Rabbitry Owners: Using Body Language to Assess Your Rabbits Health
As a current or prospective rabbitry owner it is vital that you understand the cues that your rabbits use to communicate with the outside world. That’s because rabbits are always communicating. Communication is critical to a rabbit’s survival and even homestead rabbits still display the same behavior as their wild counterparts. Every part of a rabbit’s body is used to communicate with others in the warren.
Ears, nose, tail, teeth, vocalizations and even their feet are used to say volumes about their state of being. This article will translate some of the most common behaviors, because understanding their body language can provide early warning signs of stress or illness. Knowing how to understand this body language is key to keeping them healthy.
Rabbits can turn their ears 270 degrees independently from each other, which allows them to focus on more than one sound at a time. Due to the size and shape of their ears they are also able to hear for over a mile, farther than most animals. One ear forward and one ear back means they are listening to something directly in front of them and something else at the same time. If both ears are flattened to their back, this is a sign of stress.
The speed at which they twitch their nose speaks volumes about their stress level. Contrary to popular belief, twitching doesn’t improve the sense of smell for rabbits. The faster they twitch their nose, the more stressed they are feeling. If the nose stops twitching completely, it means the rabbit has sensed something of concern. They will stop twitching their nose to give complete focus to what has them concerned.
The tail of a rabbit communicates quite a bit, even though is seems to short. It is not like the cotton ball portrayed on many stuffed rabbits. A wagging tail is a sign of defiance, it displays the annoyance of the rabbit with its surroundings. The tail can even become erect to display a sign of aggression, similar to that of a dog’s tail.
Teeth grinding is a necessary practice for rabbits, because their teeth are constantly growing. The grinding and chewing keeps their teeth ground down so they won’t overgrow their mouths, making it difficult to eat. As grinding proves necessary for their dental health, it is also a form of communication. When a rabbit is grinding its teeth strongly, they are expressing signs of severe pain or distress. All owners should be aware of this behavior to be proactive about their rabbit’s health.
Yes, rabbits do vocalize. For the most part, rabbits are very quiet. When a rabbit feels the need to vocalize it is due to stress or pain. Here are a few of the vocal sounds heard and what they mean in rabbit language:
- Grunting or growling is a sign of anger or disapproval.
- Honking is soft and sometimes not even audible. It expresses mating behavior.
- Snorting is pretty common and can signal respiratory infection that needs to be investigated.
They are not only useful in getting around quickly, but they are also key to a rabbit’s survival. They use their feet in many different ways to create safe homes, defend themselves and even to communicate. When a rabbit senses danger, they use their feet to warn the warren. They will stomp their back foot strongly on the ground, sometimes multiple times. This is a sign for everyone to run, they have spotted trouble. Stomping is also a sign of anger, telling others to avoid them for their own safety.
These are just a few of the many ways rabbits communicate with others in the warren or even with rabbit farmers in charge of rabbit livestock. Follow this blog to understand how to make your rabbitry run more smoothly.
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