Rabbits are inquisitive creatures and have many behavior patterns to decipher. Some behaviors can indicate play while others mean a rabbit may be frighted or on guard. Here we outline a list of rabbit behaviors to help you learn to better read your furry lagomorph.
Content & Playful Rabbit Behaviors
- Binkies - A happy bunny will often hop in the air, often turning their hind legs sideways mid-air, in a display of happiness and joy. Many rabbits "binky" when out for play time or spending time with their loving human.
- Ear Woggling - Bunnies that are happy to see you will wiggle their ears in anticipation of your interaction.
- Licking - This is a grooming behavior, a high compliment. Petting your bunny in turn will be greatly appreciated.
- Meditation - Often rabbits who enjoy the company of people will go into a slight bunny trance when you pet them, especially when petting above their nose. Often this is accompanied with teeth grinding, indicating one happy bunny, indeed!
- Nose Poking - If your rabbit pokes you with his nose he is indicating that he is marking or accepting you.
- Teeth Grinding - Content rabbits often grind their teeth when content, much like a cat purrs or a rat bruxes. However if the grinding becomes too loud and excessive it could indicate that the rabbit is in pain.
Territorial Rabbit Behaviors
- Chinning - Rabbits have scent glands on their chins. Often times they will rub their chins on items (or even you) to indicate that they are laying claim to that item or person. Cats display similar behaviors by rubbing their heads on people and objects.
- Nipping - A bunny that nips, particularly when putting your hand into his cage, is simply telling you that you're invading his territory and he doesn't like it. Squealing at your rabbit or gently pushing their head to the floor can sometimes teach the rabbit that this is not a tactic that will work for you. Once they learn this they will learn to nudge your hand or move out of your way when you are entering their home.
- Scattered Droppings - Rabbit droppings that are not in a litter pan or in a pile in a single location are signs of territory marking. They will scatter their droppings throughout an area to stake claim. This often happens when the rabbit is in a new environment and can happen if another rabbit lives in the same household.
- Spraying - Male rabbits that are not neutered will often spray urine to mark their territory. They also will spray female rabbits to mark them as their territory for breeding. Females rabbits can also spray. Neutering and spaying your rabbit will help to eliminate spraying.
Aggressive Rabbit Behaviors
- Ankle Biting - Sometimes when walking into a room your rabbit will run circles around you and attempt to bite or nip at your ankles. While this isn't necessarily an aggressive behavior, it does suggest a sexually frustrated bunny. Spaying and neutering your rabbit will help to curb this behavior.
- Biting - Biting is an aggressive behavior in rabbits and can be accompanies with scratching. Often neutering or spaying your rabbit will curb these types of aggression.
- Grunting - Rabbits will issue a grunt when annoyed or angry. Be wary of your bunny if it is grunting as you approach him.
Ill, Injured, Annoyed or Scared Rabbit Behaviors
- Bar Chewing - Chewing on cage bars indicates boredom. Be sure your bunny has plenty of toys and attention, lots of out of cage time and adequate hay.
- Ear Rotations - Some rabbits will turn their ears with one up and one down, or even with both turned to the back to indicate they are annoyed and becoming angry.
- Flat Rabbit - Rabbits, when frightened, will sometimes lay as flat as they can against the floor or ground. This makes them as low as possible so they can hide. If this behavior is accompanied by laid back ears, it is a sign of submission.
- Frozen - A rabbit that stops and remains frozen in place indicates that he is scared. This is often accompanied by a racing heart.
- Screaming - Rabbits that have been injured or are in pain will emit shrill screams. If your rabbit is screaming be sure to get veterinary assistance immediately.
- Thumping - In the wild, rabbits will thump one or both of their rear legs to indicate danger. This behavior carries over to domestic rabbits and means they have heard something odd to them or if they are frightened by something they hear or see.
- Tip-toeing - Oddly enough, bunnies can tip-toe! They do this when they are unsure of their surroundings or come across an object that is foreign to them.
Please feel free to leave a comment if you have other behavior traits to add to this list.