Why Does My Rabbit ………?
Aggression – aggressive behaviour may involve a threat (no contact) or an attack (contact). The rabbit may use its front feet or its teeth during aggression.
Allogrooming – one rabbit grooming another rabbit. This behaviour is often used to strengthen relationships and appears as licking when directed towards the owner.
Chasing – rabbits often chase each other during disputes over territory or during courtship. Occasionally they even chase each other for fun!
Chin rubbing – rabbits mark anything that doesn’t smell of them with the scent glands that are located under the chin. In the wild this behaviour lets other rabbits know whose territory they have entered – in the home, the behaviour may be seen around new items of furniture or even the owner’s legs.
Chewing (no food) – if a rabbit moves its jaw so that it looks as though it is chewing but it is not eating then the rabbit is probably very relaxed.
Circling – Female rabbits circle male rabbits during courtship and this is often combined with some grunting. When a rabbit is kept alone the behaviour can be directed towards the owner.
Digging – Female rabbits dig the majority of the burrows in the wild but both males and females engage in this behaviour – particularly within the domestic situation where they may dig up carpets or flowerbeds.
Elimination – Excreting waste product from the body in the form of urine or faeces. Rabbits produce two sets of faeces – the first of which are called caecotrophs and are re-digested by the rabbit. The second faeces are dry and hard and are left in areas called latrines.
Foot thumping – rabbits thump their feet quite rapidly to alert the rest of the group to danger. Domestic rabbits – even living alone - may do this is they feel under threat by an owner or another animal when they are in their hutch.
Fur Plucking – Generally speaking this is a sign of a pregnancy – or a phantom pregnancy – when a female rabbit plucks the hair off her chest to line a nest made from bedding. In some situations rabbits pull their own hair out or over groom a companion through stress or boredom.
Grazing – Rabbits consume their food by grazing which involves continuously taking in small amounts of vegetation over long periods. In a domestic situation this behaviour is rarely seen over such long periods as rabbits are fed concentrated food from bowls.
Growling – rabbits growl when they feel threatened. This may occur between individuals or towards owners when they approach the rabbit suddenly or put a hand into the rabbits’ territory.
Grooming – rabbits groom themselves to maintain condition and hygiene. Long periods of time will be spent cleaning every area of the body using the mouth and paws. Another rabbit will groom the areas that can’t be reached during periods of allogrooming.
Grunting – rabbits, particularly females, grunt during courtship rituals such as circling.
Hopping – Rabbit’s are said to ‘hop’ and this is the rabbit’s main mode of locomotion when it is relaxed.
Jumping / Friskiness</STRONG> – rabbits can often be seen to leap around, twisting in mid-air. This is usually their attempt at letting off steam but may occur more when they are young or during the breeding season.
Lying</STRONG> – Rabbits lie down on their sides when they are relaxed.
Mating – Rabbits reproduce via copulation. The female ‘flirts’ with the male by circling him and grunting and she may receive the occasional spray of urine. The copulation leads to the release of an egg by the female, which is then fertilised by the male’s sperm. This is an unusual system of ovulation within mammals.
Nipping – rabbits usually nip during aggressive encounters – at times when they feel under threat. Occasionally they nip in an affectionate manner but this is usually misplaced allogrooming.
Pregnancy – The gestation period for a rabbit is 31 days. Towards the middle of the pregnancy the doe starts to locate a suitable nest area, which she then prepares with hair from her chest during the last week of gestation.
Refection – The act of consuming the first set of faeces (caecotrophs). The rabbit reaches around to the anus to consume them as they are excreted.
Scraping – Similar to digging, rabbits will perform this behaviour to create a scrape – a shallow indentation in the earth to lie in. If the rabbit has not been spayed this behaviour can indicate that she is looking for a potential nest site.
Spraying – Male rabbits tend to spray urine to mark areas within the territory or during courtship when a female will be sprayed with a small amount of urine. Rabbits are hierarchical creatures and spraying can be used by males to reinforce their status.
Tooth grinding – The rabbit may be in pain.
Tonic immobility – When a rabbit is caught by a predator or feels itself to under some other high chance of danger it will exhibit tonic immobility – in other words it will ‘play dead’. The rabbit is conscious and is waiting for the moment when it can run away. Many people will ‘trance’ a rabbit by placing it on its back, which enables them to examine the rabbit or trim its nails without the rabbit struggling. It is not something that should be done for fun.
Scream</STRONG> – Rabbits scream when they are under severe threat or in extreme pain.