Rabbit 860x500 1 Rabbit Body Language: 20 Typical Behaviors And Reasons For Them

Rabbit Body Language: 20 Typical Behaviors And Reasons For Them

Your rabbit may not be able to communicate directly with you through language, but it wants to tell you something much more often than you might think.

For you as a rabbit owner, it is therefore essential to understand the language of animals.
In this in-depth post, we go into detail about rabbit language and common rabbit behaviors and tell you:

The classic spoken language and common sounds of rabbits.
Common actions and behaviors
Body language & posture
For each behavior described, there are also proven tips on how to behave properly to perfectly respond to your pet.
Get started!

The spoken language and sounds of rabbits
Rabbits seldom make sounds and in view of this were even considered mute for a long time.
But this is not the case!

They can communicate very well with their voice and also produce sounds in other ways.

1: Beeping

Baby rabbits make a soft squeaking sound when they call their mother. However, when an adult rabbit squeaks, it is for a different reason.

kaninchen fiepen Rabbit Body Language: 20 Typical Behaviors And Reasons For Them

This is what your rabbit is trying to tell you:
If your rabbit is squealing, he is very frightened, scared, or very insecure. In any case, he is stressed.
This is how you should react:

Check to see if your rabbit perceives anything as danger. Possible are:

aggressive conspecifics
other pets
loud noises
sudden movements next to the cage or during free running.
Try to avoid such influences: Place the cage or rabbit’s home in a safe and quiet place where someone is not constantly walking by.
Pay attention to how the animals get along with each other and separate them if conflicts continue or recur.

Also, try to protect your rabbit when it is outdoors and do not frighten the animal.

2: Growling and hissing

Rabbits, while peaceful in themselves, are also territorial. If your animal hisses or growls, you must take it seriously.

knurren fauchen Rabbit Body Language: 20 Typical Behaviors And Reasons For Them

This is what your rabbit is trying to tell you:
Snarling and growling are warning signs, just as they are with cats and dogs: Your rabbit wants to defend its territory, protect its young or feels threatened.

Although most animals tend to flee in the face of a (perceived) threat, unneutered rabbits can also attack.

Your final heads up is deep growling and hissing, snarling sounds.

Here’s how you should react:

Keep your distance immediately!

Only in this way you can prevent an attack or a bite. Also, try to understand what triggered this behavior: Is your rabbit defending something or does it feel threatened?

If one of your rabbits growls at another animal, you should quickly try to distract it. For example, offer treats to all, call them by name, and lure them to you. Otherwise, a fight may break out.
To prevent this, provide enough space and resources such as water, food and retreats.

It also makes sense to neuter rabbits. This not only prevents offspring, but also reduces potential aggression.

3: Growling

A low growl in your rabbit sounds more like a purr in cats. However, it doesn’t just indicate comfort.

brummen schnurren Rabbit Body Language: 20 Typical Behaviors And Reasons For Them

This is what your rabbit is trying to tell you:

Humming at a low pitch is used by animals to indicate their readiness to mate.

However, this does not mean that it is only used towards conspecifics. The rabbit can also growl at you. This occurs mainly when you keep the animal alone and it is not neutered.
This is how you should react:

As long as your rabbit is not stressed, you do not have to react to the growling.

However, if the animal is of opposite sex, it should be separated and neutered to prevent unwanted offspring.

You can, however, place the cages next to each other so that they can still hear and see each other. This is because the surgical sutures must heal first, and male rabbits are often still fertile for a few weeks after neutering.

4: Rabbit grinds its teeth

Teeth grinding, teeth clenching, or grinding with the molars can express two very different conditions. However, you only hear it when the environment is quiet at the time.

zaehneknirschen Rabbit Body Language: 20 Typical Behaviors And Reasons For Them

That’s what your rabbit is trying to say:

Grinding your teeth without eating or “crunching” is a sign of well-being, contentment and relaxation. Your rabbit may be enjoying petting or is all around happy after adequate food and exercise.

Loud and persistent crunching combined with apathy, loss of appetite or a hard belly, on the other hand, indicates pain.

Here’s how you should respond:

If your pet is comfortable, you don’t need to make any changes.

However, if the grinding is very frequent and prolonged, and if there are changes in behavior, lack of appetite, or if your rabbit seems bloated, moves little or not at all, and even neglects grooming, you must immediately consult a veterinarian. Because then there is pain or a disease behind the teeth grinding.

5: Knocking with the hind legs

With this noise the vocal cords are not used. Nevertheless, it is a clear sound.

The animal stomps the ground vigorously with its hind legs. The sound resembles the dropping of a heavy object and is dull.

klopfen mit den hinterbeinen Rabbit Body Language: 20 Typical Behaviors And Reasons For Them

This is what your rabbit is trying to tell you:

Rabbits knock when they want to warn conspecifics because they feel endangered.

Likewise, tapping with the hind paws can also mean that your rabbit is unhappy and is complaining to you and trying to get your attention.

This is how you should behave:

If your rabbit seems tense and frantic when you tap it, it is most likely afraid. The same applies if the animal flees to a protected area after knocking.

If it knocks several times and straightens up again and again, lets itself be calmed down by you directly and scratches at the bars, it wanted attention. Possibly it is bored and wants to run. Maybe it also wants affection or food.

How rabbits interact – the behaviors
Rabbits have a large repertoire of different actions and interactions with you and with conspecifics. You can glean a few things from these.

6: Air jumps

Rabbits often jump in the air, especially young animals jump. They may even spin in the air while doing so.

This is what your rabbit is trying to tell you:

The air jumps serve on the one hand the training. On the other hand, the animals can also express joy or excitement.

Often the jumps therefore occur shortly before eating, when you come home or when you give your animals free run. Mostly it comes in connection with the hops to the “wild five minutes”. This is when your rabbit runs and romps, challenging you or his peers to play.

This is a clear sign that your rabbit is doing well and feeling good. If applicable, it may also indicate that the animal is trying to dissipate energy.

This is how you should react:

Watch your pet closely: does it seem playful and happy? Or does it run away after the jump and try to hide? In the first case, your rabbit is doing well. It may need a little more exercise. In the second case, it has been frightened and is now trying to escape.
Then it is necessary to check the environment and your behavior.

Loud noises and fast movements near the run or cage can be triggers. These should be avoided.

7: Running and hitting hooks

Running fast and hitting hooks with an abrupt change of direction, in a race or during an aerial jump, are innate behaviors in escape animals.

This is what your rabbit is trying to tell you:

When a rabbit runs away in a panic, making hooks, it is on the run. It has been frightened or has sensed a potential danger and is therefore afraid.
Typically, the animal runs only a short distance and hides at the first opportunity. In the cage it usually saves itself in the sleeping house. If it just runs in the apartment, it can also seek refuge behind or under the couch.

If these are merely “escape exercises” for behavioral and physical training, the rabbit will immediately emerge from hiding and continue running.

This is how you should react:

If your rabbit is frightened of you because you have just been loud, moved quickly, or tried to reach for it, first let it calm down in its hiding place. Then you can carefully coax it out.
Do not run after it under any circumstances!

It would see this as further pursuit and become even more frightened.

If it escapes more often, you must also check the environment and your own behavior. Perhaps you have not noticed that you run quickly and threateningly towards the rabbit or that loud noises occur frequently.

Try to make the run and the location of the cage quiet and adjust your behavior.

8: Pushing and prodding

Young rabbits in particular have a tendency to poke and prod. This is when they push objects with their nose to move them. They may exhibit the same behavior toward other animals and you.

stubsen Rabbit Body Language: 20 Typical Behaviors And Reasons For Them

This is what your rabbit is trying to tell you:

Pushing objects such as cardboard rolls, sisal balls or the food bowl is typical play behavior.

Your rabbit is relaxed and busy with what is available.
If it nudges other rabbits or you, it is seeking attention and wants to play or be petted. Therefore, the behavior may equally indicate boredom.

This is how you should react:

If your rabbit is alone with toys, you don’t have to do anything.

If, on the other hand, it keeps pushing the food bowl, you should check the contents. Maybe the animal is hungry or you were too sparing with the treats in his opinion.
If it pushes you or other animals, you can offer to play or pet it.

9: Digging and burrowing

In the wild, rabbits create underground burrows and also dig and burrow for roots. In the summer, they may also make burrows in the ground to cool off in.

In the apartment they also show the behavior.

However, since they only have the bedding in the cage available here, they can burrow all the way to the floor, dig in the hay and straw, dig up flower pots, or rummage through towels and other textiles.
This is what your rabbit is trying to tell you:

In the summer, the animal may try to cool off.

However, the rabbit may also be lacking employment opportunities or may not have enough hiding and retreat opportunities and wants to create them.

Here’s how you should respond:

Control the environment and options available to your pet. Since digging and burrowing are natural behaviors, you must first find the cause.
If your rabbit is lacking activity, you should urgently change this. For example, hide food in hay or straw or in a cardboard roll filled with treats and hay. In this way, the animal has to work for its food and is naturally occupied.

The run in the garden must also be secured under the fence in such a way that the rabbits cannot escape from it by creating corridors. For this purpose, for example, inserted lawn edging stones are suitable, which should reach far into the earth.

In the apartment, make sure that your rabbit does not have access to towels, blankets or other textiles when it is unsupervised. This is because it will not only scratch, but occasionally gnaw on these.

If fibers come loose and are swallowed, they can lead to intestinal obstruction.

It is therefore better to offer your pet alternatives. In a large rabbit house with several floors, you can litter the “first floor” thickly with straw and sawdust. Although the rabbits cannot make burrows here, they can dig, burrow and dig.

10: Carry things away

If your rabbit picks up and carries away food, such as vegetables or grass, in large quantities, it will move these items to safety from conspecifics.

If, on the other hand, a female carries larger amounts of hay and straw and other nesting material and possibly even plucks out fur, this has a different cause: pregnancy.

This is what the rabbit is trying to tell you:

When carrying away food, the animal protects this important resource from its conspecifics.
If, on the other hand, it is straw, hay and other nesting material, the animal may be seemingly pregnant or even pregnant. In this case, it builds a nest into which the young are born.

This is how you should react:

So that food does not have to be protected, you can offer vegetables and fruits in small pieces and in several places. This will reduce stress among the conspecifics and allow them to eat in peace.

If a nest is built, you should pay close attention to whether there really could be a pregnancy.

It is not uncommon for the sex of rabbits to be confused or difficult to determine, especially in young animals. Due to the ability of the testicles to retract back into the abdomen, males and females cannot always be immediately distinguished with certainty.
Therefore, in the pet store and even at a breeder, early sexually mature rabbits may already be pregnant before they become your pets. Therefore, pay attention to whether the abdominal girth increases. Give your rabbit plenty of rest and try to avoid stressing them.

Carefully check the nest that has been created.

A false pregnancy can manifest itself in a similar way. However, it is only due to hormones and does not result in offspring. If it occurs more often, you should consult a veterinarian. Because this can also be a sign of disease.

11: Rabbit licking itself

Licking fur and paws and wiping the head and ears with the paws is often done while sitting upright. The rabbit may also turn sharply to the side to reach posterior parts of the body.

However, licking can also take place among the rabbits. Even you but also objects can be licked.

This is what your rabbit is trying to tell you:

Relaxed and prolonged grooming is perfectly normal behavior and is for grooming purposes. If, on the other hand, your rabbit licks itself frantically and scratches itself more frequently, the cause may be parasites or an allergy and the associated itching.

Licking conspecifics or you is a clear sign of affection and trust. Mutual grooming has a calming effect and can strengthen the bond with each other.
It also shows that the animals are comfortable and relaxed.

If, on the other hand, the rabbit licks the bars, the bowl, the sleeping houses, toys and or constantly cleans itself, this is an act of jumping over and therefore a sign of stress. Your pet then does not know how to behave and brushes to calm down or relieves stress by licking objects.

Here’s how you should respond:

First, find the cause. If your animal seems completely relaxed, you don’t have to do anything. It is simply cleaning itself, which is not only perfectly normal, but also essential. You can support the coat and skin care by regular brushing.

In case of licking due to itching, you should examine the skin.

Fleas, mites and hair lice are possible parasites that may be responsible. Even if they are not immediately visible, redness or flea droppings may be noticeable.
Likewise, your pet may be suffering from an allergy that causes itching. A visit to the vet is advised to find and treat the cause.

For stress-induced licking, work to make your pet more calm and secure. Check to make sure it has adequate retreats. Offer appropriate nail material and allow plenty of free running.

12: Sniffing

Sniffing among conspecifics and sniffing the air can be recognized by the nose. It moves thereby conspicuously. In addition, the rabbit can sit up and also stretch its head upwards or turn it sideways.

This is what your rabbit wants to tell you:

Sniffing each other is used as a greeting among rabbits.

However, it can also indicate that an animal is sick or injured. In this case, it is usually very intense and long or repeatedly sniffed.

The greeting, on the other hand, is limited to the face.

If the rabbit sniffs the air, it has either smelled something interesting or a potential danger and is now trying to find the source.

This is how you should react:

Only in the case of very frequent and conspicuous sniffing of a conspecific should you take action. Examine the animal or present it to a veterinarian.

13: Ramming

This is when a rabbit mounts another animal, your foot or arm, a stuffed animal or pillow. Creature, body part or object is caught between the front legs.

Then the rabbit performs thrusting movements with the pelvis.

This is what your rabbit is trying to tell you:

Normally, bumping is for reproduction. It expresses sexual maturity and readiness. However, this is not the only cause. Even same-sex animals can mount each other.

Just as a female can mount a male.

In doing so, they show dominance over an inferior animal. If they show this behavior with objects, they have a great but unfulfilled sex drive. It behaves the same way toward humans.

This is how you should react:

If bumping occurs infrequently, it is not a cause for concern. If it becomes a permanent condition, you should consider castration or change the group composition.

14: Chasing and running circles

The rabbit will run after people or people of the same species and circle around them as soon as they stop.

This is what your rabbit is trying to tell you:

This can be a sign of affection as well as dominance. Towards humans, rabbits usually want attention and affection. Toward conspecifics, another observation is necessary.

If a rabbit pursues another, draws circles around the animal and presses its head under the chin of the conspecific, it wants to be cleaned. If the animals sniff each other and “the pursuer” rises, the sex drive or dominance behavior is responsible.

This is how you should react:

Give your animal attention when it follows you and provide enough activity and petting. If, on the other hand, the circling is followed by an attempt to mount you, neutering is advisable.

The same applies to running after and circling among other dogs…

First of all, make sure that it does not degenerate into chasing and a fight. If the animals groom each other, you do not have to intervene. In case of subsequent mounting and frequent repetitions, neutering must be done or you should check the composition of the pair or group.

15: Chin rubbing

The rabbit raises its head slightly and rubs its chin and the underside of its jaw against objects. Often this behavior is repeated.

This is what your rabbit is trying to tell you:

The behavior is for marking objects and territory. The rabbit thus marks its area. On the one hand, in order to find its own way better. On the other hand, to keep strangers away.

For humans, the scent marks are not perceptible.

This is how you should react:

Marking by rubbing the chin is completely normal. So you don’t have to do anything.
Typical body language of rabbits
Body language can quickly tell you how your rabbit is feeling. You just need to be able to read it correctly. It helps to observe your animals frequently and for a long time. Over time, you can get a sense of what the animal is communicating through its body language.

16: Sitting Crouched

The rabbit sits and presses itself flat on the floor. It is quiet and motionless.

This is what your rabbit is trying to tell you:

Ducking always speaks to discomfort, fear or inferiority.

It occurs predominantly when a dominant animal lives with a weaker rabbit, your rabbit becomes frightened and cannot escape.

This is how you should react:

Act calmly, don’t chase the rabbit, don’t touch it, and don’t pick it up. Instead, talk soothingly and try to coax it out of its stupor with treats.

17: Freeze

Rabbits can freeze in any position. They appear tense and motionless.

This is what your rabbit is trying to tell you:

The animal has been frightened or is afraid and cannot escape.

To protect itself, it therefore lapses into rigidity. In nature, it protects the rabbit at least from predators, which can perceive movements excellently, but perceive immobile objects only with difficulty.

This is how you should react:

Be sure to handle your pet properly. Also offer retreat and escape options in the free run or enclosure.

18: Standing

The rabbit stands upright on its hind legs and often turns its head in different directions, while being relaxed and looking around.

This is what your rabbit is trying to tell you:

It is curiously looking around and wants to explore its surroundings. Maybe it has sensed a scent or just wants to get a better overview in peace.

This is how you should react:

You don’t have to react at all. The behavior is normal and indicates a contented rabbit.

19: Sitting upright on the hind legs

Better known as “man up,” this is when the rabbit sits on its butt and hind legs. The front legs are relaxed or moved forward.

This is what your rabbit is trying to tell you:

It begs, for example, for attention and affection or especially tasty food. It is also possible that it wants to be close to you and wants to jump next to you on the couch, for example.

This is how you should react:

Begging is a polite request from your pet because it wants something from you.

Look for the request and, if possible, try to fulfill it.

20: Lying stretched out on the side

The rabbit lies stretched out on the floor for a long time and appears completely relaxed.

This is what your rabbit is trying to tell you:

It feels comfortable, relaxed and enjoys lying down.

Your animal is completely satisfied, but usually wants to be left alone. Only particularly tame and trusting specimens will lie down next to you like this in order to be stroked.

This is how you should react:

Unless your pet will lie down right next to you, you should leave it alone.

Classic rabbit body posture

The posture of individual body parts can give a lot of information about your rabbit’s current condition and mood. However, make sure that you always look at these details in context so that you can properly assess behavior.

So to conclude this post, let’s take a look at the individual body parts and recap the behaviors we’ve learned….

  1. the rabbit ears
    They serve primarily for the localization of noise sources and are set up for it and turned in different directions.

If, on the other hand, they appear relaxed and hang down slightly or lie against, the rabbit is just calm and not interested in its surroundings. If the ears are flat on the back and the rabbit is crouched, it is afraid or submitting.

The exception to this is rams, which have little control over the position of the ears.

  1. mouth
    Yawning, hissing, conspicuous licking – the rabbit’s mouth can express many things.

Yawning represents tiredness or even relaxation. Occasionally, rabbits use yawning in conjunction with a stretching motion to signal to conspecifics that they are peaceful and not interested in conflict.

Snarling may be accompanied by pulling up the lips and showing the teeth. The mouth is slightly open when this occurs. The behavior is clearly defensive and may be accompanied by growling.

Be sure to keep your distance, because if you don’t take these warnings seriously, your pet may bite for lack of anything else to do.

Conspicuous licking may be due to nervousness, or because your pet has a problem in the mouth area. In this case, on the one hand, an examination is necessary. On the other hand you should pay attention to when the behavior occurs. If necessary, you must eliminate stress factors.

Caution: If your rabbit opens its mouth noiselessly, it is an emergency. See a veterinarian immediately!

  1. nose
    The nose is used exclusively to detect odors.

If it moves conspicuously fast and frequently, it indicates interest. Since it is the first sense available to rabbits, they orient themselves to a large extent through the sense of smell.

  1. eyes
    Wide open and staring eyes are a clear sign of panic and fear of death.

If, on the other hand, they are relaxed and half-closed, this indicates calm and well-being.

  1. tail / flower
    The tail in rabbits is also called the flower, is short and usually stands slightly upwards so that the light underside of the flower is visible.

An erect flower and high body tension are signs of alertness or a warning sign to conspecifics.

Relaxed animals let the tail tilt down a bit, so that the underside is difficult or hardly visible. However, in addition to relaxation, this posture can also indicate submissiveness or insecurity.

Similar to dogs, a wagging tail indicates excitement, stress, or joy.

Common misconceptions in rabbit language.
A running rabbit is not always fleeing.

A sitting animal is not always relaxed.

In each case, it is important that you consider the entire body, the environment, and the tension. If the rabbit is comfortable, it has soft body language, is responsive and will be enticed by food.

This is not the case with fearful or aggressive animals. They are under tension or frozen, so they need the opportunity to calm down first.

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