7 things your pet rabbit does and what they mean

  • Is your bunny crouching or thumping its leg? That means it might be afraid - but licking you is a good sign
  • A vet gives tips on how to interpret the weird things rabbits do
Doris Wai |

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Have you ever looked at your pet and thought, “Just what is going on in that brain of yours?” Well, Young Post has been getting the pawriffic low-down from vets and other animal experts to help you interpret your furry friend’s behaviour and what it could be thinking.

This week, we’re reading the minds and speaking the language of fluffy bunnies. These gentle critters have a unique communication style all of their own.

Here’s what weird cat behaviours mean

Crouching down

When rabbits look tense while crouching or lying down in a nearly flat position against the ground, it usually means they are stressed, worried or fearful. It is best to not stand too close to them while they are in this position. If they are startled, they might suddenly dash off and accidentally hurt themselves.


This behaviour is when a rabbit leaps into the air, while twisting its body and kicking its feet out. A binky is a happy jump that shows your rabbit is feeling joy and contentment.

But don’t be dismayed if your rabbit doesn’t do this. Senior rabbits with degenerative joint disease (where their joints wear down as their bones rub against each other) are usually limited in their actions, and can’t show you how happy and secure they feel.

The same goes for overweight and chubby rabbits, who might find it harder to jump off the ground.

We're guessing snuggling probably means love.

Licking humans

Bonded rabbits show affection by grooming each other. When a rabbit licks a human companion, it is showing affection and trying to strengthen the bond they share.

Sitting upright with paws “boxing”

You will typically see this adorably quirky “boxing” action just before a rabbit uses its paws to groom its face, eyes, nose and ears. However, if the “boxing” action is directed against another rabbit or towards you, they are probably unhappy or trying to defend themselves.

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Flopping onto its side

Some new rabbit owners are shocked when their rabbits flop over onto their sides for the first time. But don’t worry – that means your rabbit is really content. Rabbits generally flop in environments that they feel safe and secure in, and the action is a sure sign they are enjoying life.

When a rabbit drops down quickly to lie on its side, sometimes, it will even roll onto its back. Some rabbits also dig intensely at one spot and turn around several times before the big flop (talk about being dramatic!).

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Licking furniture and objects

Sometimes your rabbit’s licking may extend to furniture or objects you use – that’s also a sign they like you. However, if you notice your rabbit is licking objects non-stop, this may mean they are bored or lack mental stimulation. Excessive licking of their own coat and skin, on the other hand, may indicate they have external parasites or infections and will require veterinary attention.


Rabbits will arch their backs and use their feet to hit the ground, and this is known as thumping. It is a form of communication that signals fear, displeasure or annoyance. Rabbits thump to alert other rabbits of danger, and they may also thump if they are upset at something you’ve done.

Answers provided by Dr Kris Koh, veterinary surgeon at Vet Affinity, Singapore.

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