For centuries, scientists have been trying to find out how to communicate with animals and a lot of progress was made in improving our understanding of their behavior. Understanding animal behavior is not as hard as trying to unplug your pool with pumps like these ones, but psychologists have gone a long way in explaining animal behavior.
Nowadays almost two-thirds of the population have a pet. Most people have a dog or a cat, a choice that makes their life easy because people usually understand what their dog is trying to tell them. The internet is full of cats and dogs and, without realizing it, it comes very easy to understand them. But what is it like when it comes to pet bunnies?
The situation doesn’t have to get harder when it comes to having a bunny pet. Even though it seems that you can not communicate with them as you do with dogs, you would be surprised to find out that a lot of the things your bunny is doing is a way for it to communicate with you.
You are your bunny’s family
When owning a pet, you act like it is part of your family. People do not always realize that pet animals are usually animals that have ancestors that live in ‘tribes’. Wolves, dogs’ ancestors, live in packs. Lions, animals related to cats, are also social animals. It shouldn’t be a surprise to know that rabbits also live together with their families.
This means that when you own a pet, you are their pack. Therefore, the same way it would communicate something to its fellow rabbits, your bunny is trying to tell you things all the time.
The importance of understanding what they are trying to tell you shouldn’t be minimized. It’s like having children: when they are very young, they cannot speak, but they still know how to tell you that they are hungry, tired, they can show you when something makes them upset.
Because they are human, you can relate to them and easily understand what they mean, but you have never been a rabbit and you have never lived among rabbits before. That is why the signals they send you are not so easy to understand. So, to make your life easier, we’ve made a short gathering of things you need to know to have a better communion with your bunny friend.
Understanding what makes rabbits happy will make your life easier because, if your pet is happy, you are happy. When your bunny flips, it’s trying to tell you that it is experiencing pure contentment. But it can also mean that it is tired.
Anyone who has danced before knows that dancing is a sign of happiness. Think you are special? Well, your bunny is special too. You have surely seen your bunny dancing or hopping around the house, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s a sign of pure happiness and joy. When you see a bunny jumping straight up and spinning in the air, that too indicates that it is very happy.
When your bunny flips, it’s trying to tell you that it is experiencing pure contentment. But it can also mean that it is tired.
If you are petting it and you hear a soft teeth grinding, do not worry, that means it is relaxed and content, but if the grinding is louder and your rabbit does that in random conditions, not while it is being petted, you should immediately take it to the vet because it may indicate that your bunny is ill.
Many things can make a rabbit unhappy. It may be angry because of something you did, or maybe because of something you didn’t do, or it might simply have woken up grumpy. The environment might make it sad as well. So, how do you know when it’s not happy?
For example, if you hear it grunt, it’s definitely a sign that it is not happy. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, rabbits are creatures of habit. They get comfortable with things they feel safe and at ease. But if you happen to rearrange things in its cage by mistake, or by pure intent, while you clean it, for example, it might not like it and grunt. It may even bite you afterward.
Learning what makes them unhappy will make your life easier. Try to notice when they grunt and analyze what you did to get that kind of reaction. Over time you will learn to stop doing the things that annoy it and have a happy companion.
Sometimes your rabbit might not be content with you taking it by surprise, so it might bite or nip you. Nipping isn’t something that can hurt you. They do that to make you pay attention that you’re doing something wrong, like standing in their way or you are grabbing their body too hard without realizing it, or stepping on their tail without feeling it.
A good thing to do when they bite is to make a crying sound so that they know you are hurting. They will immediately stop because their intent is not to hurt you, but to make you pay attention that you are doing something wrong. So if you make a crying sound they will be surprised and stop whatever they are doing to hurt you.
Your bunny might get scared for several reasons. Some of them might be due to loud noises, something taking them by surprise or poor vision. Sometimes your bunny might bite your finger because it can not see it well and it thinks it’s a predator or, maybe, food. If you notice this happening on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to take it to the vet and check its eyesight.
Thumps and stumps may also indicate that your beloved friend is frightened.
Marking its territory
Rabbits mark their territory in two ways: rubbing their chin and marking it with droppings. If you see your bunny rubbing its chin, don’t think that it has an itch. Rabbits actually have some glands under their chin and they give off a special scent that makes other rabbits know that this is their territory. Humans, however, can not feel this special bunny scent.
Did it ever happen that when you let your bunny out of its cage, on the couch, for example, a place where it hasn’t been before, it dropped poop all over? Maybe you thought it was scared or too excited, but no, the reason was that your bunny marked its territory. Do not be surprised if it will do it again every time you introduce it to a new place.
Other specific behaviors
Bunnies might circle around your feet when you enter the room and they may annoy you because you can not walk without hurting them. But you should reconsider your anger. When a bunny does that, it is trying to say ‘I love you’, so it might be a good idea to tell it that you love it back by giving it a hug or a lettuce leaf as a treat.
If you feel like you have a miniature rally vehicle in your house, you should get used to that. Now you know how to keep your bunny happy, so it will often be in the mood to play. This is how they play, by sprinting around the house and jumping on and off your furniture.
If the rabbit makes a shrill scream, however, it’s a sign that it is in a great amount of pain or very sick and you should take it to the vet asap.
Rabbits, as well as any other animals, have their own way of telling their mates what they feel so that they can all live in peace. You are now their mate, meaning that it’s your job to try to understand what they are saying.
If your bunny is naughty, you should know that there are ways in which you can stop bad behavior, just like you do with dogs. It’s not a great idea to punish them, but to reinforce good behavior. Learning how to understand how they feel and reinforcing their good behavior, will make you have a very happy life along with your bunny friend.