We don’t always think of rabbits as being very verbally communicative, but these fluffy friends can actually produce a wide range of sounds. Listening carefully to your bunny can help interpret their needs and wants, leading to a happy pet and a closer pet-owner relationship.
Bunnies are social creatures, often living in large groups. This means that they have developed forms of communication to live harmoniously with each other. Rabbits often use movements, such as thumping their back legs, as a large part of their communication, but verbal sounds are important too.
Rabbits are prey animals, unlikely to draw attention to themselves, and any loud noise such as a squeal usually indicates distress or fear and should be investigated. There are a range of other vocal cues used in more everyday life, such as clucking, hissing, grunting and honking.
What does bunny grunting sound like?
A rabbit grunt is a short, deep sound. It is quite a harsh noise, usually repeated several times in a row. It can be confused with honking. Grunting is more often associated with frustration and discomfort, and may be accompanied by your rabbit stamping their feet, kicking, scratching or biting. Honking is a more positive noise, associated more with affection, excitement and play.
Rabbit grunting: common reasons
A grunting noise from a rabbit is usually a sign of discontent. It may be accompanied by growling or hissing, and can be used in multiple scenarios in which your rabbit is unhappy. If your rabbit is really riled, a grunt can be followed by a nip or bite. However, grunting can be heard in a few other situations.
Rabbits may grunt if an unfamiliar person or other rabbit is entering their territory. It is a sign that they are uncomfortable with this invasion, and are issuing a warning. If you are introducing a new rabbit and there is a lot of grunting, you may need to separate the rabbits and try again another time, or give them more space. If your rabbit grunts at you when you approach, try backing off, then approach more slowly, perhaps with some treats.
Grunting can be a signal that your rabbit is feeling threatened or uncomfortable with the situation. This may be that they dislike being handled, or if they have been moved to a new environment that they do not feel comfortable in. Listen to what your rabbit is telling you and try to relieve the pressure.
Everyone has bad days, and rabbits can be grumpy too! There are many things that can set off a rabbit’s temper: loud noises, territorial disputes and hunger being common culprits. If your rabbit seems grumpy and is giving you the angry grunts, give them some tasty food and some quiet time to calm down.
As prey animals, rabbits are good at concealing pain. It can be very difficult to spot if your rabbit is injured or unwell. Other signs of pain or disease include not eating well, hiding away more and shivering. Make sure you check your rabbit everyday – getting into a routine of daily handling means you can gently check them over for any obvious wounds or injuries. If you’re concerned about your bunny, always contact a vet.
Rabbits become sexually mature from three months old, and if intact males and females are kept together will breed rapidly and extensively. Grunting is part of the mating ritual, and is heard from both male and female rabbits. Female rabbits may also grunt whilst pregnant and when they have young kits, as they are protective over their young.
What should you do if your rabbit is grunting?
Grunting is a perfectly normal rabbit sound, and the key thing is to listen to what they are telling you, not to try and stop the grunting. If you hear your rabbit making this noise, think about what they are trying to communicate.
- Were they grunting before you approached?
- Are there any other rabbits nearby?
- Have there been any loud noises or changes to their environment?
- Did you disturb them, enter their territory or handle them without warning?
- Are they showing other signs of pain such as not eating?
Once you can narrow down the reason behind the noise, you should be able to figure out what your bunny is telling you, and act on it. Perhaps you need to change their feeding time so that they aren’t hungry when you try and handle them. Perhaps they need more space from another rabbit. You may need to approach more quietly and slowly. A trip to the vet to check for signs of ill-health may be indicated.
Rabbit grunting: final thoughts
The deep guttural sound of a rabbit grunting is a perfectly normal bunny behaviour. Grunting is a form of communication, and should be listened to and interpreted to best serve your pet’s needs. Grunting is usually a negative vocalisation, associated with pain, fear, anger or discomfort. It can also be a mating sign. If your bunny is grunting, try and determine the cause of their unhappiness and then you can make steps to fix the problem.