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Rabbit Behaviour

Rabbit Behaviour

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Spending time with your rabbit

It is important to spend at least 2-3 hours every day with your rabbit. This is because they are prey animals and must learn that you are not a predator and so they won’t hide or run away from you, bite or scratch you!

Spending this much time with them also makes you more aware of their nature – every rabbit is different, some are very patient and others are short tempered! Being more aware of your rabbit also makes detecting signs of disease easier and earlier. This is critical for rabbits because they are experts are hiding any signs of pain or illness. This means that once they show signs of illness, even the most subtle signs – they are severely sick!

Here is a long list of play toys for you and your bunny recommended by the Melbourne Rabbit Clinic:

  • Paper bags
  • Hay packed toilet rolls
  • Treats in a large box of shredded newspaper or a hollow treat ball
  • Untreated branches from willow trees, apple, lemon trees  or dethorned rose branches
  • Dried out pinecones
  • Old cardboard boxes
  • Baby toys/Cat toys – such as hard plastic baby toys (keys and rattles). These can be tossed around
  • Hanging parrot toys or solid baby mobiles in their hutches
  • Wooden or basket tunnels to run through and hide in
  • Upturned large plant pots
  • Tunnels or clay pipes to run through
  • Rabbit piñatas! Make from cardboard skeleton with non-inked paper layered over using flour/water glue. Make hollow and stuff with hay and a tablespoon of dried fruit (this is a treat and should not be overfed!!)
  • And most importantly YOU!

What does your bunny mean when…?

Unlike with our other pets – we have to earn the trust and respect of our rabbits before they accept us as a non-predator. This allows you to be a better rabbit owner and therefore it is important to learn some basic ‘bunny language’.

Signs of being upset, nervous or scared 

  1. Thumping

By hitting their hind feet hard against the ground they are NOT happy

  1. Aggressiveness

Watch out! Rabbits have powerful back feet and can attack with these or grunt-lunge-and-bite with their big front teeth 

  1. Suddenly flattening the body with ears down

This rabbit is scared and is trying to hide.


Signs of happiness and contentment

  1. The Binky

When rabbits are absolutely thrilled they will often jump into the air and twist its head and body in opposite directions (they are so happy their little bodies cannot contain the excitement!)

  1. Circling

If your bunny circles around your feet, it is usually a sign of affection. Sometimes they will grunt/hum while circling and some undesexed boys will also urine spray (he really likes you!)

  1. Social Grooming

If your rabbit begins to lick/groom you – your rabbit trusts you so much it considers you to be a big rabbit rather than a possible predator

  1. The Flop

An extremely contented rabbit will suddenly flop over on their side (no predators around here!)

Watch out for

  1. Teeth Grinding

If it is ‘soft’ sounding this rabbit is ‘purring’ in happiness. However if it is a ‘hard’ sound - this is a sign of pain and you need to get your bunny to a vet.

Friends (because bunnies get lonely)

Kept on their own – rabbits will spend a lot of time by themselves. Rabbits do find a lot of comfort and reassurance from their own kind. They can be kept easily in bonded pairs (desexed couples or entire females) and sometimes even in a trio!

However, some rabbits are not easy to bond as they have distinct personalities (like humans) and may instantly love or hate (like humans) another individual rabbit. They can instinctively be very territorial and aggressive to a rabbit stranger. It is important that we let the rabbits choose their friends otherwise we will have two rabbits that fight continuously.

A Blind Date!

NEVER just bring home a new rabbit & put it with your bunny. Your bunny will feel threatened and territorial and will most likely attack the new bunny. The best way to bond rabbits is through organizing a blind date in a neutral area (with no personal items to claim as their own) to ensure that they are happy to take the relationship further.

Indications that the bunny date is going well include: grooming of each other, sitting side by side, content behaviour (lying relaxed on their side) or even ignoring each other.

Indications of disagreements include chasing, lunging, humping each other, and fighting. If these behaviours occur, end the ‘date” for the day. The chance of successful bonding between such rabbits is low. If you have your heart set on match-making a certain pair of grumpy rabbits be prepared that it will be a gradual process and patience and careful supervision is required.

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