BINKYBUNNY FORUMS > BEHAVIOR > Solution for a Rabbit That's Irrationally Petrified of the Oven
Last Post by Kokaneeandkahlua at 10/19/2012 5:16 PM (9 Replies)
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User is Offline bmt87
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10/17/2012 11:08 AM

So....I started a thread about this before HERE but never asked for solutions.  Lola is irrationally PETRIFIED of the oven (and grill....but we don't use it as often so not as a big of an issue).  Our apartment is only 500 sq ft so we can't move her out of the living room to a den or something so she is further away from the oven.  Has anyone else found a solution to this problem?

We are baking tater tots right now for lunch and she is FREAKING out.....


User is Offline Radhika
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10/17/2012 11:17 AM
I don't know about rabbits specifically, but I can give you some general tips about pet phobias.

Firstly, don't pamper a scared pet. When they show fear our instinct is to comfort them, but that just tells them that there IS something to be scared about and their human knows it too. Treat Lola as you would if she was acting normally. Don't change your voice, don't give her any extra petting, act like she isn't scared at all.

Distraction is a good technique. Before you put the oven on, try to engage Lola in something she enjoys.

In your other thread you thought it was the meat smells, but here you say she is scared of tater tots cooking too. It would help to identify what it is about the oven Lola is scared of. Is it a fan oven that makes a noise? Does the kitchen have a door, and is Lola scared even when the door is closed to block out sounds/smells? Does Lola go in the kitchen when the oven isn't on?

She should eventually realise that the oven poses no threat, but sometimes animals (and us) have fears that we can't get over even if we know we're not under threat. The best solution is probably to just use the oven as little as possible.

User is Offline Monkeybun
Hillsboro, Oregon
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10/17/2012 11:32 AM
Opening the windows so smells go out faster can help. Moose is also terrified of me cooking, so that helps him alot.

User is Offline RabbitPam
South Florida
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10/17/2012 11:33 AM
I'm wondering if she is feeling a blast of heat? Often it's the sounds that are bothersome. At risk of caving to her fears (discouraged by Radhika) you could try putting on soothing music in the kitchen and see if it has any effect. Or put up a screen on the oven side of her habitat, like a piece of cardboard, to block a view and heat?

If it is effective to ignore her reaction and do things normally, while talking calmly, then that's a great way to acclimate her to it. Certainly worth a try first. Bunnies can learn to adjust to environments, and I read once that a pet or child that learns to adjust to changes quite young is able to adjust to them well throughout a lifetime. She may just need to get used to changing things around her. Again, it's usually sounds. (They have fantastic hearing.)
SPIKE, my snuggle bunny (aka Spikey Marbles)

User is Offline bmt87
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10/17/2012 11:38 AM
Thanks for your feedback Radhika.

We definitely don't pamper and treat her just as normal. We've tried distracting but she'll hunker down in a corner as soon as the oven starts heating up and then start shaking the cage bars.

Our apartment has an "open" layout since it's small so we can't close a door. She also won't go in the kitchen (or bathroom) because they are tiled and she won't attempt to walk on the slippery floors.

I think it is the oven "smell" in general. Like - she can just sense it being on. We used to think it was just the meat because it happened when we were using the grill too but it seems to transcend all forms of food cooking appliances. :/ I do want to run the oven clean cycle it to see if that helps - but that is a several hour long process that would require her being out of the house so it can be running long enough to burn everything off. As much as we don't pamper her - I don't want to torture her for 6 hours either. And I wish we could stop using the oven - but we are poor grad students and trying to eat out as little as possible so have been using it a lot more frequently these past 6 months. I thought she would get used to it...but she hasn't.

User is Offline bmt87
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10/17/2012 11:43 AM
While I was typing that others responded -

Monkeybun - We've tried that and it hasn't helped. Still petrified.

RabbitPam - the TV is usually on when the oven is on but I will try music - I just usually need some sort of sound distracting when I'm in the kitchen - that place can get boring! .... You also made me even think putting her dark fleece blanket over the NIC condo may help. She is about 30 feet away from the oven and caddy-corner to it behind a little breakfast bar in another room so I doubt she can feel the heat and she can't even see the oven but....i'm thinking the covering up the cage thing might be helpful just knowing that she is in her space.


User is Offline Radhika
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10/18/2012 12:15 PM

Soothing music wouldn't be pampering, but it might become associated with the oven in her bunny brain so that she's scared when she hears music as well as when the oven is on. You could try putting a different association on the music; play it when you stroke Lola or give her treats or when she gets something she really likes, and then when you see that the music alone makes her happy you can try putting it on before the oven/grill/etc starts and seeing if it soothes her.

Another (more stressful for Lola) way of desensitising her might be to put the oven on frequently for short periods, say 5 minutes three times a day. It will help speed up her learning that "oven does not mean impending death". Though as said above, if it's just an irrational phobia then nothing may work

Just to re-iterate I am no bunny expert. I am an animal behaviourist but I focused my research (and my studies during my degree) on livestock, and in classes we mainly looked at cats, dogs and horses. So I'm just talking about general principles, and they might not be applicable with rabbits. I really don't know but I wish I could help.

User is Offline jerseygirl
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10/18/2012 3:34 PM
she'll hunker down in a corner as soon as the oven starts heating up

As soon as switched on or as soon as it gets warm/hot?
One time someone posted they're figured out it was a sound from the electrics I think. But if its due to smell, that makes sense. When oven heats the oils and smells from previous use permeate the air...

If due to smell, maybe you could give her something fragrant before putting oven on. Like botanic hay with the herbs and flowers in it, or rose petals, dry or fresh herbs. I was even thinking dab a bit vanilla essence under her nose to mask the oven smell. But...she probably won't like that and develop fear of vanilla and the oven.
Whoever says "It's only a rabbit" has obviously never loved a rabbit.

User is Offline bmt87
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10/18/2012 4:17 PM
I think it's once it starts heating up - I've never considered it to be the actual electrics running and just always thought it was the smell - but that could DEFINITELY be a possibility.

Maybe I will also try the fragrant herb thing...that sounds like a really good distraction. She's usually restless around dinner time anyways because she knows she doesn't get to eat until we are eating....

Thanks for the suggestions everyone!

User is Offline Kokaneeandkahlua
Edmonton, Alberta; Canada
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10/19/2012 5:16 PM
I think utlimately it really doesn't matter if it's the sound or smell that is making them scared.

Make whatever it is (sound or smell, but ultimately it's you cooking) become the predictor of good stuff. Like treats or 'out' time. Think Pavlov's dogs.

Turn the oven on, start cooking and let your bunny out with some treats.
Make out time only happen when the oven is off.
This will then become a CS for out time/treat time.

Have patience and keep at it-it's called counter conditioning (making something that means x mean y instead) It's super easy and if you give treats or out time every time you cook you'll see a change quickly I'm sure!

BINKYBUNNY FORUMS > BEHAVIOR > Solution for a Rabbit That's Irrationally Petrified of the Oven