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Look, But Don’t Touch!! – Josephine’s Story

Article contributed by: Jeanmarie Short

I adopted Josephine from my local SPCA approximately three years ago. She is a beautiful white dwarf rabbit with stunning blue eyes. She was labelled a “biter” and in my opinion, a rabbit that would be hard to adopt out. This was a no brainer for me; this was the rabbit for me. When she was removed from her kennel to be placed in my cage, she began growling, grunting and lunging at the animal handler, and she eventually bit the woman before she made it into my cage.

I had owned a rabbit previously that was labelled aggressive due to biting behavior. I soon discovered this was a misused term for people that did not understand his frustrations. He was in a very small cage and was taking oral medication forcibly twice daily. I adopted him to prevent euthanasia and I was extremely glad I did. Once he was 1) neutered! 2) allowed a larger living space and 3) offered an alternative to forcing medication, he became a very sweet little bun that enjoyed life. So, I was not worried about Josephine because I was confident she would enjoy living the house rabbit life as much as her predecessor.

Josephine has the classic defense reaction to reaching into her cage….she doesn’t like it and she lets you know. She will grunt, charge at my hand, and will eventually bite if I do not move away quickly enough. Obviously, this is my fault and I try to avoid this incorrect behavior, but there are times when I just need to quickly pick up something or straighten her bed. These are truly the only times she has attempted to bite, so I can understand why she may have been labelled a biter if she lived 100% in a cage. However, she does not like to be touched, ever. There are rare instances that she will allow it, but 99.9% of the time, she is a “look, but don’t touch” rabbit. She also will not bond with my other rabbit. After a year of trying, I just decided to let her be. She prefers solitude.

Although she refuses any interaction, I do believe that Josie enjoys her life. Her pen is about 5 feet square which she stays in when I am not home. When I’m home, the door is open to her pen and she has free range of the room. She does binkies daily throughout my apartment. She enjoys exploring the house and playing with the different toys we have strewn about. She loves her tunnels created from boxes and often races around the house and through the tunnels as part of her daily exercise. Interestingly, her happiest times are when she is off playing alone. Occasionally she will come up to me and I take the opportunity to sneak in a small pet on the head (sometimes even 2!) before she races off. She is a loner, an introvert, and I have learned to accept it. I know think she loves me based on how happy she is most of the time. Just don’t touch!!!

I’ve learned that not all bunnies are created equal (actually, I already knew that, but you get the idea). After three years, I know what Josephine likes and conversely, what she realllllly hates! People ask why I would have a “mean” rabbit and I reply she isn’t actually mean. She has her quirks, just like many humans. Sometimes I am sad that our relationship is more like that of a long term hotel guest enjoying room service and the gym (I’m basically the entire hotel staff in this scenario), but it is what keeps her happy and that is all I need to know. Considering rabbits are social creatures, I have never really read about a bunny like Josephine, but I have to assume there are others out there just like her. Loners. Or perhaps a bun that never had the opportunity to interact with others. I often wonder why Josephine ended up at the SPCA. Was it because she wasn’t affectionate to her owners or because she seemed aggressive towards them when they approached her? Though she is not the typical “special needs” bunny, I do think she has her own special requirements: solitude and freedom to explore (on her own, of course). 🙂



Jeanmarie has been a long time bunny lover but has only had the joy of sharing her home with rabbits for the last six years. With two active buns, her favorite hobby is creating new toys to keep them occupied and happy!

  1. Michelle Michelle

    Yep, my girl was naturally like this too! Was just her personality and was only an issue if people tried to treat her like a toy or a cute little fluff! Never liked other bunnies either, would rather hang out by herself or occasionally the dogs.. If being petted she preferred you do it with your feet (so u couldn't pick her up unexpectedly!!) And would only respond well if she wanted you nearby, otherwise BACK OFF!! Once she trained us humans in how to treat her it was never an issue and u just had to appreciate the small moments of affection that were displayed in her standoffish manner!! 

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