When you spend enough time with your rabbits, you’d notice that they do have a unique way of expressing how they feel. You’ll eventually somehow understand what they are thinking or feeling based on the different actions that they do. Here’s a list of common actions that will hopefully help you understand what your rabbit is trying to say.
GROOMING: The frequent responsibility. Rabbits will groom numerous times a day. They start of with licking their front paws, then their nose, head, ears, until they get to their tail. Grooming is a telltale sign to see if a rabbit is comfortable in its environment. It is also a sign that the rabbit is healthy. If your rabbit is not grooming, it might be uncomfortable or sick.
LICKING: I like you! When rabbits lick you that means that they are grooming you. This is an expression of appreciation and love because rabbits only lick other rabbits that they’ve grown closely attached to. But don’t fret if your rabbit hasn’t licked you yet. Some are just not lickers no matter how much they've become attached.
BUNNY FLOP: This is the life! Rabbits usually do a bunny flop after a satisfying meal or a happy playtime. They will usually roll over and flop on their side or on their back. But if your rabbit has grown extremely fond of you, he or she may flop right beside you when you pet him.
BINKY: I’m so happy I could fly! A binky is an acrobatic move that rabbits do wherein they throw themselves in the air, sometimes even twisting their head and their torso mid-air. When they do binkies, they are super crazy happy! It’s really a wonderful thing to see firsthand.
BUTT TWITCHING: This tastes so good! If a rabbit is really enjoying what he is eating, his butt (or lower back portion) will start twitching. We notice this on some of our rabbits when they are eating their cecotropes or when they are eating bananas. Unfortunately, not all rabbits do this cute reaction so don’t worry if your rabbit doesn’t.
BUZZING/HONKING: I love you! Please be mine. Rabbits who are not yet altered will usually make this sound while circling you or another rabbit. This is their way of expressing their intention to mate. Think of it like a rabbit’s “love song.” If you put your hand under your rabbit during this time, he (or even she!) will mount and hump your hand so be careful! On the other hand, for unaltered rabbits, buzzing usually is heard when they are excited, mostly when they they know their favorite food is coming.
CHIN RUBBING: This is mine. Rabbits have a scent gland under their chin. If you see them rubbing their chins on objects, they are actually “owning” them. They can claim ownership of your phones, your shoes, or even you!
TEETH GRINDING/PURRING (+): I’m feeling happy. Rabbits lightly grind their teeth when they are currently enjoying something. This is similar to how cats purr. Rabbits usually do this right after a satisfying meal or when they’re lying down on the floor relaxing. They also purr when you pet them on their favorite spots, usually their foreheads and cheeks!
TEETH GRINDING (-): I’m in pain. When a rabbit is not moving or reacting to any stimuli while grinding its teeth, it might be suffering from intense pain or discomfort. When this happens, check your rabbit to see if he is okay.
NOSE POKE (+): Hey! I’m right here! If your rabbit wants to get your attention, he will start poking you with his nose. Your rabbit was nice enough to come and ask for some attention, so reward him with pets and lots of attention.
NOSE POKE (-): Please get out of my way. Rabbits may also poke to tell you that you're in its way. This can be accompanied with some nibbling or light biting if the rabbit gets irritated or frustrated. So don’t just sit there, move!
THUMPING/STOMPING: Danger! When rabbits detect possible danger, they hit the floor hard with their hind feet making a loud thump sound. There are some cases too, when male rabbits thump repeatedly expressing their intention to mate.
GROWLING: Don’t you dare… They may seem to be very timid creatures, but rabbits can be very territorial especially if unaltered. If you are getting into their space and they don’t want to be bothered, they will growl at you. Proceed with caution!
SQUEAL/SCREAMING: Ouch! It hurts! Once you hear your rabbit squeeling, please check on him immediately and consult your vet. Squeeling is a clear sign that there is an emergency and that they are suffering from extreme pain.
SITTING UP: I think it’s safe… When they are sitting up with their front legs firmly planted on the ground, they are scouting for any incoming threats. They usually do this right before they start grooming themselves or if they are scouting the area before they roam around.
STANDING (AFAR): I wanna see… Rabbits stand up to get a better view of their environment. Sometimes, when you leave the room, you might notice them doing this because they’re probably looking for you.
STANDING (BESIDE YOU): Gimme, gimme! If your rabbit is standing beside you, chances are you have some food or treats with you. This is their way of asking you to hand over the goodies. If they’re inside their cage or pen, they will also stand and look at you with their adorable no-on-can-resist looks to beg for some free time around the room.
BUNNY LOAF: Time to get some shut eye.. When rabbits look like a loaf of bread with feet tucked under their body, eyelids half open, ears at rest and toes peeping out, most likely they are or will be taking a snooze. Better be quiet and let your rabbit rest.
FULL SPRAWL: Now for some relaxation… When rabbits are extremely relaxed, they lay down on their tummy with their legs stretched out and with their head flat on the floor. Most often they may fall asleep in this position.
HEAD DOWN: Please groom me! When your rabbit comes to you and puts his head down on the ground, he’s asking you to groom or pet him. Happily fulfil his request by gently stroking his head or back. If you don’t respond, he might start poking you to get your attention.
ABOUT FACE!: I don’t like you right now. If you do something that is not to your rabbit’s liking, it will turn its back on you. Rabbits often do this after a session of nail clipping or when you brush them and they aren’t in the mood for it.
EARS ARE BOTH UP: What’s that I hear? When both ears are straight up, your rabbit must have heard something he's interested in. It could be a sound of an unfamiliar person walking by, or the ruffling sound of some fresh lettuce coming from the fridge.
ONE EAR UP, ONE EAR DOWN: I’m listening, but not really. When one ear is up and the other ear is down, your rabbit is listening but is not really that interested in what’s going on. He's paying only a little bit of attention because he might be too sleepy to do so.
EARS ARE BOTH DOWN: Please do not disturb me… When both ears are down, your rabbit is being an introvert and shutting himself off from the world. Better to give him some space. When he wants some attention, he’ll come running to you again.
EARS SHAKING (+): Let’s play! Rabbits express their excitement by shaking their head and ears. This is their way of inviting you to play with them. Rabbits often do this when they want to be let out of their cage and get extremely excited for playtime!
EARS SHAKING (-): It’s so itchy! Rabbits may also shake their ears because they feel itchy. Thorough scratching of the ears usually follows this. Please check immediately for signs of mites or fungus infection.
There you have it.
It's really helpful to know what your rabbit is feeling and thinking so you know how to react. Rabbits are very sensitive, but if they learn to trust and love you, they can be the sweetest companions you’ll ever have.