Rabbit behaviour: all about bunny body language

Two domestic rabbits feeding in a hutch © RSPCA

Rabbit behaviour can be tricky to suss out if you’re not sure what you’re looking for, as their body language is very subtle.

Learn more about how your rabbit is feeling with this short guide on rabbit behaviour.

Their behaviour reflects that they’re prey species in the wild – even their vocal communications are very quiet to prevent predators finding them.

Scent is a rabbit’s main form of communication. They deposit faeces, squirt urine and chin mark to communicate.

They’ll also display different body postures, holding their ears, body and tail in different ways depending on their mood.

Is yours a happy bunny?

Is your rabbit a happy bunny? © RSPCA

Every rabbit is different, and like us, each individual will behave differently.

Get to know your rabbit’s behaviour so you’re more likely to notice any changes.

Behaviour not only depends on individual personalities, but also on age, past experiences, and many other factors.

Signs of a happy and relaxed rabbit:

  • Lying down relaxed, legs may be tucked under the body, or front paws pointing forward with the back legs either outstretched to the side or behind them.
  • Ears close together, facing slightly backwards and pointing outwards.
  • Their eyes may be partially closed.
  • Rabbit binkies, when they jump and twist mid-air.

Read more on keeping your rabbits happy on our rabbit advice and welfare pages.

Signs of a worried or anxious rabbit:

  • Sitting crouched with tense muscles, head held to the ground, ears wide apart and flattened against their back and dilated pupils.
  • Hiding.

If your rabbit is showing these signs they’re uncomfortable and don’t want you close to them.

Signs of a very unhappy rabbit:

  • Thumping rabbit © RSPCA Turning to move away flicking their back feet.
  • Sitting on their back legs with front legs raised, ears pointing up and displaying boxing behaviour. They may even growl.
  • Back legs thumping on the ground with a raised tail, tense facial muscles and dilated pupils.
  • Standing tense with body lowered, head tilted upwards, mouth open and teeth visible.
  • Ears held back, tail raised and pupils dilated.

Your rabbit would like you to leave them alone if they’re showing these behaviours.

Read more on rabbit behaviour.

Spotting something wrong?

If your rabbit is frightened or in pain they may develop some unwanted behaviours such as being aggressive or hiding.

Please look out for the any of the following signs that can indicate something may be wrong:

  • hiding,
  • chewing cage bars,
  • over-grooming,
  • altered feeding or toileting habits,
  • over-drinking,
  • playing with the water bottle,
  • sitting hunched,
  • reluctance to move,
  • repeatedly circling the enclosure.

If you’re worried about your rabbit’s behaviour, please seek advice from your vet who may refer you to a clinical animal behaviourist.


6 Responses to “Rabbit behaviour: all about bunny body language”

  • Ryan

    I think my rabbit has nightmares, every now and again he’ll just start thumping his leg for no apparent reason! Besides that he’s always ‘binkying’ around the room and ‘ligging’ out!

    • Sarah

      My bunny does that too.. I always thought he might be hearing something I can’t..

  • heather

    I think rabbits normally sleep in the day right? so maybe is rem sleep is weird due to hooman sleep adjustments. maybe. generally buns are pretty easy going though right?

    • Sarah

      Mine is usually calm (he’s a free bunny.. he can go anywhere in the house at all time, but he usually stays in the same room on a large carpet). He plays and is really active in the morning at late at night.. On weekends we can play with him until noon.. then he just flops and sleep until 7 pm when he starts looking for his meal and start running around again. But even though.. he will spend a lot of time napping even in play time.. :)

  • Aliasa

    My bunnys usually happy but she has her days and shes always chewing on her cage and everything she can

    • Evangelin

      her teeth might need trimming

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