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Is my Rabbit Happy? The tell-tale signs

Updated on April 21, 2015

Joined: 4 years agoFollowers: 123Articles: 71


Lifting an ear-she hears something in the distance as she munches the grass happily!!
Lifting an ear-she hears something in the distance as she munches the grass happily!! | Source
What we call 'Panning'.  She loves lying in the front of the room, she can see all of us and nobody can sneak up on her!
What we call 'Panning'. She loves lying in the front of the room, she can see all of us and nobody can sneak up on her! | Source
Curious ears- Cocoa will put her ears forward when curious or inquisitive.
Curious ears- Cocoa will put her ears forward when curious or inquisitive.

A look at bunny behaviour

Is my Bunny happy?

Bunnies are lovely house-pets. They are as affectionate and attention seeking as puppies yet somehow independent like cats. They have great little personalities but sometimes it can be hard to tell whether they are really happy. Bunnies have a few tell-tale tricks that let us know how they are feeling, here's what to look for:

Happy bunnies will do things like dance, lick, hop, chin and run around-

Dancing- Cocoa will dance when I, or my housemates, run around the house or when there is general excitement in the room. She will run in circles around our feet, Hop and then do a sprint or just chase her tail! When she runs around my feet, I know she is very happy to see me, it usually happens in the morning, when I’m the 1st to get up and wake her in the kitchen she will spend about 5 minutes chasing me around the kitchen and doing rings around my feet.

Licking- Cocoa loves licking or grooming. It usually happens when she hops up onto the couch as we watch TV and wants us to pet her. She will sit there licking our hands or legs as we rub her little face or neck. Rabbits love grooming and will often spend hours grooming and licking each-other. Because Cocoa’s on her own, she grooms me and the boys instead.

Hops/Binkies- These are when the bunny jumps high in the air and kicks its back feet twisting its body. They are extreme moments of happiness. Cocoa does this the most when she’s let out into the garden. She’s basically shouting “I’m Freeeeeee!”

Chinning- Sounds weird but its quite normal. Rabbit have glands under their chins that only they can smell. If a rabbit is rubbing its chin on you or something else, its marking its territory. It also tells other animals-“No, this is my family!

Nosies- They sound strange but it is a great way of bonding with your bunny. This is where you rub your bunnies nose with your nose. Cocoa loves this and will fall asleep purring after a minute or so. She also comes looking for them sometimes, nudging me with her face to say “Hey, its boding time!”

Purring- Yes bunnies purr and it is adorable! They grind their teeth very gently. Cocoa purrs all the time, she does it when we stroke behind her ears, pet her, hug her, talk to her-anywhere that she feels relaxed and part of the group. She hates being left out!!

Grinding teeth can however be a sign of a few things. If its very loud and noticeable then your bun may be in pain, Bunnies do this if they are hurting so a trip to the vet is probably a good idea. If it is quiet and soft then it is purring, and this will usually happen when they are sleepy or grooming.

Sad bunnies:

Unhappy bunnies are actually a bit hard to tell but these are the basics-

Thumping- This does not mean that your bunny is always unhappy, it just means that there may be danger. Cocoa will thump her feet if a cat comes to the back door, run into the living thumping her feet, then back to the kitchen as if to say “Follow me, I sense danger”. Or she will kick if she wants attention. When I’m on the couch and she’s on the floor beside me, she will sit staring for a minute or two, then thump her foot. If I ignore that, she’ll do it again, and jump onto the couch where I can't ignore her.

Grunting- Bunnies can grunt if they are about to attack and feel threatened but they can also make grunting noises for other reasons. Cocoa grunts most when my partner pays her attention. He does it back and insists they’re communicating and having a conversation. It’s truly adorable.

Squealing- This means your rabbits extremely afraid or in pain. Bunnies that haven’t been handled before might squeal.

Always alert- if your bun never relaxes in front of you, and is always sitting up alert then you have a bun that doesn't feel safe around you. This can easily be dealt with, check out my other hub Bonding with your Bunny and you should be well on your way to a happy bunny!

And remember, rabbits are not animals that can simply be put into a cage or hutch and left on their own, especially if you only have one. They can become extremely anxious and depressed and it leads to a very unhappy li’l bunny.

We bought Cocoa from somebody who bred them and he had all of them in separate cages. We had Cocoa in a hutch in the garden for about a year, feeding her twice a day and petting her every so often. Then when we moved house we brought her inside for a while and noticed she had this whole cute little personality that we had never seen before. Instead of bringing her in for that hour, she’s been an indoor bunny ever since, which is just over two years now.

The change in her behaviour is amazing. She hops around, loves being cuddled and picked up, ‘nosies’ all day long and pans out like a dog in front of the fireplace every night until bedtime. we used to leave her in the kitchen overnight, because her set up was there (toilet, and food and water) but recently we have been leaving the kitchen door open for her to follow us upstairs, which she does with lots of enthusiasm come bed time. She sleeps under our bed, we have food and water out for her, and she wakes us up around 8 in the morning with lots of kisses and licks. The fantastic thing is, shes house trained so as long as we leave our bedroom door unlocked, she makes her own way downstairs to her toilet box.

I have often had visitors over that have thought she was a little puppy or cat lying down on the carpet in front of our fire, and children always get excited to see her running around the house when they come over. Shes well used to visitors now, and most of the time will go right on over to people to say hello, which always gives them a big smile.

When your bunny feels safe enough that it can pan out, legs stretched, tummy out, or give you kisses and run around your feet-then you have a bunny that knows he’s in good hands and feels completely safe in your company! :) YAY

Signs of a happy Bunny

Bobby and Bo!

By their litter in the first week, they were very wary of us and never really strayed too far from the mat.
By their litter in the first week, they were very wary of us and never really strayed too far from the mat.
Two months on and they started to make their way to the living room.  Bo was more ready to relax in front of us, but less ready for us to pet her.
Two months on and they started to make their way to the living room. Bo was more ready to relax in front of us, but less ready for us to pet her.
It took Bobby nearly three months to get this comfy in front of us.  He was always more willing for pets, and even loves a comb before bed!
It took Bobby nearly three months to get this comfy in front of us. He was always more willing for pets, and even loves a comb before bed!

A New chapter:

Some of my followers may already know from a more recent post Is my Bunny Dying, that poor Cocoa passed away in September. It was a very sad, emotional time and we miss her every day. Life has simply not been the same without her. While it felt we could never again have a bunny since none could ever replace her, we did find ourselves looking through rabbit adoption sites. No Buns that we saw felt right, the instant connection we had with Cocoa was nowhere to be found with the new buns....Until one day, we found an amazing Irish site, looking for homes for abandoned bunnies, and came across two beautiful buns.

Bobby and Bo, a Lop and Netherland Dwarf, already bonded and in need of a home. Poor Bobby had been abandoned outside of a supermarket and Bo was born in the Adoption home. It was love at first with them. Both were in foster care, waiting for a forever home, which spoke to me personally having been in foster care all of my childhood. We visited to have a look and there it was.....the connection, that moment you know these buns are the ones that you are going to love forever! We borught them home that day and have been so happy ever since.

Since both had pretty rough lives, being passed around from place to place they never got to feel comfortable anywhere, and we've noticed a huge difference in their behavior to Cocoa's. For one thing, they are pair, so the need for attention and grooming isn't there, because they have each other. It has taken us months to bond properly with them, and while we couldn't even pet them at first, now they know the house, have their favorite places and are pretty comfortable around us.

Bobby, being so small gets frightened comically fast, you need only move a foot and he used to skitter across the floor to safety. Now though, they seem to know they are safe, and pass from room to room, even managing the stairs when they feel like it. It took months of us just sitting with them, and waiting for them to come to us. The will power it takes not to pet these li'l fellows is crazy, but it is a necessary step in letting them know they are here to have a happy life and not be our pets, only there for our happiness. Not picking them up, not petting them and not trying to catch them is a great way of doing this, since most people get rabbits to hug and for their own satisfaction. But the crux is that you wont ever be able to do that, if you don't first show your buns that they have nothing to be afraid of. Waiting for them to come to you is the only way of doing this, since forcing the relationship will not work at all, if anything it will make them more wary of you,

How to keep your bunny Happy

© 2012 belleart


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    • Vitallani profile image

      Bryony Harrison 4 years ago from UK

      My rabbit, Josh used to do twist jumps too. It was such a joy to see him playing outside. I also gave him nosies, but I never heard him purr. Josh also liked to have his ears played with, which I was rather surprised about. When he got older, we would stroke him on the floor and he'd perform his dying swan act. Gave us quite a scare sometimes, but then when he had enough, he would lift his head up and hop away, happy as anything.

    • Marcus Faber profile image

      Marcus Faber 4 years ago from London, UK

      Nice hub. Glad to hear you brought her into the house, she sounds like a very happy rabbit.

    • belleart profile image

      belleart 4 years ago from Ireland

      Yes she certainly is :) Hopefully her time spend inside will make up for her sad times outside on her own.

      Vitallani- josh sounds adorable, the dying swan act just means that he's really enjoying the attention he's receiving.

      Cocoa does the same but if we stop she'll nudge us until we pet again.

    • wordscribe43 profile image

      Elsie Nelson 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

      Great hub! YAY... my bunny is indeed a happy one. My rabbit will also thump if I take too long dishing out her food. Impatient little girl she is.

    • belleart profile image

      belleart 4 years ago from Ireland

      Glad to hear your bunny is happy...they can be impatient alright :) Cocoa mostly thumps when she wants someone to pick her up or rub her ears!! Thanks for reading

    • wordscribe43 profile image

      Elsie Nelson 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

      Cute about Cocoa. Trixie could have her ears rubbed all day long. There is nothing she loves more! Hey, have you ever had trouble with your rabbit using your BED as a litter pan? Trixie seems to be marking her territory on our bed. She's litter trained, but can't seem to resist blankets. Any ideas?

    • belleart profile image

      belleart 4 years ago from Ireland

      We have the same problem with Cocoa. Couch's and beds! Usually if she pee's on the couch or bed, I just pick her up and put her in her litter tray. And give her a treat (Broccoli or banana) whenever you see her in the tray. If you watch Trixie when she's on the bed, her tail will lift before she pee's, if you see that, pick her up and put her in the litter tray.,

      I hope this helps...there's nothing worse than bunny pee on blankets :)

    • wordscribe43 profile image

      Elsie Nelson 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

      Well, I'm glad I'm not alone! I have been putting her in the litter tray, but haven't yet tried giving her a treat. Thanks for that... I do see her tail go up before she pees, but I usually can't get to her in time. She's a quick little pee-pee girl. Anyway, I will keep at it. The worst bunny pee EVER is after she's had too many carrots. You know, the orange wee wee. Not a good sight on the bed!

      Thanks again!

    • Miss Moo Cow937 4 years ago

      My rabbit Toffee is in a hutch by himself and he loves being alone,i bought another rabbit and put it the hutch with him my rabbit started attacking the other one,do you know why he is social?? :)

    • Vitallani profile image

      Bryony Harrison 4 years ago from UK

      If you bought another male rabbit it is no surprise that they fought. If you have a male you need to have it nutured before introducing it to another rabbit. In general, it is best to buy rabbits together rather than introducing them later on as they will feel they have a rival on their hands. Rabbits are social animals, they want company, but that does not mean they will not fight.

    • belleart profile image

      belleart 4 years ago from Ireland

      Miss Moo Cow- It doesn't necessarily have to be another boy. Rabbits are very territorial, and if toffee is used to being on his own in the hutch then he probably feels threatened with the other bunny there taking his space. if you added a girl, the problem could be the same. Male and females rabbits will either fall in love at first sight and get on really well or they will hate each other and fight constantly.

      I would suggest bringing the newer bunny inside, you can get indoor cages for them and they are very easily trained! Bring toffee in for an hour to socialize with the new bunny and watch them closely. This might help their relationship.

      Also bunnies are usually very social so if toffee is being hostile, he might just need some attention and love. Bring him inside at least a few times a week and play with him, it will greatly help him and you! :)

      There is also something to be said about spaying rabbits, it can greatly change their hostility and calm them down. Getting a female bunny done can be harder though so you will need to find a vet with a good success rate!

      I hope this helps.

    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 3 years ago from Glasgow

      Great hub. I was convinced my bunny hated me! But it seems she is quite relaxed with me! Yay!!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 2 years ago from America

      Your bunny is very cute and I bet she has a great home. Our kids had bunnies but we haven't owned one in many years. Voted up.

    • elizabeth wetrock 2 years ago

      cocoa look a lot like my rabbit ember.

    • Jordana 2 years ago

      I just got a bunny but she barely lets me touch her but she'll pan out and pulls at my clothing which I read was a sign she wants attention, not that I can touch her. I cannot pick her up I know they don't like to but it'd be nice to be able to take her out of the cage without removing the entire top. I'm afraid to be near her since she usually thumps or hisses.

    • belleart profile image

      belleart 2 years ago from Ireland

      Jordana, I hope your new bunny is happy in her new home. It will take time for her to relax and get used to her surrounding, honestly Cocoa took months to relax around us, but now that she has, she's the happiest little thing and gives us a lot of affection. Its different with all bunnies, but with affection and love, you will definitely be on her good side.

      Letting her out of the cage would be the ideal place to start, leave the cage door open for her to walk out herself, rather than taking her out yourself. Cocoa has free roam of the house now, and even sleeps under our bed during the night,she loves her freedom . I know not everyone wants their little bun roaming free around the house, but even letting them out for a couple hours a day will help make them happier. :)

    • woof77 2 years ago

      What a cute bunny! Love the video..your bunny is one really happy and contented bunny! My bun likes to run and dash in circle on my bed too. Initially i thought he was mad..then I figured out he's happy, ha ha. :) It is nice to hear your bun sleeps under your bed and wakes you up with morning licks, mine did the same too. Only he wakes me up at 6:30am everyday, petting and cuddling..haha..such a sweet little thing.

      Great post.. thanks for sharing :)

    • Cam 22 months ago

      Our rabbits chase each other around and one keeps thumping, but there doesn't seem to be any other sign of aggression, they cuddle and groom each other often and are fine most of the time but these encounters are worrying us, any ideas please? Thank you x

    • belleart profile image

      belleart 22 months ago from Ireland

      Cam: The Thumping can be a few things. If the bun does it whenever you get close, then they don't fell safe around you. This means you just need to spend more time with them on their terms (not picking them up or trying to cuddle, just be there, let them smell you and investigate).

      However, Buns can also thump for reasons like taking too long to put their food down or trying to move them from a certain spot. Usually, it's a scared thump and they're basically warning other buns that there's danger, but some times they can just be moody and want their food.

      Taking care of a bun (or two) really is about learning their behaviour and personality. I hope this helps, and let me know if there's any more stuff your not sure about :) Good luck

    • Myles 18 months ago

      I just got my bun 1 week ago and she hates being lifted and she grunts when she thinks I'm gonna lift her .is their any way to fix that

    • belleart profile image

      belleart 18 months ago from Ireland

      ha ha, yeah Buns will grunt sometimes to tell you not to do something, its another way of them communicating that they feel slightly threatened. There's nothing you can do other than trying not to lift her except only when necessary, let her know she's there to be safe, and the more you let her do own thing and come to you the more safe she will feel. Hope its going well :)

    • liz 18 months ago

      I'm trying to house train my bunny any suggestions? I would like to one day let her have free roam of the house just like your bunny had

    • belleart profile image

      belleart 18 months ago from Ireland

      Liz: House trianing rabbits is actually not too difficult, easier than dogs anyway, as long as you have a corner toilet for them and food and water out all the time you should find it relatively easy. They're clean animals, but or thing like chewing furniture and wires, you basically need to baby proof the place, so pick up any wires that they may get their teeth on. Spray the bottom of your furniture with perfume and always have chew toys for them instead.

      Here are some other blogs about having a pet bunny that you may find useful:

      I suggest letting your bun out for an hour or two everyday, if you have a cage, keep it and they can use that as a toilet and bed, just dont close it and they pop in and out of it as they please.

    • Jeremy 12 months ago

      Thank you so much for the video and the assurance that my Oreo is happy!! I knew she was by all the behaviors, but i just want the best for my little bun!

    • Jo 9 months ago

      I have 2 rabbits they live indoors and have a indoor hutch I can't leave them to roam free as we have 2 cats and a dog. We get them out of the hutch and let them run free while supervised every evening they seem happy and do a lot of binking however when it comes to putting them back I feel like we end up chasing them as they don't like being picked up, have you got any advice.

    • belleart profile image

      belleart 9 months ago from Ireland

      Jo, thats great that they have time outside of their hutch and I have to admit that I am so happy you dont try to force your rabbits into being picked up, many people do this and it ends up with their buns being very distant. I myself have to chase our two buns back indoors every day because they don't like being picked up and love being outside but I think they get a good kick out of the run around and even do a good few binkies on their way in :) Unfortunately the most I can offer by way of advice is the treat training, where you give your buns a specific treat that they love only when they go back into their hutch. Dont offer this treat at any other time, so that after a few days of this they will associate that treat with returning to their hutch. It sounds like your buns have a very happy home

    • Rebekah-Joy :) 6 months ago

      Your rabbit is adorable. I wish I was allowed to let mine run around indoors like that. I have a very happy affectionate lion-head cross named slipper.He loves to play but has a peculiar tendency to chase his own bottom round and round and circles I check regularly there's nothing wrong with his skin or fur. Can any one explain why he does this?

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