A rabbit screaming needs your attention right away. But taking your rabbit to the animal hospital emergency room usually is not the right thing to do.
A rabbit’s scream is an unmistakable shrill, sharp, loud, and long cry. If you have never heard a rabbit scream before—and even if you have—you are sure to find this agonized sound disturbing.
But before you do anything about your rabbit’s screaming, you need to keep two things in mind.
- Any rabbit that screams needs its owner or caretaker to be physically present until the danger has passed.
- Before you begin any kind of first aid for your rabbit, you need to ascertain the reason your rabbit is screaming.
Before we go any further, we need to address a common misconception.
Rabbits sometimes scream just before they die of a heart attack caused by fright, or when they suffer a fatal bite or blow.
But the fact that your rabbit is screaming does not usually mean that your rabbit is about to die.
Why Do Rabbits Scream?
Rabbits scream when they are extremely frightened.
Scientists know that any sound a rabbit makes will be louder when its body is struggling to produce energy for fight or flight.
The rabbit’s vocal cords stretch out as its body tenses up in preparation to meet danger.
Rabbits scream when they are afraid of being attacked by animals.
Sometimes, this means that your rabbit is physically confronted by a dog, a cat, a hawk, or a snake.
But your rabbit can also be terrified by the scent of wildcat urine or feces (like some of the rodent-repellent products used by landscapers and home gardeners).
If your rabbit has ever had an encounter with a gnarling, barking dog bearing its teeth, even the scent of that dog can be terrifying.
Rabbits also scream when they sense they are being hunted.
Even the best cared-for house rabbit somehow knows that a gunshot denotes danger.
Rabbits are likewise frightened by backfiring in a car’s exhaust system, explosions, thunder, falling objects, and turning on loud music.
Your rabbit can be frightened by animals and objects you cannot see. Rabbits are farsighted.
They can see objects in the distance that humans cannot. They also have nearly a 360° field of vision. They can see objects high in the sky overhead, to their sides, and, to a limited extent, behind them.
A screaming rabbit may be upset about a danger you cannot see.
Also read: How Do Rabbits Communicate?
Screaming As a Sign of Severe Pain
Rabbits may scream when they are in severe pain.
When pain is the reason a rabbit screams, there will usually be other signs of distress, such as:
- A hunched-over posture, possibly to protect the part of the rabbit’s body that is causing the pain.
- Grinding teeth.
- Staying in one spot for a long time, or retreating to a hiding place.
- Trembling or shaking.
- Lying on its side.
These additional signs and symptoms vary with what is causing the pain.
Rabbits have delicate bones. Their fragile skeletal bones are easily broken when they are dropped.
Spinal fractures are common when rabbits try to get away from you when you hold them too tight. (That’s why it is important to let your rabbit’s lower legs move freely when you pick them up.)
A rabbit that has a broken bone will recoil from you when you touch the area of its body over the break.
Rabbits may scream when they get severe gas.
Rabbits can get a condition called gastrointestinal stasis. Rabbits thrive on a diet of hay and grasses.
They have a unique digestive process that transforms the fiber in grass into butyric acid, which fuels the cells that line their colons.
When rabbits don’t eat mostly hay, they don’t get enough fiber. Indigestible items like the hair they swallow then they groom themselves. This hair can form a hairball at the base of their stomachs.
Unfortunately for the rabbit, there is no way that a rabbit can cough up the hairball.
Everything the rabbit eats becomes lodged in its stomach. Its tummy may puff up so you can see visible lumps through its skin, and it may scream in pain.
Not getting enough fiber can cause another painful problem for rabbits, malocclusion.
Rabbit teeth keep growing their entire lives. They wear them down by chewing on grasses and woody plants.
When they don’t get enough fiber to keep their teeth at their normal size, their teeth keep on growing.
A rabbit’s teeth can grow into its face and even into its eyes. The result is severe pain.
Long-haired rabbits like Angoras can catch poop pellets and other debris in their fur.
Removing the tangle can pull at the roots of the long hairs and make your rabbit squeal in pain. This pain is only temporary, however.
Also read: How to Remove Matted Rabbit Fur?
Your rabbit may cry out when it is having a seizure.
Seizures in rabbits don’t look like seizures in humans. Rabbits display very different symptoms of seizures.
Tilting the head to one side is the most common symptom of a seizure in rabbits. The rabbit will usually also be paralyzed in its hind legs, and possibly insensitive to pain.
This symptom usually follows infection with a parasite. Dwarf rabbits get head tilt after they are exposed to a fungus called Encephalitozoon cuniculi.
Larger rabbits develop head tilt after they are exposed to a kind of bacteria called Pasteurella multocida.
Rabbits will develop head tilt from these infections 1 or 2 weeks after another, infected rabbit sneezes on them.
There is no vaccine to prevent these infections, but your veterinarian may be able to give your rabbit successful antifungal or antibiotic treatment if you get to the vet in the first few days there are symptoms.
Toxemia of Pregnancy
Pregnant does that do not get enough to eat may develop a condition called toxemia of pregnancy.
This toxic reaction to the liver’s attempts to use stored fat as fuel can also occur when a female is nursing a large liter.
This condition causes weakness, loss of coordination, and convulsions. Getting veterinary treatment within 24 hours will often save the doe’s life, and give her babies a mother.
Rabbits need shade, good ventilation, and adequate drinking water when temperatures exceed 85° F (29° C).
If you know your rabbit is heat beat, screaming is a sign that it is very sick and will not survive without veterinary treatment.
Rabbits may scream in pain when they consume pesticides, laundry detergent, or other products you may keep in kitchen cabinets or under the sink.
Rabbits are prey animals. Predators often seek animals that are sick and won’t put up a fight.
Your rabbit will naturally conceal its pain until it is unbearable. Fast treatment may be necessary to save your rabbit’s life. But there is a reason you should not automatically rush your rabbit to the vet if it screams.
Also read: Why is My Pet Rabbit Making Weird Noises?
What to Do When Your Rabbit Screams
The first thing you need to do when your rabbit screams is to be physically present to offer it comfort.
Talk to your rabbit in a calm, quiet voice.
If your rabbit has heard a loud noise or been confronted by a scary animal, pet it, cover it loosely with a warm blanket, and stay with it until it stops trembling or shaking and it is ready to go back to its normal activities.
The reason you should not immediately take your rabbit to the vet is that the car ride to the vet can also be scary.
When the reason for screaming is fright, going to the vet right away will make the problem worse, not better.
If your rabbit continues to be in pain for half an hour or longer, with you at its side the whole time, then it is time to go to the veterinarian’s office.
Also read: 5 Ways to Comfort a Dying Rabbit?
Calming a Screaming Rabbit
Here are some things you can do to calm your screaming rabbit.
To calm a screaming rabbit, it is essential to first identify the factors that may be causing them distress. Once the reason for their scream is determined, take appropriate action to alleviate their distress.
For instance, if a rabbit is scared, their natural response is to flee. Ensure that they have a safe space to retreat to within their environment.
Speak gently to your rabbit while approaching them slowly, and avoid making sudden movements which might further frighten them.
In case your rabbit is in pain, it is crucial to consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. They will provide appropriate guidance on medical care required to help your pet feel more comfortable.
When dealing with a hungry rabbit, especially a baby rabbit, observe their behavior and physical signs, such as a sunken tummy.
Make sure the mother rabbit is feeding the baby and, if needed, consult an expert on how to safely provide supplementary feeds.
Creating a Comfortable Environment
A comfortable environment is essential for your rabbit’s well-being and can significantly help in reducing the chances of them feeling threatened or
stressed. To create a cozy habitat for your pet rabbit, consider the following suggestions:
- Provide hiding spots: Rabbits need places to hide to feel secure. Add tunnels, cardboard boxes, or small pet tents to give them a sense of safety.
- Keep noise levels low: Sudden loud noises can frighten rabbits. Ensure their environment is peaceful and quiet, avoiding any unnecessary disturbances.
- Offer soft bedding: Provide your rabbit with comfortable, soft bedding that allows them to rest and relax comfortably.
- Ensure proper lighting: Rabbits are sensitive to bright lights, so make sure their living area is well lit but not too bright.
By following these strategies and creating a nurturing environment, you can effectively help to soothe and calm a screaming rabbit, ensuring their comfort and happiness in your care.
Frequently Asked Questions About Rabbits, Fright, and Screaming
Q. Can there ever be anything good about a rabbit’s scream?
Many of the raptors (owls, hawks, eagles, kites, and falcons) locate their prey by sound. If a rabbit sees a raptor swooping down to grab it, screaming may keep the raptor from locating it. This may give the rabbit a fraction of a second to escape. This delay can be just enough time to get to safety. A rabbit’s scream may also be disorienting to an attacking dog or cat.
Q. What does a rabbit scream sound like?
The sound of a rabbit’s scream is highly individual to the rabbit. There are rabbit screams that sound like birds, pigs, and even people. Here is an audio file of rabbit screams. Be forewarned that you may find rabbit screams upsetting. Rabbit screams are very different from the sound made by an angry rabbit.
Q. Why doesn’t my screaming rabbit look at me if she needs my help?
Rabbits have good vision for objects above them, below them, or to their sides, but they have a blind spot right in front of their noses. They compensate for this by their ability to smell or hear objects right in front of them. Your rabbit will give you a sideways glance if they are trying to tell you that they need your help.
Q. Does music always frighten rabbits?
A. Scientists at the University of Indiana gave five older male rabbits the opportunity to listen to songs specifically selected for calming rabbits for six months. They measured the amount of the stress hormone cortisol they released into their poop.
The scientists found that music therapy reduced the amount of the stress hormone in the rabbit droppings from about 12,000 picograms per milligram to about 4,000 picograms per milligram. That is a reduction of about 2/3.
It is important to understand that the scientists played the songs to calm rabbits softly. They were careful to avoid cranking up the volume of their CD players. The researchers noticed that every rabbit reacted to music just a little differently and that stress levels rose again when they stopped playing the music for their rabbits. However, the beneficial effects of soft music for rabbits lasted six months.
What causes a rabbit to scream like a human?
Rabbits may scream like a human when they are extremely frightened or experiencing severe pain. The sound is sharp and shrill, and it could be a sign of life-threatening situations that require immediate care. The loudness and intensity of the scream could evoke a strong emotional reaction for the listener, and it may resemble human-like emotions.
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