will need to take the my guess, your guess and any other guesses offered and try to rule them out, by addressing it. Even if you modify something and the behavior changes you will never know if you solved it or if it went away for some other reason. – James Jenkins Mar 2 '14 at 11:33
  • she's back to normal now, and the guinea pig is still in a cage in their main room, so it really doesn't seem to be just a bonding thing. I'll keep an eye out for any differences in environment that might have contributed to it. – virtualxtc Mar 3 '14 at 11:33

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