Thursday, May 19, 2011

How to understand bunny language

Here is a list of different movements and noises that bunnies make and what the bunny is saying when they make them:


Grunting or low growl: Get away, I am ANGRY! (grunting is a warning, and with most rabbits a bit would be coming next!)

Chuckle (sounds like a laugh and with Munchkin, he almost sounds like a goat): I am very, very, HAPPY! (for Munchkin it means he is about to do something naughty!)

Grinding or crunching their teeth: I am very content! (most rabbits do this when they are being stroked just how they like, or when they are just very content and happy)

Persistent grinding of the teeth: Ouch! (persistent grinding means your rabbit is in pain)

Other noises rabbits make are moaning and even screaming. Both of those mean that the rabbit is either extremely frightened or in a lot of pain and should be taken to a vet as soon as possible.

Ear movements:

Ears forward and erect: I am listening to something that I am curious about, or showing you that I am  paying attention to you.

Just one ear forward and erect: I am sort of interested in something but not enough to use both my ears.

Ears held together very far back: I am very UPSET! Watch out!

Ears just flopped down in a relaxed manner: I am just relaxed and taking a rest. 

Note: if you own a lop-eared rabbit, they do not have the same range of motion with their ears as other bunnies and you will have to pay attention to other signs instead of their ears to know what the rabbit is communicating.


Bunny's tail held upright, and very stiff: I am furious and considering biting you! Get away!...

or it also means the rabbit may be urinating.

Munchkin holds his tail up in an aggressive manner when he rearranges his towels. (because they just don't want to stay the way he wants! He finds it quite frustrating)

The rest of the time bunnies keep their tails relaxed.

Biting and nipping:

So first there is a difference between biting and nipping. If you rabbit didn't draw blood he obviously didn't have his heart in it and was not biting, only nipping. When rabbits bite and draw blood they mean business and they are obviously very upset. But nipping can mean many things:

I am angry
I am playing with you (especially if they are just nipping clothes)
I am trying to get your attention! Pet me!

Other body language:

Stomping back feet: I am warning you that I am not happy with you, or I am warning you that there is danger! (basically the rabbit is either scared or angry)

Freezing: Something scared me! I must not move! (when a rabbit is keeping very still with its eyes all wide it is definitely freezing and something has scared it)

Kicking back feet: Stop trying to pick me up, or I have had enough with you. (some rabbits do do this when they are just playing I have noticed)

Standing up on hind legs: What's that? I am very curious!

Jumping in the air and running around and being generally goofy and acrobatic: I am HAPPY and having FUN!!!! Yipee! (Munchkin does this most often right after he has done something naughty) (it seems he likes to be bad!)

The bunny flop (flopping over onto back and side and possibly taking a nap right after): I am soooo content and happy!

Lambchopping ( laying down and stretching out  their feet): I feel very relaxed and safe! (when rabbits do not feel completely safe and comfortable they will not do this because when they have their feet stretched out it is difficult to run away quickly.)

Smacking the floor with front feet and shaking their front feet: I am about to groom myself. 

Touching noses with you: You are my friend, I love you!

Licking you: I love you, so I am grooming you. (they may also be begging to be groomed themselves) (when you stroke and pet a rabbit they think of it as being groomed)

Running crazy circles around your feet: I LOVE you! (this is what rabbits do when they want to mate) (generally only unuetered males will do this circling behavior) (be careful when your rabbit does this, they can get pretty agitated and may bite)

Throwing things, shredding things, pushing things, etc.: I am playing, better make sure you have bunny proofed or I may start playing with electrical chords and furniture!

Doing a bunny flop up against you: I trust you completely and feel perfectly safe with you and I am very happy.

Digging: Just playing and doing what comes naturally. (it is a natural behavior of rabbits to dig. If your rabbit is constantly digging things that you don't want them too, provide them with a special box filled with hay, aspen shavings, or some other kind of bedding or litter for them to dig in. )

Rubbing their chins on things: This is mine. (rabbits have scent glands in their chins, so they rub them on things that they want to claim as their own

Bumping things with their nose: Just playing

Bumping you with their nose: I am acknowledging that you are there. I am showing you that I am not ignoring you. (in a rabbit world, walking past, or hopping I should say, another  rabbit without touching that rabbit to acknowledge their presence is considered rude) ( and may make the bunny being ignored angry)


Rabbits' noses communicate too:

Slowly twitching: I am just relaxed and breathing normally

Rapidly twitching: I am very exhausted or scared, or very excited and curious.

1 comment:

  1. What a great guide - I can't think of anything you might have missed. Munchkin sure does a lot of the happy stuff.
    Love and hugs,