Rabbits are one of the more quiet options when it comes to choosing a house pet. Every animal has their way of expressing their emotions and wants. Dogs bark, cats meow, and birds chirp. Most communication between rabbits and other animals is expressed through body language.
Rabbits also have a variety of noises to utilize when communicating. If the noises coming from your bunny are loud, the animal is very afraid.
Noises such as grunts, growls, or squealing indicate the animal is in distress, whereas noises such as clucking or tooth purring are made when your bunny feels content.
The Different Noises Rabbits Make
Negative Rabbit Noises
When a rabbit grunts, it is to convey displeasure. This could be a territorial reaction or just a way to show general annoyance for their environment. The animal may bite following a grunt.
If your rabbit begins screeching, this means that the animal believes they are in immediate danger. In their natural habitat, screeching is how a rabbit would let others in its group know danger is afoot.
Try to identify the source of their anxiety and check their body for any injury. If the animal continues to shrill after being comforted, seek a veterinarian immediately.
If you hear snorting accompanied by sneezing, this means that the rabbit has encountered a strong smell that they dislike, or there is a physical irritant in their nasal passage.
Rabbits also cough. Similar to sneezing, coughing is an involuntary movement that is meant to clear any irritants from the animal’s airway. If the coughing becomes chronic, consult your local veterinarian.
Rabbits squeal only when they are in immense pain. The most common cause of squealing is being handled too roughly by their human counterpart. Readjust your hold on the animal. If squealing persists, set the animal down and allow them to neutralize before bothering them again.
If you notice your pet rabbit wheezing, you need to seek veterinary attention for the animal. Wheezing could indicate a respiratory illness, much the same as how a human with asthma wheezes.
Wheezing can also be caused by the animal being overweight or not exercised properly. This is not to be confused with honking while exercising. If your bunny honks while they are running around, they are extremely excited. Wheezing is a continuous noise, while honking is intermittent.
Similar to a cat, a rabbit hissing indicates an unhappy animal prepared to defend itself. Growling is another noise rabbits that make when they feel threatened or afraid. It is their first line of defense and will be followed by a bite or a nip if the threat does not dissipate.
Muttering is another sound that a bunny makes to convey their unhappiness. This sound is also referred to as grumbling. Loud teeth grinding means that the animal is extremely uncomfortable or ill.
A rabbit snoring sounds like an adorable thing to witness but it could be an early indicator of a respiratory or sinus condition. Monitor the snoring closely and if it is accompanied by other symptoms, such as nasal or ocular discharge, consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Stomping is the one noise that does not require a rabbit’s vocal cords to express their feelings. Stomping their back legs is how a rabbit in the wild communicates with its group that a threat is nearby and that is reflected in domesticated rabbits as well.
Bunnies will not hesitate to stomp or thump when they feel threatened or frightened.
Positive Rabbit Noises
Soft teeth grinding (also called teeth purring) indicates happiness or comfort. Clucking in a spayed or neutered rabbit indicates its delight. This can follow eating their favorite treat or snuggling with their owner.
This clucking does not sound like a chicken’s cluck. It’s comparable to the sound made when a person clicks their tongue with their mouth closed.
Honking is similar to a rabbit’s grunt. In a male rabbit who has not been neutered, it is a mating call. In an unsexed rabbit, this sound conveys happiness. This noise is commonly described as a soft oink.
Whining is a sound that rabbits make to elicit attention from their owners. Sighing is a great sign that your rabbit is feeling comfortable and relaxed in their environment.
How Can I Decode These Noises?
There are numerous articles on the Internet that dissect bunny babble. You can also find a plethora of rabbit sounds on YouTube. There, you can hear tons of bunnies clucking and honking, as well as rabbits screaming.
Screaming and squealing are very distinct noises. Once you hear them, it is unlikely that you will forget them and a loving pet parent would not try to duplicate them with their own rabbit.
The most effective strategy to understand what sounds rabbits make is to observe these creatures in person. Hearing the difference between a honk and a grunt is extremely important as they may sound similar but portray two very different emotions.
The same can be said for teeth purring versus teeth grinding. These are two vocalizations that sound alike but have two distinct meanings.
Observing a bunny’s body language can also help decipher the noises they make. To help differentiate between tooth purring versus grinding, tooth grinding is typically paired with other signs of fear, such as shaking or darting eyes, while tooth purring can occur when being petted or in another relaxed state.
Tooth purring makes the whiskers twitch minimally. If your rabbit is circling your feet while grunting or whining, they could be annoyed that you are not giving them enough attention.
Reassure the animal by patting them softly. If their ears pull back or they shift their weight onto their back legs, they are incredibly displeased and may attack if bothered further. Try backing away or giving them a treat to soothe them from afar.
Understanding your rabbit’s anatomy is also a key component in comprehending the noises they make. Although European rabbits have been domesticated since the Middle Ages, domestic rabbits still share a lot of qualities with their wild counterparts. All rabbits are prey animals.
They are extremely conscious of their surroundings and are easily spooked or stressed. In the wild, this keeps rabbits apprised of dangers that may bring them harm. While your pet may recognize your home as a safe place, they’re keenly aware that harm may still come to them.
Stressors for domestic rabbits include, but are not limited to, rearranging their living quarters, unsanitary conditions, too little attention, and excessive handling. Stress can be shown by grinding the teeth, squealing, or grunting.
It can also be shown through destructive behaviors such as fighting, pulling out its fur, or refusing to eat. A stressed rabbit will quickly become a physically ill rabbit. Pay attention to the noises and behaviors that your pet exhibits before it’s too late.
Sex can also determine the meaning behind a rabbit’s noises. While unneutered male rabbits may honk to indicate a readiness to mate, female rabbit honks are hardly ever linked to their mating desires. Once neutered, a male rabbit’s honks are filled with pure intentions.
If there are multiple rabbits in the habitat, observe their body language and noises closely. Rabbits honk at each other to express their appreciation for their company. However, in every rabbit clique, there is a dominant and submissive.
This is commonplace despite the sex of the animals. If the dominant feels that their place in the hierarchy is being threatened, their honking will turn to grunting shortly before they challenge and potentially attack the other rabbit.
Honking could also be a mating call in a nest. If the recipient of this mating call does not want to be mounted, the rabbit may growl or hiss at the offending rabbit.
Paying attention to rabbit noises in group settings is vital because if a fight were to break out, not only could your pet(s) be injured but the fight could reverse any bonding the rabbits may have previously created. Not breaking up the fight would also encourage negative, hostile behaviors.
Certain actions will invoke reactions from the rabbit. For instance, if you disturb the animal while they are eating, they may hiss or growl at you. If the animal is uncomfortable with your presence, they may grind their teeth to show their disdain.
Inversely, if you gently place the animal in your arms, and they cozy up to you, they could cluck or gently whine, indicating that they would like more attention.
Spending time around and handling rabbits will give you a wider understanding of why they make the noises they do. Learning how to handle these precious creatures in a gentle manner is key.
Inquire at local animal shelters or people you know that have rabbits if you can come acquaint yourself with the animal. In a controlled environment with an expert nearby, you can observe them, notice the sounds they make, and see the story their bodies are trying to tell.
With a keen eye and open heart, you’ll be speaking bunny in no time at all.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard. I also like photographing wild birds, especially birds of prey.