Understanding rabbit behaviour can be tricky. A bunny’s body language is generally subtle, which leads to a few misunderstandings by some rabbit owners.
These sensitive creatures are sociable, that they crave the companionship of their rabbit friends and more importantly their human companions. However, as pet rabbits are natural prey animals, successful bunny bonding requires a different approach.
Firstly, how do you build trust with an intelligent bunny?
Go down to your rabbit’s level.
This is the first step towards understanding rabbit behaviour. It may be simple, but it helps your pet bunny feel comfortable around you. A small-size rabbit would naturally fear a big creature with hands reaching out to touch it.
Consider the view that your bunny is seeing. A rabbit on floor level usually only sees your feet and legs. As such, to build a better connection, go down to your bunny’s level. Be patient. Give it enough time to process everything. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Meet your bunny at the same level. Lie or sit down on the floor.
- He has sensitive ears, so speak to it in a soft and gentle voice.
- Remain quiet and gentle to encourage it to approach you. Let your pet come to you first.
- A few treats would help.
- Learn how to speak rabbit to understand if there’s something wrong.
Rabbits communicate with each other and with their humans. They only use a different and more complex language through various body positions, facial expressions, and vocalisations.
Each pet rabbit may have a unique personality and quirks, but there are some behaviours that can be generally observed in all rabbits. So, let us discover rabbit body language and what it could mean.
Rabbit behaviour #1: Ears close together, raised, and pointing outwards.
This rabbit behaviour is often accompanied by different positions, such as:
- Lying down with legs tucked under the body
- Lying down with front paws facing forward and rear legs positioned sideways
- Lying down with hind legs fully stretched behind the body and front paws facing forward
- Jumps into the air and twists in mid-air before landing
These positions indicate a contented and happy bunny with a relaxed body. Another telltale sign that your bunny feels comfortable is its eyes will be partially closed.
Rabbit behaviour #2: Ears back or ears pointing upwards.
Angry rabbits prefer to stay away from their owners. Ears positioned back either slightly or fully lowered could mean that your bunny is angry or unhappy at something. The same thing can be said with ears pointed upwards and positioned upwards accompanied by aggressive signs.
Here are a few signs that the rabbit is angry and wants to be left alone:
- Ears are held back close to its back and turn to move away by snapping its back feet.
- Boxing position that involves a bunny sitting up with two front paws raised. Ears are raised upwards and accompanied by a growl.
- Both body position and facial muscles are tense with dilated eyes. The tail is raised with ears pointed upwards.
The body is down and tensely positioned, with head tilting upwards and mouth wide open. The ears are held back and slightly lowered, tail raised, and eyes dilated. This position appears like the bunny is ready to attack.
Rabbit behaviour #3: Crouched Position
Why do rabbits crouch?
If your pet is exhibiting this body language, it is far from being a happy bunny. This means it feels threatened or anxious and is trying to hide.
A nervous rabbit will have tense muscles that are coiled for action. Its head will be low to the ground and ears wide apart and flattened against its back. It will also exhibit dilated pupils.
Rabbit behaviour #4: Chinning
This rabbit behaviour, which is rubbing using the underside of its chin, is a way of your rabbit making its territory. Scent glands are found under its chin and secrete a certain scent that humans cannot smell.
With that said, when your pet rubs its chin, he is leaving his scent as a sense of ownership. Your rabbit may hop around, rubbing its chin on your legs, against the table legs, and other things like its litter box.
Rabbit behaviour #5: Circling
What could this rabbit behaviour mean? Circling is part of a rabbit’s courtship behaviour. If your rabbit does this to you, congratulations! It is a sort of declaration that it likes you. It can also be a way of getting your attention.
Rabbit behaviour #6: Dancing
Is your pet bunny dashing its way around the room with heels kicking in a 180-degree direction in mid-air? You may have a dancing bunny, and this means that it is in a happy and contented state.
Rabbit behaviour #7: Nose-nudging
Why do rabbits nudge their noses on their owners?
This body language is an invitation that he wants to play a game with you. With that in mind, it will try to catch your attention by nudging you with its nose.
Rabbit behaviour #8: Nipping
Nipping behaviour has various meanings in rabbit body language. It could mean that the bunny wants you to understand that it wants attention. This behaviour can also be a warning.
However, know that rabbits have strong instincts to gnaw or nip on something. This is due to their growing teeth. They find the need to bite to shorten their teeth.
To address this problem, you just need to provide your pet with bunny chew toys such as grass ball, hanging chew toys, and more. Just make sure to provide toys that are appropriate for rabbits.
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Rabbit behaviour #9: Licking
What is the meaning behind this puzzling rabbit behaviour?
The answer is sweet and simple. If a bunny licks you, it means that you have earned its trust. It is a form of affection.
Rabbit behaviour #10: Mounting
Why do rabbits mount?
Just like with any other animals, mounting is often observed when in heat. This is executed through thrusting movements with their hips. However, for neutered bunnies, they are likely to mount when they find the need to establish their dominance over other rabbits.
Rabbit behaviour #11: Spraying
Spraying is another reminder that it is time to spay or neuter your rabbit. Unaltered house rabbits (indoor rabbits) have stronger instincts to mark their territories, and these include its litter box, other animals, your things, and even you.
Rabbit behaviour #12: Thumping
This is a natural rabbit behaviour that they have retained from the wild. They used to thump their feet to warn nearby rabbits from the presence of a threat. Some used one foot to thump on the ground, and others use both hind feet.
If your bunny is thumping, you should find the stressor. Understand that continual thumping can cause rabbits to experience a different level of stress. They may perceive simple things as a danger, such as a lit cigarette, shadows of a bird flying, and others. Be sure to check on everything.
Thumping could also be an expression of disapproval. It is important to be sensitive once the behaviour is displayed. It could mean differently in certain situations.
Understanding rabbit behaviour is essential knowledge to have for every rabbit owner. It will help build a stronger bond between you and your bunny. Thus, invest ample amounts of time in looking deeper into what your pet rabbits are trying to tell you.