Rabbit Predators

All the Dangers & What to Do About Them

Not all cats mean well - Most cats will enjoy the chase and kill of a rabbit, wild or domestic pet, they're really not fussy!Not all cats mean well.

Like any problem we need to understand where the danger is coming from and the best way to tackle each situation in a unique and targeted way. For you can’t ward off a buzzard by building a fence.

Let’s take a look at what our poor rabbits have to contend with and find the best solution for each threat.

Top 10 Common Rabbit Predators

Rabbits have many predators; they are sadly one of the lowlier of prey species.

Common predators vary depending on where in the world you are, but there are some general ones to look out for and be wary of.

The Stoat is one of the Top 10 Common Rabbit Predators.The Stoat - One of the top 10 rabbit predators

Domestic pet rabbits don’t always get along with other domestic pets so the list includes some of these too.

Depending in which part of the world you live, will determine the most likely predators you need to be aware of.

Most Common in Reverse Order


This list is in reverse order of commonality and reported attacks:

10.   Crows / Rooks

9.     Snakes

8.     Pet Cats / Wild Cats

7.     Pet Dogs / Wild Dogs

6.     Wolves

5.     Badgers / Raccoons

4.     Foxes

3.     Stoats / Weasels / Ferrets

2.     Birds of Prey (Buzzards, Hawks, Eagles, Owls, Kestrels,  Falcons)

1.     Humans

The Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the largest of the true foxes.The Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the largest of the true foxes.
A deadly bite to the neck of a wild rabbit by an adult stoat.A deadly bite to the neck of a wild rabbit by an adult stoat.

Rabbit Supervision & Protection

Rabbits grazing inside a fenced area.Rabbits grazing inside a fenced area.

It has long been suggested that rabbits are to be supervised at all times and given a secure run of strong wire on all sides with some kind of roof mesh or wire protection above. And indeed this will protect your rabbits from most predator attacks including a strike from the air.

Many rabbit ‘experts’ say that when not under constant supervision, rabbits should be kept inside a safe run and hutch area as they can have a heart attack just from the smell of a predator.

This of course, is very sound advice indeed, however given the proper surroundings and freedom to create their own habitat, rabbits are extremely adept at moulding their surroundings to serve their natural instincts to escape and protect themselves.

Animal Welfare Act

rabbit hide away

Good shelter for your rabbits should provide a number of things, including:

  • Protection - from predators, weather and disease.
  • Refuge - to escape to in times of stress.
  • Safety - from accidental harm.

The Big Shocker Statement…

Dwarf pet rabbit enjoying the freedom of his garden.Dwarf pet rabbit enjoying the freedom of his garden.

Rabbits confined to a run and hutch for hours on end are NOT less stressed or safer than rabbits that are given the freedom to roam.

Now, before everyone writes in to Just Rabbits in a fit of rabbit-panic and frenzied confusion over that last statement, let me just explain…

When rabbits are allowed the freedom to create their own environment, their stress levels are far lower than if they were confined to a meshed-in run and rabbit hutch. This is because rabbits feel they have no control in a situation like this.

You and I know they are safe, but they do not.

In a domestic pet environment females prefer to burrow, while the males take on this role in the wild.A carefully tended rabbit hole. In a domestic pet environment females prefer to burrow, while the males take on this role in the wild.

Rabbits know that they have not built, created, moulded, dug or crafted their hutch or run themselves. Therefore, they do not know for sure the security of it and they are naturally in a constant state of awareness and stress.

They are afraid when they see, smell or hear a predator because they feel they cannot escape to an area of assured safety. This is why so many rabbit owners with rabbits in a hutch and run outside, report their rabbits dying of heart attacks when predators are about.

Natural Rabbit Predator Protection

If you have the space because you live in the country or have a large garden area, then providing a natural habitat for your pet rabbits is relatively easy.

(The advice that follows is for indoor rabbits too, as house rabbits need to get out and exercise, forage and breathe fresh air just as much as their outdoor counterparts.)

Shelters, protection chambers and tunnels are all crucial safe havens for rabbits.Shelters, protection chambers and tunnels are all crucial safe havens for rabbits.

7 Surprising Ways to Offer Protection

The following points are just a few ways you can allow for a more natural outdoor rabbit environment:

Leave all of the options out for your rabbits and let them decide which of the shelters they prefer.Leave all of the options out for your rabbits and let them decide which of the shelters they prefer.
  1. Double or triple fence your entire property and land area.
    This will deter about 60% of most predators and while it may be costly, the freedoms it will afford your rabbits is priceless.

  2. Lay deep concrete foundations on outer fence panels.
    Where territory borders back up to areas beyond your control such as a neighbour’s property, field or main road, where danger lurks from all directions, try to make the fences tall and as deep as possible. 

  3. Grow or plant shrubs and bushes.
    These allow for under branch shade and protection. Almost like an umbrella certain bushes are perfect for shade, cover and protection, especially those with thick branches that would allow a bunny through but not a larger mammal. 

  4. Provide adequate areas of clear lawn or grass.
    This is so rabbits can freely access escape routes from a grazing position.
    Given enough space rabbits will jump around and ‘binky’ in these ‘free-space’ areas to practise their escape routes. Allowing them to do this makes them feel safe, less stressed and relaxed.

  5. Let rabbits burrow underground within a safe boundary.
    Given enough time a rabbit can create an elaborate underground tunnel system which is amazingly safe for them to bolt to in times of danger or fear. This is part of their natural behaviour and should be permitted if circumstances in your garden will allow.

  6. Provide a selection of rabbit safe boxes.
    Shelters, protection chambers and tunnels are all crucial safe havens for rabbits.
    Leave all of the options out for your rabbits and let them decide which of the shelters they prefer. You will see a few constant favourites being chosen every day. Anything that is not used consistently, get rid of. It will only cause an obstruction.

  7. Workouts, exercise and building muscle.
    This is a vital aspect of keeping your rabbits safe and protected. It is only with exercise that your rabbits will function to their best ability when faced with any perceived danger. Plus, a rabbit that has been allowed to move at least 2 football pitches every day will have a properly functioning gut (digestive tract) that will keep them fit, healthy and content. 

The 1 Surprising Rabbit Predator Deterrent

There is one factor that is always overlooked when it comes to a rabbit’s ability to protect itself and survive in its chosen environment.

This one surprising, element is… camouflage!

The agouti fur of all wild rabbits have elements of every colour within each hair shaft.

The agouti fur of all wild rabbits have elements of every colour within each hair shaft. Depending on their environment, natural selection allows for the correct camouflaging.Wild rabbits blend to their environment, natural selection in each generation allows for the correct camouflaging for their habitat.

Wild rabbits have adapted very well to their setting over the years, whether this be grassland, scrubland, woodland, sandy cliffs or snow covered heathland.

Wild cottontail rabbit well camouflaged against the backdrop of a snowy heathland.Wild cottontail rabbit well camouflaged against the backdrop of a snowy heathland.

Depending on their environment, natural selection allows for the correct camouflaging colour to prevail over every generation.

The Snowshoe Hare is an expert in the art of camouflage, changing it's coat throughout the seasons to blend in to the environment.The Snowshoe Hare is an expert in the art of camouflage, changing it's coat throughout the seasons to blend in to the environment.

Pet Rabbit Advantage

Of course domestic rabbits don’t get a choice on coat colour in relation to their surroundings as many owners choose their rabbits based on much different qualities, but the advantage of choosing a pet rabbit based on colouration is definitely worth future consideration or at least a slight pause for thought.

However, based on reader reports and recent research, it seems that there is a paradox at play here...

Many owners of small, single colour rabbits such as fawn and grey, and agouti coloured rabbits, have reported predator attacks from birds of prey, foxes and stoats.Many owners of small, single colour rabbits such as fawn and grey, and agouti coloured rabbits, have reported predator attacks from birds of prey, foxes and stoats.

Many owners of small, single colour rabbits such as fawn and grey, and agouti coloured rabbits, have reported predator attacks from birds of prey, foxes and stoats.

Is this because these predators naturally prey on wild rabbits with this colouring and they have honed their attack skills on this type of colouration?

Or is it that our domestic counterparts with wild rabbit colouring are trapped inside man-made environments that they cannot escape from, thus making predator attacks easier?

Perhaps it is a combination of the two.

But it could be nothing to do with colour and more a case of what predators are in that environment.

Owners of white rabbits often lose their pets to owls, bears, wild cats, wolves and ferrets, as these are the predators that lurk in the cold icy shadows of wintry environments.White rabbits lose their lives to owls, bears, wild cats, wolves and ferrets - these are the predators that lurk in the cold icy shadows of wintry environments.

Owners of white rabbits often lose their pets to owls, bears, wild cats, wolves and ferrets, as these are the predators that lurk in the cold icy shadows of wintry environments.

However, owners of black and white patched and butterfly patterned coated rabbits report their bunnies lay about their gardens like cats, seemingly unfazed by birds, sudden movements or strange noises.

Black and white patched and butterfly patterned coated rabbits lay about their gardens like cats, seemingly unfazed by birds, sudden movements or strange noises.Black and white bunnies like to impersonate cats and cushions!

It's almost as though there’s something in their DNA that’s telling them it’s OK, you look like a cat, not a rabbit. 

Black and white rabbits lay about their gardens like cats, seemingly unfazed by birds, sudden movements or strange noises.Black and white rabbits lay about their gardens like cats, seemingly unfazed by birds, sudden movements or strange noises.

This is mere speculation at this juncture, but a study into this phenomenon may warrant further investigation.

Rabbit Predators and Protection at Night

Even in their own burrow, rabbits will still be vulnerable to night predators especially in winter, severe weather, or when predator food is scarce.Even in their own burrow, rabbits will still be vulnerable to night predators especially in winter, severe weather, or when predator food is scarce.

Don’t let your rabbit stay out at night. Even in their own burrow or shelter of choice they will still be vulnerable to night predators especially in winter, severe weather, or when food is scarce for any reason.

Predators will get bolder if they are feeding their own young too, so it is best to be vigilant at all times.

Keeping rabbits in cages should be a temporary living solution for transportation, separation or recovery etc.Keeping rabbits in cages should be a temporary living solution for transportation, separation or recovery etc.

Most hutches and wire cages offer little or no protection from a rabbit predator on a mission. Even a rat can gnaw its way through a solid wooden hutch in less than an hour.

Some rabbit owners prefer to house their rabbits indoors at night or at least provide protection with them being housed inside the solid walls of a garage, basement or outbuilding.

Converted garden sheds that have been adapted inside, with various levels and cat-flap style doors, are very popular too.

Just Rabbits DIY Rabbit Shed

The Human Threat

Yes, human beings are the biggest threat to rabbits, wild and domestic, and we have been causing harm, death and fear to rabbits of all breeds for hundreds of years. And while the threat of danger, destruction and death have been consistent, the reasons have been varied and diverse.

Top 7 Reasons Why Humans Are Rabbit Predators

1. The Meat Trade

1.     Meat Trade – This is the most disturbing act on the killing fields, as the cruelty endured by meat rabbits before they are slaughtered is usually beyond comprehension.

During the summer of 2014, Compassion in World Farming’s Investigation Unit went undercover to visit 16 rabbit factory farms in 5 countries – Italy, Greece, Czech Republic, Poland and Cyprus.

What they found is the unknown face of factory farming: millions of animals stuck in the Cage Age…

"It is high time we evolved past such cruelty and put a stop to the, frankly, medieval practice of keeping farm animals behind bars. Help us End the Cage Age."

It is high time we evolved past such cruelty and put a stop to the, frankly, medieval practice of keeping farm animals behind barsIt is high time we evolved past such cruelty and put a stop to the, frankly, medieval practice of keeping farm animals behind bars.

Undercover investigation: exposing the secret of the Cage Age

Please take a moment to watch this short film from Compassion in World Farming.

If you are easily upset then you may find this film distressing. In that case, please click here to sign their petition.

Be aware this video contains scenes of a distressing nature.

For some reason breeders think that because these rabbits are going to be killed for meat anyway that they do not warrant any kind of quality of life. This is by far man’s most abhorrent endeavour, and unfortunately it extends beyond that of the rabbit meat trade.

2. Population Control

Wild rabbits on the edge of woodland enjoying happier family moments.Wild rabbits on the edge of woodland enjoying happier family moments.

2.     Population Control – Millions of wild rabbits have been culled in an attempt to curb population with the ultimate goal of deterring destruction to crops or areas of protected natural vegetation. Unfortunately, the methods used are highly irresponsible, sanctioned by those that do not understand the true nature of certain diseases nor the way in which rabbit’s function, and carried out by careless death squads that have allowed killer diseases to infect the domestic rabbit population.

A man-made virus called myxomatosis was introduced to the wild rabbit population, but ironically the vast reduction in rabbit numbers caused a decline in the number of foxes, buzzards and other predators which drastically affected the growth of vegetation, so plants such as gorse, bramble and coarse grasses grew to excess.

A tagged wild rabbit infected with the RHD Virus.A tagged wild rabbit infected with the RHD Virus.

Now a new strain of rabbit disease, RHDV2 is spreading quickly, with all breeds of lagomorphs being affected globally.

So, that one deed a few decades ago, that purposeful decision to infect some wild rabbits with a man-made virus, that one deathly, uneducated act, is still killing rabbits, painfully and tortuously, in their thousands every day.

3. Fashion Industry / Fur Trade

The fashion industry and the company owners that approve the idea of rabbits providing fur and skins in the name of beauty, are responsible for the deaths of millions of rabbits all around the world.The fashion industry is responsible for the deaths of millions of rabbits globally.

3.     Fashion / Fur Industry Demands – The fashion industry and the company owners that approve the idea of rabbits providing fur and skins in the name of beauty, are responsible for the deaths of millions of rabbits all around the world.

It’s not just the obvious breeds such as the Angora that are at risk either, the Rex, Silvers and Chinchilla breeds are also still used for clothing items such as hats, coats, gloves and even handbags.

Ironically, certain rabbit breeds went extinct when the fur industry no longer had any demand for them.Ironically, some rabbit breeds became extinct when the fur industry demand fell. This beautiful Alaska Red Fox being one of many breeds that are sadly no longer around.

4. Research

The rabbit is the second most commonly used animal in product testing and research purposes because they are generally sociable, timid and non-aggressive.Rabbits are the 2nd most commonly used animal for product testing and research.

4.     Research & Testing - The rabbit is the second most commonly used animal in product testing and research purposes because they are generally sociable, timid and non-aggressive, making them easier to handle, either for restraining or when administering test chemicals or drugs etc.

They are the most commonly used species in research protocols involving pain with analgesic, anaesthetic and tranquillizer drugs.

They are also commonly used in skin and eye irritation studies for cosmetics, personal care and household products.

Experiments on a pregnant does are also common to judge if products will harm a developing foetus.

While being experimented upon, rabbits are often locked into full-body restraints to prevent them from touching eye or skin sores.

These tests are not very reliable either, and increasing attention is being paid to the development of alternatives to replace the use of rabbits for these categories of toxicity testing.

Despite the availability of more modern, humane, and effective alternatives, rabbits are still tormented with chemicals dripped into their eyes, causing redness, swelling, discharge, ulceration, haemorrhaging, cloudiness, or blindness.

Even though internationally accepted non-animal methods exist, in skin corrosion tests, rabbits’ backs are shaved and corrosive chemicals are applied to their raw skin and left there for up to two weeks. These chemicals often burn the skin, leading to tissue damage.

Research rabbits are given no pain relief during all the excruciatingly painful tests, and sometimes they can be continually tested on for months at a time. After the testing of one particular experiment is complete, the rabbits are killed and destroyed to make way for new batches of bunnies to begin their  short lived tortuous existence.

The rabbits are killed after experiments are over.

5. Theft

Show rabbits and breeding pairs can be very valuable and susceptible to theft.Show rabbits and breeding pairs can be very valuable and susceptible to theft.

5.     Theft – Domestic rabbits, especially show rabbits or breeding pairs can be quite valuable and just like a valuable pooch many bunnies have been stolen for a monetary benefit.

Although, while many show rabbit breeders look after their rabbits exceedingly well, there are many owners that do not raise their rabbits in the best of conditions. Often leaving them for most of their lives confines to sheds, cages and small hutches, either at the bottom of gardens, in allotments or outbuildings. It is therefore not uncommon for these breeders/owners to be targeted time and again by true rabbit lovers, that are not actually 'stealing' (officially they are), but are instead, performing rescue missions to save these rabbits, show bunnies or not, from a life of confinement and exile.

6. Predator Food

The unknown side of the pet shop trade is that some rabbit breeders sell their unwanted kits as live predator food.The unknown side of the pet shop trade is that some rabbit breeders sell their unwanted kits as live predator food.

6.     Predator Food – Baby kits and very young small breed rabbits are often sold as live food for snakes, birds of prey and other large predatory mammals.

This is the unknown side of the pet shop trade and rabbit breeders sell their unwanted kits as live food.

Baby kits and very young small breed rabbits are often sold as live food for snakes, birds of prey and other large predatory mammals.Young rabbits are often sold as live food for snakes, birds of prey and other large predatory mammals.

To a certain extent this would happen in the wild but unscrupulous breeders are using this trade to make additional income and many kits that are perfectly healthy are sold off for predatory enjoyment. In fact, it is not uncommon to see announcements in classified adverts online and in local papers freely publicising baby rabbits for sale and the people who post them do not care where these babies go or for what purpose they are intended for.

7. Kindness

7.       Kindness – Vets have reported that over 90% of domestic pet rabbit deaths are caused by environmental and dietary issues, and because domestic pet rabbits rely on humans for both of these factors, it is with sadness that the uneducated rabbit owner can actually cause the premature death of their beloved pet bunny by sheer kindness alone.

Giving extra treats of processed, and high sugar content food, on top of confining rabbits to small enclosures to ‘protect’ them, actually inhibits their digestive system from working properly, which in turn leads to disease and in most cases a consequential, premature death.

For a more detailed look at all aspects of bunny health, diet, environment, companionship & longevity check out the revolutionary iRabbit READY System by Kerry Greener of Just Rabbits Limited

How Rabbits Protect Themselves

Using Available Resources

Man covered in friendly wild rabbits on Japan's Okunoshima Island.Man covered in friendly wild rabbits on Japan's Okunoshima Island - Now unofficially renamed Rabbit Island due to being home to over 1000 friendly bunnies!

Rabbits have long since had a raw deal when it comes to interaction with humans, and it is with astonishment that they still naturally want to associate themselves with us at all.

Rabbits on Rabbit Island love human interaction and prefer to take food from the hand rather than from the ground. They will even chase tourists to get attention, proving just how social and forgiving they are!

The rabbits here have honed their survival instincts to appeal to the tourist trade - very clever.

Rabbit’s Evasive Manoeuvres

While the rabbits on Rabbit Island have the benefit of living in an environment completely devoid of predators, most other rabbits are used to being prey, and over the centuries they have developed very good coping strategies to placate most ensuing scenarios.  

As a prey species, rabbits must also stay out of sight and smell of predators.

With their acute vision, hearing and smell, a rabbit can sense the presence of a predator, such as fox or a raccoon, from as much as 2 miles away and are usually very aware of swooping danger from the skies.

hawk catching rabbit

Rabbits are adept at evading predators by darting back and forth on a zig-zag path and rabbits in the wild are often seen doing this. In fact, many domestic pet rabbit owners report spending hours trying to catch their bunnies before bedtime, and being given a good high intensity workout in the process.

But it may beg the question, why zig-zag rather than go for a flat out run in a straight line?

It’s true it is harder for a predator to catch a zig-zagging rabbit, but again, why is this?

After all, most predators can run pretty fast too.

Of course rabbits have a limited ability to shimmy up a tree and can’t take to the skies to escape. But they are good at using their strong joints and muscles in ways that give them a real advantage. Their powerful hind limbs allow for propulsion, while the front limbs help with directional force, and it is these abilities that are utilized to their maximum potential.

Rabbits can hop as fast as 20 miles an hour and they can jump up to 10 feet clear across the ground in a single hop. They are also very dexterous, with a very flexible, speedy turning circle.

So with a complex combination of all of these movements with a zig-zag pattern thrown in, they are able to outwit a predator, even in the most concentrated of chases.

Rabbits can reach speeds of up to 40mph but cannot maintain it. They add in zig-zags to make the chase more difficult for their predators in hot pursuit.Rabbits can reach speeds of up to 40mph but cannot maintain it. They add in zig-zags to make the chase more difficult for their predators in hot pursuit.

Another theory is that the zig-zag manner of escape is to confuse a predator on their scent trail. Being able to leap off the group for a long distance then change direction to a less likely trajectory is definitely a life saving benefit.

So the zig-zagging, ‘binky’ show, complete with 180º flips in the air and tail-twitches that we often delight in seeing a happy rabbit perform are really all an elaborate ‘dress rehearsal’. It’s a practise moment, a safe run through of an escape route. Just as we have a fire-drill at work or at school, so rabbits have a life-saving drill at play.

Don't Forget the 'Friendlies'

When you think of rabbit predators, you'd probably automatically think of all the wild animals that attack for food and to feed their young, but it is important to be aware that in the mind of your rabbit, the neighbour's pet dog, the local domestic street cats, boisterous children and visiting 'strangers' are all 'predators' as far as their stress levels are concerned.

cat chasing rabbit

While some of these newcomers may come with friendly intentions and a desire to 'play', a rabbit will not see it as anything but danger and get extremely stressed out about it.

Sheltering from Rabbit Predators

rabbit refuge

Rabbits tend to hide when they are feeling afraid, stressed, unwell or when they simply wish to withdraw from social contact (with other rabbits or people) for a while. Make sure your rabbits have constant access to safe hiding places where they can escape if they feel afraid. Rabbits that are stressed are much more likely to become ill.

Rabbits are quite quick off the mark and can sense danger from miles away. If your rabbits are roaming free in the garden (as mine are), their natural instincts are always with them. But make sure you give them plenty of easily accessible bolt holes and escape routes, with safe and sturdy creature-proof housing. Provide predator-proof shelter suitable for the type of predators that are common in your area.

Good rabbit shelters provide easily accessible hiding places, or ‘refuges’ allowing rabbits to escape and hide quickly, which is an important part of their natural behaviour. Rabbits need to be able to do it or they will get distressed. Providing constant access to safe hiding places within your rabbits' home allows them to perform this important coping strategy and should help them to feel safer and more reassured. 

Click here for some great ideas about using shelter to protect against rabbit predators.

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