Dogs bark, cats purr, and ducks honk. What about rabbits? Most people assume these animals are quiet, but that’s not entirely true. Rabbits can make lots of noises to express their pleasure and displeasure in their treatment and condition. What are those noises? Are they different in domesticated versus wild rabbits?
A rabbit’s a rabbit, which means—wild or not—they all essentially make the same sounds.
- Chirruping, also known as clucking
- Snorting and sneezing
- Honking or grunting
- Teeth grinding
In this article, we’ll elaborate on the above noises, letting you know whether they’re good or bad. This way, whether you’re approaching a wild rabbit who needs help or your own precious pet, you know to proceed or back off.
Do Wild Rabbits Make Different Sounds Than Domestic Pets?
As we discussed in the intro, wild and domestic rabbits alike will generally make the same noises. The prevalence of certain sounds over others will depends on the environment in which the rabbit lives. For instance, you’re probably more likely to hear a wild rabbit growl to ward off threats. That doesn’t mean a domestic rabbit won’t ever growl, but if you treat them well enough, you hopefully won’t have to hear it. This could make you think the rabbit is incapable of growling though, which just isn’t true.
Wild rabbits may make less happy noises unless they feel very secure in their environment. Some wild animals may perceive human presence as a threat, so they might gladly purr around their fellow rabbits, but not people. That again gives you the misconception that wild rabbits never make sounds expressing happiness, even though they’re capable of it.
What Noises Do Rabbits Make?
Okay, so what sounds will you hear from a rabbit? What do they all mean? Keep reading, as we’ll explain just that in this section.
If you hear a rabbit scream, take it as an emergency and get them help ASAP. The higher the pitch, the more severe the situation. A wild rabbit might scream if a predator has the animal in its clutches. Domesticated bunnies could start screaming if they’re seriously injured or sick.
Screaming could be taken as a sign of impending death, as the animal is often in excruciating pain. The sooner you act, the better.
Did you hear your rabbit squeal? It’s not a good thing. Just like a dog might whine or yelp if you hurt them, a rabbit will squeal. Mishandling or manhandling the animal will often elicit this verbal reaction as well.
If two rabbits fight, you might hear a lot of squealing. In a domestic rabbit situation, keep your bunnies in separate enclosures to prevent future violence. Don’t try to step in the middle of two wild animals, as you could end up injured for your efforts.
Chirrups or Clucks
The chirruping noise is a positive one. You’ll hear it more often in females, but males can cluck as well. Why do they do this? It means they’re happy with their circumstances. They’re telling you as best they can that they like their food or their enclosure. The rabbit feels contentment.
If a female rabbit clucks during nursing, it means she’s satisfied. Wild rabbits could chirrup or cluck, but you’ll hear it more in pets.
You have to have sharp hearing and quiet surroundings to pick up on sighs from a rabbit. Outdoor rabbits need not apply, then.
What does a sigh mean? Rabbits sigh like we people do, in annoyance and even resignation. If you’re grooming your pet rabbit but they’re not particularly happy with it, they might let out a single sigh to show their displeasure but acceptance of the situation.
Snorts and Sneezes
Bunnies sneeze for the same reason as anyone, to clear their nose! This applies for domestic and wild rabbits alike. If there’s dust, sand, or even grass or some other irritating particles in or around their nose, a rabbit will get rid of it by sneezing.
They may snort in the middle of this sneezing. Other reasons rabbits snort is because they don’t like the smell in their environment.
Yes, rabbits can indeed growl. Wild rabbits will do so if you encroach on their territory. Even domesticated pets aren’t past growling. Females make this sound quite a lot if you get near their babies. If you don’t move away fast enough, a rabbit could lunge at you to attack. Listen closely for growling then and exit the situation.
Rabbits don’t thump verbally, but rather, with their bodies. To thump, your rabbit takes its back leg and slams it repeatedly to the ground. It’s usually a means of letting other rabbits know something bad is afoot.
You might think your domestic rabbit would have no reason to thump, but they still could. If you’re doing something they don’t like, such as vacuuming the house or watching the TV too loud, your rabbit will start thumping around in their enclosure. Stop whatever you’re doing to make them happy again.
We’re not talking about purring like a cat here, especially since rabbits use their teeth to do this. The noise must be subtle, otherwise it’s probably a sign your rabbit’s in pain.
During happy purrs, your rabbit’s teeth might move together ever so slightly. Their whiskers will twitch as well. If you’re petting or holding your rabbit while they begin purring, then keep at it!
Honks and Grunts
Honks, also called grunts, can go both ways. Rabbits will honk if you’re not giving them enough love and affection, for instance. It’s best to take a break for a few minutes to spend some one-on-one time with your bunny.
Rabbits may also honk or grunt if they’re seeking a mate. If you got your bunny spayed or neutered, then they’ll make this noise in anticipation of food, treats, or something else that’s pleasant. It has no sexual connotations at that point.
Purrs might come from a rabbit’s teeth, but do so grunts. Use your intuition to tell the difference between the two. When a rabbit grinds their teeth, you can typically tell what they’re doing. It’s a means of expressing pain. A wild rabbit might exhibit this after fighting with another animal. Domesticated bunnies can grind their teeth as well if an injury or illness has disrupted their quality of life.
Whining tells you to get away! This is sometimes accompanied by whimpering, which means the rabbit doesn’t like their current enclosure or environment. If you have an unfixed male and female together and the male tries to mate with the female, she might whimper. The same is true if your rabbit has always lived alone but now has a new roommate.
If you’re holding your rabbit or you’re about to and they begin whimpering, then put them down, step away, and try again later.
Although you maybe wouldn’t think it, rabbits can hiss as well as growl. They mostly do this to threaten rabbits they don’t like, but they could hiss at you, too. Keep away from your rabbit if you hear them hissing. If it’s a wild rabbit, then slowly step back. You don’t want to mess with this bunny.
Most of the time, male rabbits will hum at females in a mating display. That said, wild or domesticated rabbits of both genders can hum as well. You just won’t hear it often. It’s a good indicator of rabbit happiness, but it’s not the most loving noise they can make.
How Loud Are Rabbit Noises?
As the above list tells you, most of the noises your rabbit makes aren’t incredibly loud. If your rabbit does start a ruckus with their sounds, it’s often because they’re trying to tell you they need you to step in right now. For instance, they’ll scream loudly and grind their teeth audibly to tell you they’re in a lot of pain. They will grunt or honk so you can come over and pet them. After all, they’re trying to tell you they’re unhappy, so they want to convey that message loud and clear.
The longer you live with your bunny, the more you’ll learn which sounds they make most often. With time, you might have no problem picking up on even the most subtle noises like sighing or gentle purring.
Rabbits may have a reputation for being quiet animals, but they sure can make a lot of noise! Wild or domesticated, rabbits have their own ways of showing whether they’re happy or unhappy with what’s happening in their lives. Most of these noises are incredibly subtle, so you’ll have to keep an ear out for them.
Although rabbits look cute and seem harmless, they have back legs that pack a punch as well as sharp teeth. You do not want to cross a rabbit that’s verbally letting you know it’s upset. If it’s a wild rabbit, then you’re better off leaving well enough alone. As for your pet, even they don’t want you touching them 24/7. Give them some space and they’ll likely gladly welcome your return later in the day.