The behaviors of the dwarf rabbit (complete guide).
Rabbits are docile and calm animals. Being prey in nature, it is indeed in their interest not to attract too much attention. That being said, they also naturally express themselves through a unique and recognizable language.
Jumps, runs and dances
If you’re not experienced with rabbits, I know this title might sound strange to you. But I assure you, you’ll understand it right away after spending the first few days with your dwarf rabbit. At first, you might think your rabbit is crazy. Even I remember typing “My rabbit is crazy” on Google the first time to explain this behavior.
Rabbits, in fact, have their own unique language, and expressing joy is a real celebration for them. It’s a dance. Seeing them hop in the air, twisting their bodies and moving awkwardly from side to side is something inexplicable. Sometimes, this dance is even announced by a running start.
However, the most enjoyable moment is when these acrobatic hops follow one another, creating a surprising, joyful, and engaging show.
Let’s dispel the idea some people have of rabbits being lazy and boring right away. It’s not like that!
The wild race is not occasional and those who have a rabbit at home know it well. If they have long corridors or spacious rooms at their disposal, running will become a must.
It then turns into a somewhat confusing race when the scent of a very pleasant food or a treat attracts your rabbit towards you, and from the desire to get the reward, it may even risk not being able to brake in time.
Balls of poop and urine in the corners
If your rabbit arrives in a new environment and sprays a little urine or doesn’t use the litter box for its needs, don’t worry. Obviously, it is always better to avoid these behaviors, especially if the new place will become its new home. But, in any case, the behavior is entirely natural and simply indicates that it is marking its territory.
A happy rabbit flops. But what does flop mean? It indicates lying down on one side with a little thud. It’s like how we sleep on our side, and sometimes a rabbit may flop a couple of times before finding the right position, first to the right and then to the left.
Or, it may also happen that a rabbit positions its head on one side or the other before finding the ideal position for its rest.
Rabbit lying on its side or with paws backwards
Once a rabbit flops, it will rest on its side. If instead you happen to see your rabbit lying on its belly with its hind legs stretched out, it’s just another relaxing position. This position is often chosen during the summer months when contact with a cool floor obviously provides a widespread pleasure.
Finally, a third position while lying down will make you, especially the first time, scared if you are not used to or prepared for it. When you see your rabbit sleeping for the first time, you will think “Oh no! My rabbit is dead”. Don’t worry! You see him lying on his side, with his head reclined and completely abandoned to himself because he has completely relaxed and is taking a good nap.
I recommend avoiding sudden and loud noises so as not to scare him, it could be really dangerous. And I also advise you not to wake him up. Let him sleep, no one likes to be disturbed during a deep sleep. Also, waking him up or making noise could condition him from taking a nap in the same place on other occasions.
Rabbit lying on its back
This is a position that is assumed very, very rarely. Usually, it is taken by the rabbit for two completely opposite reasons: the first, rarer one is that it feels so comfortable that it abandons all defenses and shows you its weakest point: the belly. The second, on the other hand, may mean that it is terrified of something or someone and is simulating total immobility and therefore death, as it would in nature in front of a predator.
Standing on hind legs
This position is typical of a curious rabbit who wants to understand what is happening around him. However, it can also be assumed as a request for attention or food. I recommend not spoiling him too much, as if he gets food every time he asks, it can trigger a vicious and negative cycle.
If your rabbit licks you, don’t worry. He’s trying to show you all his affection!
When a rabbit licks you, he’s actually “washing” you. It’s a gesture that in their language is reserved for friends and partners.
Make a humming sound
An excited rabbit emits a strange sound, sometimes difficult to perceive. Usually, this sound is accompanied by circular movements. It can mean happiness or sexual excitement.
If your rabbit then circles around your legs, it means that it is courting you.
f while you’re petting your rabbit, you hear it grinding its teeth, don’t worry. It’s actually purring! Rabbits, in fact, show their contentment in this way.
But don’t be fooled, because teeth grinding can also indicate pain and is a symptom of some issues arising.
So how can you tell when your rabbit is grinding its teeth in pleasure or pain? The answer is quite simple. Teeth grinding due to pain is usually a slow and quiet movement, but above all, quite constant.
Teeth grinding for purring is instead sporadic, linked to a moment of cuddles, but above all, of stronger intensity.
So, if the rabbit is in a relaxed position and eager for cuddles, there’s no need to worry. However, if you notice that your rabbit is very nervous, doesn’t like to be touched, and grinds its teeth often, book a visit to the vet as soon as possible for a check-up.
Growling, as in the case of other animals, is also a sign of anger or stress for rabbits. The reasons can be various. One of them is the invasion of their territory by strangers.
However, since rabbits are naturally docile, if a rabbit growls often, I recommend keeping an eye on it as it may be annoyed by something or someone, or it could be suffering from some unexplained pain.
The remedy, of course, is to leave it alone.
Blowing is also an aggressive instinct. If your rabbit blows, something is bothering them. This often happens with unsterilized rabbits. In rare cases, it can be a sign of boredom.
The rabbit screams
It is very rare for a rabbit to “scream”. The sound is intense and piercing. It may happen only if your rabbit is suffering greatly, and in that case, I recommend prompt intervention from a veterinarian as it could be a very serious and even fatal problem.
Kicking on the ground
If you vaguely remember the Disney cartoon Bambi, you will certainly remember the fawn’s best friend: the rabbit Thumper. In some scenes of the movie, the bunny has the habit of stomping his hind leg on the ground, almost like drumming.
Well, in your rabbit’s language, this behavior means that something is scaring him. For example, he may kick like this when you put him back on the ground after holding him or after a nail trimming session. Nothing personal, he just doesn’t like heights.
Rubbing their chin on objects in the house, especially in their living environment, is a simple declaration of ownership for rabbits and can be interpreted as “Hey, this is mine!”.
Rabbits rub their chins, emitting an odorless substance for humans through the gland located in that position, with the intention of marking their territory.
You should know that rabbits are very curious animals. They explore the world around them by sniffing and tapping with their nose. Therefore, for them, it is a natural gesture to understand what surrounds them.
However, this behavior can have various meanings depending on the circumstances. For example, if you are in your rabbit’s way, he or she may lightly tap you with their nose to ask you to move. Or, if they want cuddles and caresses, they may request them by getting your attention with nose or muzzle taps.
In any case, just satisfying their needs will make them happy. Otherwise, most likely, they will flop on one side for a nap.
Digging is a natural instinct, so there’s nothing to worry about. In particular, if your rabbit is digging near your feet, it’s just a way to get your attention and ask for some cuddles.
Why do rabbits dig burrows?
European wild rabbits live in large underground burrows. All domestic rabbits descend from these wild rabbits, so the behavior of digging is encoded in their DNA. Among domestic rabbits, females are more likely to dig burrows than males.
On the other hand, Eastern rabbits and other species of wild rabbits found in North America do not dig at all. Rather, these species scratch the ground in areas with tall grass to create their shelters.
After digging a hole, why do rabbits cover it?
To hide the entrance to the burrow from predators. Additionally, if there are young ones in that hole, it helps prevent them from wandering away. A wild rabbit does this even when the burrow is part of a maze of tunnel colonies that serve as vital living space for the rabbit family group. Occasionally, domesticated young rabbits will successfully cover a nest.
This reflects good maternal instincts, not an attempt to suffocate the young. I assure you, I have heard and read all kinds of stories. For example, there are stories of female rabbits that, after giving birth to their young, build such a complete covering over their nest that it completely hides the young for hours.
Rabbits sometimes nibble to get attention. They don’t do it to cause pain, but over time this could become a bad habit. To avoid this annoying situation, I suggest you train your rabbit from a young age not to nibble on you.
But how do you do it? My trick is this: you should emit a small scream every time it happens. Don’t shout like crazy, just a small scream. Over time, I assure you that the nibbles will decrease.
Sometimes, however, your rabbit may bite aggressively. This usually happens when you are invading its territory or doing something to upset it. In addition to avoiding bothering it in any case, I also recommend, if aggressive behavior continues, to have it neutered or spayed.
Tear out the hair
This rather strange behavior only occurs in female rabbits that are about to give birth or believe they are pregnant. It can be considered a real hysterical pregnancy, which should only last a few days. However, if your rabbit is not spayed, I recommend that you consult your trusted veterinarian.
The male equivalent of pulling out fur. If your rabbit is male and not neutered, he may spray urine as a sexual instinct. In this case, the advice is also to consult a veterinarian and consider neutering.
As you may have read, rabbit behaviors are numerous and varied. Their language is unique and you will learn to understand it through coexistence, but having an idea of the explanation of certain behaviors can help you solve problems more quickly or modify certain habits of yourself or your rabbit.
How do rabbits greet?
Rabbits greet each other by touching their noses and sniffing, but there is much more to rabbit communication than just greeting each other. Sometimes, rabbits may test or reinforce dominance over territory if they feel the need. Their vocal repertoire is limited, so they communicate more through body language than through sounds, even in these cases.