Rabbits are small mammals usually depicted in cartoons as cute creatures with long ears, hopping nimbly, and munching on carrots. With the popularity of bunny characters like Bugs Bunny, Peter Rabbit, and Thumper, rabbits have become popular pets for children and often find themselves the target of their affection – including kisses.
Rabbits understand kisses and the concept of affection. If you have a pet rabbit that has bonded with you, a kiss on the forehead while snuggling in your arms will not frighten your bunny. Your kiss may even be reciprocated by your rabbit nuzzling you or gently licking your skin.
There are over 300 breeds of domestic rabbit, so if you’re thinking of getting or gifting one, you’re sure to fall in love with one of these gentle creatures. Let’s learn more about how to share affection with these sweet little animals.
Do Bunnies Know You Love Them?
Depending on how bonded you are with your bunny, they can sense the love or affection that their owners show them. If they’re comfortable with you, they’ll reciprocate the affection too.
Remember that bunnies are prey animals, meaning they’re often captured to be eaten. They’re always ready to run in case of danger. If your rabbit is stretched out with his back legs fully extended, then you know that he trusts you and feels safe with you. If he’s nervous, he’ll be hunched over and ready to hop away.
How Do You Show Your Rabbits You Love Them?
You love your rabbit and are willing to jump through great hoops to ensure their every need is met. But, how do you show your rabbits you love them?
These four tips will help you show your rabbits you love them:
- Don’t rush them. Rabbits have a particularly good peripheral vision as is evidenced by their appearance. Their eyes are located on the side of the head, so consequently, rabbits have relatively poor frontal vision. This helps rabbits clearly recognize a predator approaching from behind or the sides. Seeing an arm coming toward them may make rabbits feel they’re in danger and they’ll run.
- Sit quietly and let them approach you. It’s always best to sit close to the ground so you’re not towering over them. By allowing the rabbit to approach you on his own without rushing him, he’ll learn to trust you and not feel that he’s about to be captured.
- Stroke your rabbit gently. Once your rabbit is completely comfortable with you, he or she may decide to hop into your lap. Depending on your rabbit’s personality, he/she will most likely enjoy being petted. Rabbits consider stroking part of their grooming and may reciprocate by licking you.
- Give your rabbit a kiss and your bunny will probably nuzzle you back. Not only is it part of the grooming ritual, but rabbits also mark their territory by chinning. According to mohrs.org, because rabbits have scent glands on either side of their chins, they rub the item with the chin to claim it as theirs.
How Do Rabbits Show Affection?
Your rabbit will show fondness for their owners in many different ways. Here are four ways rabbits show affection to their owners:
- Binkying. Rabbits jump – higher than usual – and twist in the air at times accompanied by a jerk of the head. This means THEY ARE HAPPY. It’s their way of showing you that they’re happy to be with you.
- Your rabbit licks you. Licking you is part of his grooming instinct and is a way of letting you know that he’s being affectionate. He does expect you to reciprocate by grooming him too.
- Your bunny lies flat on the belly with legs stretched out. This shows contentment and how relaxed your rabbit feels with you. Otherwise, if feeling nervous or uneasy, your bunny would be hunched over and ready to jump.
- Nuzzling you is a sign that your rabbit is happy being with you. Again, this is part of the grooming ritual, and your rabbit WILL expect you to reciprocate and show your love right back!
Some Rabbit Grooming Habits Are Forms of Affection
Rabbits love to groom themselves. For a rabbit, grooming isn’t only about keeping clean, although keeping clean is certainly a big part of it.
Grooming is a way for your rabbit to feel safe by neutralizing scent so it’s harder for the predator to smell them. Additionally, Grooming soothes and comforts your rabbit when feeling agitated or anxious. In turn, showing affection through grooming-like attention can calm your rabbit down and show your love to your pet.
When snuggling with your rabbit, it’s vital to know they don’t sweat. So, grooming helps them cool off. A temperature of over 75 degrees can cause a rabbit to overheat.
There are ways to help your bunny cool off if he overheats such as:
- Place a fan in front of your rabbit’s cage
- be sure there is plenty of shade
- Brush your rabbit to remove excess loose fur
- For longer-haired rabbits, consider trimming their fur down during the summer months.
- Make sure to help hydrate your rabbits by feeding them plenty of green-leafed veggies.
There’s such a thing as a rabbit hierarchy. While bonded rabbits groom each other, the dominant rabbit usually expects the submissive one to groom him on demand.
One thing to watch out for is over-grooming. It’s called “barbering”, and this is when they start pulling chunks of hair out. One reason for this may be a power play between the dominant and submissive rabbits or they could be bored too. Separating the rabbits from each other is one solution.
Things Rabbit Owners do That will Not Show Affection and May Cause Harm
Rabbits are cute and cuddly but don’t give in to the urge to pinch and hug them tightly. Here are some things that will not show affection and may hurt and scare your bunny:
- Do not hold rabbits up by their ears. Holding your bunny up by the ears will only hurt them and may injure their spine. Picking them up this way is cruel and has even been known to break the rabbit’s neck.
- Never leave your bunny unsupervised with a child, or a pet dog or cat. A bunny needs to be handled gently and carefully. A child, pet dog, or cat may not be so gentle when playing with the bunny and may think of it as a toy. Bunnies need to be in a low-stress environment and being treated like a toy will only cause undue stress.
- Don’t leave your rabbit out under direct sunlight. Bunnies have no sweat glands and they will overheat if they’re left out in the sun for too long.
- Some foods are actually dangerous for a rabbit to eat. Feeding your bunny the right foods show how much you care. Some foods might surprise you! Iceberg lettuce and silverbeet which are leafy green vegetables, but which actually have no nutritional value to the rabbit. Others are more obvious like chocolate and peanut butter. Many other foods can harm or kill your rabbit as well.
Here are some additional foods you should not fed your rabbit:
- Bread, Pasta or Cookies
How to Know Your Rabbit is Happy
Each rabbit has its own personality. Just like all pets, some may be easier to bond with, while others, may take longer. When your rabbit is happy, you’ll hear a sound coming from your rabbit like teeth grinding. They’re purring.
Rabbits need to be played with and given some exercise so they can entertain themselves. Keeping them entertained will stop them from barbering. They like to dig. Whether domesticated or wild, digging is normal for them.
Rabbits can growl. This shows their displeasure – if their cage is being cleaned or if they were startled. Petting and talking to them quietly will usually calm them down. Rabbits are territorial and are known to be protective of their cage. Clean their cage when they’re not in it to avoid any signs of displeasure on their part.
Rabbits can love you and show affection. Since they’re the third most abandoned pets, when you’re ready to get one, visit the nearest shelter so you can give one (or two) of these gentle creatures a home.