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Understanding a rabbit's body language and common postures is helpful in building a relationship with your rabbit...

Rabbits have a wide range of body language which they use to communicate with us and other rabbits.  It is very useful to learn this language and gain an insight into what they are saying, particularly as they do not make any proper noises like cats or dogs to get our attention.

If you live closely with a rabbit for any length of time, you will notice certain postures that they adopt on a regular basis.  Some of these can mean several things; for example, sitting up on the hind legs could mean "I am looking around for danger" or "I want some food" or "open that door for me".  Furthermore, every rabbit is different and may therefore communicate slightly differently.

Sitting like a ball with legs tucked in or front toes just showing, ears at rest or half up and eyes half closed - the "loaf"
Your rabbit is sleeping or dozing.  Rabbits can sleep with their eyes open but some rabbits may twitch their eyelids and droop their heads when sleeping

Lying on tummy with legs stretched out behind or to the side, head up or stretched out with chin on the ground, ears at rest
Your rabbit is relaxing, doing nothing in particular.  It may have just filled its tummy with food and be happily digesting it

Rolling on back or side with legs in the air and eyes sometimes closed - the "bunnyflop"
Your rabbit is extremely relaxed and happy.  It may have just finished a good meal, be enjoying a patch of sunshine or is relaxing after a good grooming session

Sitting up with weight on bottom, forelegs stretched, ears up and looking alert - the "classic" rabbit pose
Your rabbit is looking around to see what's going on, usually thinking about what to do next and is often a prelude to grooming.  It may be rocking slightly due to its weight being balanced on its four feet close together

Standing with weight on all four feet, nose and ears stretched forward and tail protuding behind
Your rabbit is curious about something and wants to investigate

Sitting with weight on bottom, washing face with front feet, pulling ears down to lick them, twisting around to groom back and sides
No prizes for this one - your rabbit is grooming itself

Leaning back with its nose buried in its bottom, then sitting upright again and chewing
Your rabbit is taking soft caecal droppings from its bottom and eating them - this is perfectly normal

Standing frozen with weight equally on all four legs in a braced stance, ears straight up and eyes wide open
Your rabbit has heard something and is waiting to see if it is dangerous.  May be followed by....

Thumping back leg hard on ground and dashing away to hide
Your rabbit has identified danger in the vicinity and is scared

Sitting up on hind legs with ears up and nose pointed up
Wild rabbits do this just to get a better view and have a look around for possible danger.  Domestic rabbits are more likely to be requesting food that you are holding or trying to get your attention

Laying head flat on ground
Your rabbit is showing submission to you or another rabbit and may be requesting petting or grooming

Shaking ears followed by scratching inside them with a hind foot
Your rabbit may have hair in its ears after a grooming session and be trying to get rid of it.  If frequent, could indicate ear mites.

Shaking ears followed by a little hop or jump
Your rabbit is inviting you to play or is excited about something, for example if you are about to feed it

Nudging your hand, leg or foot forcefully
Tricky one - if you are stroking your rabbit, it may be asking you to stop.  But, if you have just stopped stroking it, it may be asking you to continue.  If you are just minding your own business and your rabbit nudges you lightly, it is probably trying to get your attention or is requesting food

Digging or biting at your feet
Your rabbit may be trying to get your attention or be asking you to move your feet out of its way

Turning its back on you or moving away, flicking hind feet out behind it
Your rabbit is annoyed with you for doing something it disapproves of, such as cleaning out its litter tray or clipping its nails

Tags: behaviour

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