Do rabbits love their owners? I would argue that they do. Rabbits have very different ways of expressing themselves than dogs or cats. They won’t bark eagerly at your return, and most won’t rub the length of their bodies against your legs in quite the way that cats do.
Because rabbits are quiet creatures and prey animals by nature, they shy away from overt displays of excitement and affection.
But bunnies have their own, more subtle ways of showing you that they trust you and are happy in your company. You’ll gain the skill of learning how to tell if your rabbit likes you as you bond with your rabbit and become familiar with bunnies’ unique body language.
This article teaches you how to spot ten rabbit behaviors that indicate love and trust and offers advice on how to win your rabbits’ friendship.
How to Tell if Your Rabbit Likes You
Here are the top 10 signs that your rabbit loves you:
- Greets You Eagerly
- Nuzzles, Nips, and Head-Butts You
- Asks for Petting
- Chatters When You Pet Her
- Grooms You in Return
- Rubs His Scent on You
- Circles Your Feet
- Relaxes In Your Company
- Sits on Your Lap
- Runs to You When Frightened
Are Rabbits Affectionate?
Yes, rabbits express affection for each other. Unlike wild hares or North American Cottontails, which tend to be more solitary, domestic rabbits are social creatures.
This is because domestic rabbits all over the world are descended from the European wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), which lives in large social colonies called warrens.
Domestic rabbits that are bonded and live in each other’s company express affection by snuggling, grooming each other, and living peacefully in shared spaces.
Do Bunnies Get Attached to Humans? Do Rabbits Love Their Owners?
Rabbits recognize individual humans and can learn to love and trust their owners. However, it takes significant time to develop a bond with your pet bunny. This is because rabbits, by nature, see humans as predators.
For a rabbit, love and safety go paw-in-paw. In the wild, rabbits are near the bottom of the food chain. Unfortunately, a rabbit’s instinct is to assume that everything larger than them is out to get them.
But as you become part of your bunny’s daily routine, reliably providing food, comfort, and safety, your bunny will become attached to you.
10 Signs Your Rabbit Loves You and Trusts You
Here are ten bunny behaviors that communicate that you’ve earned the trust and love of your long-eared companion.
1 – Greets You Eagerly
When you first bring your new rabbit home, it may retreat to a nest box or hidey-hole when it sees a human approach.
But as it becomes used to its new home’s sounds, smells, and routines, your bunny will probably become more outgoing.
When your rabbit runs up to greet you, perhaps throwing a binky on the way, it’s a good sign. It means your rabbit has learned that you are a safe part of its world and bring good things into its life.
2 – Nuzzles, Nips, and Head-Butts You
If your rabbit nuzzles you, bumps its nose against your hand or legs, or even gives you a light nip with its teeth, interpret this as relationship-building behavior. He may be asking for a treat or a grooming session or inviting you to play.
I usually respond to nuzzles by offering to pet my rabbit’s head. If that’s not what Thumper wants, he’ll run a few feet away. Then he’ll usually come back and repeat the behavior until I give him the treat or game he had in mind.
3 – Asks for Petting
One of my favorite rabbit behaviors is when a bunny comes up next to me and lays her head on the floor, silently commanding that I scratch it. I mean, who could resist?
I’ve heard it argued that when rabbits ask for grooming, they are establishing dominance over you. I guess that makes sense: if “Daffodil” is the one receiving the service, then she must be the queen, right?
Still, I think it’s adorable when rabbits ask you to pet them and heartwarming when they accept you as one of their loyal subjects.
4 – Chatters When You Pet Her
How do you tell if a rabbit enjoys being pet?
First, your rabbit will accept the gesture without running away.
Second, your bunny may chatter its teeth together. This is a quiet motion that you’re more likely to see or feel than hear, but some people call this behavior purring for bunnies. It means that your rabbit is happy and content.
Third, if your rabbit is really soaking up the affection, it will lean into your hand as you’re petting its back and sides. It may close its eyes, almost fall asleep, and – if you suddenly stop – nuzzle your hand for more.
5 – Grooms You in Return
Why do rabbits lick your hand? I’m surprised how many people assume that rabbits lick humans because they think skin tastes salty. This probably isn’t true at all. (I mean, does your hand taste salty? Go ahead and try it. I won’t tell.)
The truth is that rabbits lick people when they accept them as part of their community. Rabbits groom each other socially, and a bunny licking your hand is one of the clearest signs that he loves you and wants you in his life.
6 – Rubs His Scent on You
Have you ever seen your rabbit “chinning” his habitat or food bowl? Rabbits have scent glands under their lower jaws. When they rub their chins on their belongings, they are marking their territory.
It doesn’t happen very often, but it always melts me when a rabbit rubs his chin on my hand or my shoes, marking me as his own.
7 – Circles Your Feet
If you walk into the room while your rabbit is feeling frisky, he may run circles or figure-eights around your feet.
Running circles around your feet is more of a territorial behavior than a purely affectionate one. This is especially true if your rabbit is “honking” or making low grunts while running.
In intact rabbits, circling is a sexual behavior. But in neutered rabbits, it’s more likely to mean that he’s excited to see you and eager for a treat or ear rub.
Warning: If you have an intact male rabbit, do not reach down and touch him while he’s circling your feet. He’s feeling possessive and competitive; if you grab him, he may respond by fighting.
8 – Relaxes in Your Company
As I’ve mentioned, rabbits are prey animals by default. If your rabbit relaxes in your company– even if he doesn’t groom you or display overt affection – this is a sign that he loves and trusts you.
For a rabbit, relaxing can take the form of flopping (laying stretched out on the floor) or tucking its legs under its body in a “bunny loaf” position. If you sit on the floor, rabbits may flop right next to you, snuggling up against your leg.
Another sign that your rabbit is comfortable in your company is if it cleans itself while sitting next to you.
9 – Sits on Your Lap
Once your bunny is really spoiled and has learned that you’re the source of all good things, it may climb onto your lap. This usually happens when you’re sitting on the floor, but I’ve had bunnies try to jump onto the sofa so they could snuggle.
Sometimes a bunny sitting on your lap will put his paws on your chest and nuzzle your face. But watch out if he starts sniffing your clothing! Rabbits love to dig and chew and can put a hole in your favorite shirt in seconds.
10 – Runs to You When Frightened
In my opinion, the ultimate sign that a rabbit likes you is if he runs to your arms when he gets scared. I’ve had rabbits run to me when a stranger enters the room or when they hear a scary noise.
It’s also happened when rabbits escape from their normal play area and can’t find their way home.
When a bunny is frightened and runs to your arms rather than the nearest hidey-hole, it means you’ve built a trusting relationship with your rabbit.
How to Help a Rabbit Learn to Trust You
Does your rabbit display the ten signs your rabbit loves you? Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t built that bond with your bunny yet. It can take several months for a new rabbit to grow comfortable with its surroundings before it will be interested in bonding with people.
These tips will help your rabbit learn that you’re a safe part of their lives.
1. Interact with Rabbits on Their Level
To build a personal bond with your bunny, you’ll have to get down on the floor. Simply sit on the floor quietly. Let your rabbit sniff you, nuzzle you, and climb on you when it’s ready.
Warning: Don’t try to pick your rabbit up when it comes over to nuzzle you. This will signal that, by holding still, you’re actually trying to trap him.
2. Keep Your Hand Out of Its Cage
Avoid sticking your hand in your rabbit’s cage as much as possible. Bunnies take personal space seriously.
If you place your hand in its cage, it may respond by biting. If you must reach into the cage, keep your hand low to the floor.
3. Come Bearing Food
4. Never Chase or Corner a Bunny
Chasing your rabbit into a corner to catch it will reinforce prey instincts in your bunny. This will compromise any progress you’ve made in bonding. Instead, let your rabbit come to you, and don’t try to pick it up. Most rabbits don’t like to be held.
5. Give Them Time and Space
Bunnies can take several months to get used to the smells, sights, and sounds of a new environment. When a bunny starts exploring its territory with more boldness, it may be interested in bonding with its owner.
Building a relationship with your rabbit is an ongoing process. It may take a year before your rabbit feels comfortable flopping next to you or climbing into your lap.
Remember: Every Rabbit is Different
Different rabbits have amazingly distinct personalities from one another. Some rabbits have more affectionate personalities, and others prefer to keep to themselves.
Rabbits at different stages of life will have different interests, too. You may find your younger rabbit begs for treats while your older rabbit begs for head rubs.
I also find that rabbits who live alone, not bonded with other bunnies, can be more affectionate toward their owners. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t select a companion for your rabbit, but it’s something to bear in mind if it doesn’t seem like your rabbit loves you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Rabbits Pick a Favorite Person?
Yes, rabbits often prefer one person over another. Usually, they are most affectionate with the people that spend the most time with them.
Some rabbits prefer men over women or vice versa. (I had a rabbit that was sweet with women and kids but would bite men!)
Do Rabbits Miss Their Owners?
Rabbits love routine. If you go on vacation and have someone else care for your bunny, it’s likely that your rabbit won’t be affectionate to the caretaker in the same way that they are with you.
In this sense, it’s true that rabbits miss their owners. However, they probably don’t pine after their humans while they are gone at work in the same way that dogs do.
How do I tell my rabbit I love him?
The best way to tell your rabbit you love him is to communicate safety. Don’t try to pick him up, reach into his space, or chase him.
Instead, be a calm and gentle presence, offering food and grooming when he’s ready.
I hope that this article has helped you understand how to tell if your rabbit likes you. Grooming you, chattering when you pet her, sniffing, nuzzling, and head-butting are all signs of affection that rabbits show toward their owners.
If your rabbit flops down next to you, grooms himself by you, or treats you as a normal part of its life, it means that your rabbit trusts you and feels safe in your company. In fact, you could sum it up by saying that rabbits show that they love you by treating you like another rabbit!
How does your bunny show affection? Let us know in the comments!