Rabbit owners the world over ask themselves the same question: Can my rabbit communicate with me? There are certainly times where it feels like your connection with your pet is deeper than meets the eye. While cat and dog owners know how to interpret their animals' body language, it can be harder to learn the languages of small pets. But I have good news! Your rabbit can communicate with you, and probably is trying to communicate with you on a regular basis. Now, for the important question: What is your fuzzy friend saying to you?
A rabbit uses its ears to tune into what's around it, and they can be both both expressive and inquisitive. Both ears forward means something akin to "hey, I'm paying attention now!" Both ears back means your bun is just getting a feel for what's around them in general and testing their surroundings. One ear up and one down means that they're aware something is going on, but it doesn't yet warrant their full attention. Curiosity can be taken to the next level if your rabbit stands on its hind legs. This means they are trying to get a better view of their surroundings, and is a "next step" to using their ears to stay aware.
While rabbits may not bark like dogs or meow like cats, they do indeed make noises that are indicative of how they're feeling as a way of communicating with you. A grunt often means your rabbit is angry or disgruntled, and is often a precursor to scratching or biting. In relation to humans, it often means to back off or that they don't want to be handled. A soft squeal or whimpering noise announces slight displeasure or annoyance. A low humming or grumbling noise signifies excitement, and is often used to signify that your rabbit is ready to mate. Honking is also a noise often associated with mating, but can also mean excitement or pleasure if made out of this context.
Rabbits also make noises with their teeth to signify both positive and negative emotions. Clicking teeth is a sign of contentment and means that your friend is happy and relaxed. It can be seen as a rabbit's form of purring. To the contrary, tooth grinding signifies agitation, pain, or stress. This is often accompanied by sitting hunched up, and generally means your rabbit is not well. If there are no environmental stressors and your rabbit is grinding its teeth, you should seek veterinary care immediately.
If your rabbit nips you, it is a warning that you are making them uncomfortable or that they want your attention—NOW. Your rabbit will lick you to show affection. Many owners believe that their rabbit is licking for salt, but this isn't true. Rabbits lick to show care and love. To them, it signifies that you are part of the family and therefore need to be groomed just like another rabbit would be groomed.
How They Move
Rabbits hop or move in distinctive patterns or styles to convey messages. For example, rabbits often circle, especially by your feet, to get your attention. Likewise, thumping their hind paws is a way to seek attention or to warn you that a perceived danger is nearby. A rabbit's scent glands are under its chin, so they often put their chins on objects to explore them. Rubbing something with the underside of their chin is your rabbit’s way of marking their territory and claiming something as their own. Nudging you with their nose is a way of telling you that they want to be pet or want attention. It can also be a way to say "get out of my way," so pay attention to context on this one!
Rabbits sometimes flop over onto their sides (if you are new to being a bunny parent this can be terrifying, the first time it's easy to think your rabbit is hurt!) when they are calm and relaxed. This is the rabbit equivalent of collapsing into a comfy chair or bed. Your rabbit can also wag its tail! Many owners don't notice, but this is your bun's way of back-talking, and telling you they don't want to go back to their cage or do what you're trying to get them to do.
The best rabbit move that shows happiness is the binky! Binkies are the unique and acrobatic jump accompanied by twisting the body or kicking the legs that every rabbit owner is familiar with. This is a rabbit's way of expressing true joy.