The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Pet rabbits are fun, playful, personality-filled, fluffy balls of love. Your bunny can be hopping around like a sugar-filled child or happily lounging on your couch like a content retiree.
Knowing your pet rabbit’s behavior, body language, and specific sounds can enable you to better understand what your pet is trying to communicate or how it is feeling.
Many of your bunny buddy’s body language indicators and sounds are easy to interpret; the infamous nudge is not.
We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of common rabbit behaviors, including nudges, their meanings, and what you can do to better understand and respond to your bunny.
Common Bunny Behaviors and What They Mean
Your bunny will use many different behaviors to convey other emotions and needs to you. Learning what each different action can mean will deepen your understanding of your pet.
These behaviors include nudging, boinking/binkying, zoomies/the bunny 500, digging, chinning, flopping, feet kicking, nipping, licking, and hind leg thumping.
When your bunny uses its nose to push on you or other objects, it is often called nudging. Nudging, unlike many other behaviors or sounds, can mean a plethora of things. When your pet rabbit nudges you, it can suggest that your bunny is saying:
- “HELLO! PAY ATTENTION TO ME!!” If you are peacefully binge-watching your favorite new series and your bunny buddy is gently nudging you repeatedly, it’s entirely possible that your pet is not so secretly demanding that you give your pet your undivided attention.
Your fluffy friend notices that your concentration is centered on something other than itself and would instead turn your focus in its direction.
- “MOVE!!” If you notice that your bunny is rather forcefully nudging you, this can indicate that you are blocking its desired path. It may be that you are simply in between your pet rabbit and its favorite treat or that you have somehow obstructed the easiest and fastest route from here to there.
- “Nice to see you, friend!” Bunny nudges can be as simple as a courteous hello. These “welcome” nudges are often lighter and softer than those with a more urgent meaning.
- “What’s That?” Rabbits may investigate unfamiliar surroundings by nudging and smelling different objects and people. Nudging is used by your pet bunny to gather information about foreign objects.
When your bunny is nudging you, take note of the situation in which the nudge occurs to better understand what that particular nudge means.
Your pet bunny may express happiness and joy by “dancing.” When excited, your rabbit may leap into the air, twisting its body, kicking its legs in a dramatic display.
Your bunny may take a running start into boinking, or its binky might be a burst from the side. Regardless of how your rabbit leads into its “dancing” session, it’s bound to bring a smile to your face.
Zoomies/The Bunny 500
When your pet rabbit zips around the room in a fluffy blur, they’re giving you the gift of zoomies (also called The Bunny 500). These dramatic bursts of super speeds often lead to the previously mentioned binky/boink.
Often, your pet bunny may dig with its feet into your feet or legs to get your attention. This behavior typically indicates that your pet would like a few pets or even a tasty treat or two!
Rabbits can be territorial, and they like to let others know what they’ve claimed as their own. The chin of your pet bunny contains unique scent glands that can be used to indicate ownership to other rabbits.
When your bunny places its chin on your arm or shoulder, they are essentially marking their territory and claiming you as their own.
A content bunny will often flop down like a soft little rag. This indicates that your pet rabbit is genuinely comfortable and pleased.
When your pet bunny kicks its feet up while hopping away, it lets you know that something has left it feeling displeased. Feet kicking should not be confused with boinking/binkying, which indicates happiness and excitement.
If your pet rabbit has failed to gain your attention with nudging or digging, they might resort to nipping at you. Although your bunny may not intend to cause you harm with its attention-seeking nip, this type of behavior should be discouraged.
Nips, at the very least, can be extremely annoying. Still, if allowed to be acceptable behavior, they can actually lead to slightly painful injuries.
In nature, rabbits convey affection by grooming (licking) other rabbits. If your bunny is gently licking your hand, arm, or other exposed skin, it is trying to tell you how much it loves you.
If your pet bunny is thumping its hind legs, it’s letting you know that it is either scared and feeling threatened or extremely angry. Leg thumping stands as a warning of danger.
Common Sounds Your Pet Bunny Makes and Their Meanings
Sounds your pet bunny makes, just like the behaviors displayed, can indicate numerous things. Distinguishing between the different sounds your rabbit makes will make you a more understanding pet parent.
Sounds you may hear from your pet rabbit include grunting/growling, honking, screaming, teeth grinding, clicking/buzzing, or squeaking/squealing.
If your rabbit is growling or grunting, it lets you know that it disapproves of your behavior or is angry. Grunting or growling can also indicate that your bunny feels threatened by something.
Your bunny is telling you to “Leave me alone. Go away.”
If your fluffy friend is creating honking sounds, they’re letting you know that they are excited and happy about something. Bunnies often use honking to express interest in the opposite sex.
If your pet bunny is honking, they’re telling you, “I’m hopping happy,” or “I REALLY like you.”
Rabbits will only scream if they are in peril or extreme pain. If you hear your pet bunny screaming, something is wrong.
A screaming rabbit is saying, “HELP! NOW! PAIN! NOW!”
If you see that your pet rabbit is grinding its teeth while being pet, your rabbit is conveying happiness and contentment. This is your bunny’s equivalent to a cat purring.
However, teeth grinding can also indicate discomfort or pain. If your pet bunny is grinding its teeth because of pain, it will be louder than “purring” due to happiness.
You can also tell the difference between content grinding and discomfort grinding by observing the posture of your rabbit when it occurs. If your rabbit is lying in a relaxed way, the teeth grinding can indicate happiness. If your pet bunny is tensed, hunched, or aggressive, the grinding may show that your rabbit is in pain and may need to see the veterinarian.
If your bunny is buzzing or clicking its teeth, it’s letting you know that it is pleased, content, and happy.
Clicking or teeth buzzing is your bunny’s way of saying, “I am happy. I am content. Please continue.”
Squeaking or high-pitched squealing can indicate that your rabbit is unhappy. Squealing and squeaking can also mean happiness or excitement.
Take into account the context of your rabbit’s squeaks and squeals to better understand the meaning.
Tips for Caring for Your Pet Rabbit
Bunnies are unique pets with specific needs for a happy, healthy life. These basic tips can ensure that your pet bunny is cared for in the best way possible.
There are numerous ways of housing your pet bunny. It can live freely in a bunny-proofed room. Your rabbit can be kept in a large puppy pen, large rabbit cage, or bunny condo.
If you do choose to cage your rabbit, be sure to pick an enclosure that allows for ample movement of your pet.
Bunny-proofing your home
Your home has to be outfitted with the safety of your bunny in mind. You will need to be sure to cover all exposed wires so that your bunny can’t make a snack out of them.
It should also be noted that rabbits like to chew on anything that they are able to reach, from furniture to baseboards to plants. Keep that in mind when bunny-proofing your home.
Your pet bunny will naturally choose to use one area to urinate and defecate. You can take advantage of this natural behavior by using a litter box filled with rabbit-safe litter.
Bunnies can easily become bored, so providing them with toys and activities that promote mental stimulation is crucial.
General care and grooming
Your bunny will self-groom but will still need a bit of assistance from you. Brushing your pet rabbit will help stave off any digestive problems caused by excessive hair consumption.
It is also crucial that you regularly trim your fluffy friend’s nails to avoid any injury that can occur.
In addition to yearly veterinary visits, you must monitor the health and wellness of your pet bunny. If you notice odd behaviors like loss of appetite, decreased urine output, diarrhea, lethargy, or any other physical changes, take your bunny to the veterinarian for a check-up.
Understanding how your pet rabbit communicates needs, feelings, and fears is a huge part of being a loving bunny owner.
Nudging you is a perfectly normal part of your pet rabbit’s behavior. It can indicate that your rabbit is happy and confident exploring its new environment and interacting with you.