When you have a hard day, your pets know it. They’re often a lot snuggly and sweeter. What if you have a rabbit? Can you expect that same sort of affection?
Rabbits are generally very affectionate, so they will absolutely show you love. There are many behaviors a rabbit will exhibit that mean they care, such as licking you and clicking their teeth. Small nibbles, nose nudging, and chinning can also be their special way of saying “I love you.”
How can you show your rabbit love right back? Also, what if your rabbit isn’t overly affectionate? Is it possible to train them to act more loving? In this article, we’ll answer all those questions and more.
How Do Rabbits Show Their Affection?
Most rabbits are quite affectionate towards their owners, but we do want to mention that it depends on the bunny. If your rabbit isn’t as loving as you wish they were, you’ll want to keep reading. We’ll talk about ways to address this later.
If your rabbit is acting affectionately towards you, what will they do? Let’s go over some signs of a happy, lovey rabbit.
The first and foremost sign of affection from you bunny is them licking you. This shows how much they trust and care about you. Unless they’re licking their food, any other licking behavior is purely a show of affection. You can think of these licks as little kisses, just as you would if a dog or cat did it.
If your rabbit isn’t out to hurt you but is giving you tiny nips on the hand, it can mean a few things. Some rabbits will do it as a means of grooming you. This may seem odd, but it’s one such way rabbits can show their love. In other cases, bunnies will nip you to get your attention. This is their way of saying they want you to continue with whatever you were doing, such as petting or snuggling them.
These nips might hurt a little, feeling like a pinch. They should not leave a mark or ever break skin. If you’re getting those types of bites, then your rabbit is nipping for a negative reason. Typically, it’s to tell you to get away from them.
Nudging with Their Nose
If you have a cat and they nudge with their nose, it means they’re trying to get more love out of you. They also want to be close to you and enjoy snuggles. With a rabbit, it’s quite similar. They want more pets and they’re letting you know by pressing on you with their little bunny nose.
Rabbits will mark the territory of something they care about, such as you. Since their chins are the home of their scent glands, if they rub their chin on you, it’s a good thing. They’re saying you’re theirs.
Clicking Their Teeth
Finally, your rabbit may click their teeth. If this happens most when you’re petting them, that’s a great sign your rabbit is pretty much as chipper as they can be. It’s like when a cat purrs. Next time you pet your bunny, watch their mouth and see what they do with their teeth.
Your rabbit may exhibit one, several, or even all the above shows of affection. Other bunnies may have their own special ways of showing love. Whatever works for the two of you is what’s best.
How Can You Show Affection Towards a Rabbit?
Now that you know how your rabbit shows its love to you, you’d like to turn around and give it right back. How can you do that? Here are a few things you might try.
Give Them Treats
No rabbit is going to turn down treats unless they’re sick or injured. If you’re having a great time with your rabbit and they’re being extra lovey towards you, then give them something special like a treat or two. They’ll certainly appreciate it!
If your rabbit is close by, such as in your lap or otherwise within arm’s reach, nuzzle up with them! You might rub your nose against the side of your bunny’s head or even their face. Of course, you two must trust one another and have a strong bond for this show of affection to be successful.
Snuggling up with your bunny is another clear-cut sign to them of how much you love them. Watch your rabbit’s body language, and if they seem tired of cuddling, put them back in their enclosure.
Long, soft strokes on your rabbit’s back will make them feel great. You might combine this with snuggling for the ultimate lovefest. You’ll certainly have one blissful bunny on your hands.
You can also pet your rabbit on their head. Specifically, focus on their forehead and cheeks. These are generally a rabbit’s favorite areas, so they may get especially gleeful when you pet them there.
What Are Some Signs Your Rabbit Isn’t Feeling Affectionate?
Your rabbit can’t verbally tell you they’re not really in a lovey mood, but they will show you in other ways. If your rabbit is exhibiting any of the following behaviors, give them some space.
Displaying a Third Inner Eyelid
Rabbits have not one, not two, but three inner eyelids. This eyelid is known as a nictitating membrane. If you see the membrane, especially from their eye corners, then your bunny is stressed or uneasy. Now’s not the time for cuddles.
Flat Ears Accompanied by a Rigid Stance
If your rabbit has flat ears, a rigid posture, and even a stiffened high tail, they’re in a really bad mood. Approaching them could end in you getting bitten or attacked. Give them a break and come back later.
In some instances, thumping can be a good thing. You have to be able to read the context. On the bad side of the spectrum, thumping can mean a rabbit is trying to warn you they’re grumpy. It can also be a way of them showing they’re afraid or unhappy.
Again, context is key. Rabbits may also thump if they want you to come to their cage and give them some love.
Grinding Their Teeth
Don’t get teeth clicking and grinding confused. The two are very different and have separate meanings. When your rabbit grinds their teeth, they’re showing you they’re stressed, uncomfortable, and even suffering pain. It’s a good idea to see a vet if they grind their teeth.
Rabbits can be vocal in their displeasure, too. Grunting is one such way they do this. If they grunt when you try to pick them up, then you better put them back down. They may also grunt to show possession of an item, to indicate a threat, or just when they want you to go away.
Does Handling Your Rabbit Have Anything to Do with Affection?
You want to get close to your bunny, so your first inclination may be to pick them up. Is this the right move?
It depends. Some rabbits are used to being handled from a young age and don’t mind being picked up, sat in your lap, and snuggled. Others will nuzzle and cuddle with you but hate being removed from their enclosures.
You can totally enjoy affection with your rabbit and show it back without taking them too far from their cage. If you want to further your bond and have your rabbit sit in your lap or in your arms, you can teach them to get used to being picked up. The younger the rabbit is when you do this, the more successful it will be.
Can You Train Your Rabbit to be More Affectionate?
By this point, you know all the ways a rabbit can show their love to you. You also know which signs are not so good and when to stay away from your bunny.
As we mentioned, not all rabbits are super lovey. If yours isn’t and you’d like to strengthen the bond between you two, you can train your rabbit to be more affectionate. This may feel a little weird at first, but it’s okay. Not all rabbits are as affectionate as others. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you, but rather they don’t know how to show it.
By teaching them now, you two can be closer than ever.
If your rabbit isn’t already used to human touch, that’s where you want to start. Begin with short petting sessions. At first, these should last just a minute or two. Gradually increase how long you spend petting your rabbit.
If they enjoy being petted, then you might move on to stroking. Again, start slowly and work your way up to longer sessions. Then you can add cuddling and snuggling to the mix. At the beginning, keep your rabbit close to their cage so they’re comfortable. They may be a little freaked out by your closeness, but they’ll adjust.
With time, you can even get your rabbit accustomed to being handled. They have to at least somewhat like human contact, though, as mentioned.
The best way to reinforce good behavior like snuggling and petting is by giving your bunny treats when they do what you want. This tells them that if they let you pet them or handle them, they’ll get something out of it. That makes them more inclined to repeat or tolerate these behaviors.
Training your rabbit in any area takes time, but with some patience and love, you can increase your bunny’s affection towards you.
Rabbits are generally very affectionate animals, but it depends on the rabbit. Some are naturally very loving while others need some time and training to bring out that side.
When your rabbit loves you, they’ll show it by licking, nipping, thumping, nudging, chinning, and clicking their teeth. These are great signs to watch out for. You should also keep your eyes peeled for indicators your rabbit is unhappy and doesn’t want to be touched. These include flat ears, grinding their teeth, and grunting at you.
Now that you know more about how affectionate rabbits are and how they show their love, you two can enjoy a beautiful bond together.