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What is that Rabbit trying to say? - Rabbit Behavior 101

Rabbits don't say much out loud. Sometimes they purr when
they are happy, by rubbing their teeth together, courting
rabbits make snorts, honks, and grunts, very upset rabbits
may growl, and a terrified or injured rabbit may scream in a
way that is spine-chilling, but otherwise we seldom hear
much from them beyond the sounds of chewing.

But that doesn't mean that rabbits can't communicate. Not at
all. Rabbits have plenty to say, we just have to learn
their language, which is body language. Rabbits also can
learn the meaning of some of our words even though they
can't talk back, so communication with your pet rabbit is
most certainly possible and advisable, and just plain more

If you have any experience with a pet rabbit, you will
recognize many of the actions below, but you may not have
known what the rabbit was trying to say. We hope this
information helps you have an even better relationship with
your bunnies now and in the future.

Knowing your rabbit's responses will help you, also, to know
what most stresses your pet so that you can give it the best
life possible. Rabbits are prey animals to nearly every meat
eater in the wild, so they have very sensitive natures.
Their eyes are designed so that they can see all around them
and even behind them, except directly in front of their
face. Their hearing is much more sensitive than ours, and
they also can smell many things we can't. And by instinct
they are always watching for danger. All this combines to
make them nervous and easily frightened, so communicate with
your rabbit in a quiet calm way and remove very stressful
things from its environment.

Thumping: If a rabbit is upset or frightened it may thump its
hind feet on the ground, hard! If you hear your rabbit
thumping, run quickly and stop whatever is upsetting it,
rabbits have actually thumped so hard that they broke their
own backs! Thumping is the way that wild rabbits alert the
rest of their colonies that a predator is approaching, so
your rabbit is just following its instincts when it thumps
out a warning.

Grooming: In rabbit society, the subordinates groom the
dominant rabbit. (Sounds like human society too, doesn't
it?) Though sometimes a dominant rabbits will "barber" a
subordinate's whiskers to show dominance. So if your rabbit
licks you, consider yourself groomed and appreciated. (I
guess that means that when you groom your rabbit you are
submitting to it?)

Circling Your Feet: This means that your bunny is reaching
puberty, and if you aren't a breeder, you should get it
spayed or neutered soon.

"Mad Hare-ing": Walking calmly, a rabbit suddenly jumps into
the air, twists around, lands gracefully, and continues on
its way. It looks a bit like it is acting in a Broadway
musical. Why? We think it is simply so full of the joy of
life that "It's gotta' dance."

Chinning: Male rabbits often rub their chins on objects and
people. Rabbits have a gland under the chin, like cats, that
puts a scent on whatever they rub. A rabbit that is chinning
is marking the item or person as its own favorite thing.

Nesting: Collecting hay and fur and making a nest is a sign
that a female rabbit is ready to have babies. If your rabbit
does this, give her a hay-filled nest box just in case, even
if you don't think she has been bred. If she isn't bred,
you'll still make her happier and more comfortable, and if
she was bred somehow without your knowledge she'll be able
to give birth properly. Rabbits thought to be female can
turn out to be males, so if she hasn't been alone, anything
is possible.

As you live with your rabbit, you will probably learn many
more subtle ways it communicates, such as ear position, head
angle, and body position. If you know that your rabbit is
almost always communicating and you pay attention, you
should understand rabbit fluently soon.

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