Rabbits have very unique ways of communicating how they feel with us, each other and other animals. They are very expressive with their body language and actions, which can bring immense joy as an owner to watch. Some body language is quite subtle, but when you learn how to spot it you will soon be able to recognise when you have done something pleasing, or indeed something very distasteful!
One of the best behaviours to witness is when your rabbit does a binky. When a rabbit binkies they jump up into the air coupled with a head shake or a flick of the back legs, more often they do both. Binkies can be displayed when your rabbit is running at high speed or from a complete stand still. A binky is a sign of great happiness and is an expression of their joy!
The flop is either done when you rabbit is about to sleep or just for the fun of it. Your rabbit will just flop completely on to their side. This is a sign of contentedness, only a rabbit that is very comfortable in their surroundings will do this as it puts them in a very vulnerable position.
Laying flat down head lowered
Rabbits adopt this position for a number of reasons and situations. This is usually a sign of submission, just before you are about to pick up your rabbit they can adopt this stance. You can also see this behaviour when a submissive rabbit is with the dominant rabbit.
It can also be seen when your rabbit wants to be groomed by their companion, in this situation both the dominant and submissive rabbit can display this behaviour.
A rabbit will thump its back legs to the floor creating a loud bang to alert others that there is danger around. Rabbits will also thump if they are unhappy with something you have done, for example, after picking up your rabbit they may thump when you let them go, this is a sign that they are not happy with you.
When a rabbit periscopes they stand on their back legs and stretch their body up looking around. Rabbits do this when they want to get a better look at something or if they have heard something they are unsure of they may adopt the meerkat position to give them a better vantage point.
A rabbit will make a grunting noise if it is very unhappy, this can be coupled with a charge. This signifies that your rabbit is very angry.
If your rabbit squeals it means that they are in a great deal of pain, if you hear your rabbit squealing something very serious has happened and you may need to seek veterinary help.
Rabbits have scent glands under their chins, so when they rub their chin over an object or you, they are marking their territory. Simply put they are saying “that’s mine”.
Flicking back feet
When a rabbit flicks their back feet it’s usually a sign of displeasure. They tend to do this when they are running away. So you have probably done something that your rabbit does not approve of and they are telling you in no uncertain terms!
If you see your rabbit looking almost like they are on their tip toes and motioning their head in an up and down movement, it’s probably because something has appeared that they are unsure of. Rabbits are inquisitive by nature so will want to check out what is now in their territory. This body language shows they are cautiously investigating an object they are unsure of, but can run away at a moments notice.
Teeth grinding can mean two completely different things. It can be similar to a purr, showing they are content, this is audible to us. However, if the teeth grinding sounds too loud and uncomfortable it can be a sign of pain. You should be able to tell if your rabbit is in pain as they won’t be displaying associated body language showing they are content or at ease. If your rabbit is grinding its teeth as a sign of pain, you should take them to a rabbit savvy vet immediately.
Grooming is part of rabbit behaviour and bonded pairs will often groom each other on a regular basis. Grooming is a social act and can be an essential part of the bond between rabbits. If you’re very lucky your rabbit may even groom you!
Rabbits mount each other when they are displaying dominance. The dominant of your rabbits may do the mounting; however, it’s not uncommon for the submissive rabbit to also partake.
Rabbits completely stretch out when they are happy and feel safe in the environment that they are in. By doing this they are showing that they are at ease, as this a very vulnerable position to be in.
Rabbits nudge you when they want some attention. A gentle head nudge is your rabbit’s way of saying I’m here give me some attention. You may also be in their way and they can be telling you to move so that they can get past.
If your rabbit gently nips you, without causing pain they are displaying the same type of behaviour as when they nudge you. They are saying I’m here and I want you to notice me.
Rabbits love to do sprinting circuits when they have enough space to do so. Sprinting can also be joined with binkies. This is another sign of your rabbit’s pleasure and they express it when they are very happy.
If you rabbit’s posture becomes hunched and is coupled with a lunge this is a sign of aggression. Your rabbit could be defending their territory or they are showing you or another rabbit that they are unhappy; this type of behaviour could lead to fighting.
This posture can also show that your rabbit is in pain or is scared. If they are staying very still then this indicates that they are nervous or uncomfortable in their environment.
If your rabbit’s tail goes high up in comparison to normal then this could either indicate that they are about to go to the toilet or it can be a territorial signal. Rabbits that smell the presence of other non bonded rabbits display this behaviour more often, especially if the smell is in their territory.
Ear movement can also tell us a lot about what your rabbit is thinking, for more information follow this link.