It is important to understand rabbits behavior in order to have a successful relationship with one. Rabbits are often seen as adorable cuddly animals and many people especially children see them as an ideal pet often times with bad results. Rabbits make wonderful pets but unlike cats and dogs they have a unique form of communication primarily through body language and occasionally verbally. They can also understand some human words but primarily respond based on your tone of voice and your body language. Once you learn their language and also the basic care requirements you will be on your way to a pleasant experience as a rabbit owner.
It helps to put into perspective the rabbits instinctive position in the wild. Rabbits are prey animals therefore they are constantly on the lookout for danger and ready at anytime to take action to avoid predators. They live in social communities called Warrens and develop a hierarchy based on domination, as far as your rabbit is concerned you are also a rabbit and will have to establish your place in the Warren. Rabbits are also very territorial and will defend their territory against invaders.
To understand your pet rabbits behavior you will have to learn the many ways of communicating. Sometimes your rabbit's expression can mean very different things so you will have to do some interpretation based on your experience with your rabbit.
Sniffing – May be annoyed or just talking to you
Grunts – Usually angry, watch out or you could get bit!
Shrill scream – Hurt or dying
Circling your feet – Can be part of a courtship dance or a means of getting attention. If other aggressive indicators are displayed, eg an erect tail and laid back ears, an attack is about to take place.
Chewing – is a natural behavior. This keeps your rabbits teeth ground down and is instinctive to keep any obstruction (electrical cords, etc.) that are encroaching on the entrance to his burrow
Spraying – Males that are not neutered will mark female rabbits in this manner as well as their territory. Females will also spray.
Chinning – Their chin contains scent glands, so they rub their chin on items to indicate that they belong to them. Same as a cat rubbing its forehead on people and objects.
False pregnancy – Usually just unspayed females may build a nest & pull hair from their chest & stomach to line the nest. They may even stop eating as rabbits do the day before they give birth.
Bunny hop / dance – a jump straight up with a mid-air half turn and a twist usually executed in mid-run. A sign of pure joy & happiness!
Begging – Rabbits are worse than dogs about begging, especially for sweets. Beware of giving the rabbit treats as overweight rabbits are not as healthy as trim rabbits.
Boxing – rabbit stands on hind legs with their dukes up and throws punches. Stay back or your going to get it.
Territory droppings – Droppings that are not in a pile, but are scattered, are signs that this territory belongs to the rabbit. This will often occur upon entering a new environment. If another rabbit lives in the same house this may always be a nuisance.
Flop – rabbit literally throws his / herself onto their side which looks like they just keeled over. You have a happy at ease rabbit.
Playing – Rabbits like to push or toss objects around. They may also race madly around the house, jump on and off of the couch and act like a kid that's had too much sugar.
Burrowing: Tunneling behavior. Instinctive Rabbits are burrowing animals
Bunching – Pushing, pulling, and biting bed linens, towels, pillows. Organizing to their liking
Do not touch my stuff – Rabbits often are displeased when you rearrange their cage as you clean. They are creatures of habit and when they get things just right, they like them to remain that way.
Stomping – He's frightened, mad or trying to tell you that there's danger (in his opinion).
Teeth Grinding – Indicates contentment, like a cats purr. Loud grinding can indicate pain.
One of the joys of having a rabbit as a pet is to fully experience all of the behaviors your rabbit will exhibit as a happy rabbit. In order for your rabbit to be happy it is important to know how to care for and keep you rabbit comfortable.