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Why Do Rabbits Grunt? Understanding the Sounds of Your Pet


Why do rabbits grunt?

Grunts usually happen when rabbits feel threatened or angry. This can be from other pets, other rabbits, or the pet owner. Grunting is the rabbit’s way of saying they are not happy and wants to be left alone.

Key Takeaways:

  • Rabbits grunt when they are unhappy
  • Your rabbit may grunt when they feel threatened by a human or another animal or when they are in pain.
  • If your rabbit begins grunting, consider it a warning and give them some space.

Why Do Rabbits Grunt?

Rabbits grunt to communicate with humans and other animals. The grunting sound often indicates discomfort.

Pet rabbits, even calm ones, can become upset with their environment. Before becoming a rabbit owner, take the time to learn about their body language and noises. [1]

Learning to understand your rabbit can keep them more comfortable and prevent bunny biting.

If your rabbit suddenly begins grunting more than usual, you may need to seek medical attention.

Since rabbits may grunt when in extreme pain, a trip to the vet can determine if an injury has occurred. Rabbits may also use grunting as a warning before biting or may issue a mating grunt.

Enjoy the following video of cut bunnies making noises. 

Why Is My Rabbit Grunting At Me?

There could be several reasons why your furry friend is grunting at you. The most common reason is that they are unhappy with you holding them. You may be holding them too tight, or they may be experiencing pain.

hold rabbit in hand but why do rabbits grunt when someone hold them

Rabbits don’t like to be handled roughly or held tightly. This makes them feel uncomfortable, and they grunt to let you know.

Rabbits may also use grunting as a warning before biting. Think of it like a dog growling to warn you. Since children often play with pet rabbits, it is essential to avoid bites.

Another reason for grunting is because they have an injury or health problem. Pain causes many types of animals to react when touched. Rabbits are good at concealing their injury.

Therefore, you may not notice they are hurt until you touch them.

By hiding their injury, they are less likely to become an easy meal for predators in the wild. Prey animals, such as owls, hawks, and foxes, are always alert for injured animals.

If you pick up your rabbit and touch an injury, it will grunt and may even scream. This sudden bust may sound alarming if you have not heard it before.

If you hear either of these sounds, gently place them on the ground. Wait for a couple of minutes and look for any signs of injury.

Do Rabbits Grunt When Happy?

No, rabbits do not grunt when they are happy. Rabbits make a different sound when they are happy. However, unneutered males may make grunting noises when looking for a mate.

Honking is a typical rabbit sound you may hear when your pet gets excited about something. For example, you may hear this sound when you approach a treat.

It is essential to pay attention to your rabbit’s body language when they make noises. Males may grunt and hop in circles while looking for a mate.

A comfortable rabbit may approach you calmly with curiosity. An uncomfortable rabbit may grunt while simultaneously trying to move away from you.

Rabbit Grunting and Feeling Threatened

Common rabbit behavior problems often stem from poor socialization with humans at a young age. While it is not unusual to have a domesticated pet rabbit, the process of rabbit ownership takes a lot of work.

The basics of rabbit care for pet rabbits should include daily interaction that includes holding them, talking to them, and cleaning their cage. [2]

If you leave your rabbit alone or in the cage too much, they cannot get used to you. The rabbit may feel threatened when entering its personal space, especially when you try cleaning the cage. 

rabbit alone in a cage, why do rabbits grunt

Visit your rabbit’s cage often and offer treats. Otherwise, you may have trouble cleaning the cage or adding food without removing your annoyed rabbit.

Rabbits may also feel threatened by other animals or new people. Help your rabbit adjust to new situations by exposing them to new situations regularly during the early months.

READ MORE: Can Bunnies Live Alone?

What About Other Rabbit Noises Apart From Grunting?

Besides grunting, your rabbit may honk or squeak. Some people describe the honking as similar to a pig’s squeal.

Honking is a happy sound and may sound like a mix of a grunt, squeak, and sniffle. Not all rabbits vocalize often. However, you can easily tell the difference between an angry grunt and a honk.

Below are the most common sounds you may hear your rabbits make:

1. Tooth Grinding

Tooth grinding is not a sound you should ever hear your rabbit make. Then they grind their teeth, which means they are in severe pain, discomfort, or experiencing stress.

They will make this sound accompanied by their body hunched at the corner of their cage. If you notice this, it’s best to seek a veterinarian to see what’s wrong with them.

2. Teeth Purring

This is a common sound among rabbits when they are happy. Usually, when you are stroking your rabbit, its jaws or whiskers will move as they grind its teeth together lightly.

3. Growling

The growling sound you hear is a defensive sound usually made by unspayed female rabbits. She will be defending the cage or territory from other rabbits or animals. A lunge with the front foot usually accompanies the growling sound.

4. Honking

You may hear this sound often when the rabbit is ready to mate, along with grunting. The male will honk and circle a female rabbit. Most domestic rabbits are neutered and may never express the desire to mate.

Neutered males and spayed females will also make a honking sound. This is a sign that they are excited. You’ll usually hear this sound around feeding time.

If you build a good relationship with your rabbit, they may honk and move excitedly when they see you.

Also, they may honk at you if they want to get your attention. They may even sit at your feet and make a honking sound.

5. Whining/Whimpering

Other than grunting, whining, and whimpering are sounds your rabbit may make when they don’t want to be handled. It could also mean that they are unhappy with the environment they are in.

Also, whining and whimpering are common when rabbits are pregnant. When they are placed with other rabbits, especially male rabbits, they will make this noise. This is to tell others they want to be alone.

6. Screaming

This is not the sound you hope never to hear your rabbits make. When they scream, it is usually serious and life-threatening.

Screaming may happen when they are dying from an injury or being chased by a predator.

If you have a free-roaming rabbit in your yard, pay close attention to this noise since predators can sometimes enter your backyard. Look out for hawks, coyotes, and wolves.

7. Thumping

Rabbits will make thumping sounds with their feet. This is a way to warn other rabbits that danger is nearby.

This is often associated with rabbits in the wild, but occasionally, you may notice your rabbits are thumping. They may also look very alert with their ears up if they sense a threat. 

8. Hissing

This is a warning sound they make, and it’s usually for other rabbits. The hissing is to let the other rabbits know they are not happy and to back away.

This can be either the other rabbit is in their territory, or they want the other rabbit to move away.

If you have other pets and hear this sound from your rabbit, separate your pets, so they have a chance to calm down. 

FAQs

How do I know if my rabbit needs veterinary care?

Rabbits, like other pets, need routine checkups at the vet. You may need an extra visit to the vet if you notice signs of an injury or illness. Your rabbit may suddenly grunt when touched if it is in pain. 

How do I help my pet rabbit get used to humans?

hold rabbit in hand but why do rabbits grunt when someone hold them

Socialization should happen when the rabbit is very young, so they can remain comfortable around humans and other pets. Hold your rabbit often and introduce them to new people and animals.

How do I know if my rabbit is happy?

Pay attention to the body language and sounds of your rabbit. They may hop quickly to you when they see you or start to honk. You may notice purring when petting them, as well. 

Conclusion

When interacting with your pet bunny, you may wonder, “Why do rabbits grunt?” You can easily understand your rabbit’s sounds and body language with research and practice.

If your rabbit is grunting, it may feel uncomfortable or threatened. They may also be in pain. Male rabbits also grunt when it is time to mate.

You can help ease your rabbit’s discomfort by holding them gently and socializing them properly. They may also need vet care in the case of an injury.

Spend a lot of time with your pet rabbit to help them relax around humans and other animals. 

rabbit grunting in park but why do rabbits grunt

So, did you ever visited a vet for rabbit grunting? Let us know in the comments section!

References

  • 1. House Rabbit Behavior and Bunny Body Language [Internet]. Best Friends Animal Society. [cited 2022 Nov 2]. Available from: https://resources.bestfriends.org/article/house-rabbit-behavior-and-bunny-body-language#:~:text=Why%20do%20rabbits%20grunt%3F
  • 2. Rabbit Socialization [Internet]. Animal Friends, Inc. 2020. Available from: https://www.thinkingoutsidethecage.org/rabbit-socialization/#:~:text=The%20quickest%20way%20to%20socialize
  • 3. Foote A. Evidence-based approach to recognizing and reducing stress in pet rabbits. Veterinary Nursing Journal. 2020;35:167–70.
Ben Roberts

Ben Roberts

My name is Ben Roberts, and I absolutely love animals. So, naturally, I love writing about them too! As far as my animals, I have a Pit-bull, a Beagle-lab mix, a Chihuahua, and one old cat. Each one of them provides me with a new adventure every day. And the best part is they’re all best friends. Well, except the cat when he gets a little annoyed.
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