Rabbit Behavior

Rabbits have their own language and sometimes it’s hard to understand them. They’re not like cats and dogs, nor can they understand commands like they do. Here are some tips on interpreting their behavior.

  • Bunny Hop/Binky/Flop – A sign of pure joy and happiness. This “dancing” includes leaping and spinning in the air and racing around. A bunny flop is very comical and indicates a contented and relaxed rabbit. Keep in mind that some rabbits may lay on their backs with their feet in the air, they may do this when in complete bliss but never lay them involuntarily on their backs. Here’s proof!
  • Standing on hind legs – Checking their surroundings, but also used for begging. Rabbits are worse than dogs when it comes to begging, especially for sweets. Beware of giving them too many treats as an overweight rabbit is not healthy. Stay away from yogurt drops or any dairy “rabbit treats”.
  • Chinning – Rabbits rub their chins (which contain scent glands) on items to rub their scent on them. This indicates that the items belong to them and also defines their territory. The scent is undetectable to humans.
  • Thumping or Stomping – The rabbit is frightened, mad or sensing danger (real or imagined). Rabbits are often displeased when you rearrange their things. They are creatures of habit and when they get things just right, they like them to remain that way and may thump in anger if rearranged.
  • Teeth Grinding/chattering – Generally, teeth grinding, also known as teeth purring, is an indication of a content rabbit. Rabbits gently grind their teeth when they are being petter and are happy. However, if you hear loud teeth grinding or popping sounds it could an indication of pain or tooth discomfort. If you hear this often, please make sure to take your rabbit to a vet.
  • Circling your feet – Usually indicates sexual behavior (even when neutered) but basically means “I love you”.
  • Spraying – Un-neutered males will mark female rabbits and their territory in this manner. Unspayed females can also spray. Cooper sprayed me before being neutered, so when your rabbit starts spraying you or your walls, you’ll know it’s time for a snip!
  • Playing – Rabbits like to push or toss objects around. They may also race madly around the house, jump on and off the couch and act like a child that has had too much sugar. Rabbits love toys and will play for hours with a favorite toy.
  • Grunts – Usually angry, or when a rabbit feels threatened. Sometimes followed by a nip or bite.
  • Territorial Droppings – Droppings that are not in a pile, but scattered, are signs that that territory belongs to them. This may sometimes occur upon entering a new environment or if another rabbit is brought into the house. It may be temporary or ongoing, and can sometimes indicate that the rabbit needs further litter box training.
  • Shrill Scream – Hurt or dying. Seek IMMEDIATE medical attention.
  • False Pregnancy – Unspayed females may sometimes build a nest and pull fur from their chest and stomach to line the nest with. It sometimes is normal for some rabbits, but if you’re concerned, check with your vet.
  • Nipping/Biting – A nip is gentler than a bite. Rabbits will nip to get your attention or to politely ask you to move out of their way. Bites are harder. Rabbits usually don’t bite, but if one does, it must be stopped immediately. If a rabbit bites, it’s not because it hates you, many reasons within a rabbit’s social structure bring about a bite. A rabbit may also accidentally bite while tugging at your clothes. Whatever the reason, if you get bit, you must immediately let out a shrill cry. Rabbits do this when they are hurt. Since they don’t intend to hurt you, they’ll be surprised that you have cried out and will usually stop the behavior after a few times.