Is my Rabbit Happy? The tell-tale signs
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.
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!
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
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
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© 2012 belleart