Rabbit behavior can be difficult to interpret. Rabbits, unlike other pets like cats or dogs, are naturally prey animals, meaning that in the wild, they are constantly being hunted. Thus, much of their body language and other behavioral patterns relate to being on the alert for predators. Rabbits, though, are very intelligent and subtly expressive creatures, and this is far from the only thing they communicate through behavior. You should be familiar with the various ways in which your rabbit behaves.
Rabbits are generally perceived to be silent animals. While this is largely true, rabbits are certainly capable of “speaking out” when they are compelled to. Here are some examples of sounds you may hear your rabbit making and what they mean:
- Growling: A rabbit may growl when he is angry. This could happen if he doesn’t like the way he is being handled, or feels that someone is invading his territory.
- Tooth Clicking: A gentle clicking of the teeth is a way for your rabbit to indicate contentment.
- Tooth Grinding or Squealing and Whimpering: This can be an indication of pain or discomfort.
- Screaming: This indicates fear. Your rabbit may see a predator or something else that threatens his life.
The primary way your rabbit communicates is with his body. Rabbits can display a host of behaviors:
- Digging: Digging is a common rabbit behavior and one of the most frustrating for owners. Rabbits are natural diggers and do it for a few reasons. First, rabbits in the wild live in burrows, so your rabbit may be just thinking of shelter when he digs. Also, your rabbit may just be digging a shallow hole to leave feces in as a way of marking territory. Finally, your rabbit may be looking for something like food, or dirt to roll in.
- Thumping: Your rabbit may sometimes stomp its hind legs and make a very loud, repeated sound. This odd behavior is a warning sign to other rabbits of approaching predators or danger.
- Ear Positions: Rabbits are able to use their ears in a wide range of motion. Depending on how they are being used, the position of the ears can mean a lot.
- Forward: If your rabbit’s ears are perked forward, he is listening intently. If one is and the other isn’t, he’s half interested.
- Back: This could either mean your rabbit is resting or angry. Use the rest of his body language to determine which.
- Nose Nudge: This means your rabbit is either trying to get by an obstacle or wants to be petted.
- Chinning: If your rabbit is rubbing his chin on objects or other rabbits, he is actually marking it as his territory with a scent gland under his chin.
- Rearranging: If your rabbit is constantly moving objects around in his habitat, it doesn’t mean he’s unhappy with the setup. Rabbits are natural organizers, they love to move things around and keep them neat.