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Does your rabbit's behaviour puzzle you? Here are some explanations to help you understand what your bunny is trying to tell you.....
Bunnies have some strange ways of communicating. Often body language can mean different things depending on the situation.
For example a rabbit with its head lowered to the ground can mean "I'm enjoying getting my head stroked" or it can mean "Don't hurt me, you're the boss, I surrender". In this picture, Thumper knows its time to go inside, and after trying to catch her for a minute or so, she gives up and says "ok you win. Don't hurt me"
For explanations and help with bad behaviour, visit the Common rabbit problems page.
Binkies aka Jumping around like a jack in the box
A binky is an expression of joy from a rabbit. When a rabbit binkies, it jumps into the air, often twisting and flicking its feet and head. Unfortunately they often don't judge where they are going to land properly, and binky into the wall, furniture etc. Binkies are hard to photograph as they are so quick!
How do you know when your rabbit is sleeping??
Rabbits mostly sleep during the day. They often sleep with their eyes open so its hard to tell when they are sleeping. However a giveaway is that when they are sleeping rabbits often twitch, and their noses stop wiggling. Other rabbits will close their eyes and totally flake out, looking like they are dead. This can result in quite a fright!
Why do rabbits thump?
Rabbits thump their hind feet to signal danger. Some rabbits will thump one foot on the ground, some will thump both hind feet at the same time. Rabbits aren't very vocal so thumping is their way of communicating. Usually this means they have heard something odd and it could be potentially harmful e.g.. A cat outside the door. Sometimes when you surprise rabbits they will thump at you to show their displeasure at being caught unawares. Thumping can also be an expression of displeasure, for example "Don't ever pick me up and hug me ever again!".
Rabbits sit up on their hind feet to get a better view of the surroundings. Usually periscoping occurs when a rabbit hears something is trying to figure out what it is. Rabbits also use this technique to become taller so they can reach the snack you are holding.
Why do rabbits grunt?
Fuzzy grunts when she is playing with toilet rolls. She also grunts when cornered somewhere and she knows she can't escape. Basically it is a warning that a rabbit is about to attack. Rabbits can grunt softly as they run round and round you. This is a dance of love, and the rabbit is expressing his/her feelings for you.
A rabbit will squeal to express extreme fear or pain. A rabbit that has never been caught by a person may squeal in fear as it is picked up from the ground.
How do you trance a rabbit?
Rabbits can be tranced by laying them on their back. However you need to be very careful, as some rabbits won't tolerate being put on their back and will kick and struggle. A rabbit can easily snap it's spine if it struggles while being restrained. If you have a cooperative rabbit, you can gently lay the rabbit down on your lap. You will need to support the rabbit's neck. Slowly the rabbit will close it's eyes and trance out. This is often a good way to trim your bunny's claws as you have easy access.
Do rabbits really watch tv?
Yep. Fuzzy will watch tv from a safe distance. They may be attracted to the movement on the screen.
Why do rabbits eat their poops?
This is not bad bunny behaviour, in fact you should encourage it :-) Because their diet of plants is hard to digest efficiently, and they have to make two passes at it to get everything out of the meal. They don't all their poop, only soft mushy poops called cecals. Rabbits are unable to absorb the nutrition via the intestinal wall, but can still get it by eating their cecals. If you find a lot of cecals in the litter box your bunny may not be well. Keep an eye on him/her.
Yep. Rabbits dance. When Fuzzy is in a binky mood, she shakes her head a lot. If we jump up in the air doing the human equivalent of a binky, Fuzzy will binky with at exactly the same time. When we do this a couple of times in a row, it looks as though we are dancing together. Another rabbit dance is the dance of love. Basically the rabbit runs round and round you or another bunny pal. This is a bunny expression of love. This is often accompanied by affectionate nips. What your bunny doesn't realise is that bunny nips hurt!
Why do rabbits rub their chins on things?
Rabbits have scent glands under their chin and will rub their scent glands on almost everything in order to claim ownership and mark territory. Even people can be marked. People cannot smell the scent so there is no need to be concerned.
Why won't my rabbit let me touch it? aka. My rabbit hates me
Some rabbits are scared of people. If you frequently pick your rabbit up, and your rabbit hates getting picked up (most do) then by avoiding you, the rabbit avoids being picked up. Rabbits are curious animals. If you lie on the ground, chances are your rabbit will come and see what is going on. Fuzzy and Thumper both climb on people when sitting or lying on the floor. Some rabbits don't like being touched. Thumper doesn't like getting petted much, but she will put up with a few strokes of her head before moving away. After sitting very still and quiet, eventually Thumper came out of the wicker basket to see what was happening. Keeping as still as possible so not to startle the rabbit, is very important.
Where do rabbits like getting stroked?
Rabbits don't like getting touched on the tummy, nose, mouth or backside. However bunnies love getting stroked on the head, and some like their cheeks being rubbed. Try a head massage, your bunny will probably settle down and put his/her head down on the ground. You will know your bunny loves this if the bunny's eyes start closing.
Rabbits flatten themselves for two reasons. One is that there is something scary and if they are close to the ground then maybe they wont be seen. The other reason is bowing to the boss. Typically the bunny's body will be close the the ground and the ears will be back on their body. The rabbit's head will be lowered to the ground as well. This stance means "I give up, you are the boss. Please don't hurt me."
Rabbits will tiptoe around when they are not confident of their surroundings. In this photo, Thumper has seen something weird on the floor. Its a piece of banana, and she hasn't seen/eaten/sniffed it before. It smells different, so Thumper tiptoes up to it and takes a sniff. She is ready to run if the banana is dangerous. The ears forward mean that there is something interesting in front of her and she is tuning in on it.
My rabbit is always climbing on things
Rabbit's love to climb up on anything they can find. This includes boxes, stairs, beds, chairs, lounges and anything else you may have that is reachable by small furry animals. This is to get a better view of the surroundings. Fuzzy and Thumper hang out on the top floor of their condo. At the time, their top floor extended to only 30cm from the ceiling, and they really enjoy looking down on everyone that walks by.
Hello down there !!
Sitting in the corner
Bunny will usually sit in a corner or against a wall. This is so predators cannot sneak up behind them. If you can, put your bunny cage/condo against a wall. Your bunny will feel much safer.
Rabbits can make a purring noise by grinding their teeth. A quiet tooth purr means you have a happy rabbit. A louder crunchy type of teeth grinding can indicate that your rabbit is in pain. To determine what your rabbit is telling you, look at the rabbits eyes (are they wide open, or closed as if relaxed) and the rabbits body language (hunched and uncomfortable looking, or relaxed and calm). Small things like this let you know when a rabbit is not feeling well.
Anti social rabbits......
Strangely enough, some rabbits don't seem to get along well with other rabbits. It seems odd as they certainly live in great numbers out in the wild. For tips on bonding, read the Bonding Guide.
Mounting / humping
Single male rabbits will often try to mount soft toys, cushions and even people's legs. This is a sign that your rabbit is ready to be neutered. This behaviour usually ceases a month or so after neutering.
Mounting is also used as a sign of dominance in both male and female rabbits. The dominant rabbit will mount the other rabbit to show who's boss. Once the dominant rabbit has been decided, this behaviour usually stops.
Bonding rabbits can be quite difficult. You need to read your rabbits behaviour to understand what is happening. Its best to let your rabbit pick a companion, often you can take your rabbit to a shelter or rescue for this purpose. Some shelters also let you return a bunny and swap it for another if its not working out between your rabbits. A bonding guide can be viewed here.