BEHAVIOUR CARE

How Do Rabbits Communicate?

Every animal communicates, even your floppy eared friend. The Rabbit can be a talkative creature. The rabbit will use different vocalizations depending on what they need or how they are feeling. As a rabbit owner, it may be difficult to understand your rabbit’s communications.

Although you will often hear that a rabbit is a quiet pet, do not let them fool you. They can chitter and chatter quite loudly. They have a amazing variety of rabbit sounds and noises.  It is not just vocalizations that your rabbit will make. They do speak to you and other animals by touch also.

Sounds They Make

Rabbits Communication

Growling

It should not be the least bit surprising that your rabbit, just like other animals, will growl. This growling sound means the same no matter what animal you may be thinking about. The growl likely means they are angry and they want to be left alone.

Purring

Yes, a rabbit purrs. The purring sound is similar to that of a cat. When you hear a cat purr, you know automatically that it is a happy animal. This is no different with a rabbit.

Squeaking

The sound may make you think that there are mice around the rabbit cage or hutch. That is not the case. You will often hear the squeak when two rabbits are near each other. The squeaking signifies that they have a close bond or relationship.

Teeth Grinding

You would need to be very close to your rabbit to hear him or her grind its teeth. Most often what loud teeth grinding means is that the rabbit does not feel well or is in a lot of pain. It will usually mean both. There are actually two forms of teeth grinding. One is the soft grinding, which you will seldom hear unless you are really close. This soft grinding of the teeth means that they are content and happy.

Softly squealing or whimpering

Your rabbit may be upset, mildly annoyed or not happy with some situation.

Grunting, Snorting or a Hissing Sound

Rabbits Communication

When you hear any of these sounds coming from a rabbit, you may want to stay back a little ways. Each one of these vocalizations mean stress, anger, or they feel threatened. If the feeling continues, they may lunge at you or even nip at you. An actual bite may even take place.

Softly honking or Oinking

For rabbits this means that they have found a potential partner and that they are sexually interested in another rabbit near them. However, if your rabbit is honking, oinking or circling you, it is time to call the vet and arrange to have your rabbit neutered.

Screaming

It may be difficult to comprehend this, but a rabbit will scream. They will scream loudly. This is an immediate signal to call the vet and get your rabbit in to see his or her vet immediately. This is a sign of extreme pain or fear. As stated, a rabbit does not just vocalize. They use other means to communicate also. Some may be by way of touching you, maybe running after you or a variety of others.

Thumping

A rabbit will make unusually loud sounds when they are thumping their feet. Thumping is a way they use to communicate danger to other rabbits in the wild. It may also mean that they are extremely annoyed with you. This is also another manner in which the rabbit will let you know that they are scared.

Chin Rubbing

Most animals have scent gland in their cheeks or other facial areas. If you notice that your rabbit is rubbing their chin against inanimate objects or even rubbing their chin on humans, they are attempting to mark their territory with their scent glands. The humans around the rabbit will not smell the scent that is rubbed on. This is strictly for communication with other rabbits. They are letting all other rabbits know to stay away because whatever they marked their scent on is theirs.

Binky

Binky is an odd form of communication. It is something of a slight jump while twisting their body or kicking their legs up at the same time. It may sound silly, but it could easily be considered a rabbit’s ‘happy dance’.  What they are trying to let you know is that they are happy and love life.

Licking

This is not something you see too often with a rabbit. They will however lick you. This is showing complete acceptance and letting you know that they love you.

Circling your Feet or Following You

Rabbits Communication

This could mean a couple of different things. Innocently, they may be trying to get your attention. It may be their way of saying, ‘Let’s play’. However, most of the time, what it means is that they love you and are sexually interested. This means that you had better make an appointment with your vet to have your rabbit spayed or neutered. Learn all about spaying and neutering rabbits on our blog.

Flattening Their Body

If you see this happening, be aware of your surroundings. The rabbit will only do this when they are so terrified that they are trying to blend in with the environment around them. When they are in this position, they will be tense and stressed. Even their head will be flat and ears as flat as possible to the side of their head.

Flopping Over

At times this can be scary. Especially when you do not understand what they are doing. Your floppy eared friend may be sitting next to you, they may be grooming or eating, then all of a sudden your bunny will flop over on its side. As though something morbid happened. This is just a way of telling you how relaxed they truly are. They just want to lay down and be cozy and rest.

Lunging

Lunging can be a terrifying thing when it happens. If your rabbit makes a sudden jump towards you with their head up, ears back and tail up, they are being extremely straightforward and telling you that they feel threatened and they need to protect themselves.

Rabbits have many methods to communicate with you or with other rabbits. Some are obviously done while the rabbit is in a great mood, and they want to show you some love. Sometimes, your floppy eared friend may be very unhappy. At this time, they will not hesitate to let you hear that also.

If you suspect that there is something not right about your rabbit, please, please call your vet and take your rabbit in to be checked. Sometimes if they are sick you are going to want them checked well before the problem becomes worse.

Complex

Rabbits Communication

A Rabbit does have a complex way of speaking. In other words, there doesn’t seem to be not that much difference between a rabbit and other animals. For most animals it is the way they use the ability. But, for the most part, once you know your rabbit, you will begin to understand the different ways that they try to talk to you. They love to play, love to follow you and when they feel the love, you will feel it too.

Rabbits will also use their ears as a sort of radar. When they are unsure of things, their ears will be up and they will be on guard. They will move their ears one at a time, if they are intrigued, interested in something or just want to take a rest.

It may not seem right, but your rabbit will even wag its tail. When you see your little floppy eared friend wagging his or her tail, be prepared. This little one is being slightly defiant. This may mean that they do not want to go back to their cage, or they are just giving you a little back talking as kids often do to their parents.

One other manner of communication a rabbit will use is when they arrive in a new place. On a normal basis, a rabbit will normally stack their droppings. This is their way of saying each spot in the cage has its own purpose and stacking the dropping would be their restroom. However, when a rabbit starts dropping their droppings everywhere, this means they are basically marking territory. This is the same if they begin to urinate anywhere they choose. They want everyone to know what is their territory and that they will protect it.

Simply stated, if you learn to watch your rabbit, and listen; you will be sure to know what your rabbit is saying to you at all times. From the good and the bad to the loving and friendly, we only need to listen and watch. However, once again, if you suspect that something is wrong, even minor pain, be sure to call your rabbit’s vet and make an appointment so that your rabbit can be checked.

You must also remember that when in the wild, a rabbit lives by a hierarchy. Those in charge remain in charge, they are the head of the group.

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