Rabbits lick you when they like you. Licking is a rabbit’s way of grooming another “rabbit” she feels at home, comfortable, and safe to be around.
Licking is a clear sign of affection.
Pet bunnies are full of personality, and they have very clear ways of communicating how they feel.
Licking is just one of the ways your pet rabbit can show you affection.
In this article, we will discuss the many ways your bunny can tell you how they feel about you.
Ways Your Rabbit Shows Affection (Other than Licking)
Licking isn’t the only common way a rabbit will tell you that he likes you.
There are many other signals your rabbit can send to tell you that things are going well.
Rabbits have chins with scent glands in them. These glands release chemicals called pheromones.
Your rabbit uses pheromones to identify objects as “Mine.” When a rabbit rubs you with her chin, she is marking you as part of her territory and part of her life.
Honking or Buzzing
Honking is a rabbit’s happy sound.
They can also make a buzzing sound when they are happy but aren’t feeling as energetic.
Cats aren’t the only pets that can purr.
Rabbits make a purring sound when they are content, especially when they are being held and petted by someone they know and trust.
Head Extended and Laid Down Flat
This is your rabbit’s way of saying “Pet me! Pet me now!”
Running Around in Circles
Bunnies run around in circles at high speeds when they are excited and happy.
A rabbit that runs around your feet when they see you is happy you are there.
Wiggling His Nose, or Staring at You With Ears Pointed Forward
These are signs your rabbit is aware of you and wants further interaction.
But they do not always mean, as we will discuss in more detail a little later, that your rabbit wants to be picked up and petted.
Also read: Can Rabbits Have Salt Licks?
Ways Your Rabbit Sends Other Messages
There are some other signals your rabbit can send you that don’t mean he is feeling affectionate.
Rabbits thump the ground with their back foot to warn each other of danger.
When your rabbit does this indoors, they may be telling you that they have picked up the scent of or seen a potential predator, such as a dog, a cat, or a ferret.
Rabbits can make a grunting sound that is a lot like the “oink” of a pig.
This means that they are very upset and a hard bite may be coming in the near future.
A rabbit that stands up on her two back paws and points her front paws forward ready to strike is about to get into a fight.
Bumping You With Their Nose
Bumping you with his nose is a signal that your rabbit wants your attention.
The message may be that you are just in your rabbit’s way, and they want you to move.
Or this can be your rabbit’s way of begging for a treat. Either way, Bunny wants you to do something.
Ears Pointed Sideways
Rabbits point their ears sideways when they aren’t sure they want to interact with you.
If a treat is involved, sure, they will come up for a visit, but otherwise, they need to know you better, or they need a different incentive.
Ears Tucked Against Their Body, Facing You
Your rabbit is unhappy.
Ears Tucked Against Their Body, Showing You Their Hindquarters
Your rabbit is unhappy with you.
Rabbit Turned Sideways
This is your bunny’s way of saying “Not now.” They aren’t mad at you, but they don’t want to be bothered.
Some rabbit sounds are always distress signals, especially screaming. (It’s true that many rabbits scream just before they die.)
Biting is never a good sign, either. But there are things you can do to make friends with your rabbit in ways you rabbit will understand.
How to Make Friends With Your Rabbit
One of the mistakes first-time bunny owners make is overreacting to the way their rabbits act at their first meeting.
It’s natural for new rabbit owners to want to pick up and pet their rabbits. The rabbit, on the other hand, never encounters anything like this in nature.
The owner picks up the new rabbit, the rabbit hops away, and the owners never try again.
This is a mistake. Rabbits need to be socialized to receive and return affection to their owners.
But before you begin training your rabbit to show affection, you need to learn one very basic rule:
Rabbits are fragile. They need to be handled carefully.
A rabbit can break her back by landing hard on the floor while trying to escape your hug.
Rabbits can’t be picked up by the scruff of the neck. Unlike dogs and cats, mother rabbits never move their kittens this way, so rabbits are terrified by being picked up this way.
And you must never, ever pick up your rabbit by their ears. This can cause serious damage to the cartilage that connects them to the rabbit’s head.
In the wild, when a rabbit leaves the ground, it is because she is in the mouth of some predator that is about to eat her.
Rabbits are instinctively terrified of being picked up, so you must show them affection at ground level.
If you have interacted with your rabbit for a year or two, he might even trust you enough to let you pick him up and carry him like a baby.
But this only comes after hundreds of interactions that show your rabbit that you are safe and reliable.
So, how do you start socializing your bunny?
Meeting Your Rabbit for the First Time
Rabbits are very social creatures, but they also have a strict hierarchy. In nature, there is always a “boss bunny.”
Your new rabbit will want to be the boss of your relationship.
In the rabbit world, the way one rabbit shows submission to another is by petting them on top of the head.
Two rabbits will stare each other down until the other pets the new boss rabbit.
You want to take a slightly different approach with your bunny.
Facing your bunny head-on, reach over and place your hand on top of your rabbit’s head. This will be the only place your rabbit wants to be petted.
Firmly but gently hold your hand on your rabbit’s head until he is calm and relaxed, up to five minutes or so.
Then let your rabbit hop away for a few hours before you do this again. And again. And again.
If your rabbit tries to bite or nip at you, hold them tightly enough that they can’t. Most rabbits will calm down when you do this.
If your rabbit is extremely agitated, let it go, and put on leather gloves to protect against bites and scratches when you try again in a few hours.
After a week or two, try grooming your rabbit. Gently comb the knots and twists out of their fur.
The first time you groom your rabbit, let them stay on the floor. Only has they start to feel secure with you should you try picking them and grooming them on your lap.
Some rabbits never get used to being held. Some rabbits will never lick you as a sign of their affection for you.
But the more quality time you spend with your rabbit, the more likely it is that they will come to love you.
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