Rabbits can be very quiet, but that doesn’t mean they can’t tell you how they are feeling! The more time you spend with your bunny, the better you will get at reading his body language. Most bunny owners want their buns to be living their best life. So how can you tell if your rabbit is happy?
Bunny Zoomies & Binkies
This is one of the most expressive ways to know your bunny is happy. Your rabbit will run at full speed around the room or yard, sometimes jumping up on & off couches or obstacles (zoomies). Mid run, they will jump with all four feet off the ground straight up in the air (binkies). Sometimes they will do a twist mid jump like a gymnast! If you see this, you have one very happy bunny. They are loving life, kicking up their heels, and having a great time!
Did you know rabbits can be very dramatic? If you see your rabbit suddenly, with no warning, flop down on the floor and stretch out with their full body relaxed on the ground that means your bunny is very happy & stress-free! The first time I saw this as a new rabbit owner, I definitely thought there was something wrong with my bunny. But she was perfectly fine, just super blissed out!
Totally relaxed, laying on their side
Your rabbit might not always be feeling their dramatic side. Sometimes they will just lay down fully on their side, head rested on the floor. They might even roll a bit, exposing their belly. This means your rabbit is feeling very safe, relaxed, and happy!
Your bunny is generally relaxed
When not being a drama queen or running around like a crazy, if your rabbit is generally calm and relaxed looking, that means she is happy. This includes laying down with her feet stretched out behind her, relaxing on her side with her head up and looking around with relaxed ears, or just relaxing in a calm state with her legs tucked under her. If your rabbit often looks like she is ready to hop up and escape at any moment, eyes darting around, ears very alert, those are signs she is tense and stressed out by something in her environment.
Your bunny is inquisitive & eats normally
A happy bunny that is secure in his environment is inquisitive. They like to explore new toys or elements in their enclosure. They like to dig and explore on different levels. A happy rabbit will also eat on a regular schedule. If you notice your rabbit isn’t eating much or eats way too much there could be a problem and you should see a vet.
Bunny is happy to see you
When your rabbit is happy and feels safe in their environment, they are happy to see you and other regular caregivers. Being happy to see you can be expressed differently by different rabbits, however. Just like humans, they all have their own personality. Some rabbits might be outgoing and run up to their human, standing on their back legs to say hello, gently bopping their human with their nose, or running circles around their legs.
Other bunnies might be a little more shy, they might just poke their head out or come a little closer to you. Many rabbits do not enjoy being picked up, and some don’t particularly enjoy being pet unless it’s their idea. Just because your rabbit doesn’t always love being touched doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you. You just need to learn what your bunny’s personality is! If your rabbit is running away and hiding every time she sees you, that is a sign she is not feeling safe and/or happy. You might need to spend some more time bonding with her. click here for tips on how to play with your rabbit
Licking & Chinning
If your rabbit licks you, it shows great trust and happiness. She is grooming you and this is a way that rabbits express love with each other. Chinning is way rabbits use to claim people or things. Rabbits have scent glands in their chin, they will rub their chin on things to leave their scent so other animals know “this is mine”.
Did you know rabbits purr? It’s not quite the same as when a cat purrs but expresses the same emotion. Rabbits purr by gently clicking their teeth together. They do it when they are very relaxed and happy. You might not hear it unless you are very close to them, often snuggling or petting them. This is a different, quieter, and gentler noise than teeth grinding. Teeth grinding is a sign your rabbit is in pain or very stressed out. Often grinding will be paired with behaviors like hiding or being aggressive so you can use behavior cues to tell the difference.
Nose Bops or pulling your clothes
Nose bops are another way that rabbits interact with each other and their owners. They will come up and just gently push their nose into you. Sometimes they want to be pet or sometimes they just want to say hi! Another way a rabbit will try to get your attention is to gently tug at your pant leg or sleeve. Either of these behaviors means your rabbit is happy & comfortable around you.
What to do if your rabbit is not happy
What can you do as a rabbit owner if you notice your rabbit is not happy? The first thing you should do is address any possible physical issues. A trip to the vet can help uncover illness or injury your rabbit might be hiding. If she has a UTI or tooth abscess it will rightly make her a little grumpy!
If you are confident it’s not physical, the next area to address is her environment. Does he have enough space to run and jump? At the minimum, your rabbit should have access to 35 square feet of space. Just like humans, rabbits can be bored. Try adding some new things to her cage – a cat tunnel or tube for hiding, a box of shredded paper or dirt for digging, a low chair or bench for jumping on and off. Is the space secure? Could other household animals, like a dog or cat, be stressing your rabbit? If he is kept outside is the space secure from predators and does he have a solid, enclosed space he can hide in and feel safe? click here to learn more about setting up an outside space for rabbits
And lastly, address any emotional issues. Does your rabbit have a companion? Rabbits are social animals, if you can’t spend a decent amount of time being your rabbit’s companion, they will greatly benefit from having another rabbit to hang out with. click here to read about introducing new rabbits.
If your rabbit seems to be scared of you, perhaps you need to change the way you interact with them. Rabbits are naturally timid and can be scared easily – and you are a giant to him! As prey animals, they don’t usually enjoy being picked up as their instincts kick in, and they feel like a predator is carrying them off to be eaten. Try sitting on the floor with your rabbit. Let her come to you and sniff you, but don’t pet her. You can try encouraging her with some tasty vegetables or fruit. Once she feels safe coming to you, you can try petting her. Take things slowly to earn her trust and eventually, you will both be much happier!
Want to learn more about “speaking” rabbit? Click here to read my article on rabbit body language!