Why do bunnies do that? Rabbi behaviour can be very different from that of cats and dogs. And to us mere humans, some of it can be downright mystifying. Understanding rabbit behaviour isn’t hard, but it does take observation. We’ve broken down common elements of rabbits’ behaviour so that you can better understand your fluffy friend.
Have you ever wondered how your rabbits are feeling? As prey animals, rabbits are masters of the poker face. Even when they are trying to tell us something, rabbit behaviour can be a mystery. But if you know what to look for in your own rabbits’ behaviours, you can crack the code.
Signs of a Happy Bunny
How can you tell if your rabbit is in a good mood? They don’t smile like primates (and, arguably dogs) do. And they’re not going to sit up and speak. Your rabbits’ behavior can, however, give you some clues. And understanding rabbit body language can help you to build a stronger bond with your bun.
A binky is a happy rabbit behavior. Your rabbit might suddenly leap up, twist its body in the air, and kick. They may also dart around quickly in short bursts. When rabbits this, it’s a sign that they’re feeling great. Check it out in slow motion.
Hopping is natural for rabbits. In fact, if your rabbits don’t hop around as much as they usually do, it may be time for a trip to the vet. But if your rabbit is bounding around in hops, skips, and jumps, it’s a sure signal that they’re happy.
By the way, your your rabbits’ hutch should be big enough to allow them to hop three times from end to end.
Licking is another happy rabbit behavior. Licking means “I love you.” When rabbits lick you, this behaviour means you’ve been Chosen.
Grooming is also a behaviour that establishes dominance. Who-grooms-who is very important in a rabbit colony, as well as among house rabbits. The Top Bun, of course, receives worship and adoration from Lesser Beings. That means you, so always have your grooming tools to hand.
Do bunnies dance? You bet they do! Dancing is a happy behaviour. A wild rabbit may also dance to attract a partner–rather like some humans do. A house rabbit may do so as well.
When your rabbit gazes or stares at you, know that you are loved. For a rabbit, sitting together, gazing at one another, is a very happy, companionable rabbit behavior.
As far as body language goes, nudging is self-explanatory. Your pet wants your attention. They may want to play. They may want you to pet them. They may also want you to move out of the way.
Buzzing and Honking
Pet rabbits make different kinds of noises, and if you don’t know the code, it can be easy to miss what they’re saying.
Buzzing and honking are happy noises. Honking and circling are also courting behaviours.
Check out this rabbit visiting a lady-bunny that he likes.
A Tired or Contented Rabbit
You know that pleasant, contented feeling you get after a hard day’s work or play? So does your bunny. Certain rabbit behaviours can help clue you in.
When rabbits flop down onto one side, it’s their way of saying “Ahhh, that’s me done for the day.” This is a happy and contented action.
When rabbits lie down with their back legs extended, that means they’re feeling chilled, ye ready to go if the situation calls for it.
When rabbits lie down with front and back legs stretched out, this means that they are feeling super-relaxed.
Lying Down With All Four Legs Tucked Under the Body
Some people call this position the “meatloaf” or the “Sphinx.” It’s a sign of utter relaxation in rabbits.
Front Paws Pointing Forward and Back Legs Pointing to the Side
Bunny lovers call this position the “lamb chop.” And if it’s possible to be even more relaxed than in meatloaf configuration, this is how your bunny will show it.
Rabbits click or grind their teeth to make a sound like a cat’s purr. Be aware, though, that grinding teeth can also be a sign that your rabbit is in pain, so when in doubt, look for other behavioural clues.
Here’s what a happy purr sounds like.
A Worried Rabbit
It’s important to know when your bunny has something on their mind. Here’s how to tell.
Wild rabbits thump their hind feet on the ground to signal danger. If your rabbit is thumping, look around for what might be frightening them and deal with it. One of my rabbits always used to thump when my cat would walk past.
If your rabbit is displeased, they will let you know.
A grunting rabbit is an annoyed rabbit.
You can tell your bun is getting annoyed by its ears. A happy rabbit perks up its ears. As annoyance creeps in, the ears will turn to the sides. Gradually, they will lie back until they’re flat. If your rabbit’s tail is also stiff, you’re looking at one cheesed off bun.
Turning and Flicking Back Feet
When rabbits turns their back on you, know that you have Caused Offence. If they flick their back feet in your general direction, you have a lot of making up to do.
Tail-wagging is a sign of contempt. It’s less serious than turning and flicking the back feet, but when rabbits wag their tails, you’re being told off.
When a rabbit sits up on its hind feet and raises its front paws like a boxer, it is literally looking for a fight.
If you hear your rabbit scream–and believe me, you’ll know–pay attention. Get help. Screaming means severe distress: fear, pain, attack, or imminent death.
You may notice other behaviours that don’t belong in the above categories. This is what they mean.
Excessive Grooming and Destructive Chewing
Like many pets, rabbits may groom themselves excessively or start tearing the place apart when they’re bored. So make sure your bunny has plenty of toys and outdoor time.
Like cats, rabbits have scent glands under their chins. When they’re rubbing their chin against something (or someone!) they’re claiming it as their own.
Some bunny behaviours, like purring, are familiar. Others take a bit of practice to recognize. But if you open your eyes and your ears, you’ll soon understand what your rabbit is trying to tell you