As a bunny owner, there’s no doubt you’ve asked yourself “is my bunny happy?”. It’s time we answer the question. Rabbits are silent animals. Dogs bark, cats meow – but what sound do rabbits make? Sure, they purr and thump and make a little noise, but they just aren’t as vocal as other animals.
But our bunnies are social animals – they require human interaction, and without it, they can become lonesome and depressed. This is why it is so important for us, as rabbit owners to understand rabbit behaviour. Remember, this article is a generalisation. Every single rabbit is different, and behaviour will always vary from rabbit to rabbit.
Some basics before we ask “is my bunny happy?”…
Before we begin, it is important to note that the behaviour of a pet (domestic) rabbit is not all that different from the behaviour of a wild rabbit. Because of this, it is often easy to analyse your pet bunny’s behaviour by evaluating the situation as if they were wild rabbits. That is to say, if your rabbit was grazing and minding their own business, then in a “wild” scenario, there is an absence of predators, and your bunny is relaxed and happy.
With all that in mind, let’s get into what makes a happy bunny!
Everyday Happy Rabbit Behaviour
If your rabbit often does any of the following things every day, it is perfectly normal and you have nothing to worry about in terms of how happy your bunny is.
Just a few days ago, a friend posted a photo of their rabbit flopped over and laying on their side with their eyes closed. They were next to a heater during a period of very cold weather. To see a rabbit like this is initially quite alarming, but once you begin to acknowledge that this is simply a sign of relaxation and happiness, you’ll begin to worry less.
Eating Their Poop
As disgusting as it sounds, rabbits eat their own poop. They do this so that important nutrients can be re-absorbed by their bodies. Generally, bunnies will eat special faeces called “cecotropes”, rather than their typical hard pellets. These faeces are rich in protein and B vitamins, and it is important to realise that re-ingestion of poop is a normal rabbit behaviour.
Grooming (Themselves and Each Other)
Like cats, healthy rabbits will often groom themselves and each other. If they love you enough, they’ll even groom you! This is a rabbit’s equivalent to washing their hands – it is a sign of good hygiene and affection. It is important to pay attention if your rabbit is grooming too much, as they could be feeling lonely or sad.
Signs of a Relaxed Bunny
They Make Soft “Rabbit” Sounds
A happy bunny will often make a very quiet “purring” noise, a soft clicking noise or quiet grinding of the teeth. However, please note that teeth grinding can be a sign that a rabbit is distressed if it is too loud.
As well as this, rabbits will often grunt and snort as they eat and toss their hay around. Though this may initially appear as a sign of aggression, it is often just “rabbit play”.
They Let Their Guard Down Around You
If your bunny is begging for your attention – they are probably very happy! Often, a happy bunny will nudge you, rub their head on you, and move their head towards your hand. They may also pull their neck into their body, or avoid eye contact with you. These are all submissive gestures which make them appear “small”. Rabbits are prey animals, so if they are able to let down their guard around you, they are probably very comfortable and happy!
If your bunny exposes your belly to you, they are also effectively letting their guard down around you. By extension, happy rabbits will also not be afraid to fall asleep next to you, another submissive gesture which shows how comfortable your bunny is with you.
When your rabbit can be seen happily playing with their toys, this implies that they are calm. If you see them tossing, rolling, nudging, nibbling, shredding, climbing, digging, tunnelling or burrowing, then they are simply doing what they do best and are feeling very relaxed. If they appear curious and want to explore, or look at you with waggling ears, then, chances are your bunny is incredibly relaxed.
They Love You!
If your bunny shows signs of love towards you, they are probably incredibly happy! Your bunny loves you if they are calm around you. If they don’t run from you, or become aggressive, they likely already love you, as they are not fearing for their safety around you. Also, if your bunny has their ears up, with the inside of their ears facing forward, they are probably feeling friendly and happy as well.
Should you ever need to pick up your bunny and they simply let you – without becoming aggressive, then they also likely love you. This said, bunnies will often “play dead” when picked up by predators in an effort to discourage them. If your bunnies “play dead” when you pick them up, please put them down, as they could be in a state of distress, and bunnies are known to have heart attacks from fear alone.
When your bunny is intent on licking you, then you are utterly special to them. If they rub their chin on you, they are effectively marking you as their territory. This is because scent glands are located under a rabbit’s chin.
What Does Their Position Tell You?
It is common for bunnies to lay in a “superman” position, with their legs stretched out behind them. Though this looks uncomfortable and may be worrying to you, I assure you this is a position rabbits take on when they are very relaxed!
I’m sure you’ve noticed – when something scares your bunny, their ears jerk into a very upright position, as they are listening for any signs of danger. So, if your bunny’s ears are in a neutral position, that is, not too far up, then they are also likely relaxed.
Signs of a Happy Bunny
I’m sure we can all agree on how adorable it is to watch a bunny hop and binky! They’re so cute! If there is no danger or threat present, and your bunny runs around in circles, maybe even kicking their legs up suddenly (a binky) as they do so, then they are crazy about you and simply happy that you’re there!
If two rabbits groom each other or lay close to one another they likely are in love. The same can be said for when the rabbits follow each other around. This behaviour actually extends to rabbit-human interactions, however. If your rabbit follows you or licks you, they absolutely adore you (and may want to mate with you if they aren’t neutered!).
Bunnies are also known to engage in “ankle biting”, which is often mistaken for a sign of aggression. A rabbit who bites your ankles is likely feeling a lot of joy – however, you should firmly tell them “no” to ensure they know you are insulted when they bite your ankles.
When you ask yourself in the future – “is my bunny happy?”, try and think of their behaviour. If your bunny shows you signs of love, acts excited in the absence of danger, or simply engages in their day-to-day activities, your rabbit is probably happy.
What does your bunny do to show you they’re happy? I’d love to know!