Rabbit Owner's Guide

Rabbit behaviour 101

Rabbit personality

Each rabbit has a distinct personality and as you spend more time with yours, you will get to know your bunny better. However, bunnies generally display the same signs when it comes to aggression, danger and pleasure.

Thumping

Rabbits thump when they are in danger. It is their way of informing the entire clan that danger is approaching because they are not vocal animals. Rabbits usually thump with their hind feet. Domesticated rabbits may thump at their owners when they try to resist being picked up and handled, or out of anger and fear.

Binkying

A binky is characterized by a high flop and mad twist in the air. Bunnies binky when they are very happy!

Periscoping

A periscope is when the bunny rears back on its hind feet and "stands up". Bunnies do this in order to look farther ahead, or when they want to reach something up high.

Mounting / humping

Single male rabbits will often try to mount soft toys, cushions and even people's legs. This is a sign that your rabbit is ready to be neutered. This behaviour usually ceases a month or so after neutering.

Mounting is also used as a sign of dominance in both male and female rabbits. The dominant rabbit will mount the other rabbit to show who is boss. Once the dominant rabbit has been decided, this behaviour usually stops.

Grunting

There are different types of grunting in rabbits. One of which is a warning that a rabbit is about to attack when they are cornered. Alternatively, rabbits can grunt softly as they run round and round you. This is a dance of love, and the rabbit is expressing his/her feelings for you.

Purring

Rabbits can make a purring noise by grinding their teeth. A quiet tooth purr means you have a happy rabbit. A louder crunchy type of teeth grinding can indicate that your rabbit is in pain. To determine what your rabbit is telling you, look at the rabbit's eyes (are they wide open, or closed as if relaxed) and the rabbit's body language (hunched and uncomfortable looking, or relaxed and calm). Small things like this let you know when a rabbit is not feeling well.

Eating cecals (rabbit faeces)

Do not be surprised if you see your bunnies eating their own cecals. Cecals are usually wet and clump together and have a strong odour. Rabbits do this because they need to obtain the very essential vitamin B12 from these cecal pellets. The first time food goes through their system; it is not fully digested, due to the bunny's short gastrointestinal tract.

Cecal pellets contain vitamin B12 and many other vitamins, which your bunny requires and ingesting them is the only way they can obtain these vitamins.

If your bunny is not eating all of its wet poop, your bunny may not be eating enough hay. If it persists, your bunny may have diarrhoea (very wet and clumpy cecals) and should be given less fresh food. If your bunny is not eating well at all, you should take it to a veterinarian. However, some bunnies simply make too much of the wet poop to eat.

Once the food passes through their system again, the cecals come out as dry balls. These are easy to sweep up and dispose of.

Territorial marking

Bunnies mark their territory by spraying urine or laying cecals (rabbit faeces) about their premises. So do not mistake this as a sign of disobedience.

Socialisation / bonding

A good relationship with your bunny will make your time with your companion very rewarding. It also helps to lessen the stress your rabbit may go through when you need to groom her or bring her for checkups.

Handling your bunny often will foster good ties between the two of you. It is also critical to the health and wellbeing of your rabbit. However, do remember the codes of conduct when socialising with your bunny and NEVER pick a bunny up by its ears.

All adults in the family should model respect and teach their children how to develop a relationship with their bunny. There are several aspects of socialization, all of them based on trust. Playing with, petting, and picking your bunny up are easier to accomplish when your bunny trusts you.