You love your pet rabbit and show them affection whenever possible. Sometimes, they happen to lick you. What does it mean when a rabbit licks you? Are they trying to give you love or is something else going on?
When a rabbit licks you, they are indeed displaying affection. A little lick is a sign of trust and love from your rabbit to you. In some instances, it might be an indicator that they want some love back, typically by being petted.
If you’re curious about other ways your rabbit shows you love, read on. We’ll share plenty of ways to understand your rabbit.
Why Do Rabbits Lick to Show Love?
When a rabbit licks you, that means you’ve worked hard to earn your bunny’s trust and love. It’s not unlike the lick of more common household pets like cats or dogs. It’s a good thing and should always be interpreted as such.
Why do rabbits lick in the first place? It goes back to bunny behavior among herds. Wild rabbits will group together in a warren, an enclosed underground area. They are social creatures and will thus be affectionate towards one another. Licking is one such means of showing love to their fellow rabbits. It also doubles as a grooming behavior.
Domesticated rabbits will still want to show their love. When they see someone they feel strongly about, like you, then their little tongue comes out and they will give you a lick.
What Are Other Signs of Rabbit Affection?
Is licking the only way rabbits can show their love? Certainly not! Here are some other signs of a rabbit’s affection towards you.
This one is tricky. Nipping can be a good thing, but it can just as easily be a bad one. If you are brushing your rabbit and they nip you, there’s rarely any need to stop. They didn’t give you a tiny bite because you were doing something wrong or even because you hurt them. Rather, this is your rabbit’s way of trying to return the favor. It’s just a little painful.
Another instance in which nipping can be used affectionately is to get your attention. If you’re around your rabbit’s cage but doing something else—like changing out the food or water bowls—and your rabbit nips you, see it for what it is. They’re telling you they want some love. Give them some pets and the nipping should stop.
In dogs, they call it the sploot. In rabbits, it may be referred to as happy feet. Either way, if you notice your rabbit is sprawled out in their cage and their feet are tucked out behind them, this too is another sign that they’re enjoying themselves. They’re sitting in a somewhat vulnerable position because they’re feeling relaxed. Do keep in mind that any little thing could get them running around, though. They are rabbits, after all.
Depending on which object your rabbit decides to engage with, they may be happy or trying to tell you something more. If you provide them with rabbit toys and they throw and shove these around, then they’re living a satisfactory bunny life. However, if it’s their litterboxes or food bowls they’re playing with, maybe you should get them some new toys.
Yes, rabbits can dance, well, sort of. If your bunny gyrates their body, shakes their head, jumps around a lot, kicks in midair, and does a few 180-degree turns for good measure, they’re dancing. That means they couldn’t be happier.
Entering REM Sleep
Just like we humans get great sleep when we’re comfortable and secure, the same is true of rabbits. You’ll know they’ve entered deep REM sleep if they’re on their side, clicking their teeth, vibrating their whiskers, and twitching their ears and eyelids. Don’t touch your bunny; they’re fine! They’re just having great dreams.
It can be terrifying the first time your rabbit flops or drops to the ground without any warning. Not to worry, though, as this isn’t indicative of a serious problem. It means they’re deeply satisfied. This is doubly true if they roll over to reveal their fuzzy belly.
Nudging with Their Nose
Depending on the context, if your rabbit shoves their nose at you, it could be good or bad. If you haven’t been petting them, then forcing their way over to you is a sign they want your affection. If you have been petting them or you’re trying to clean their cage, they’re probably telling you to get away.
Clicking Their Teeth
You know how cats purr when they’re blissful, right? With rabbits, they click their teeth. You’ll hear this especially when petting and snuggling with your bunny.
What Does a Rabbit Do When Distressed or Unhappy?
Just like a rabbit is adept at verbally and nonverbally expressing their contentment, they can just as easily let you know when something’s wrong. Here are some signs to be aware of. If your rabbit displays these behaviors, you should stop what you’re doing to them.
These unhappy behaviors are:
- Screaming, a sign of serious, intense pain
- Eye displays, especially revealing a third inner eyelid, as this means they’re stressed out
- Body stiffness and flat ears, which could indicate an attack is coming
- Lunging, another sign to get away
- Nipping, which can be a warning in some contexts
- Wagging their tails, which is used to defy whatever command or activity you’re trying to get them to do
- Grinding their teeth, which is different from clicking their teeth and often indicates rabbit illness
- Grunting, which may preclude bite or scratch attacks and is a verbal means of trying to get you to stay away
Rabbits are extraordinary creatures that will show their love through licking. There are also plenty of other signs of bunny affection to be on the lookout for, including light nipping, playing, deep sleeping, and flopping.
On the other side of the coin, if your rabbit is screaming, grinding their teeth, or grunting, they’re likely stressed out, unhappy, or ill. Knowing these signs is the best way to keep your rabbit happy and healthy!