Your rabbits have a whole wide range of different ways to communicate with both other rabbits and with you, and not all of these are obvious to the new rabbit keeper! Rabbits tend to play their cards close to their chests, and as potential prey animals in the wild, it is not in their best interests to make a lot of noise and fuss, in order to avoid drawing attention to themselves!
If your rabbit seems to behave oddly on occasion or you are not quite sure how to interpret the things that they do, getting a quick rundown of the common bunny behaviours and what they mean can be very helpful. Read on to learn more about the different ways in which rabbits communicate, and what their sometimes odd behaviour means!
The rabbit dance
When rabbits are very excited or happy, they display a distinctive dance that is sometimes called binkying, and it is very hard to mistake once you have seen it once! A binkying rabbit will be full of the joys of spring, bounding about, jumping up high and twisting about in the air, kicking their feet out. Some rabbits work up to their binkying gradually, while other will suddenly get going from a sideways start with no warning! These displays can be very entertaining to watch, and show you that your rabbit is happy and having fun.
You have probably seen a dog or a cat having a “funny five minutes” when they suddenly start to zoom around and act crazy for no particular reason, before flumping out! Rabbits do exactly the same thing, and seeing your rabbit run a few circuits around the room at top speed is something that you will soon get used to, and is one of the ways in which rabbits burn off their excess energy.
Rabbits have shorts bursts of energy, and then like to have a little nap, so you may sometimes spot your rabbit all of a sudden just flopping down as if they are exhausted, and having a little rest! There are few things cuter than a sleeping bunny, and rabbit owners can often spend a long time simply watching and admiring their pets while they are asleep.
Licking and grooming
Rabbits are clean little animals that spend a lot of time grooming their own coats, and in social groups, rabbits will also groom each other. Domestic rabbits that feel secure and that have bonded well with their owners may even go as far as licking and grooming you as well, which is a great compliment and a sign of trust and love.
Rabbits, for all that they are not noisy animals, do have a wide range of vocal sounds at their disposal! One of these is a honking sound that rabbits may use to indicate excitement or happiness, and is often performed while walking round in a circle. If two rabbits are circling each other and honking, this may be the start of the mating dance that rabbits go through before breeding.
If you are grooming or petting your rabbit and they start grinding their teeth together, do not be afraid that they are getting ready to bite you! Rabbits sometimes grind their teeth when they are content and happy, and this can often be observed when your rabbit is totally relaxed.
However, tooth grinding may also be a sign of pain or dental discomfort, and it is important to be able to tell the difference between contented tooth grinding and that associated with pain.
If your rabbit’s posture is relaxed with their feet stretched out behind them, your rabbit is likely happy, but if they are grinding their teeth while hunched up, unhappy looking or tense, get them checked out by your vet.
Did you know that rabbits can growl? Well they can! It often comes as a surprise to the rabbit novice to learn that these cute, fluffy pets can growl in the same way that dogs can, and often for similar reasons! Rabbits growl when they are stressed, or feeling defensive or threatened. If your rabbit is growling at you, review what you are doing that might be stressing your rabbit out, and respond accordingly.
Rabbits will sometimes kick the ground with their hind legs, which produces a kind of thumping sound. This forms a method of communication with other rabbits in the area, and may mean that your rabbit feels unsafe of threatened, and is trying to warn others.
Hopefully you will never ever hear a rabbit shriek, because shrieking is a sign of serious pain or extreme fear. Rabbits have very small, fast-beating little hearts, and significant stress, pain or fear can actually kill them, and so you should take every step possible to ensure that your rabbit never feels so unhappy that they shriek or scream.