The rabbit you are adopting spent some time in our shelter being socialized. By “socialized”, we mean a process of learning: learning to use a litter box; learning to accept being handled; and learning to display affection towards people.
However, your rabbit may have had to share space and affection with many other rabbits. Understanding this will help you during the first few weeks with your rabbit. As your rabbit realizes his new status in life – that he is the center of attention and no longer needs to share – he may express exuberance and, sometimes, aggression.
The poor, homeless rabbit who meekly lay in your lap may now struggle to be put down, or even nip. He may demand treats and petting; may hid under the bed when it’s time to go back to his cage; and may show temper when confined. Some rabbits in a new environment temporarily become un-house-trained. (If this happens with your rabbit, see our article on litter-training.)
A rabbit who has any trouble adjusting to a new environment should be treated as consistently as possible. Be flexible about your rabbit’s preferences, but don’t be afraid to establish a routine. Imposing a routine on your rabbit will not alienate him – on the contrary, it will help him feel comfortable. If occasionally being handled and confined are going to be part of his life, gently persist with your requirements.
Don’t interpret territorial acts (thumping, grunting, lunging, nipping) as hostility. Realize that your rabbit’s horizons (and ego) have suddenly expanded. In the delight of being King of your home, he may test his relationship to you. Never punish or challenge an aggressive rabbit; respect his space, but if necessary, confine him for a period of time each day. Affection combined with a predictable routine will help settle him down. When will the mellow side or your house rabbit re-appear? The average transition period reported is just a few weeks in length.
by Holly O’Meara (May be copied for free distribution)