Are you thinking about getting a pet, and not just any pet but a little bunny? Have you always wondered what those cute gestures and sounds made by rabbits mean? Do you want to be an expert at interpreting your rabbit behaviour? Then you need to educate yourself on what we call the rabbit behaviour (don’t worry, this should be fun!).
Rabbits are actually one of the easiest animals to train, add that to their natural cuteness and you have yourself “the perfect pet” This article will provide you with all the information on rabbit’s behaviour.
Rabbits belong to the Leporidae family and they are mammals. The only genus of domesticated rabbits is called “Oryctolagus cuniculus” – the European rabbit.
Trying to domesticate a wild rabbit might prove to be a fruitless effort, so leave them in the wild, will you? If your rabbit is male, then he’s called a buck. If it’s female, then she’s called a doe and a baby rabbit is called a kit. Like human babies, rabbits are born blind and hairless, but their vision and hair develop naturally as they grow. Their ears occupy 12% of their body mass and they have an acute sense of hearing.
Having a rabbit as a pet means you’ll have to communicate with it frequently. Rabbits are highly intelligent; not only are they aware of their environment, they are playful and can recognise humans and other rabbits as well. Even if your rabbit is deaf, you can still communicate with it through hand signals.
Rabbits communicate by;
- Tooth purring: When your rabbit makes a light, rapid grinding and vibrating sound with its teeth, know it is satisfied. Rabbits can distinguish between food items by “grazing” them. Because of this sensitivity and the fact that they can only breathe through their nose, they dislike being touched anywhere close to their nose. It is normal for domesticated rabbits to eat at dawn and at dusk (morning and night).
- Oinking/honking: This is the sound the rabbit uses to gain attention for food, or when it wants to mate. The rabbit can also nuzzle/nudge a person’s hand or foot with its nose to gain attention.
- Wheezing/whiffing: This is how your rabbits talks to you. This is your bunny’s way of making conversation. They are initiated by interactions with you.
- Whimpering/squealing: This is in form of a high-pitched cry. The rabbit does this when it doesn’t want to be touched, or during pregnancy. The rabbit can also shake its head or ears or even shudder its body when it doesn’t want to be handled or if it is perceiving an unpleasant odour.
- Chinning: The rabbit rubs secretion from its scent glands on its chin when it is scent-marking a possession; it could be animate or inanimate objects. Does attain sexual maturity earlier than bucks. Their sexual maturity depends on their size rather than the age. Rabbits use scent-marking to exhibit their sexual behaviours. Urine spraying and chinning are sexual forms of communication.
- Circling: This is a social or sexual behaviour by the rabbit on another rabbit or human feet while honking. The female rabbits may respond to sexual advances by circling or flattening their abdomen to the floor.
- Scratching and nipping: When a rabbit scratches the floor with its forepaws it means it wants attention. It is probably saying, “pick me up”. And when it nips, it’s means, “drop me” or “scoot over”.
- Flopping: This is a signature of rabbits. When the head is extended, paws tucked in, chin touching the floor, it means it wants to be pet by its owner or groomed by another rabbit.
- Scanning: If the rabbit has an impaired vision, it may tilt its head from side to side to properly scan the area around it.
- Screaming: Yes, your rabbit can scream and when it does, it’s signalling danger, fear or pain.
- Kicking: This is a defence mechanism for rabbits. It occurs when they feel unsafe about being picked up, or are probably in an unfamiliar environment and want to escape, they tend to kick ferociously. This action can impair their buttocks area, so you might want to offer support to this area.
- Isolation: A rabbit is inherently a social animal and it finds it easy to exist in a large group. When a rabbit isolates itself, it is probably sick.
- Snorting or growling: This is a defence posture for rabbits. When the body is upright and tensed, the tails stretched out and the ears laid back, know the rabbit is ready for war! Probably in form of a lunge-bite attack.
- Teeth grinding: If the rabbit makes a slow, loud teeth crunching sound, sometimes accompanied by bulging eyes, it means it is in pain, is sick or experiencing discomfort.
- Thumping: This sound is used to send a danger signal to other rabbits of imminent danger.
- Flattening: this is a posture a rabbit adopts as a response to fear. It flattens its abdomen onto the floor with ears laid back against the head and eyes bulging.
As a pet owner, you can adopt some of these behaviours to improve your level of communication with your bunny and to speed up the pet training process. Good luck!