Rabbits are also prone to stress.
Sometimes, it’s easy to know if they’re troubled.
But there are also cases when it’s not noticeable at first.
Since some of the signs can be mistaken as normal bunny behavior.
So, how can you tell if your bunny is indeed stressed or not?
And what should you do to help them get through it?
Continue reading to find out:
- 19 signs of a stressed rabbit.
- Sounds they may create when they’re anxious.
- Practical tips on how to calm down a stressed rabbit.
- How to spot an anxious bunny by looking at their eyes and ears.
- And a lot more…
What do rabbits do when they are stressed?
When rabbits are stressed, they’ll usually have a stiff posture. They may also tremble, breathe fast, and be restless. While others grunt, grind their teeth, and thump their legs. They’ll also become aloof and less active. And there might also be some changes in their feeding and toilet habits.
19 signs of a stressed rabbit
#1: Stiff crouched position
Let’s talk about the appearance of a stressed bunny first.
When they’re nervous, it’ll also show in their bodies.
They’ll have a rigid posture most of the time. And they’ll crouch down and hold their heads close to the ground as well.
Aside from looking stiff, some anxious rabbits may also curl up into a ball.
In the wild, bunnies do this as a defense against predators.
So if pet rabbits assume this position and they look uneasy too…
They might feel unsafe in their surroundings.
However, curling up can also be normal behavior in rabbits. And they usually do this to keep themselves warm during cold weather.
Note: Crouching and hunching may indicate that they’re in pain too. So pay close attention to your bunny if they do this more often. Then call your vet if more symptoms appear.
#2: Flattened ears
Rabbits are blessed with large long ears that can rotate and detect sounds from anywhere.
But did you know that these could also tell a lot about their current mood?
Yup. You’ll know if a bunny is happy if their ears are upright.
However, if they’re worried, their ears will be flattened to their back. And they’ll be wide apart from each other too.
But remember, it’s also normal for some bunnies to have droopy ears. Such as lop-eared rabbits.
The only difference is that their ears will appear relaxed. Unlike stressed bunnies who will have stiff ones.
Interesting fact: Studies also show that a rabbit’s ears can help regulate temperature. When it’s hot, their ears’ blood vessels will widen. And this will permit more heat loss in the skin.
While their vessels will contract instead when it’s cold to keep them warm.
#3: Wide and bulging eyes
Besides their ears…
You can also tell what a rabbit feels by looking at their eyes.
Usually, happy bunnies will have eyes that are partly closed.
This is a clear sign that they’re relaxed in their environment. And they feel safe in it.
While on the other hand…
Stressed rabbits will have wide, bulging eyes. Then you’ll also notice that they’re always alert.
It’s normal for rabbits to shake a few times while they’re asleep. (They might be in dreamland!)
Rippling of skin is also often seen in bunnies. And this is likely due to random shivers due to cold currents.
However, if a bunny is awake and they’re trembling in a stiff posture…
There might be something wrong.
Due to fear, it’s expected for scared rabbits to shake all over their body as a response.
But if they’ve been stressed for so long, they could also tremble. And it’ll mostly show in their other body parts.
For example, their heads will keep on bobbing. And they might also rock their bodies from side to side.
“What are the other reasons for trembling in rabbits?”
Apart from stress, head bobbing might also be a sign of fur or ear mites.
While shaking for a few seconds or minutes can be due to:
- Gastrointestinal stasis (slow passage of food).
#5: Rapid breathing
There’s nothing wrong if a rabbit takes some quick breaths during and after an exercise.
But, you should be concerned if they do this while they’re still. And if they didn’t do any tiring activities.
Based on PDSA, bunnies can breathe fast due to many reasons.
Allergies and infections as the most common ones.
While stress is said to be a factor that can worsen their condition.
So if your rabbit suddenly starts breathing faster than usual…
They might be worried about something.
“What is the normal breathing rate of rabbits?”
According to experts, healthy bunnies will have 32 to 65 breaths per minute. And the average rate is 45.
Like dogs, bunnies can also create different sounds to communicate with us. As well as other rabbits.
Among those is grunting. And they usually do this when they’re scared or frustrated.
Like if their personal space is invaded. Or if they’re returned to their hutch after a fun playtime.
But, it can also express stress and anger. So a worried bunny may lunge or nip someone as well.
This is why it’s never a good idea to touch or pick them up while they’re in this state. As you’re at risk of getting scratched or bitten.
So, how can you properly handle a stressed rabbit?
We’ll get to this shortly. So stick around! 🙂
Don’t forget to check out: 17 Weird Reasons Why Your Rabbit Grunts (At You) + 11 Tips
#7: Loud teeth grinding
A rabbit who clicks their teeth softly is a happy and content one.
This is why it’s also known as their version of a cat’s ‘purring.’
But what if they grind their front teeth loudly?
Well, it’s a clear sign of stress in bunnies.
They’re upset about something.
So if you hear some loud teeth clicking, observe your rabbit. Then check your surroundings.
Also, recall the events that happened before this behavior appeared.
Say, if you changed something in their routine or place. Or if you had a new member of the family.
As they might have been bothering your furry pal for a while.
#8: Thumping of hind legs
Rabbits aren’t as vocal as dogs and cats.
This is why they may use their bodies more to send messages.
So aside from clicking their teeth, they could also stomp their rear legs.
“What does it mean if a rabbit thumps their feet?”
This is usually used to warn other rabbits about a danger.
Since wild ones mostly hide underground, the vibrations can reach the bunnies underneath. So it’s a smart way to communicate.
But aside from this…
Stressed bunnies may thump their back legs as well.
It’s a sign that they’re annoyed. And it could be interpreted as, “Go away!” or “Back off!”
Note: By the way, a rabbit’s thumping will be really loud. So you might be surprised by it. If you want to hear what it sounds like, check out this short clip:
You might also like: Why does my rabbit thump?
Due to so much worrying, rabbits will also act strangely.
They’ll be uneasy most of the time. And they’re always on the lookout with their alert eyes and ears.
It’s known that bunnies are nervous animals.
They get spooked by sounds and rapid movements quite easily.
But this time, this jumpy behavior of theirs might be doubled. And they’ll freak out about anything.
As they’re anxious and too focused on their surroundings.
#10: Sudden aggression
This is another change in behavior that can also be a sign of stress.
When rabbits are nervous, they may become aggressive too. And they might bite, growl, or lunge at anyone who comes near them.
Think of it as their defense mechanism.
They feel insecure and unsafe in their environment.
So their first instinct would be to protect themselves.
This is why they’ll be aggressive to anyone. So their parents are no exception to this.
#11: Not wanting to be picked up
Like what I’ve said in sign #7, an anxious rabbit will also hate being touched or held.
Even if they’re already used to doing these things before.
And they’ll also have a…
#12: Withdrawn behavior
Rabbits are social butterflies.
They can be shy at first. But once they open up to you, they could be as clingy as dogs.
So if your once cuddly bunny became aloof all of a sudden…
It can also be a sign of stress.
Their worries will take up most of their brain. And they’re highly anxious at the moment.
This is why they might not be in the mood for any social interactions.
So you’ll often see them running away from people or other rabbits.
Then if you go near them, they’ll move away from you. (And they’ll probably do some grunting or leg thumping as well.)
#13: Lack of interest in things they used to like
Anxious bunnies can also be less active.
They might not be as excited as before about things they used to enjoy. Like playing reverse fetch or learning tricks.
This behavior is often seen in rabbits with long-term anxiety.
They might be scared of an object or person. And that stressor is still in the area.
Or they may have a traumatic experience as well. So they could be triggered at any time.
#14: Hiding most of the time
Digging burrows and staying in their hiding spots is normal in bunnies.
In fact, it’s a healthy habit.
This is because it satisfies their natural instinct to hide as prey animals. And it also gives them a sense of security.
But, it’s not a good sign if a rabbit hides and avoids people all day.
RSPCA says that they might be stressed.
While others can be sick or in need of a break from social interaction.
They do this because hiding makes them feel safe and at ease. So it calms them down during stressful situations.
This is connected to sign #13.
Instead of being restless, a stressed bunny may also have low energy. So they may refuse to play or exercise.
This is an alarming behavior since rabbits are pretty energetic. And they’ll keep themselves busy most of the time.
Say, they’ll chew everything from hay to wires. Or they’ll hop on other rabbits.
Apart from stress, this is also a common symptom of most illnesses. So if your bunny displays more signs, don’t hesitate to contact your vet.
#16: Reduced or increased appetite
Stress can also affect our eating habits.
Doctors say that during the first stage, it’s normal for us to lose our appetite. And this is done to help our bodies cope with the situation.
But if the stress persists, our cortisol levels will be high. Then this will make us overeat instead.
And just like us, our furry friends may also experience this.
They may refuse to eat as well.
It’ll be the opposite. And they’ll consume more than usual instead.
Warning: Lack of appetite in rabbits is concerning. This is because to keep their tummies healthy and moving, they have to eat all day. So skipping meals can easily lead to illnesses. Such as gut stasis and dehydration.
To prevent this, you have to force-feed your bunny.
If you want to know more, read this article: Rabbit Syringe Feeding: 13 Safe Tips To Force Feed A Rabbit
#17: A change in toilet habits
Next, also observe how much your rabbit poops in a day.
An average-sized bunny usually produces 200 to 300 pellets daily.
So if your rabbit seems to be pooping so much. And they also have accidents everywhere…
They could also be stressed.
“Wait. Why’s that?”
First, if they’re unhappy, their organs will be under stress too.
Those will function slowly. And this change might confuse their system. Resulting in more stools.
Then lastly, if rabbits are stressed, they might also become more territorial.
And what do territorial bunnies do?
They’ll mark objects and spaces.
And to do this, they’ll either leave their pee or poop. So that their scent will linger there.
Note: If your bunny likes you so much, they can also poop on you. As they’re marking an important thing in their life.
Reading tip: 19 Tips To Stop A Rabbit From Pooping Everywhere (How-To)
#18: Repetitive behaviors
Stressed bunnies might also show some weird behaviors.
They’ll do those things again and again. Until they have calmed down.
The actions might be soothing for them.
It might have given them comfort before. And they found it effective.
So now, they always use it to cope with stress. Until they’re obsessed with it.
“‘What are some examples of these?”
When troubled, bunnies may constantly:
- Lick themselves.
- Bite at their cages.
- Groom other rabbits.
And the first and third one can lead to…
#19: Self mutilation
This is the result of overgrooming. And it’s often seen in bunnies under extreme stress.
This might have started as a simple licking habit.
But as their stress continues…
Their condition got worse. So they couldn’t stop licking and biting themselves.
Which can result in patches. Or worse, open wounds.
This is why stress shouldn’t be taken lightly. As it’ll worsen if left untreated.
What should I do if my rabbit is stressed?
First, figure out the cause.
Watch your rabbit and scan the environment.
Then if you see or hear something that’s bothering them, get rid of it. Like an object or loud music playing.
But if you can’t, avoid the stressor from now on. And remove your bunny in the area.
Now, how can you help them calm down?
- Reassure them by talking in a soft, sweet voice.
- If they like being petted, gently do so. But if not, leave them alone.
- Avoid moving too fast. As well as creating sudden loud noises that may startle them.
- Put or direct them to their hiding place. And leave some familiar things inside (e.g., fave toy, blanket).
Note: If this persists for days, you may have to consult your vet. This might not be a case of stress. But of an underlying medical condition.