Rabbits will thump their hind legs most commonly when they are scared. This is an instinctual behavior that rabbits use to warn their family group of nearby danger. Rabbits will also thump when they are angry or irritated. In these cases the thump is used as a warning sign to tell unfamiliar rabbits and predators that they are ready for a fight.
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Whatever the reason may be, a rabbit thump can be a very jarring sound. It’s like a big, fat book just got slammed onto the ground. All of a sudden your quiet little bunny is the noisiest one in the room. Sometimes a rabbit will thump just once and be done, but they can also thump continuously, causing a big disruption in your afternoon (or sometimes sleep). I will teach you what to do when your rabbit starts thumping up a storm so that they will be happy and you can go back to enjoying a quiet home.
Thumping as an evolutionary behavior
Like many other rabbit features, thumping developed as a way for rabbits to survive as a species. However, this is one of those features that is less about an individual rabbit’s ability to survive, and is more about the survival of rabbits as a whole. It’s a form of communication between members of a rabbit’s family warren.
A similar behavioral feature is actually found in many different mammals. For most of these species, foot stomping or drumming evolved alongside vocal calling as a form of communication. But for rabbits, who live underground, the sound a thumping foot can make is a more important warning than an audible call. This probably contributes to the fact that rabbits don’t make many loud vocal noises and are among the quietest mammals.
Alerting the group
Rabbits thump using their strong hind legs. Their body language is alert with their ears forward, and they are standing ready to run away or thump again. You may also notice your rabbit doesn’t stay in one place for very long. They’ll stop and listen intently, then move around to another place and listen again. Always listening for predators, always ready to warn their family warren of oncoming danger.
Rabbits who are thumping out of fear will:Have wide eyesHave ears forward and alertHave an alert body posture, posing on their toes and look ready to run awayIgnore you while they move from place to place trying to locate the dangerThump multiple times, not stopping when you come close
Rabbits who are thumping for attention will:Have ears back at an angle or up looking confidentHave a confident body postureUsually thump only once to see if you react, then thump again if you don’t respondStop thumping once they get what they want (a treat, petting)
How do I comfort my rabbit when they won’t stop thumping?
If a rabbit starts thumping and wakes you up in the middle of the night because they are afraid of something, you’ll want to comfort your rabbit. While not super common, a rabbit can potentially go into shock from fear, so it’s important to do what you can to help your rabbit calm down.
Sit with your rabbit
One way to help comfort your rabbit is to just sit on the floor with them. If you and your rabbit spend a lot of time together and trust each other, then just your presence is sometimes enough to comfort your little fluffy friend. They’ll know that when you’re with them, nothing can hurt them.
Try petting your rabbit and giving them a massage to help them calm down. Speak softly to them so they can be comforted by your voice. Do what you can to stay calm in the situation so your calm energy can help your rabbit relax a little too.
Distract your rabbit
If your rabbit still won’t calm down, you may need to switch tactics and try distracting your rabbit. This is a good time to bring out the treats. You can see if the excitement of getting a yummy treat will make your rabbit forget about whatever it was that was scaring them.
In this scenario, I take the time to reinforce some tricks with my rabbit. I’ll have her go in circles, give me high fives, and give me kisses to distract her. Having an impromptu training session like this gives a rabbit’s brain something else to focus on, so they can forget about being scared and get excited instead.
Find the root of the problem
If your rabbit is still alert and thumping occasionally, or they just won’t focus on what you’re trying to distract them with, you need to try to find the source of the problem. Try to look at the world from your rabbit’s perspective, to investigate and figure out what’s scaring them:Look for any new, unfamiliar objects in the room.Are there new light fixtures that are throwing weird shadows?Listen for any sounds, even very soft sounds, that might be scaring your rabbit.What about movement? Maybe the rabbit is scared of the rotating space heater or ceiling fan.
Once you’ve done a little investigation, see what you can do to remove or stop whatever it is that’s scaring your rabbit. If it’s not something you can move, you can try putting a blanket over the top of your rabbits enclosure or giving them an extra hidey house so they can have more places to hide and feel safe.
What other sounds do rabbits make?
Believe it or not, rabbits can make a number of sounds. Rabbits can make a soft honking noise when they are happy, and they can growl and grunt when they are mad. Rabbits can hiss, snore, sneeze, purr, and even scream in extreme circumstances.
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Why do rabbits wiggle their noses?
The rabbit nose twitch helps them smell better, breathe more easily, and regulate their body temperature. Like many other features of the rabbit anatomy, bunnies wiggle their nose as a defense mechanism to increase their chances of survival in the wild.