It’s easy to tell when a rabbit is active when they zoom and binky around the room, but that’s not the only way to know your rabbit is happy and content in your home. You can watch your rabbit’s behavior to look for calmer signs of happiness.
Rabbits are relaxed when they lay with their feet sprawled out. Since it’s more difficult for the rabbit to get up and run away in this position, it signals a feeling of calm and safety for the rabbit. Other signs to look out for include: laid-back ears, purring, and a healthy appetite.
An energetic rabbit will show more obvious signs of their joy, but relaxed body language is still an indication of a pleased bunny. These are signs that you will see when your rabbit is resting or just not feeling so active. Elderly rabbits may also show these relaxed behaviors more often than the more energetic body language since they don’t have as much energy.
1. A sprawled rabbit
The easiest way to spot a relaxed rabbit is when they sprawl out on the ground with their feet out from under them. Rabbits are prey animals, which means they have to constantly be on the alert and ready to run away at a moment’s notice. Because of this, rabbits will often sleep in a loaf position with their feet under them so they can quickly spring into action.
However, when rabbits are sprawled out on the ground, they would have to take extra seconds to get up before they can run away. That’s why in this position, rabbits are showing us that they feel safe in their environment. They don’t think there is any imminent danger, so the rabbit will get comfortable and sprawl out.
2. Rabbit purring
Another way to tell that your rabbit is highly relaxed is by watching their whiskers very closely. You’ll see that when your rabbit is feeling calm and comfortable, their whiskers vibrate a little. If you’re petting your rabbit, you might also notice a gentle vibration in their forehead. This happens because the rabbit is ‘purring’ by grinding their back teeth together.
This is obviously not the same as a cat’s purr since rabbit teeth grinding is not a vocalization. However, it still means the same thing. Rabbits will purr like this when they feel relaxed and content. You’ll notice it most often when you are petting your rabbit and giving them a pleasant massage. If you watch your rabbit closely, you’ll also see this behavior when they are sprawled out relaxing on their own too.
3. Rabbit self-grooming
When rabbits groom themselves, they are often not paying very much attention to their surroundings. Instead, they are concentrating on keeping themselves clean and getting all those hard-to-reach areas. The process of cleaning themselves from head to toe can end up taking quite a bit of time.
By observing rabbits, I’ve found that they tend to wait to start cleaning until they feel safe. Since it takes so much concentration, they don’t want to be taken unawares in the middle of their self-grooming routine. I’ve even noticed my rabbits wait until I am not looking at them before they start to clean themselves.
This all means that a rabbit is much more likely to go through their grooming routine when they feel safe and relaxed. This is especially true when they are grooming themselves out in the open rather than finding a concealed space to go through their routine.
4. When rabbits are eating
Anxious rabbits will often have a decreased appetite. Since searching for food takes concentration and attention away from watching for predators, rabbits will be less inclined to eat when they fear imminent danger.
You can easily observe this if you watch your rabbit while they are eating hay. If there is a sudden loud noise, you’ll notice your rabbit immediately stops eating and chewing, switching to alert mode with their ears straight up. When rabbits are too stressed, they won’t even eat treats (and rabbits love treats!). Your rabbit will only go back to eating when they feel the danger has passed.
This means that a rabbit with a regular and healthy appetite feels relaxed enough to eat instead of staying alert.
5. A sleeping rabbit
When rabbits are sleeping, you know that they are relaxed enough to feel completely safe in their environment. I especially love when my rabbits fall asleep on my lap or when I’m petting them. I know it means they feel relaxed when they are with me.
You can usually tell a rabbit is asleep when their nose stops twitching. If they are in a deep sleep, you may also see your rabbit’s ears and mouth twitch in their sleep, making them look as if they are dreaming. Some rabbits will even make cute grunting sounds that are a little like sleep talking.
To take it even a step further, you may see a rabbit who has completely flopped over on their side. Rabbits only sleep in this position when they feel completely safe and relaxed. They are very vulnerable when sleeping on their sides since rabbits cannot get up as quickly. I also notice that rabbits tend to sleep more deeply when they are flopped over and are less likely to wake up at sounds in the area. This is just another indication of how relaxed they are when sleeping in a flopped position.
6. When the rabbit’s ears are down
When rabbits have their ears down along their back, it means they are paying less attention to their surroundings. They are comfortable enough to feel that they don’t need to be on the alert right now and can relax their attention. Often, rabbits will lay their ears on their back when they are sprawled out and falling asleep, but they will also lay their ears down when they are simply feeling relaxed.
7. When the rabbit asks to be pet
Sometimes your rabbit will come up to you and nudge your hand or your leg to ask to be petted. They’ll put their head flat against the ground and wait for you to give them a massage. This is because petting is a very relaxing experience for rabbits. They’ll ask you to pet them when they are happy but not energetic. They just want to settle down under a nice massage.
If you’re wondering the best way to pet a rabbit, I recommend starting with their forehead and behind the ears. As your rabbit gets used to being pet more often, you can stroke them down their back and on their cheeks.