It’s important to understand your rabbit’s behavior or at least get a good idea on how to decode their body language in order to meet their needs well. Rabbits make wonderful pets but are unlike cats, dogs and other popular companion animals.
- Binkying (Twisting jumps)- Excited rabbits will will run, jump, and twist in the air. This is called a binky. Your bunny is happy and excited.
- Biting- Biting usually means they are scared or angry. Bunnies could potentially bite you if they don’t want to be held, if their space if being invaded and they’re already warned you to leave their space. Especially if they feel threatened by anything such as an aggressive dog while you are handling them. Give them space if you’ve been bitten, remove any threat, such as another animal, come back later with a treat and reassess. Never hit reprimand your rabbit. That will only make the bonding process harder. Bunnies do not talk, they use body language to communicate. It’s not their fault.
- Buzzing sound- If your rabbit is making a buzzing sound, it usually means they are happy or ready to mate. Fixed bunnies can still make this sound.
- Chinning- Rabbits have a scent gland under their chin. If you see them rubbing their chin on things, they are marking their territory. Their scent glands give off a scent (we can’t smell it) to let other bunnies know the item has been claimed.
- Circling- Circling can be courting behavior or they simply just want your attention.
- Grunting- Grunts typically means they are unhappy or angry about something going on around them. If they feel threatened they may grunt, lunge, scratch, or even bite. Bunnies can be territorial of their things such as food or their den space, where they sleep often. If you are cleaning out their area while they are inside of it and they begin grunting you can move them to a different area while you clean and put them back when they’re done. It’s best to give them space when they are grunting at you. Pregnant does often grunt when they’re pregnant as well.
- Honking- This can be a sign of happiness or courting behavior.
- Flopping- Bunnies will flop on their sides when they are very comfortable and sleepy. They feel completely safe and relaxed.
- Frog legs- Bunnies will stretch out and have their front and back legs all the way out. They feel completely safe and relaxed.
- Licking- This is a sign you bunny really likes you and it content/happy.
- Lunging- This mostly happens when they feel you are invading their territory such as reaching your hand in to feed them. They are being territorial. Some ways to get them used to it is to have a treat noticeable in your hand. Open the cage and let them run up to you before sticking your hand in. Slowly and gently hand them the treat just outside of the cage door. When they approach you, be sure to give them head rubs so they associate cage opening with something good. Lunging typically happens before biting or scratching as a warning sign.
- Mounting- Mounting is to usually show dominance or if not fixed yet, they could be trying to mate. Boys and girls will mount the same sex and the opposite sex. Mounting does not always mean “mating”.
- Nipping- Is more like a nibble, it can mean your bunny is happy to see you or excited. Nipping doesn’t break the skin, like a bite. Bunnies will do this to each other when they’re grooming. Males will also do this to females on the back of the neck when they are actively mating.
- Nose bumps- Bunnies will nudge you when they want some or more pets.
- Playing- Bunnies will grab toys with their mouth and throw them. They will jump, run and flop around. Bunnies also love to dig in dig boxes.
- Ripping up carpet- Some bunnies will dig, including scratching carpet. Give you bunnies more toys, a dig box and other items to give them other things to do.
- Screeching- Bunnies will scream if they are in a lot of pain or suddenly scared.
- Spraying- Almost all unfixed boys spray, especially in their litter box or den area. Girls can leave urine marks but it’s not as common. Fixing you rabbit will help with their hormones and typically stop this behavior.
- Thumping- Unfixed males will thump around other bunnies to show dominance, let them know they are there or if they’re having an issue with anything in their environment. Bunnies will sometimes thump when you put them down to get your attention.
- Tooth clicking- This is similar to a cat purr. It means your bunny is very happy and content. It’s noticeable when you’re holding your bunny.
- Tooth grinding- There is a difference between tooth clicking and tooth grinding. Clicking is more of a purring sound. Tooth grinding means they are in pain. Usually this will be accompanied by them looking very sickly. Hunched over, eyes closed, and not very active. If this is happening, immediately seek a vet.
Bonding with your rabbit
It can take some time to bond with your bunny when you first bring them home. Some bunnies adjust very quickly and some take time. It really depends on their social background, how they were raised and their genetic predispositions.
Bunnies who come from shelters are often there because they were abandoned and abused. There are always gems. I have rescued bunnies myself from families and shelters. However, they often require a lot of social work in order to become their authentic relaxed selves. Bunnies in these situations often take a long time to become well socialized and “unlearn” their past experiences.
Bunnies that are handled from birth and well socialized are much, much easier to continue to socialize once you bring them home. These bunnies are well rounded and are usually easy to handle or like being held.
Remember, when you first bring any bunny home, they will need time to adjust no matter what their background is.