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Why Do Rabbits Thump?

Last Updated: 19.11.19

 

Rabbits are not very vocal animals but this doesn’t mean they can’t communicate with their human companions or other animals via body language. As our recent post will reveal, although not all rabbits do it, some will thump their legs whenever they feel danger or something particular that annoys them.

Owning any type of pet comes with great responsibility as you need to make sure it lives a long, healthy, and loving life under your roof. 

Rabbits are particularly caring and loving animals, which makes them great pets for children and adults alike. They can be as loyal and goofy as dogs while remaining quite independent, similar to cats. With proper care and constant love, bunnies can even outlive dogs and cats and spend more than 10 years on this planet. 

Unfortunately, they aren’t as vocal as many other animals, so understanding what they really want can be particularly challenging. Your furry little friend won’t bark when it feels lonely, sad or wants more food while it may curl up into your arms if it’s in the mood for love and cuddles. 

Here are the most common reactions you will get from your bunny, along with everything they stand for and what you are supposed to do when they happen. 

 

Binky 

From personal experience, rabbits are fun and interesting creatures to watch. They are curious, goofy, and altogether adorable, which means it’s impossible to get bored by watching their reactions in everyday situations. 

Binky represents a unique and acrobatic jump accompanied by kicking the legs or twisting the body and you’ll most likely see it whenever your bunny feels ecstatic. 

Rabbits use binky to communicate to their owners or partners that they are happy and willing to play. Whenever a bunny exhibits this type of behavior, it means that it feels safe in the environment you created and is ready to play and have some fun. 

 

 

Licking

Just like cats, rabbits love grooming themselves and can spend hours thoroughly washing every inch of their bodies. Although they are not necessarily scared of water like most cats, you should avoid bathing your bunny as it can be a traumatic or unpleasant experience. 

Rabbits are clean animals and, unless exposed to extreme dirt or dust, they are fully capable of looking after their personal hygiene by licking themselves. 

When a bunny licks you, it means it has fully accepted you and you should interpret this as a gesture of affection. It may lick your foot, your arm or even your face, similar to cats and dogs. Make sure to pet your furry animal daily and spend quality time with it whenever you have the chance. 

 

Flat rabbit 

A flat rabbit may mean two opposite things, depending on its expression. Often enough, a bunny flattens itself on its belly with the ears extremely warm and held very flat when it feels relaxed. You will notice this behavior after a while when it feels completely safe around you and enjoys being petted and groomed. 

However, a flat bunny can also mean that it is frightened and trying to blend with the surroundings. The difference is given by context and environment. 

If the bunny senses a threat on its territory, it may adopt a flat position to confuse potential predators and enemies. This usually happens when they notice other animals or they are taken out of their comfort zone and need to adjust to a new environment. 

 

Flopping

If you own a rabbit, you must have gotten scared at least once when you saw your pet suddenly flopping onto its side and laying still. However, contrary to what it looks like, there is nothing wrong with your furry friend. 

In fact, most rabbits adopt this position when they are fully relaxed and enjoy the good weather outdoors or the company. Congratulations! You managed to make your pet happy, without a single care in the world. 

 

 

Vocalization

Yes, sometimes, rabbits use noises to communicate with other animals. Unfortunately, most of these noises are accompanied by annoyance, displeasure, extreme pain or fear. If a bunny screams, it is a sign of fear and terror, so you should immediately try to calm it down. 

Snorting, grunting, hissing or growling can display a series of emotions, from threat to stress, anger, displeasure or irritation. It is a clear sign that your bunny doesn’t like to be held, petted or it feels threatened by another animal or human on its territory. If you hear any of these sounds, you should keep a distance from the animal and allow it to calm down on its own. 

Of course, there is also the rare case when rabbits puff or snore. Contrary to their nature of sleeping with their eyes half open and always being alert, house bunnies can lose most of their survival instincts, in time, meaning they feel completely safe and can let their guard down. 

This usually happens when the rabbit gets older and starts having some breathing problems, just like most other dogs, cats or humans. Consider yourself one lucky owner if your pet lives long enough to be having age-related health issues. 

 

Thumping

Thumping is one of the behaviors that has been long documented by animal specialists and bunny lovers. Similar to the “flat rabbit pose”, thumping can have various meanings. However, most vets and specialists agree that when a rabbit stomps on the ground or thumps, it communicates danger or threat to other animals or rabbits. 

Generally speaking, foot-stamping shows that something or someone in their environment is bothering them. However, the behavior differs from wild rabbits to those raised in captivity and, for the latter, it may indicate other emotions as well. 

If you hear your rabbit thumping its back legs onto the ground, is often means that it suspects an upcoming hazard or threat. Foot stamping represents a common defensive behavior in rabbits and is mainly used to notify other rabbits or animals of the approaching danger. 

This form of body communication can also indicate that your bun is rather irritated or annoyed than fearful. It may be something you did unintentionally or knowingly to annoy your bunny such as holding it or pulling its tail. Keep in mind that, in this situation, thumping can also be followed by biting, a form of dominance behavior rabbits use to protect themselves from other predators. 

Although thumping is mainly associated with adult males, you can also see it in territorial females, especially those who are pregnant or nursing. If this becomes a problem, consider neutering the animal and avoid doing things that might annoy it. 

Another reason why bunnies might thump is that they feel physical discomfort or pain. If it is followed by a fierce behavior, shrieking, snarling or even biting, this could indicate a potential wound or pain and you should take the animal to the vet as soon as possible. 

Don’t forget that rabbits master the art of masking pain and physical discomfort as these are seen as signs of weakness. 

Last but not least, if your bunny thumps its feet and runs in circles around you, it may mean that it’s only craving for attention. This usually happens when the pet is left alone for a long time or doesn’t receive its daily dose of cuddles, love, and affection. 

Don’t ignore your pet’s desires and keep in mind that, for it, you may be the most important person. Therefore, you should always find some time to play with your bunny, stroke it for a while, and even give it belly rubs. Add some yummy treats into this equation and you’ll have yourself a happy bunny. 

However, bear in mind that rabbits are smart creatures, meaning they will easily learn to adapt to your reactions. In other words, if they notice thumping is the only behavior that draws your attention and makes you play and cuddle with them, they might be using it more often in the future. 

All in all, you should pay close attention to your rabbit’s body language and identify potential problems or fears that might lead to stress and anxiety. This means you should understand your animal’s personality and work around it to avoid unnecessary stress or anger. 

If it enjoys being pet and cuddled, show it affection on a daily basis. But, on the contrary, if it shows signs of irritation and discomfort whenever you’re holding it, learn to respect its privacy and give it time until it will come to you. 

 

 

 

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