Three happy rabbit sounds

Rabbits can often seem like independent and even aloof pets, most of them won’t jump on your lap like a cat or jump up to greet you like a dog. This doesn’t mean there are plenty of ways to tell when your rabbit is happy.

There are currently an estimated 614,000 pet small mammals in Australia with 27% of households owning a rabbit.

Like any pet, the more you get to know your rabbit, the easier you’ll find it to identify when they’re happy. But if you’re new to the wonderful world of rabbits, here’s a few key signs to look for to know you’ve got a contented bunny.

What sounds does my rabbit make when they’re happy?

Whilst they don’t bark or meow, rabbits are not silent animals. Here’s a few noises you’re listening for if you want a happy rabbit:

  • Purring
    • Unlike a cat that purrs from its throat, a rabbit ‘purrs’ by very gently rubbing its teeth together. It’s a lot quieter than a cat purr, but if you’ve got your rabbit on your lap and are gently stroking it, you’ll hear it if they’re feeling very contented.
  • Clucking
    • A rabbit cluck is a very soft pitch and low noise, it might even sound like a quiet chirrup. Like the purr, you’ll only hear this noise if you’ve got a very contented rabbit or they’re showing their appreciation of something. You’re most likely to hear a rabbit clucking when they’re eating something especially tasty.
  • Humming
    • The most common time to hear a rabbit hum is when you’ve got a male rabbit (a buck) trying to attract the attention of a female rabbit (doe). The hum from a buck is like a rabbit mating call and again, is a sign the rabbit is in a happy mood.

These are the noises you might hear if your rabbit is especially happy or comfortable. As a rabbit owner, it’s a good idea to know which noises to listen out for if your rabbit is unhappy.

What noise will my rabbit make if it’s not happy?

Unlike their happy noises, if a rabbit is unhappy, the noise will be much more obvious and easier to hear.

  • Growling
    • Rabbits will growl or grunt when they’re angry or feeling threatened. Like cats and dogs, a growl can be a warning and like cats and dogs, a growl can quickly turn to a lunge or bite if it’s not heeded. If you’re invading your rabbits’ space and it starts growling, it’s advisable to pull back and let your rabbit just get used to your presence slowly.
  • Snorting and hissing
    • An upset rabbit might snort or hiss either before or after grunting. If they are scared and feeling defensive, this is their way of trying to ward off a predator. You might know you don’t mean your rabbit any harm, but your rabbit doesn’t. If they start making snorting or hissing noises, make sure you’re not forcing any interaction on them.
  • Thumping
    • When a rabbit thumps their foot, it can be for a similar reason a child might, they’re angry or frustrated and they’re trying to release some of that pent up frustration. They might be wary of a predator and something in their environment or they could be bored and fed up.
  • Screaming
    • This is probably the worst noise you can ever hear from a rabbit. As rabbits don’t have vocal cords, they don’t scream or cry out for attention. The only time a rabbit will scream is when they know they’re about to die and it’s the air being forced from their lungs.

If you ever think you hear a squeal or scream from your rabbit you should phone your vets immediately. Don’t try to pick up or touch your rabbit unless your vet instructs you to do so.

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