Rabbits are adorable pets, but do they show affection like other animals? Dogs are known for being loveable and friendly pets. Even cats, despite their reputation on the internet, are often very cuddly and affectionate animals. Since rabbits are a less popular pet, most people don’t know what to expect when they bring their first bunny home. Are rabbits also the kind of animal that will be affectionate with their caretakers?
Do rabbits love their owners? Rabbits can be very affectionate pets if they are given the chance. They are very social and enjoy spending time with their human companions. Once you’ve gained a rabbit’s trust, they’ll start to show you how much they love you in their own bunny ways.
Rabbits are often very shy and can take a while to warm up to new people and trust them. It might seem like they are aloof or skittish animals by nature. However, if you give them time and teach them to trust you, you’ll start to notice your rabbit choosing to stay with you and become more affectionate. Rabbit body language can be difficult to understand at first, since it is so different from cat or dog body language. But they really do have ways of telling you that they love and trust you.
- Read More: How to understand basic rabbit body language
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1. They groom you
Rabbits will groom you as a way to show their affection. When they live in pairs or groups, rabbits will participate in social grooming. They will lick each other and maybe give a couple love nips to help the other bun out. When your rabbit starts to lick you or your clothing, it means that they see you as part of their bunny family. They trust you and love you enough to care about your cleanliness and well being.
Some rabbits also understand reciprocal grooming. If you spend the time to pet them and give them a nice massage, your rabbit will thank you by licking your hand or your leg. You may also receive a couple of light nips from your rabbit. This is especially likely if your rabbit is grooming you around the seams of your clothing. They don’t mean to hurt you, instead the rabbit is just trying to help you out. The seam in your clothing may look like a mat in fur to them. The rabbit is trying to be kind and untangle it for you.
2. They circle your feet
Rabbits will run in circles around your feet to show an excited affection. These little rabbits will run some zooming circles around your feet. They might also do some figure eights, weaving between your legs as you try not to trip. Sometimes they will even make a soft, cute oinking sound to express just how excited they are.
Most often, I see this behavior when a rabbit is expressing their excitement about food. For example, when they expect to get a yummy treat or when they know it’s time for breakfast.
I’ve also seen this behavior when my rabbit was just excited to see me though. Sometimes when I come home at the end of the day, my bun will run circles around my feet to greet me. Sometimes she’ll even run circles around me to greet me when I’ve only left the room for half an hour.
- Read more: How to know when your rabbit is happy
3. They constantly want to be pet
While some rabbits are okay with being pet by everyone, many others won’t settle down next to anyone and demand petting unless they trust you. If a rabbit comes up and nudges you or hand and puts their head down to be pet, that’s a sign that they love you and enjoy the way you interact with them.
If a rabbit is willing to come up to you whenever they want and ask to be pet, then that is a clear sign that your rabbit loves and trusts you. They love spending time with you, and they love the attention you’re giving them. It also shows that they’re not afraid of being picked up every time you interact, since most rabbits do not like being held.
4. They lay next to you
If a rabbit comes and flops or sprawls on the ground next to you, that means they trust you a lot. When a rabbit lays on the ground so that their feet are sprawled out and no longer underneath them, they are in a very vulnerable position. Sprawled out, rabbits are not able to instantly dash away if danger comes because they will have to get up first. If a rabbit comes next to you and lays on their side, they are telling you that they trust you.
This is even more-so when your rabbit goes to sleep next to you. If your rabbit ever completely flops down next to you or starts nodding off, you can be sure that they trust and love you very much.
5. They binky when they see you
A binky is the universal sign of rabbit happiness. This is when a rabbit jumps up into the air and does a funny little twist. Most of the time, a binky is accompanied by some high speed zooming as your rabbit lets out all of their happy, excited energy.
Rabbits will often binky and start zooming around when they are let out of their enclosure for some time to exercise. Sometimes a rabbit will binky and run toward you because they are just so happy to see you.
There have been a couple times when I walked out of the room while my rabbit was distracted. She always likes to know where I am, so once she realizes I’m gone she comes to find me. And when she does, she binkies her way toward me because she’s so happy she found me!
6. They sit on your lap
Rabbits will not ordinarily sit on someone’s lap. They will often feel trapped and just want to get away. But sometimes, if a rabbit really trusts and loves you, they’ll be willing to climb into your lap all on their own. These rabbits are rare, but lap bunnies do exist! They’ll be content to sit in your lap for hours while you pet them and cuddle with them.
Even better, sometimes a rabbit will sit on your lap while you pet them, and then start grooming you in return to show their appreciation. These are truly wonderful moments that show just how affectionate pet rabbits can be.
- Read more: How to teach your rabbit to sit on your lap
7. They purr when you pet them
Believe it or not, rabbits can purr! It’s not the same mechanism as a cat’s purr, but rabbits grind their teeth together when they are content. This makes a very soft clicking sound and causes the rabbit’s head to vibrate a little (which is why it’s called purring).
When rabbits purr, they are totally relaxed and content. Usually this is a behavior of rabbits when you pet them. You’ll notice it most when you give them a relaxing full body massage, or give them pets on their forehead and behind the ears. This is a sign that your rabbit is comfortable and is content to relax in your arms. And if you stop petting, it’s likely that they’ll nudge your hand to continue because they are so happy and relaxed with you.
Gaining a rabbit’s trust
Rabbits can be very shy pets at first. We have to remember that, unlike cats or dogs, bunnies are prey animals. They have the instincts to be wary of anything that could be dangerous, and that includes new people that the rabbit isn’t familiar with.
There are a couple things to keep in mind when working to gain your rabbit’s trust:
- Don’t hold them often. Rabbits like to have their feet on the ground so that they can run away quickly when they sense danger.
- Be quiet. Rabbits are easily startled and stressed out by loud noises, so it’s best to keep your rabbit’s living area as quiet as possible.
- Give them space. Rabbits need a lot more space than people think. Make sure to give them an enclosure that is 3 to 4 times the full length of your rabbit. I recommend getting a rabbit exercise pen and connecting that to your rabbit’s enclosure, so they always have enough space to hop around.
- Give them treats. Rabbits have a gigantic sweet tooth. Giving them some fresh or dried pieces of fruit can really speed up the process and help your rabbit trust you faster (just don’t give them too many!)
- Interact on their level. Your rabbit will be less afraid if you sit on the floor and interact with them.
- Don’t corner them. Be careful not to make your rabbit feel trapped or cornered. They may get scared and lash out or bite you.
- Give them toys. Toys are great for helping a rabbit feel happy and in control. You can make some cool DIY toys for your rabbit, or learn about some other ideas for safe and fun toys for your rabbit.
- Spend time with them. Rabbits are very social and will trust you more if they can spend time with you and get to know you. Learn about the many ways to bond with your rabbit, whether you just brought them home or have been living together for a while.
Rabbits might take a while to warm up to you and become affectionate pets, but if you give them some time you’ll have a happy companion rabbit with you every day.
How to return the favor and let your rabbit know how much you love them
How long do pet rabbits live?
Pet rabbits have a life expectancy of around 8-12 years. The average age will differ a little depending on the breed of rabbit and the quality of care they receive. Wild rabbits have a much shorter life expectancy of only about 1-2 years.
Do rabbits recognize their name?
Rabbits will not automatically recognize their name, but they can be trained to understand it. Rabbits are very intelligent pets and can be trained to do a number of fun tricks, including coming to you when you call their name.
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Recommended Products and Brands
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The two brands that I use when buying food for my rabbit are Oxbow and Small Pet Select. These both have high quality rabbit products and are companies that care about the health of our small animals. If you are purchasing anything from Small Pet Select use the code BUNNYLADY at checkout to get 15% off your first order.
- Hay: Second Cutting Timothy Hay from Small Pet Select
- Pellets: Oxbow Garden Select Food for Rabbits
- Treats: Oxbow Simple Rewards
- Toys: Small Pet Select Natural Toys
- Enclosure/cage: A rabbit exercise pen
- Rabbit carrier: SleepyPod Mobile Pet Bed