15 Common Bunny Behaviors Body Language

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By Larry

Bunnies may seem like simple pets, but they have a complex set of behaviors and body language that is important to understand. As prey animals, bunnies are sensitive to their surroundings and communicate through subtle movements and gestures. Learning to “speak bunny” will help you better care for and bond with your rabbit. In this blog, we will explore 15 of the most common bunny behaviors and what they mean.

Nose Nudging
When a bunny softly nudges you with their nose or lightly digs at your feet or pants, this often means they are asking you for attention, treats or pets. Nose nudging is a polite, affectionate gesture in rabbit language that builds the human-bunny bond. Respond positively by petting or feeding your bunny if they try to get your attention this way.

A bunny may lick you to show affection. Mimicking their social grooming habits from living in bunny colonies in the wild, this licking reinforces the familial bond between humans and rabbit companions. Licking also helps keep you clean by the bunny’s standards! Interpret licking as a sign your bunny cares about you.

Spinning in Circles
When a bunny gets super excited about receiving a treat or having playtime, they will express their energy through spinning in quick circles and even binkying or hopping straight up into the air. These happy Circles and binkies mean your rabbit is feeling safe and enthusiastic. Celebrate good times by hand feeding treats when your bunny dances this way.

Flopping Over
If your bunny suddenly goes limp and rolls on their side, they are demonstrating complete trust and relaxation. Rabbits in the wild only flop over when they feel fully safe from harm in their environment. By flopping in your presence, your rabbit is communicating comfort and security with you. Reward this vulnerability by resisting the temptation to pet or distract them if they chill out like this.

Nipping or gently biting often happens when holding or petting an energetic bunny who wants down to explore. Unlike aggressive biting, nipping is not intended to hurt you. Your bunny is just impatient and communicating for you to let them go so they can hop around. Redirect the energy by putting them in a pen to play or providing rabbit-safe chew toys instead of holding them when they get nippy.

Digging on You
In nature, bunnies dig underground burrows to feel safe and build nests. If your bunny tries digging on you, whether in your lap during pets or on the couch when cuddling, they likely want to burrow under you because you make them feel secure. Gently stop the destructive digging on furniture while encouraging the behavior on a blanket in your lap, their enclosure or a dig box full of shredded paper or sand.

When a bunny rubs their chin glands against you, this transfers their natural scent and marks you as their territory. Chinning is how rabbits claim items and bond with you in a colony mindset where you become part of their social structure. Pet your bunny when they try to chin on your pant legs and reward them with treats for accepting you as part of their world.

Circling Your Feet
If your rabbit circles closely around your feet or ankles when you are standing still, they may be telling you that they want you to follow them somewhere specific. This is a remnant of how bunny parents in wild warrens communicate with kits to guide them around dangers. Let your bunny lead the way after a few tight ankle circles to build communication and understanding.

Litter Kicking
Don’t punish your bunny for flicking litter out of their box by backing up and enthusiastically scraping with their hind legs. In fact, this habitual kicking is a hardwired method bunnies use in the wild to spread grass and debris to mark territory and alert other rabbits of potential threats hissing predators. Gently redirect any messy litter kicking toward the box rather than the cage walls to keep their space clean.

Playing With Toys
Bunnies often toss, roll and nudge their toys frequently when playing solo in their enclosures between human play sessions. By mimicking how they manipulate foliage in natural environments, this independent toy play shows an alert, active and healthy rabbit mind. Rotate new and mentally stimulating puzzle toys to keep them happily occupied both when you are home or away at work.

If you hear low grunts or growls coming from your normally docile bunny, this signals annoyance, pain or frustration. Much like a dog or cat hissing before it bites, grunting is the rabbit equivalent to a warning before an aggressive lunge or nip. If your actions are upsetting your bunny, freeze and reassess the situation when you hear grunts to avoid being scratched or bitten due to crossed wires.

The classic foot thumping everyone associates with agitated bunnies is a way they grab attention and signal danger in the wild while avoiding attacking predators directly. By rapidly stomping their powerful hind legs, rabbits generate warning vibrations to alert fellow warren members of potential threats. Sometimes your actions, other pets or loud noises upset your house bunny and prompt panic thumping. Comfort your bunny if they react this strongly so they learn not to fear harmless stimuli.

Urinating Outside the Litter Box
While bunnies are naturally very clean animals, urinating and leaving droppings outside their cage or litter box communicates important social messages for rabbits. Marking territory with urine and poop signals ownership over a favorite space or item. It also indicates dominance or courtship interest when intact rabbits live together. Spay/neuter your bun to reduce hormone-driven marking urges and positively reinforce consistent litter habits.

Circling Your Feet While Honking
If your trusting bunny feels safe enough to flop at your feet but then repeatedly circles while grunting, they could be asking you to groom them. In bunny society, honking demands social pets and licking a colony mate’s coat to bond as a family unit with assigned roles. If they honk and circle, try gently petting along their sides the direction fur grows to mimic social cleaning behavior.

Nose Bonking
Some very friendly buns express affection by gently bonking their noses against owners as a delicate kiss to say I love you. Nose bonks on the mouth or cheek show great comfort and acceptance of you into an intimate circle of trust. Reciprocate the sentiment by telling your darling bunny they are so very loved as you rub their sweet little forehead and cheeks.

In summary, reading your unique rabbit’s body language helps build a deeper connection based on mutual understanding. Whether they are circling happily or stomping in alarm, you can nurture a better relationship with your bunny by learning what their behaviors mean and responding appropriately to meet their needs. With time and patience, you may find your smart rabbit will even pick up on some human communication cues in return.

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