In the almost seven years I’ve owned pet rabbits, I can honestly say I have never owned one that wasn’t afraid of thunder. Unfortunately, I live in Bangkok, Thailand, a city known for its frequent horrendous thunderstorms that crash and bang louder than I’ve ever heard before. Needless to say that kind of noise is not always conducive for having a relaxed rabbit.
When thunder starts, my house rabbits used to rush around from pen side to pen side, ears pricked up, looking panic-stricken and then eventually started thumping on the floor as a warning to the rest of the rabbit warren there is “Danger. Danger”.
Luckily, over the years I’ve also learned how to calm a terrified rabbit down when the first thunderstorm starts by just using a few simple techniques. What’s amazing is these techniques work so well that, by the fourth or fifth thunderstorm, my rabbit is so past being scared, he really couldn’t care less. That’s also why, if you too have a pet rabbit that’s afraid of thunder, you really should try them.
Say his name – If your rabbit is already used to hearing his name being spoken, the minute the first thunder clap hits, say it. When I’m dealing with a new rabbit I immediately say “Boo. Boo. It’s alright Boo. Just a silly noise. Nothing to be frightened of. Good boy, Boo”. If you speak in a relaxing and upbeat tone and as if you’re not concerned, a rabbit picks up on that and seems to begin to think “Hmmmm, if she’s not scared, maybe I shouldn’t be either?”.
I just continue talking to him calmly and happily, and saying his name until he’s stopped looking panicked and gone back to what he was doing before the first big bang struck.
Make sure there’s always somewhere to hide – Rabbits like to hide underneath things anyway and, often, the darker the better. That’s because they come from a long line of creatures who spent hundreds of years living in deep, dark burrows underground. So, when a thunderstorm starts and they’re being to feel afraid, a rabbit’s natural inclination is to find somewhere deep, dark and safe to hide in.
I always have a couple of cardboard boxes available, with nothing but doors cut into them so they’re dark inside. That makes them easy to rush into when it thunders and, because they’re dark, they feel very safe. My rabbits also always have access to their cage, as that’s often the one place they feel completely safe and protected.
Distract him – One of my rabbits still gets a little edgy when it starts to thunder, even though he’s been living in my apartment for six years and is used to them by now. When that happens, however, I often find distracting him by playing a game, while still talking to him in an upbeat manner and saying his name, has a very positive effect. After all, if you’re getting to play Tug the Toilet Roll or Hide and Seek in boxes, who cares if it’s a bit loud outside?
Turn on the air conditioner – My apartment has a particularly noisy air conditioner, which might be annoying at any other time. When a typical Bangkok thunderstorm starts, however, it’s a great way to not only mask the booming and banging, it also cools off a rabbit who is working himself into a sweat he’s so upset.
I turn my air conditioner on the minute the first clap strikes, and now all my rabbits barely bat an eye. After all, they can’t hear much over the groaning and whoosing of the air conditioner.
Going out? Play classical music – If I’m going out during rainy season in Thailand, which is when most of our mammoth thunderstorms hit, I will usually check the weather forecast before I do. If rain is forecast, I make sure to leave some mellow classical music playing on the computer before I leave, so if it does thunder the sound is partially masked by Mozart. Plus, just the continuous playing of calming music seems to relax my rabbits anyway.
If you don’t own any classical music, I recommend using a YouTube video. Disc jockey JaBig’s Channel has a slew of long videos from one hour to more than six hours longer, which you can turn on and let play as you’re leaving.
This six-hour video of classical piano music, for instance, is lovely and all but guaranteed to relax any rabbit’s nerves for the entire time you’re not home to help him calm down.