Behavior

Habits
  • Rabbits are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk.
    • Letting your bunny out for exercise while getting ready in the morning and before dinner in the evening easily fits into the average routine.
  • "Chinning" an object is a way of marking it. Just as cats have scent glands on their cheeks and "mark" you by rubbing against you, rabbits have scent glands under their chins, and will do the same.
  • Because rabbits are a prey species, they have learned to rely on "escape paths" to return to their places of safety if they feel threatened.  Your rabbit may be slow to explore a new space, frequently running back to her home or other safe place until she feels comfortable.  Alterations to her pathways (such as a furniture rearrangement, setting down groceries, or moving a box of stuff) may cause your rabbit to react with a "thump" of annoyance. (See below for more on thumps.)
  • A favorite pastime of the rabbit is chewing. Rather than try to stop a natural instinct, try to redirect it from unwanted items – such as furniture – to toys or wooden chewsticks. Untreated wicker baskets, paper towel tubes, cat toys, and cardboard make great, inexpensive, and fun toys to occupy your bunny.

  • The other favorite habit a rabbit has is digging. Since it often can’t do this in its cage, it may try to do it on your carpet, especially where it meets the wall. Again, try redirecting the instinct. Provide a box full of somewhat shredded newspaper or junk mail, where it can happily finish the shredding for you!

Exercise & Bunny-proofing

  • Rabbits were designed to stay on the move in the wild. They should not sit idly in a cage forever, but have time daily to run in a bunny-proofed area.
  • “Bunny-proofing” means making an area safe for a rabbit. Items rabbits love include cords and wires, carpet, and books.
    • PVC or fish air tank hoses work great for keeping cords safe from teeth and out of the way.
    • Carpet can cause intestinal blockage if ingested – be sure to supervise your rabbit.
  • Even if you think an area is safe, be sure to supervise, at least for the first three or four sessions. Your rabbit may find something you missed, or squeeze into an area you didn’t think she could fit into. You also don’t want to miss the fun of watching her "binky" (see below) once she's explored the area!

Communication

  • Rabbits communicate primarily by body language, but also use noises such as grunts, honks, and thumps.
  • If the ears are laid flat back, the rabbit is either scared or angry. If it is standing with its body raised and ready to pounce, you should stay away! If he is tense and trying to be as flat as possible, he is nervous and scared.
  • A bunny that runs quickly, zig-zags, jumps extra high and twists, or even does flips, is a happy bunny! This rabbit feels safe enough in its environment to run and play. These antics are often referred to as a "binky" or "binkying."
  • A rabbit that is "flopped" over or sprawled out is relaxed and comfortable.

  • A loud "thump" made with both back feet is a signal to other rabbits that there is danger. If you are trying to catch your bunny, it means "Don’t come any closer!"
  • Licking shows affection… or you may taste good!
  • Grooming another bunny shows that the one being groomed is dominant. If a rabbit comes up to you and puts their head under your hand, he is saying "pet me!" and if you put your hand under your rabbit's chin and he nips, he is saying "You are not the boss, I am. You are supposed to pet me!"