WHY DOES MY RABBIT…?
Rub his teeth Rabbits “purr” when they’re happy, e.g. when you pet them or scratch them in their favourite spot. Do not confuse this with painful grinding of the teeth, which means your rabbit is ill and should be taken to the vet immediately.
Honk Rabbits honk softly when they want attention or a treat, or when they want to mate.
Growl A rabbit may growl when he is angry. You should never chase your rabbit or grab him against his will. Remember that most rabbits do not like to be picked up and carried around. Any rabbit can growl and attack if he feels threatened. You can train your rabbit to return to his pen and come when called.
Thump Rabbits thump their feet when they are frightened by something and in the wild this is their way of warning each other of imminent dangers. Assertive bunnies also thump as a threatening gesture or simply to get noticed.
Squeal This means your bunny is in extreme pain or in terrible danger, as when she’s being attacked by a fox. Rabbits should not be left outdoors unsupervised and they should be moved indoors or to a secure shed at night and when you go out.
Nudge me with the nose Light nudging means “Hello” and is also a request to be petted. Forceful pushing away of your hand, foot, etc. means the bunny wants to be left alone.
Stand on his back legs Rabbits stand on their back feet to get a better view, to beg or to get attention.
Bite A rabbit may nip you when you are in his way, or he may bite because he is frightened or angry and you are doing to him something he doesn’t like.
Rub his chin on things Rabbits “chin” anything they want to mark as their property, including their food bowl, plants, furniture and even your feet. By doing this they leave a scent (odourless to humans) on these objects.
Lick A friendly rabbit licks people and other animals to express affection. However not all rabbits do this. Some rabbits prefer to show their love by following you around, sitting beside you, nudging your leg, etc.
Roll on his back This means your rabbit is happy, comfortable and relaxed.
Chew and dig These are normal, necessary and very pleasant activities for a bunny. Rabbits’ nails and teeth grow all the time so they need to keep them worn down by chewing and digging. It’s important to provide your rabbit with toys to satisfy his chewing and digging needs and to protect your home if your rabbit lives indoors.
Run around my feet Rabbits circle your feet when they want food or affection. Circling is also part of the courtship ritual.
Nuzzle his head under another rabbit’s chin Rabbits do this when they want to be licked by another rabbit. When a rabbit meets another rabbit and pushes his head under the other’s chin, it means he wants to be friends.
Eat his droppings This is natural behaviour for a rabbit and should not be discouraged. Rabbits need to digest some foods twice and normally take these droppings – which are softer than the others and kidney-shaped – directly from the anus. If your rabbits makes messy droppings or does not reingest them his diet may need changing.
Point his head and ears forward and extend his tail This means your rabbit is curious and interested in something but careful at the same time, for example when meeting another rabbit.
Point his head forward, fold back his ears and extend his tail Your rabbit is about to attack so don’t do anything that might upset him, such as chasing him, picking him up, etc.
Race around at high speed/Binky This is your rabbit’s way of letting off steam and enjoying his freedom, and also a sign he feels happy and at home in his surroundings.
Spray urine Rabbits do this to mark their territory, mates and possessions. Spraying gradually stops after the rabbit has been neutered, but even a neutered rabbit will spray urine occasionally, e.g. if a strange rabbit enters his territory.
Stare with eyes wide open This means your rabbit is frightened, e.g. by a loud noise or while he’s being held. Most rabbits are afraid of heights and would rather sit next to you to be petted.
Stop eating and sit in a corner with a dull look in his eyes Your rabbit is probably ill and in pain. Please take him to the vet immediately – rabbits can deteriorate and die very quickly without proper medical treatment. Waiting until the morning may be too late.