Maybe you own a rabbit and you are thinking of getting him a feline companion. Or perhaps you are planning on keeping your rabbit in an outdoor hutch. You are thinking if your pet is vulnerable to an attack from a cat.
Do cats attack rabbits?
Yes, cats do attack rabbits when given the opportunity to do so. However, it is also possible to keep both animals to the point where they form a bond.
On one hand, you have a top predator: the domestic cat. Your cat may not look like an apex predator. And it does not help that the Internet has portrayed felines as sassy, fluffy furballs. But your cat is a predator. And very capable at that.
And on the other hand, you have the rabbit: fast, elusive, and unfortunately, one of the favorite meals of predators.
Understanding the nature of these two animals will give you a fair idea of what will happen if you leave them on their one device. Without proper socialization and supervision, you might be endangering one of the two. Although cats are default attackers in this narrative, some rabbits are capable of finding back.
Although you provide your cat with all of his needs, most of his predatory instincts remain. In his eyes, the rabbit is prey, and when the opportunity presents itself, he will launch an attack.
And your cat does not need to attack the rabbit for food. Ever wondered why some cats bring their owners “gifts” in the form of captured small animals? Cats teach their young how to hunt and eat prey by bringing them dead or nearly dead animals. When your cat brings you small animals he captured, he is thinking of you as another cat that needs to be taught.
Can rabbits attack cats?
It may seem unlikely, but yes, rabbits can turn the tables and attack cats. Rabbits are often portrayed as timid creatures but they are capable of fending direct attacks from a cat.
Like cats, rabbits can become territorial once they gain confidence. And like felines, they exhibit territorial behavior like urine marking. A confident and territorial rabbit can even threaten a cat by baring his teeth or even biting and chasing the hapless feline.
If your cat is confident enough, he will back off from a direct confrontation with the rabbit. He will go somewhere else to nurse his wounded ego and avoid fighting back. Although rabbits are prey, a formidable opponent will exert dominance and deter unwanted behavior from a cat.
The problem is if your cat is timid and anxious. The presence of the rabbit can cause undue stress on the feline. The cat may either cower in fear or exhibit aggression to fight back against the rabbit.
How to keep cats and rabbits together in your home
But despite the diametrically opposite natures of these two animals, it is possible to keep both as pets in the same home. However, there are a lot of things that you need to consider, whether you already own a cat or a rabbit.
The most important consideration you need to think of is the age of the animals. If you want to keep both animals as pets, you should get them while they are still young. A bunny and a kitten will most likely bond with one another when raised together. Your next best option is to get a kitten if you already have a rabbit.
It is possible to get a rabbit when you own an adult cat. However, you will face an uphill battle. For starters, cats are resistant to change. The addition of a new pet, rabbit or otherwise, can disrupt your resident pet’s routine leading to anxiety. Furthermore, felines are notoriously territorial and they will see the rabbit as an intruder into their domain.
Introducing a rabbit to a cat
The key to preventing a bad relationship between your cat and rabbit is a proper introduction. Here are the steps that you need to undertake.
1. Find a secure space for the rabbit
For the first few days that your rabbit arrives at your home, he should be separated from your cat. This space should be large enough to accommodate a large hutch. Remember, your rabbit will stay here to eat, sleep, and play.
Furthermore, the space should be secure enough to keep your cat from entering the room without you even knowing.
Like cats, rabbits can be nervous and anxious, especially in an unfamiliar environment. They need time to acclimate to your home and develop the necessary confidence to deal with your pet cat.
2. Familiarize your pets with each other’s scents
While your rabbit is staying in his space, you can introduce him to your cat through his scent. The same thing applies to your rabbit.
For this task, a simple piece of fabric will do. Using a piece of fabric, wipe the body of each pet. After that, give the fabric to the rabbit and the cat. By smelling the fabric, each pet can get to know the other without meeting face to face.
Do this several times before proceeding to the next step.
3. Introduce your pets to one another
First, feed your cat and play with him to tire him out a bit. This will help put him in a relaxed state.
Next, allow your cat to enter the room where you keep the rabbit. Keep the rabbit in the hutch while allowing your cat to explore the room.
Carefully observe the behavior of both pets, especially your cat. Watch for signs of stress, aggression, or overexcitement. If you notice any of these, separate your pets and resume swapping their scents before reintroducing them.
Keep doing this until both pets are completely at ease with one another.
Afterward, you can allow the rabbit to roam freely outside of the hutch. However, make sure that your cat is well-fed or even a bit tired. It also helps if you can restrain your pet with something like a harness and a leash.
Continue doing this until both pets are comfortable with one another. Although your ultimate goal might be to establish a bond between the two animals, you can count indifference as a win.
How to keep your pets happy
Once your pets are properly introduced to one another, there are a few important things that you can do to make them happy.
For starters, never leave the two pets alone and unsupervised. Remember, your cat’s predatory instincts are embedded in his DNA and you cannot totally eliminate these. Presented with the right opportunity, a cat can attack a rabbit he has lived with for years. As such, err on the side of caution and supervise each interaction.
Watch for signs of aggression from your pets, including your rabbit. If one begins playing rough, separate the two animals to prevent a full-scale fight.
If you are putting your two pets together in the same room, make sure that the room has nothing that can serve as a perch for the cat. When your cat is perched, it can cause anxiety in the rabbit because he feels vulnerable to an attack from above.
Consider getting both of your pets sterilized. Sterilization can help eliminate unwanted behavior like aggression and territorialism.
Finally, be sure to provide enough time for each pet. Cats and rabbits can feel jealous especially when they perceive that you are giving too much attention to the other pet.
Can rabbits and cats make each other sick?
Yes, there are a few diseases that can infect both of your pets. One of the most common are fleas. Fleas can infect one pet and transfer to the other. Unless you treat both of your pets, the fleas will jump from one pet to the other.
Worse, fleas can transfer diseases from one pet to the other. For example, if your bunny is infected with rabbit fever, a flea can bite both of your pets and transfer the disease to your at.
Both of your pets can also succumb to respiratory diseases like Bordetella bronchiseptica. If one pet is infected with a transmissible disease and you inadvertently put that pet in a room with the other, the other one can become infected with respiratory disease.
Be aware that between rabbits and cats, the former have a weaker immune system. As such, be sure that your cat is healthy before bringing him to play with your rabbit.
How to protect your rabbit from your cat
If you own a rabbit and a cat, you cannot be lulled into a sense of complacency even if both animals tolerate one another. The fact that a cat is a predator and a rabbit is a prey cannot be overstated. If your cat gets into the room where your rabbit stays, he can come inside the hutch to attack your bunny. As such, you have to make sure that the hutch has a roof and has narrow bars. This will help prevent the cat from entering the hutch.
But to a persistent cat, these may not be enough. To bolster your protection for your rabbit, you can use citrus and citrus-scented objects to deter your cat. Cats hate the smell of citrus and will back away from your rabbit if he gets a whiff of the fruit.
You can also place double-sided tape around the rabbit hutch. Cats dislike the texture of double-sided tape on their paws.
On the other hand, if you plan to keep your rabbit outside your home, he is vulnerable to attacks from predators like feral cats and foxes. As such, you should opt for a hutch fabricated with wooden and mesh wiring. Be sure that the hutch has a secure lock.
Ideally, you should place the hutch over a solid surface to prevent attacks from below. For further protection from predators, you can install an electrical pet fence around the hutch. An electric shock is more than enough to deter a persistent predator.
Cats can live with rabbits
Although predator and prey living together may seem like a bad idea, it is possible to keep both a rabbit and cat together in the same home. However, you need to introduce both pets properly and ensure that you enforce the necessary safety precautions.
Image: istockphoto.com / gyro