It’s been a long day and you decide to get some love from your adorable little rabbit. As you hold the little bundle of fur in your arms, you suddenly feel it licking your hand.
At first, you might be thinking, isn’t that more of a dog thing? Well, it turns out that rabbits will also lick you to show their love. They might also do it as a way of getting your attention.
Stick around if you’re interested in learning more about why do rabbits lick you.
Reasons Why Your Rabbit Is Licking You
The licking characteristic is embedded in rabbits’ behavioral traits even before they were domesticated. That’s why wild rabbits also lick as a way of showing their love and trust.
Here are some possible reasons why your rabbit is licking you.
1 – They Trust You
If you have more than one rabbit, you’ve probably noticed them licking each other. It’s adorable to watch, but it’s basically their way of grooming one another, similar to what a cat would do during grooming.
Yet, this goes much deeper than just cleanliness. It signifies the love and care they have for one another. It’s also how they show that they trust each other.
The same applies to when they lick you. Again, it’s usually a strong sign that they have incredible faith in you.
2 – They Respect You
Another reason why rabbits tend to lick you or others of their kind is due to a display of hierarchy.
If you spot one rabbit licking another one’s eyes or ears, it usually signifies respect and the passing of dominance.
The same applies to you. When they lick your hands, it usually means that they’re showing submission to you as their owner.
Interestingly, your rabbit might not lick just you, but random items around you as well, like cushions on the sofa or the coffee table. This might mean that the rabbit treats you like a lower rank.
3 – They Want Your Attention
Of all the reasons mentioned, this might be the most crucial one to consider. Rabbits licking you could point to them wanting more attention.
They get testy if you don’t give them the attention they crave. As social creatures, rabbits tend to get hurt if you don’t play along with them. The consequences can be inconvenient and unpleasant.
They may start to disobey you. They might also damage your furniture by biting tables and tearing up rugs. Rabbits have also been known to urinate on their owner’s belongings just to spite them.
Next time your rabbit licks you, don’t hesitate to pat them before they get offended and become a monstrosity.
4 – They Love You
Licking is one of many signs of showcasing their affection to you. If they trust you enough to lick you, it means they deeply care for you.
You should pat yourself on the shoulder because you’ve been a wonderful owner to your rabbit.
What to Consider When Your Rabbit Licks You
If your rabbit licks you a lot, then there are a few things worth considering. Take a look.
- Try not to wear makeup if your rabbit is licking your face. Cosmetics can be harmful to your pet’s health.
- Your rabbits might mistake your clothing or bed sheets for your skin. Despite the obvious texture difference, your little jumping buddies can’t tell the difference most of the time and mostly go by scent.
- Before rabbits lick you, practice caution. They might be harboring some infectious diseases such as ringworm or tapeworm that can easily transfer through seemingly harmless licks.
Why Is Your Rabbit Not Licking You?
After knowing why it’s normal for rabbits to lick their owners, you might start to notice that your fluffy furball doesn’t do that with you. Remember that even though rabbits are friendly, they need time to warm up to you.
Besides, they might show their affection through different actions such as nibbling and nudging you.
It’s best not to force strong affections from your rabbit. Instead, it’s better to strengthen the bond the two of you share first.
There are several ways you can do that. One of the most effective methods is being present around your four-pawed friend.
Shower them with attention, love, and yummy treats. These will surely guarantee you get a spot on their licking list.
Rabbits might still not end up giving you licks, and that’s completely fine. Maybe, they’re more into other signs of affection or just not a fan of licking.
Other Ways Rabbits Show Their Love
Speaking of other signs, there are plenty of different ways rabbits can demonstrate their love to you. Here are some of them below.
They Nudge You
A gentle nudge can speak a thousand words. Whenever a pet bumps its head towards you, it means they want something. It could be they’re hungry or thirsty. Maybe they just want you to give them a nice belly rub.
At other times, however, nudging can have a negative meaning. You might be doing something they don’t like, so the push is more of a sign to back off.
For example, you could be standing in their way between them and their cage or food. Thus, you get an aggressive nudge to get you to move out of their way.
It can get confusing trying to figure out what your rabbit means. Remember this: if their nudges are of the positive kind, you’ll usually get a warm lick afterward.
They Bink Around You
Some rabbits click their heels when they bink, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. It’s hard not to share in their joy when you see this adorable show of love.
They Stretch Their Back Legs
Otherwise known as the happy feet position, you can tell your rabbits are having the time of their lives when they kick back and relax.
This seated position puts them in a vulnerable position, which is why you don’t see many rabbits sitting like this. So, if you spot your rabbit in this position, you can tell they feel secure and at ease around you.
Since they trust you, they’ll have no qualms about lying flat on their bellies and spreading out their cute little paws.
They Chin You
When rabbits chin you, it means they’re wiggling their chin on your face or arms. Rabbits have a gland under their chin that secretes their odor, which they use to mark their territory and property. They spread their scent all over you, which signifies that you now belong to them.
Rabbits won’t only chin you, but your belongings as well. If you have a favorite chair, you can rest assured it’ll get some chin as well.
Don’t worry, though, you won’t be able to detect the scent. It’s meant to keep other pets away, especially fellow rabbits that share the same household.
They Click Their Teeth
Like nose nudging, rabbits clicking their teeth can mean two things. It’s either they’re communicating how happy they are or how troubled they are. There’s no middle ground.
If they’re happy, they click their teeth as a way to tell you they’re enjoying your attention or petting. They’ll also close their eyes as a sign of trust.
Meanwhile, if they’re under stress, they’re teeth-grinding is much more audible. Plus, they’ll be bent over in pain, and you can see their discomfort on their face. You might also see their ears slick back over their heads.
Whenever you’re playing around with your rabbit, you might find them flopping about. This is a good sign that they love hanging with you.
At first, it might seem like they’re playing dead. Yet, exposing their underbellies goes to show how much they trust you.
So, if you see your bunnies doing this, don’t just sit there! Give them a belly rub.
They Nip at You
This action could also fall into the category of mixed signals. On the one hand, rabbits might be nipping you because they’re simply asking for your attention.
In other scenarios, if you’re giving them a brush and they nip at you, it might be their way of brushing you back.
Sometimes, nipping is their way of forcing you to pay attention. It usually comes after the gentle nudge they use to get your attention.
If you don’t notice the initial nudge, the rabbit will become a bit more aggressive with its tactics, hence the nipping. The good news is that once you give them what you want, the constant nipping will stop.
Take note that they could also nip on your clothes or areas where your scent is lingering. Like licking, they might also confuse your skin for these other objects.
On the other end of the scale, your rabbit might not have warmed up to you yet. It could feel easily threatened since it’s a natural prey animal.
In which case, you may feel some aggressive nipping, which is their way of protecting themselves and keeping you away.
They Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Sleeping in a foreign place can get unsettling, especially for tiny, vulnerable prey like rabbits. Luckily, when they feel safe, they sleep well.
They can indirectly demonstrate how much they adore you from their Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.
If you’re curious what that looks like, their whiskers are usually twitching. They’ll also be lying on their sides, enjoying their peaceful slumber.
What Else Do Rabbits Lick?
Rabbits don’t only go for your hands. You might find them laying their tongue on other items and even themselves.
Let’s take a look at what rabbits lick.
This might be one of the many reasons why you chose to get a pet rabbit. They clean themselves like felines. Rabbits use their tongue as their grooming tool.
Nevertheless, they could also be licking themselves too much. By that, we mean that there could be some skin issues. It could be easily observed if you notice the rabbit licking one specific spot more than usual.
While too much licking can be a result of an underlying health issue, it could also be the cause of behavioral abnormalities.
If rabbits get too bored, they resort to constant licking. Excessive licking leads to fur that’s always damp, which becomes a breeding ground for bacterial infections.
You should also consider this; cats groom themselves, and once there’s too much hair in their bodies, they just cough up a hairball.
Meanwhile, rabbits are physically incapable of throwing up hairballs. It’s been known to lead to multiple digestive complications.
You can avoid this by handling most of the grooming sessions. In addition, try to feed them more fiber-filled food that helps promote healthy digestion.
Like most other animals, Rabbits use their sense of smell to guide their tongues. So if they get a whiff of some delicious fruity fragrance, they won’t hesitate to get a taste.
Other times, bunnies might just associate the texture of what they’re licking to fur and mistake furniture for other pets. That could be true in cases of leather couches, shaggy rugs, and suede furniture.
Keep your rabbit out of the room if you’ve just wiped, smeared, or sprayed using harmful cleaning chemicals. If you don’t get them out in time and they’ve already licked it, then take them to the vet immediately.
When you first notice this habit, it might be a bit off. Yet, we assure you, there’s a perfectly good explanation why your rabbit is licking their cage, such as:
- There’s leftover food stuck in the cage.
- There’s another rabbit scent in the cage, and replacing it with their own is a power move.
- Your scent may be on the cage, and licking it is a good way to stay close to you.
Feeling their tiny tongues on your skin might seem weird, but, trust us, it’s all done out of pure love and adoration.
When your rabbit licks you, it’s a strong indicator that you’re doing an exceptional job as a pet keeper. You’re giving them the love and support they need from you, which is why they can’t get enough of you.
Keep up the great work!
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.