Understanding Your Rabbit

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Related FAQ: Behavior FAQ


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Rabbits' behavior and body language are largely due to instincts.

Sounds

  • Continuous grunting: often accompanied by circles around your feet as a mating ritual where the goal is to charm the object of affection. A behavior common with intact rabbits.
  • Growling: a short barking growl, which occurs with aggression.
  • Loud piercing screams: when a rabbit is afraid for its life, caught by a predator or experiencing great pain.
  • Low grunting: sign that the rabbit is satisfied and feeling well.
  • Low squealing: a very soft noise you can hear only when very close. Anecdotally, a sign when the rabbit does not want to be pet anymore and wishes to be let free.
  • Teeth purring: gentle gnashing and grinding of the teeth; a sign of content. Often heard when being pet. A louder gnashing or grinding of teeth accompanied by a hunched position is a sign of great pain.
  • Thumping: a loud drum of feet against the ground; when a rabbit is afraid or alert and feels threatened. At the same time, the rabbit's pupils are often enlarged, and it will immediately seek a safe refuge.

Body Language

A bunloaf.
  • Binky: a high jump and kick in the air accompanied by a shaking head. A sign of happiness and playfulness.
  • Bunloaf: a 'brooding hen' position. Relaxing and napping, but prepared to run at any sign of danger. The longer its legs are stretched behind it, the more relaxed the rabbit is. A flop is the ultimate sign of trust.
  • Flattened on the ground with ears flat against head and eyes wide open: the rabbit is trying to hide from something that scared it and ready to flee.
A rabbit flop.
  • Flop: when a rabbit tips over on its side. Often mistaken for dead. A sign that the rabbit is very happy and relaxed and trusts you.
  • Grooming itself: If done in your presence, it is a sign of trust. Rabbits are typically very flighty as a prey animals.
  • Hard nudge by the nose: "You're in my way!" or "Leave me alone!" A sign of trust as they are willing to treat you as another rabbit and not biting or running away.
  • Ignoring: a sign of trust. Rabbits are usually alert and ready to flee in unsafe surroundings. If your rabbit is grooming, eating, or relaxing in your presence, it deems its environment as safe.
  • Kicking backwards: a sign of protest. You probably did something to displeasure the rabbit.
  • Kicking sideways: playing or fighting.
  • Licking the floor in front of itself: an indirect grooming meant for you.
  • Licking you: "I love you!"
  • Lunging with ears backwards: aggressively starts forward to bite. The rabbit is defending its territory. Often occurs with insecure or territorial rabbits when you intrude on their cage.
  • Periscoping: standing on its hind legs; curious of its surrounding. Also precludes a jump to a higher level.
  • Rubbing its chin on various objects including yourself: marking the object as part of its territory. Rabbits have scent glands under the chin.
  • Running circles around the feet: often accompanied by continuous grunting; part of a mating ritual where the goal is to charm the object of affection.
  • Scattered droppings: marking territory.
  • Soft nudge by the nose: "Hello!" You should acknowledge the greeting with a gentle pet.
  • Tail held high: excited from another rabbit or a new toy.
  • Twitching tail: spraying urine. Often occurs with intact rabbits.

Behavior Problems

For problems with aggressive rabbits, see Aggressive Rabbits.

The links below contain more information about common behavior problems with domestic rabbits.

Further Reading

See Also