What Do Different Bunny Positions Mean?

Melissa Witherell, DVM
By Melissa Witherell, DVM on Oct. 27, 2022

In This Article


Rabbit body language can be very subtle compared to a dog or cat. It is important to pay attention to your bunny and watch for these small changes in their posture and behavior.  

Rabbit Body Language and Behavior

Knowing when your rabbit is happy and what makes them happy is crucial for strengthening your relationship as a pet parent. It’s also important to monitor for abnormal behaviors that might indicate your rabbit is sick or unwell and requires medical attention.

Happy and Relaxed Behaviors

  • Binky (jump in the air): When rabbits are very happy, they can jump up in the air with a sideways kick or a body shake.

  • Confident rabbits will sit relaxed, ears at a 45-degree angle, with a slow nose twitch.

  • Flopping: When your rabbit flops over and throws itself onto its side, they are relaxed and might be about to take a nap. This is a content, relaxed behavior.

  • Nudging: Rabbits nudge a person’s hand, foot, or pant leg if they want attention. They may also nudge your hand away if they are done with that attention.

  • Grooming: Rabbits are meticulous groomers and rub their paws on their faces and lick their fur to clean themselves. This normal relaxed behavior can show affection if your rabbit grooms you or another rabbit.

  • Licking: Rabbits will lick you or other rabbits as a sign of affection.

  • Loafing: Tucking their front paws underneath them is often a relaxed, comfortable position for your rabbit when resting.

  • Sprawling posture is when your rabbit is relaxed, their back legs are to one side, and their front feet are forward with the head up. This type of lounge means they are very comfortable and relaxed.

  • Teeth grinding/purring: When rabbits are content or happy, they lightly chatter or vibrate their teeth like they are purring. Their whiskers may vibrate as well. This behavior is not to be confused with bruxism or teeth grinding, indicating pain that is slower and louder.

  • Throwing/tossing toys: Rabbits love to play and will toss toys around with their mouth or bat them with their paws.

  • Yawning: Rabbits will stretch out their front feet and pull their head back, opening their mouth to yawn when they wake up or before they go to sleep like other animals.

  • Zooming: When rabbits are very happy and have a lot of energy, they may run around the room fast and binky up in the air.

Unhappy and Scared Behaviors

  • Boxing (standing up on their hind legs): Rabbits standing on their hind legs with their front paws up, ears straight and pointed outwards are typically signs of aggression from fear.

  • Thumping: Rabbits will stomp their back legs to make a thump if they sense danger to warn other rabbits. They may also do this if they are upset with something going on to warn their owner or another animal to stop what they are doing.

  • Territorial rabbits, in addition to marking, might growl with their ears flat to their head and lunge, grunt, and bite at intruders in their area.

  • Scared: Your rabbits are scared when they flatten their abdomen to the ground, have their ears against their head flat, and their eyes may bulge.

  • Nipping is a gentle bite where your rabbit might be telling you to move over or to put them down.

  • Hunched: A hunched posture indicates that your rabbit is in pain; where their back is very curved, they may be more up on their front paws. In addition, their eyes may be squinting in a grimace, ears back or flat and tightly folded, whiskers down, nose tip moves closer to their chin, and cheeks flatter. Your rabbit must be seen immediately by a veterinarian if they display these signs.

  • Lunging: Rabbits that lunge are very upset. This is often an aggressive defensive stance coupled with biting or grunting.

  • Flattening: If your rabbit is flat with its belly on the floor, ears back, and bulging eyes, they are scared. If your rabbit is flat on the floor with its head extended forward and chin resting on the floor, they are asking to be pet.

  • Feet flicking: If your rabbit hops away and flicks its feet up aggressively, they are unhappy with the current situation or with whatever you just did to them, like trimming nails.

  • Cautious: A cautious rabbit will move around slowly, ears pointed forward and tail down if they are nervously exploring.

  • Ear shaking: A rabbit shaking their head or ears can signal that they do not want to be handled or dislike a smell and are annoyed. This can also occur right before they settle down to eat or groom. Repetitive ear shaking could be a sign of an ear infection as well.

  • Cold shoulder: Your bunny might sit with their behind facing you and refuse to look at you. This behavior indicates your rabbit is upset with you for maybe a nail trim or rearranging their cage when they were inside.

Dominance and Mating Behaviors

  • Spraying: Intact rabbits may spray people or objects as a way to mark their territory. Neutered rabbits typically do not do this unless there is a urinary tract infection.

  • Scattering poop: Intact rabbits will scatter poop around to mark their territory. Neutered rabbits do this often when they are used to their environment, but they may do this again if exposed to a new area.

  • Mounting: Rabbits that are not neutered may mount each other to exhibit sexual behaviors. In addition, neutered rabbits may mount other rabbits to assert dominance.

  • Nesting: Intact female rabbits might start to dig and build a nest.

  • Tail twitching is part of courtship behavior, often accompanied by urine spraying.

  • Chin rubbing: Rabbits rub their chin on people and objects to mark them with their scent gland to say, “this is mine.”

  • Circling: Rabbits circle you or another rabbit as social or sexual behavior. Sometimes they make a honking sound while doing this.

Curious and Investigative Behaviors

  • Periscoping: When your rabbit stands on its hind legs and turns its head, it looks around to get a better view from up high.

  • Sniffing: Rabbits sniff people and objects as a way to investigate. They are curious and want to check something out.

  • Alert: An alert rabbit has its ears forward or to the side meaning, they are focused and aware.

  • Curious rabbits will have their ears pointed forward, and they might move slower, extending their neck and body and sniffing objects they find interesting.


Rabbit’s teeth grow continuously, about 1/10th of an inch per week. They must chew course hay and other vegetation to wear down their teeth. Cardboard boxes, hay toys, and rabbit-safe wood are all great items to use to enrich your rabbit and keep their teeth nice, healthy, and worn down.

Do not let your rabbit chew on walls, electric cords, plastic toys they can ingest, fabric, painted or stained wood, or cedar/pine wooden toys. Cedar and pine contain aromatic oil that is toxic to your rabbit. Because rabbits cannot vomit, it is essential not to give them any plastic toys that can easily be broken apart and ingested, causing a foreign body.  


Rabbits love to dig; they are burrowing animals by nature. You can provide them with plastic tubs or cardboard boxes filled with layers of hay, paper litter, or newspaper where they can safely dig and perform these natural behaviors. Your rabbit might try and dig up the carpet and ingest it, causing a foreign body, so it is important to provide them safe places where they can dig and block off any unsafe areas. Monitoring your rabbit outside their area in the full house is best to prevent any mishaps or hazards.

Rabbit Behavior FAQs

What does it mean when a rabbit turns its back to you?

When your rabbit gives you the butt and will not look at you, they are upset about something you did recently, like a nail trim. Give them time, treats, and space; they will come around and forgive you.

Why does my rabbit put her head down when I pet her?

When your rabbit lays their head down flat on the ground, they are enjoying being pet and are laying still so that you continue. They might even close their eyes or nudge your hand if you stop petting them.

How do you tell if a rabbit likes you?

An excellent way to tell if your rabbit likes you is if they interact with you, lick you, groom you, and request pets. Your rabbit is comfortable and feels safe around you if they lounge about and sprawl near you.


1. Understanding rabbit behaviour. RSPCA.

2. Pratt A. Rabbit Body Language: An Illustrated Guide. The Bunny Lady. 2019.

3. Keating SCJ, Thomas AA, Flecknell PA, Leach MC. Evaluation of EMLA Cream for Preventing Pain during Tattooing of Rabbits: Changes in Physiological, Behavioural and Facial Expression Responses. Chapouthier G, ed. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(9):44437.

4. Teresa Bradley Bays, Lightfoot T, Jörg Mayer. Exotic Pet Behavior : Birds, Reptiles, and Small Mammals. Saunders Elsevier; 2006.

Featured Image: iStock.com/NiseriN


Melissa Witherell, DVM


Melissa Witherell, DVM


Dr. Melissa Witherell is originally from Connecticut. She attended undergrad at Fordham University to study Biological Sciences. After that...

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