Rabbit and Bunny Behaviors

Christy's picture

Rabbit Behaviors

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.

Comments

melinda vo's picture

hi! i have a question about a

hi! i have a question about a behavior in a new rabbit i just got. it is a dwarf rabbit, but a little bigger than one. my question is, why does it sit in it's cage and slowly move it's head back and forth. is this a bad sign?

nicole's picture

when ever i turn my bunny on

when ever i turn my bunny on its back it shuts its eyes why is this

Christy's picture

Rabbits are known to go into

Rabbits are known to go into a "trance" as a natural instinct against predators. When they are in danger or scared they will play dead until they have an opportunity to escape. With domesticated rabbits, this instinct can be used to their owners advantage when it's time to clip nails, clean ears or do an overall health exam. Do be aware that when your bunny comes out of it's "trance" he will often jump up with a spurt of energy!

Christy
Pet Research Admin

"My main goal in life is to be as good of a person my dogs already think I am." ~Anonymous

Jamie's picture

Quite right christy good

Quite right christy good comment. Especially need to be careful when clipping nails or cleaning the ears.

kyle's picture

Thank you so much for your

Thank you so much for your response! Now that I've settled down more at my place, I've discovered a great grocery store with great produce. What would be the best every day diet for my rabbit? I'd love to get more fresh lettuce, tomatoes but I'm not sure what his every day diet should look like.

kyle's picture

I just recently moved about a

I just recently moved about a month ago, and in the last week I discovered I have a mouse. I have a pet rabbit that I love but unfortuantly haven't taken out as much recently. Would letting him out be okay if I have a mouse? Could he possibly even help with the mouse problem? Thanks!

Christy's picture

Keivn, I haven't tried this

Keivn,

I haven't tried this with our rabbit, but our pet rats always loved to dig and make a mess while doing so. Often we would find a cardboard box and cut a door in the side, fairly high from the floor with a ramp to get into the door. We would leave the top of the box open and fill it with digging goods such as soft litter or packing peanuts (under supervision at all times). This way they could dig all they wanted and not leave a mess to clean up. You just close up the box and store it away for the next digging adventure.

Christy
Pet Research Admin

"My main goal in life is to be as good of a person my dogs already think I am." ~Anonymous

Keivn's picture

I have two male rabbits and

I have two male rabbits and both like to dig in a cardboard tube that i got them and i know that rabbits like to dig their little hearts out! So i guess my question is what can i do for them that isn't a huge burden to clean up?

Christy's picture

Melinda, Does your rabbit

Melinda,

Does your rabbit have pink or red eyes by any chance? Head swaying in rabbits (and also rats and mice) is often caused by poor eyesight. Pink and ruby eyed rabbits don't see as well as dark eyed rabbits and they will sway their head side to side because the movement helps them to judge depth. Dark eyed rabbits can also do this, but it's not as common. If the swaying is accompanied by a head tilt you will want to get your rabbit to the vet as that can indicate an ear infection.

Christy
Pet Research Admin

"My main goal in life is to be as good of a person my dogs already think I am." ~Anonymous

Deanna's picture

I am nursing a "near fatal"

I am nursing a "near fatal" bite wound to my pinkie finger (honest, if you look REEEAAALL hard you can see the bite mark... okay, maybe it was my pride that was fatally wounded??) from my daughters 4yo female rabbit. Niah has always been a grumpy bunny - but she seems to be getting worse. Today there was a LOT of grunting from her, along with "rushing" at me as I provided her fresh leaves and replaced her water, etc. I spoke to her calmly and made sure I didn't make any threatening moves towards her (I placed the food at the opposite end of the cage from where she had barricaded herself. I don't mind a rabbit with attitude - but I'd like to be sure she is happy and healthy. Do you have any suggestions for calming her down, making her more content and approachable and/or ensuring she is happy with her lot. We purchased her a new cage a couple of years ago, so she could get to the grass and soil and do a bit of digging and eat fresh grass - but I still feel it is too small (I'd like her to be able to hop more than 3 steps in a row). She has a varied diet of fresh vegies, dandelion leaves and grass and rabbit mix. I'm not sure what sticks I can use (in Australia) that wont poison her if she chews them. Any help and advice would be appreciated.

Kim's picture

My two bunnies (sisters,

My two bunnies (sisters, recently spayed but separated due to fighting) have been pushing their noses against each other through the cage wires with their eyes closed and lay that way for several minutes. It looks like they are praying lol! What do you think that means?

101what?'s picture

hi. i've had my two rabbits

hi. i've had my two rabbits for 2 and a half weeks now and the lady i got them from said they were both females. i am unsure of that because i haven't checked... From time to time, one of them would mount the other and "hump" eachother. is this normal for two same sex rabbits?

101what?'s picture

Thanks so much jasonm! I

Thanks so much jasonm! I didn't want tons of kits hopping around my place.

Leslie's picture

She is back to her normal,

She is back to her normal, Fluff self today, escape attempts and all! I have been trying to transition both of my girls from alfalfa with corn, carrots, etc., to plain timothy pellets as the vet recommended for them, maybe I added too much of one to her dish yesterday? She is pooing normally. She had me worried, not that I mind the docile, calm Fluff, but she's my bratty bunny, and always has been. I'm going to keep watching her though, if she starts acting that way again I'm going to call the vet and see what she suggests I do.

Leslie's picture

Fluff has always been a very

Fluff has always been a very active, sometimes stubborn bunny, she chews the cage when she wants attention, thumps for treats or attention, and has always had a very healthy appetite. She was spayed two and a half weeks ago, she took it easy for the first week or so, but now she is behaving as she did when I brought her home from the vet that day, lethargic, not interested in food, hay, water, or even her treats! She does not want to come out of her cage, she even allowed my husband to pick her up and groom her without even biting the comb, normally she is completely opposite, nudging and pushing her way out as soon as the cage door is opened, perking up that the sound of the treat bag or the fridge door, digging in her food dish as soon as she knows it is full, refusing to get back in her cage once she is out and I have scars from trying to pick her up. We checked her, spay scar looks fine, no dirty bottom, her ears look good, no eye or nose discharge, just the strange behavior. This behavior just started this morning, I'm worried about her, could she be sick or is this just the results of the hormones subsiding after her spay?

heather's picture

today i got my rabbit out and

today i got my rabbit out and she didn't run around like she has always done in the past. (this was inside) but when i put her on her leash and took her outside and followed her around, she went wild!! is this normal? do you have any suggestions?

heather's picture

jasonm i get her out almost

jasonm

i get her out almost every day, and she has seen our kitchen before!
by went wild, i mean she ran every were!

annabel's picture

my lop rabbit gets all

my lop rabbit gets all clogged up with faeces and i have to clean it off every two weeks as by this time its almost golfball sized on her tail.when i clean it off she is quite raw underneath. She has a perfect diet and i dont know why she gets this. does anybody know?

Amy's picture

Digging in her food bowl

Hello,

I have a Netherland Dwarf rabbit, and she is about 9 or 10 months old.

She has a large ceramic bowl for her food, and she has recently (in the past week or two) started digging all the food out. She waits until I fill the bowl, then puts both her front paws into the bowl and dig, flicking all the food out. She even continues for a while after I think all the food is gone.

Any ideas why she is doing this? Is there anything I should do about it? It makes quite a mess, but more importantly I'm concerned about her.

Thanks!

sophie 's picture

hi my name is sophie i am 13

hi my name is sophie i am 13 and i have a rabbit called pebbles i am going to get her spayed i am just worried she will chew out her scars i have also herd they dont eat for a while should i ask for some pain killers for her thanks

Anonymous's picture

Getting a new bunny rabbit

Hi! I really want a bunny rabbit! I think there adorable and cute, but i need some tips on getting a new bunny. I saw all the bahaviors, and if the rabbit doesnt like me what should i do? Get a new rabbit? Please write back!

K_lamore's picture

Bonding and first introductions

I have a male rabbit that was found, I've had him for close to 2 months and everything has always been good he is happy and healthy. I just acquired another stray male that is obviously not the same breed. Before reading anything about bonding I brought the new rabbit into my room where I keep the other rabbit who upon seeing and approaching the new rabbit acted out aggressively and then bit me very hard on the hand drawing blood. It took him a while to calm down. How should I go about bonding them now? Can they successfully bond after this first sour meeting? The new rabbit did not react hostiley to my other rabbit. I have not touched or put my hand in my rabbits (remi) cage since he bit me. How should I go about interacting with him now or should I not change the relationship between us at all.

Anonymous's picture

what kind of animals should a

what kind of animals should a bunny be around

Anonymous's picture

Hi i have a question. I have

Hi i have a question. I have a bunny and he sits in his litter box all the time and has his ears back. He looks so unhappy, but he has everything a bunny could want. He is spoiled and gets out of his cage everyday to run. When he is out he binkies and runs and has a fun time. I was wondering why he sits like that. He just looks so unhappy. Do you have any suggestions upon what it could mean? Thank you

mike's picture

my rabbit is dead :(

i bought 2 small rabbits 1 month old each  male and female the male was my favorite he use to be super hyper and play with me and come sit on my legs and suddnly 2days ago he wasnt moving and playing like normal just sitting away and yestrday  he just died i was so hurt i woke up on his screaming and suddnly saw him laying on his side and his mouth moving slowly i went directly to a pharmacy or find anything that can help and when i was back he was already did and i have noticed like a small insect moving on him did she killed him ?? please i wana know what happend why he died and is the other one now in danger :S im hurt and miss him alot 

Steph's picture

Distant lop

I just got a lop rabbit about two weeks ago. Ever since I got him he's been very distant. He never wants to be touched or held. When we walk by him he moves away immediately and sits in one place for a long time. I've tried interacting with him but it doesn't seem to work. What should I do so he'll be friendlier and less distant and scared of/from us?

Anonymous's picture

my bunny jumps into my chest

my bunny jumps into my chest and stays there with his ears down and almost no movement what does tha mean is he scared of me ?? or he wants me to pet him ??? cause its usually what i do 

cindy61's picture

rabbit

why does my rabbit dig her food out of her bowl?

Lenise Crawford's picture

Quick question about cage biting

I have a 7 month old rabbit (not sure what breed he is) and as of the last 2 months or so he's developed a habit of biting his cage and pulling and pushing the bars to kind of shake or rattle the cage. I got him a large play pen thats attached to his cage so he has the freedom to jump from play pen to cage whenever wants. The bar-biting stopped up until last month when I got him neutered. He was quiet the first week after the operation but after that we went right back to doing it and he even started rattling the play pen bars. Since the play pen isnt held down by anything that means he can move the bars around, change the shape of the pen, and hop out! I give him more than enough things to chew on so I dont know what the problem is. Saying NO! doesnt work because he'll just give me a stare then go right back at it. He's even started giving me attitude by staring directly at me and rattling the cage after i say stop. I was told to pat him gently on the nose to make him stop but that wont work. I tried patting his bottom lightly and saying STOP! and that works for a few minutes. Maybe he needs a friend? Ive been looking at animal shelters because I wouldnt mind getting him a playmate but its hard because I dont know what breed he is and I wouldnt want them to fight.

Why is he giving me attitude and why wont he listen to me? Ive had him since he was 1 month old and he used to be an uncaged rabbit until he was able to hop on my bed and pee on it. How do i get him back to the cuddle bunny he used to be? Am i doing something wrong? Please help!

Anonymous's picture

I want a new bunny

A while back i had a bunny and it had died of a hard ittack cause of my aunts dog! My father said i can only get a bunny if it is small! What breed should i get????  He also said it cant smell so im not sure what kind i should get? I love bunnies so much i just need some help learning more about them!

Christy's picture

There are several options for

There are several options for smaller rabbit breeds such as: American Fuzzy Lop, Dutch, Dwarf, Holland Lop & Lionheads.  These all stay at 5 pounds or less when full grown.  As for the smell - it's really not the rabbit that smells, it's the litter in the cage.  As long as you clean the litter pan and cage as needed, there won't be a foul smell. If there does become a bad smell, you are not cleaning the litter often enough.  For our Dutch bunny, we always did a cage cleaning once a week and a litter pan cleaning every other day and that seemed to be just about right.  They key is to do your research and make sure you know what you are getting into.  Rabbits live 8 to 10 years on average and are a very big responsibility and commitment. Good luck!

Christy
Pet Research Admin

"My main goal in life is to be as good of a person my dogs already think I am." ~Anonymous

PortiaM's picture

It's hard to say with the

It's hard to say with the information given, but was he breathing weird? What kind of bug was it? There are many things that could go wrong with a bunny, such as a respritory infection. And if you want to have faster, more detailed responses then it would be appreciated if you asked question in the discussion forum.

mike's picture

hi

well  all i can say that he was more hyper than the other one and he used to play alot with me and jump and go and run and 2days before he was died he was like more quite not moving alot i felt that he is not ok and was not even eating alot  till at that night my brother came and tell me your rabbit is screaming and i cam and see him laying down and his heart beating fast and his mouth moving slowly and the other rabbit tried to come near him and like warm him  and suddenly there was like 2 small insicts moving on him small like ants and then like few min later on he is died i was touched alot now the other one is alone the 1rst few days after this act happend she was refusing anyone to touch her or to move or to eat and many time it shivers and keep itching so iwent bought a spray to kill those small fleas if she have and tried alot to b play with her and feed her and etc and now we are fine but she is eating alot of lettuce and they told me you shouldnt give her lettuce or water at this age she is almos 1month and few days old and she like to play every day i let her out of the cage for 2 -4 hours to play out and jump idont wanna loose her like the old one so please can you analyis what happend for the died one and how i can moniter abnormal behaviors in case she is ill and how to help her thanks alot for your support 

Christy's picture

Mike, I'm having a hard time

Mike,

I'm having a hard time understanding exactly what is going on, however at this point I would highly suggest getting your remaining rabbit to a vet. Don't use any more sprays for bugs unless they are vet approved.  Be sure your rabbit is getting plenty of water - as much as she wants.  I don't know where you heard that they can not have water, but that is not true. Water must be provided at all times.  Do not feed regular, iceburg lettuce as there is no nutritional value.  You can feed romaine lettuce.  No one here is a vet and can say what happened to your other rabbit, and I am sorry you lost him, but to prevent your other one from getting ill I highly recommend a vet visit as soon as possible.  Be sure to tell the vet everything you have sprayed on her and everything you have fed her.  Good luck!  If you have further questions please post in the Forums here, otherwise you may not get a timely answer.

Christy
Pet Research Admin

"My main goal in life is to be as good of a person my dogs already think I am." ~Anonymous

PortiaM's picture

No, there is nothing you can

No, there is nothing you can do. Bunnies like to dig anything that comes in their territory. Your bunny will eat even if it is on the ground. I have also read that they go through a rebellious stage and they grow out of it once they realize there is really no point. My bunny used to dig all his food out too, as well as the litter out of his litter pan. By the way if you put your question in the discussion forums, you will get a faster, more detailed responce.

PortiaM's picture

Rabbits need time to adjust.

Rabbits need time to adjust. Remember that from what they see you took him away from what all he knew and now he is a completely new environment. Once he gets to know you and starts to trust you, things will get alot easier. Don't force him to be with you if he doesn't want to. Just let him out and eventually he will get curious enough to go sniff you. When he does come up to you don't make sudden movements or try to cuddle, he will cuddle when he feels it is safe. Just work your way up. (:

Christy's picture

If he's getting plenty of out

If he's getting plenty of out time, has plenty of things to keep him occupied and a large cage, I wouldn't worry too much about it, particularly since when he's out of the cage he's a perfectly normal bunny.  He may just be pouting because he'd rather be out and playing than stuck in his cage.  Unless he shows any other odd symptoms, I'd say he's fine.

Christy
Pet Research Admin

"My main goal in life is to be as good of a person my dogs already think I am." ~Anonymous

Christy's picture

You have to be careful

You have to be careful anytime you introduce rabbits to other animals.  Sometimes they get along with dogs, cats and guinea pigs, but sometimes they don't.  I suggest starting introductions very slowly and very carefully, if at all.

Christy
Pet Research Admin

"My main goal in life is to be as good of a person my dogs already think I am." ~Anonymous

Christy's picture

Digging Box

Amy, 

I wouldn't be too concerned about your rabbits digging.  Rabbits quite enjoy to dig and tend to dig in bowls, litter pans, on carpet, in blankets, etc.  It's an instinct for them since they dig their burrows in the ground in the wild and she's just fulfilling that instinct.  Alternatively it can be a sign of boredom or she has learned that when she digs she captures your attention.

One thing you can do is provide her with a digging box during her free roam times, perhaps before she eats.  Fill a rubbermaid or tupperware bin large enough for your rabbit to hop into.  You can fill it with a variety of things to dig in such as shredded paper, hay or sand, or a combination of all three.  

You may want to hide treats in the digging box or try replacing her food bowl with the digging box at first when she starts digging in the food bowl to reinforce the positive behavior of digging in the box. 

Good luck!

 

Christy
Pet Research Admin

"My main goal in life is to be as good of a person my dogs already think I am." ~Anonymous

Jason's picture

Kyle, Check out our Bunny

Kyle, Check out our Bunny Do's and Don'ts post located at http://www.petresearch.net/2009/01/18/bunny-dos-and-donts/. This should give you a good general direction on what to feed your Bun. You should give fresh greens daily as well as mix in some of the other veggies. Also make sure the rabbit has unlimited amounts of timothy hay at all times ( alfalfa is a great treat on occasion but should NOT be feed on a regular basis ). Timothy hay will help the rabbit digest it's other food intake and keep plenty of fiber in it's delicate system. Also make sure you feed the recommend amount of pellets daily for optimum health.

--
Jason
Pet Research Admin
To err is human, to forgive and to love is canine

Jason's picture

Letting your rabbit out would

Letting your rabbit out would be a great gift to him, however be sure to watch for any cords or anything else that he may decide to chew. Rabbits will not help in getting rid of mice and often the mice can be attracted to the pellets you feed rabbits if they are laying around and not in a container that the mice can't get in to. I would simply get yourself a havahart trap which you could find here and relocate the mouse. Peanut butter is an excellent thing to use to bait them into the trap. Good luck!

--
Jason
Pet Research Admin
To err is human, to forgive and to love is canine

Jason's picture

Yes same sex rabbits will

Yes same sex rabbits will "mount" each other to establish dominance. It's totally natural and fine.

--
Jason
Pet Research Admin
To err is human, to forgive and to love is canine

Christy's picture

Hi Leslie, Being that long

Hi Leslie,

Being that long after her spay I'd be concerned about the lethargic behavior. Has her diet or anything in her diet changed that may be causing her belly to be upset? Is she still pooing normally? If she's still lethargic today I'd recommend contacting her vet. Even if they incision looks ok she could possibly be having something going on internally. Good luck - I hope she's back to herself real soon!

Christy
Pet Research Admin

"My main goal in life is to be as good of a person my dogs already think I am." ~Anonymous

Jason's picture

How often do you get your

How often do you get your rabbit out to play? It may have just been the excitement of being in a new place. Maybe you could describe what you mean exactly by "went wild" to help us fully understand what she did.

--
Jason
Pet Research Admin
To err is human, to forgive and to love is canine

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