It’s no secret that bunnies show a fair share of unusual behaviors. One of them involves involuntarily expressing their emotions via their teeth.
As a pet owner, sooner or later you’ll probably find yourself asking, why is my rabbit grinding his teeth?
In today’s guide, we’ll explain all the reasons behind this behavior and how you can deal with it. Let’s get started!
Teeth grinding in rabbits is the same as you’d expect from a human grinding their teeth. It’s an activity when the animal closes their jaw and rubs the teeth of the upper side against the teeth on the bottom.
That said, you should know that not all teeth grinding is the same. Just like how people may grind their teeth out of anger, illness, stress, or shyness, bunnies have an even wider range of reasons behind their teeth grinding.
As such, there are two main types of teeth grinding in rabbits:
- Soft teeth grinding. Also referred to as quiet teeth grinding or purring.
- Harsh teeth grinding. Also referred to as loud teeth grinding or teeth chattering.
Soft teeth grinding or purring typically makes a gentler sound and is mostly tied to positive triggers such as happiness, relaxation, or dental grooming.
On the other hand, harsh tooth grinding or chattering tends to produce a louder noise and is typically associated with a negative cause such as feeling stress or pain.
Grinding teeth can be a normal and healthy occurrence in rabbits, so you don’t have to worry right away if your pet starts doing it.
As we explained above, a rabbit can be positively triggered to grind their teeth. In these cases, we can consider this behavior normal and beneficial.
Dental grooming comes at the very top of the list of reasons behind normal teeth grinding. This is a healthy practice that bunnies engage in every day.
Well, it’s because rabbits’ teeth are open-rooted, which means they don’t stop growing.
As such, bunnies need to trim them down constantly by chewing on food and toys as well as grinding their teeth. If they don’t do that, their teeth will overgrow, leading to injuries and other health issues.
Think of your rabbit’s teeth as your nails; they don’t stop growing as long as you’re alive. Also, you need to trim them constantly to keep them healthy, avoid inconvenience, and prevent injuries.
So yes, teeth grinding can be normal in rabbits, but you need to notice how your bunny does it.
If your pet is gently rubbing its teeth together, then there are no issues. Accompanying this movement, you may see twitching of the whiskers or feel a faint vibration while touching your bunny’s head.
Now in most cases, you won’t hear sounds coming from your bunny while they grind their teeth. However, if you sit close enough to your rabbit, there’s a chance you’ll pick up on a soft rattling noise.
This is called purring. But unlike cat purring, rabbit purring doesn’t rely on vocal cords. In rabbits, the mechanism of purring is different; the sound is produced by the movement of teeth against each other.
So why does purring happen?
Well, rabbits purr for pretty much the same reason why cats purr; it’s a show of happiness and well-being.
You see, other than dental grooming, rabbits tend to grind their teeth when they feel totally relaxed. Purring is a subtle behavior that you’ll only witness when your pet is calm enough.
Here are some situations in which you can expect your bunny to demonstrate soft teeth grinding or purring:
When bunnies are sleeping comfortably and deeply, they may grind their teeth softly and purr. You may notice this as your rabbit is getting in a comfortable position to take a nap or while they’re actually sleeping.
You may also hear your rabbit purr and grind its teeth softly when you give them a good petting. This means they’re content and feel safe with you.
Bunnies love to be petted, and if you do it properly, they’ll practically melt into your touch and start purring. You may even feel vibrations when your hand goes over your pet’s head.
Hearing your pet rabbit purr is almost guaranteed to happen whenever they’re sitting comfortably.
Getting cozy under a soft ray of sunlight beside a window or snuggling into a soft pillow are prime examples of comfortable purr-inducing positions.
If you’re keeping multiple bunnies at home and they’re already bonded with one another, you’ll probably hear them purring and gently grinding their teeth when they engage in group grooming to express how much they’re enjoying their time.
As we explained early on, rabbits show two main types of teeth grinding; one’s soft and associated with positive triggers whereas the other is harsh and linked to negative triggers.
These negative triggers are mostly stressful situations, pain, disease, and so on. As such, we can conclude that harsh teeth grinding is “bad” behavior in rabbits.
This type of teeth-gritting is also known as teeth chattering. Although it may appear similar to the softer sort of teeth grinding that we discussed above, it represents the complete opposite.
Teeth chattering is typically a sign that something’s wrong with the bunny. It’s usually a loud and unpleasant noise that’s close to what loud grating sounds like; not soft or gentle as a purring rabbit sounds.
You can hear the sound of teeth chattering even if you’re not close to where your bunny is sitting!
In any case, teeth chattering isn’t just “bad” behavior in rabbits, but it’s also uncommon to come across. If you do witness your pet bunny chattering its teeth, you shouldn’t ignore the action because it may very well be uncomfortable, unwell, or in pain.
If your bunny is chattering its teeth, you should be looking for a source of distress or pain that your pet may be exposed to. Here are some situations that could trigger teeth chattering in rabbits:
One of the most probable causes of teeth chattering in bunnies is suffering from dental problems.
Although your pet may demonstrate this behavior due to various types of pain, discomfort, or stress, tooth-related issues should be your number one concern. Within these issues, the most common trigger behind teeth chattering is abnormal tooth growth.
We talked earlier about the fact that rabbits’ teeth are open-rooted, so they don’t stop growing throughout their lifetime. Abnormal tooth growth means that your pet’s teeth are too long, which can be very uncomfortable and painful.
As a result, the bunny will resort to harshly gritting its teeth to make them shorter. The produced grating and clicking noises are due to uneven teeth rubbing against each other.
Abnormal tooth growth can result from multiple problems, but the most common one is a diet that doesn’t contain enough hay. Overgrown teeth are likely to become misaligned, which will further prevent the bunny from eating properly and lead to more health issues.
If you suspect a case of overgrown teeth in your bunny, you need to book an appointment with your vet to have them trimmed. Sometimes, the vet will recommend complete removal of the teeth and letting them grow healthily from the get-go.
Other than teeth gritting or chattering, additional symptoms of dental issues in bunnies include:
- Teary eyes
- Decreased appetite
- Dropping food out of their mouths
- Weight loss
- Abscesses on the cheeks
When a rabbit is feeling stressed or anxious, there’s a good chance it’ll start grating its teeth together.
Usually, this is accompanied by other stress- or fear-induced behaviors such as hiding, thumping, alert ears, flattening, overgrooming, and freezing up.
The thing about bunnies is that they’re very easily stressed and frightened. Here are a bunch of situations that can cause your bunny to chatter its teeth:
- Sudden, loud noises.
- Sudden, excessively bright lights.
- Moving to a new home.
- Too frequent handling by people.
- A too-small hutch.
- A too-dirty hutch.
- Lack of physical and mental stimulation.
- Changing the feeding and playtime schedule.
- Being alone for too long.
- The presence of other pets nearby.
- Off-routine experiences such as riding a car or going to the vet.
- A too-hot hutch with poor ventilation.
- Off-routine experiences such as riding a car or going to the vet.
- Losing or being parted from a friend they bonded with.
- Not being allowed to roam outside of the hutch frequently or for enough time..
- Getting bullied by other rabbits in the same hutch.
When your rabbit is feeling sick or in pain, they’ll express it by chattering their teeth together.
Various common conditions may affect your bunny and cause this behavior such as gastrointestinal stasis, heatstroke, snuffles, bacterial infections, and bloat.
You may also notice other symptoms or body language cues accompanying teeth chattering in the pet rabbit that can alert you to the presence of a problem. These include:
- Lack of energy
- Sitting in a hunched position
- Not eating as much
- Lack of balance
- Breathing through the mouth
- A snotty nose
- No or limited poops
If you suspect that your rabbit is chattering their teeth due to pain, you should act quickly and set up a visit to your vet so they can identify the cause and provide a diagnosis.
Yes, you can check your pet rabbit’s teeth at home to detect major changes and signs of dental problems. Here’s how:
- While petting your bunny, focus on massaging their cheeks to feel their cheekbones and jawline. Check for swelling or bumps.
- After that, pull back the bunny’s lips carefully using your index finger and thumb.
- Then, examine the incisors (front teeth) to make sure they’re even. These teeth shouldn’t be curling, too long, or with a gap.
Perform this check-up once every week to keep track of your rabbit’s dental health.
There you have it, a complete guide to answer the question “why is my rabbit grinding his teeth?”.
As you can tell by now, teeth grinding in rabbits can be a good or bad thing, so you need to keep an eye out for other signs.
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.