Rabbits are rightfully considered to be very quiet pets. However, if you live with them for some time, you will notice many subtle signals and noises.
What are they trying to tell you? And why do the long ears tend to make noise especially at night?
We’ll tell you the answer in this article.
The Nonverbal Communication of Rabbits
First, you should be aware that rabbits, despite their huge ears, rely primarily on their eyes and sense of smell. For example, they identify their mates by appearance.
Rabbits, like cats, have pheromone glands that cultivate a very individual group scent. They do this by rubbing their chins together.
Of course, the rabbits also mark you with that method.
The territorial boundaries, on the other hand, are marked out with urine excretions.
In foreign areas, it is important to stay under the radar, which is why as little feces as possible is deposited there. When feces are scattered all over the territory, it means, “This is my home.”
Rabbits live in social groups because they are better protected from predators that way. Part of the troop is busy foraging, while individual animals stand on their hind legs and watch for danger.
If they discover a predator, they stomp on the ground with their hind legs. This impresses the enemy and warns the conspecifics.
Do your rabbits have a habit of circling your feet in tight circles?
This is the greatest proof of love that the males can give. In fact, it’s in keeping with their natural courtship behavior. So don’t be surprised if they want to jump your leg after such advances.
When they are really comfortable with you, they roll around on the floor with delight.
Sometimes the fur balls will snooze with their limbs outstretched. The more relaxed the rabbit lies there, the happier and more secure it feels. Apart from that, they express their joy of life through breathless frolicking (jumping in the air, hitting hooks, continuously shaking their heads).
You see: rabbits communicate (predominantly) non-verbally. Thus we can state at this point that rabbits are not noisy pets.
Verbal communication of rabbits
However, there are also a few acoustic signals that you should pay attention to.
- Teeth grinding: It is roughly equivalent to purring in cats and expresses contentment. But beware: If your rabbit is apathetic and squatting in its cage, it is probably in a lot of pain.
- Grumble/grunt: This sound is used to woo potential mates. You may hear it often when you pet the rabbit.
- Squeak: This is the acknowledgement of a tasty meal. The sound is also sometimes used during exuberant games. Lost kittens use it to call attention to themselves in order to re-establish contact with the group.
In addition, some angry and fearful sounds exist.
The muzzle is an important indicator for the mood of the long-eared animals. Thus, they greet friends by nudging them tenderly. If, on the other hand, they give your hand a “head butt”, they want to be left alone. If you don’t pull back, you may hear one of the following sounds:
Snarl, “I’m annoyed.” If the sound gets louder, an attack is imminent.
Growl: The rabbit is angry and in a biting mood.
Grunt: Last warning!
Screaming: The animal is scared to death or is badly wounded. Do not touch it now under any circumstances. Talk to the rabbit in a low voice. If it does not calm down, it must be taken to the doctor as soon as possible.
Outside the cage, escape animals use their reaction speed to avoid unpleasant situations. At first, the eyes are opened wide and the breathing rhythm is accelerated. At this stage, no muscle is moved: the rabbit plays dead.
If the attacker is not fooled by this, the ears are put on and a ducking posture is adopted. Shortly afterwards, the rabbit flees in a flash to the safe burrow.
The behavior is automatically triggered by any kind of pursuit, so even if you want to actively put the little ones back into the cage after romping around. Rather, remain sitting in front of the entrance and lure them with treats.
The asymmetrical sleeping rhythm of the fur balls
Rabbits do not know deep sleep phases – as prey animals they have to constantly pay attention to their surroundings. Their sleep is therefore shorter and lighter than yours.
The long ears sleep through large parts of the day and become active at dusk and dawn. At these times you must allow them free access into the enclosure, otherwise they will rattle the cage with all their might.
Rabbits have a natural urge to move. Every night they travel an average of 3 kilometers in search of food. You can take advantage of this instinct to sleep in peace: scatter the food all over the enclosure. So they are already busy for a while 😉
Excitement, fun and something to play with
The terrain must be varied – roots and branches should be regrouped daily, tunnel constructions offer hiding places, while catwalks challenge dexterity. Garden furniture can also make an exciting fixture.
Prepare small thinking tasks for the rabbits: For example, you can attach vegetables or pieces of fruit to a string that can only be reached via free-swinging tubes. Or you can hide treats under paper cups.
Not under all of them, of course!
But rabbits will memorize the potential food source and investigate such objects in detail every night.
Are you a soccer fan? Your pets definitely are – they can spend entire hours chasing ping pong balls off each other. This is especially true when the ball is rustling. You can find such products in pet stores as well as play equipment that seems to develop a life of its own due to different weight distribution.
Attention: Safety first
You can set up the enclosure both in the apartment and in the garden. Plan 6 m² of space per specimen. The ground must be such that the natural “digging instinct” can be lived out.
The rabbits are well protected against the weather by their dense fur and romp around even in frost, snow and heavy downpours.
In the garden you must make sure that the fence is high enough. Ready-made outdoor enclosures from the trade are often too low (rabbits can jump 1 m high) and made of wire mesh, which carries a considerable risk of injury. Thus the escape animals tend to run with full force against the fence in case of danger. In doing so, they can break their necks.
Sturdy wooden fences of the self-made brand are the right approach. The elongated terrain enclosure is preferable to the circular shape, because rabbits not infrequently die of heart failure when they are surrounded by a hungry predator at night.
Last but not least, you should net the enclosure if there are birds of prey in the area. The kite and possibly the goshawk can be dangerous to adult rabbits, although they are diurnal. After sunset, the eagle owl puts fur balls on the menu.
You must pay special attention to young animals, because they are also targeted by small birds of prey (hawks, sparrow hawks, various species of harriers).
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