Rabbits have many quirky, and unique habits and mannerisms. Some of them are just normal rabbit behavior, while some may be a cause for concern. One habit many rabbit owners have noticed and had questions about is rocking back and forth. So, what does this behavior mean?
There are many reasons why a rabbit may rock back and forth. One is due to boredom. If you notice it happening while they are in their cage, try letting them out to play. It can also be due to the rabbit feeling anxiety, and the rocking is a mechanism to calm themselves. An underlying health problem may be causing this reaction as well.
I will be discussing why rabbits may rock back and forth, as well as the feelings and conditions that may contribute to this action. I will also be discussing ways to help solve this problem should it be a negative reaction for a rabbit.
Why do Rabbits Rock Back and Forth? There are Many Different Reasons Why a Rabbit May Rock Back and Forth. Some Rabbits Just do this Out of Boredom. Other Rabbits May be Anxious and Trying to Calm Down. Under Some Circumstances There May be an Underlying Health Condition, and the Rabbit is Rocking to Deal with the Pain.
If you notice your pet is just sitting in their cage rocking back and forth, you can try opening the cage and letting them out to see if they are just bored and want to play. Often times this is the case.
If a rabbit is locked in a cage with limited space and they have pent up energy, they may resort to rocking as a way to release some of that energy.
Some rabbits rock back and forth as a coping mechanism for their nervousness or anxiety. The movement helps soothe them, similar to how moving in uncomfortable or nerve-wracking situations is helpful for humans.
There are many reasons why a rabbit may experience consistent nervousness or anxiety…
- Another pet in the home– if you have a dog or a cat that can easily get to the cage, this may make your rabbit nervous. Even if you know the other pet cannot get into the cage, the presence of the pet will make your rabbit nervous since they are a prey animal.
- Loud noises– if your home has frequent
yelling, crashing, or other noises, this may create anxiety for your rabbit.
Rabbits get very nervous and timid of loud noises since they are by nature
fearful and very cautious.
- If you keep your rabbit’s habitat in a high traffic area of your house this may also cause them anxiety. Having people walking by their enclosure all day may create a sense of nervousness, plus this area may be louder than an area that is a little more closed-off.
- Mishandling from children– If children
are not taught proper care of animals, or are left alone with the rabbit, this
can be a disastrous combination. Parents often think that since rabbits are small,
they will make a great first pet to teach their children responsibility.
- This may work if children are supervised and educated on the rabbit’s temperament and fragility. Children may grab at the rabbit, run around the cage, make loud, abrupt noises, drop them, or ignore the signs that a rabbit is already stressed when handling the pet. This can create a deep sense of fear and anxiety for the home environment in a rabbit.
Other signs to look out for if your rabbit is experiencing anxiety include…
- Freezing, hunched up with ears flat
- Being jumpy and watchful with bulging eyes
- Aggression towards people or other rabbits
- Tiredness or lack of interest
- Hiding and running away
- Breathing heavily
- Letting go of feeding and toileting habits
- Over-grooming or not grooming
- Showing repeated, useless movements (biting bars, water bottle, circling, head bobbing, rocking back and forth).
What Can You do to Combat Negative Feelings that Contribute to Rocking Back and Forth? While Rocking Back and Forth May Have You Concerned, there are Ways You Can Adjust Your Rabbit’s Environment, or Your Home to Make the Rabbit More Comfortable. By Taking a Look at the Other Factors Present as Well as the Symptoms Your Pet is Displaying, you can Find a Routine and Solution That Will Work.
If you notice your rabbit is spending a lot of time in their cage and happens to rock back and forth, you may need to adjust your schedule and routine a little bit to fix this. Since they are most likely doing this out of boredom, you may need to adjust your life to allow for your pet to come out of their cage more often.
Even if you cannot sit with them while they play every time, try to set up a nearby area if you have chores, or work to do in which they can run around. There are gates, or enclosures you can buy that are specially made to keep rabbits contained, both indoors and outdoors.
Throw some toys, hay, their litter pan, and some food and water into the enclosure and let them play for hours until they have tuckered themselves out.
If they are rocking back and forth out of anxiety, this may be a little bit more of a complicated fix. Since there are so many factors that could be contributing to your pet’s anxiety, you need to study the environment and determine what is stressing your rabbit out.
Maybe it’s a combination of things, either way, they need to be discovered and changed so your rabbit can feel safe in their environment.
If you have pets by the rabbit’s enclosure, consider putting the cage in a room, or other area the pets are not allowed in. This way the rabbit does not have to fear predators as a daily emotion.
If children are involved in the rabbit’s care and life, supervise them whenever handling the rabbit. Teach them a rabbit’s signs of nervousness and encourage them to leave the rabbit alone when they show these. Show them the correct way to pick up a rabbit (one hand under the chest, the other under the bottom, don’t reach in its cage to lift it).
Remind children that rabbits are easily scared by loud noises and quick, abrupt movements, so to move and speak with ease around them.
Try to keep the house a peaceful zone in order to not cause anxiety within your pet. If your home is extremely loud, hostile, or chaotic, and there is not a safe space for your rabbit, you may want to consider rehoming them, as stress and fear is terrible for a rabbit’s health.
If none of these measures help and you are concerned for your pet’s health, a visit to your veterinarian’s office will certainly not hurt, as the rocking could be due to a medical reason.
Although Rocking Back and Forth May Seem Like a Serious Problem, It Is Not Always Something You Should Get Overly Stressed Out Over. The Causes Are Usually Pretty Simple to Find a Solution to. With the Proper Research and Attention to Your Pet, as Well as Their Environment, You Can Usually Determine What the Cause is and Eliminate It.
Overall, rocking back and forth is not a sign you need to worry immediately about. With some revision of the environment you have your pet in, or your daily routine, you can have your rabbit on the road to living a happy, comfortable, and healthy life.