Bunny language can be confusing at first.
One of their ways of communication is to lick you. It can mean a lot of things.
Before you find it weird, understand what your bunny is trying to say.
Read on to find out:
- 15 reasons why rabbits lick you.
- Ways how rabbits show affection.
- What to do if your rabbit keeps licking you.
- Whether you should tolerate this behavior or not.
- And plenty more…
Why does my rabbit lick me?
Your rabbit licks you to groom you and show affection. They also do this to get your attention. In some cases, it can be a sign of courtship behavior. It can also be their way to assert dominance if they bite you after licking.
15 reasons why your rabbit (always) licks you
#1: To groom you
Licking is how rabbits groom. In the wild, they lick to groom each other.
It’s a sign of affection. They groom you because they care about you. According to a study, it’s also their way of bonding with you.
They want to clean you up as they clean themselves.
After all, rabbits are popular for their cleanliness. They love to keep their fur nice and clean.
An average, healthy bunny will groom many times a day. This is why they will groom you a lot too.
For example, every time they see you, they’ll run to you and lick you for a quick groom.
Some people can think that they’re obsessed with being clean.
But rabbits have a reason why they always need to groom.
“So why do rabbits groom so much?”
Rabbits groom a lot as a way to stay as scentless as possible. In the wild, bunnies have a lot of enemies.
Those enemies will hunt and track them down through their scent.
But if they stay clean, they can try to get rid of the odor they might have.
Of course, they can’t be completely scentless. But it’s still better to be hard to track than be an easy target.
Other than for their safety, rabbits can also be sensitive to dirt.
Unlike us, they have weak bodies. Their immune system is not as strong as ours.
The smallest infection can lead to a serious disease.
An example of the latter is Pasteurella. It can spread to other rabbits which can put their colony in danger.
That is why it’s natural for rabbits to lick and groom a lot.
Reading recommendation: How to tell if your rabbit likes you?
#2: To show affection
Licking is also a way for them to show affection.
They’ll do this to you all the time as if to say, “I’m here and I care about you.”
In a way, it can also be like their way of saying, “Let me take care of you. I can clean you up.”
Since you take care of them, rabbits try to return the affection.
They are loving pets after all. Even though they are quiet, they communicate with you in silent ways.
By licking you a lot, it’s almost the same as “kissing” for humans.
But keep in mind…
Not all rabbits are a fan of licking. If your rabbit doesn’t lick you, it doesn’t mean that they don’t like you.
Some rabbits are shy to show affection. Or they have other ways to do it.
For a better idea, let me give you some hints.
Here are 5 other signs that your bunny is showing affection:
- They like climbing on you.
- They run around in circles.
- They follow you anywhere.
- They do the “binky” around you.
- They sit and stay next to you to relax.
If your bunny does any of these, it’s a sign that they’re showing affection.
Licking is not the only way of showing affection in bunny language.
Rabbits can have direct ways of showing affection. Meanwhile, some can have silent, indirect ways too.
#3: To get your attention
Rabbits can also have unique ways of asking for attention. Licking is one of those ways.
This is common in rabbits who feel very attached to you. It can also happen if they feel lonely a lot.
As social animals, rabbits love being around others.
Be it another rabbit or even human company.
It doesn’t matter as long as they’re bonded with you. Many rabbits can act like clingy, spoiled babies.
This means that they’ll demand your attention at all times.
You can tell if this is the case if they show other signs of asking for attention.
Here are more ways a rabbit will ask for attention. For example, they will:
- Nip or bite you.
- Nudge your hand.
- Run back and forth.
- Dig on you or around you.
- Try to jump and climb on you.
So if your rabbit licks you and does one or more of these acts, it’s a clear sign that they want your attention.
#4: To show dominance
In some cases, licking can also be a sign of showing dominance.
This is more common in adult rabbits that are not spayed or neutered.
Due to the changes in their hormones, they can act dominant and territorial.
They’ll come to you and lick you, then follow it with a bite.
Rabbits do the same thing in the wild to make the other rabbits submit.
By showing their “strength”, they’re saying, “I’m the boss”.
But this doesn’t mean that your rabbit hates you. It’s only their hormones making them act that way.
This problem will go away if you take them to the vet. The vet should recommend spaying and neutering to solve it.
If you want to know more signs that your rabbit is being dominant…
Don’t worry, we got you covered.
Here are 7 signs of a dominant bunny:
- Being aggressive.
- Territorial marking.
- Lunging towards you.
- Refusing handling or touching.
- Trying to push you out of their way.
- They try to “move” you out of your spot.
- Claiming things that have your scent on them.
If you notice any of these behaviors, you should consider spaying/neutering them.
It can turn bad if your bunny gets used to their bad behavior. It will make it harder to fix.
Don’t wait before they do big damage that can be harmful to both of you.
#5: They’re bored
Rabbits will also lick you for no reason other than boredom alone.
Yes, they can be weird when they’re bored. But that’s what makes rabbits unique.
They’ll come to you and stare at you for a while. Sometimes, they’ll sniff you for a bit too.
Then out of nowhere, they’ll give you a lick.
They can keep going if you let them do as they please.
It’s as if they’re thinking, “Hmm… What should I do? If I lick you will I find something interesting?”
If they stop licking you and freeze for a second, it’s like they had a lightbulb moment.
An idea comes to their head and then they’ll hop away.
…As if they didn’t lick you all of a sudden.
They act as if nothing happened but it’s because they can space out a lot. They’ll lick you and space out.
Thinking about what to do next.
But it’s not a bad thing. It only shows they like you enough to go to you when they want to “think”.
You may also wonder: Why does my rabbit headbutt me?
#6: To ask for food
In some cases, licking is also a way for rabbits to ask for food.
It’s like they’re trying to convince you.
They’ll come to you and lick you thinking, “I’m hungry. Please give me some food.”
This could be the case if they’re licking your hand the most.
Your hand is what they often see when you hand them a treat or any food.
They now see it as your “magic hand” that keeps them full.
But licking your hand isn’t enough to tell if they’re actually hungry.
So, how can you tell if they want food? Their body language can give it away.
Here are 7 signs of a hungry bunny asking for food – they:
- Follow you around.
- Dig on their food bowl.
- Stare at you as if waiting for something.
- Run to you and their food bowl back and forth.
- Pick up their food bowl and throw it up in the air.
- Stand on their front legs and try to sniff the air for food.
- Climb on you and keep sniffing you to show they’re hungry.
Despite their small bodies, they can have a big appetite. Make sure they eat enough to keep them happy and healthy.
If they do this to you, give them a small treat to please them.
Note: Avoid overfeeding. If they already ate enough, let them know their limits. Some bunnies can forget their own limit and ask for more. This can lead to obesity and illnesses.
#7: They’re trying to court you
Rabbits can also lick as a form of courtship behavior.
They do this to their partner as a way of asking them to mate. This is common in rabbits that are not spayed or neutered.
Most rabbits reach sexual maturity as early as 3 months old. If you own a dwarf breed, most of them only need 2 months. For giant bunnies, they can take up to 6 months.
No matter your bunny’s breed, once they become mature…
This type of behavior is bound to happen.
But other than licking, rabbits will also show other signs of courting.
Here are 7 more signs of rabbit courtship behavior, based on research:
- Circling your feet.
- Excessive sniffing.
- Following you everywhere.
- Trying to mount you or your feet.
- Biting when they try to mount you.
- Rubbing their chin on you a.k.a “chinning”.
- Making weird noises such as grunting or crying.
If you have no plans of breeding your bunny…
It’s best to consider spaying and neutering them. It will keep their hormones in check. It will also prevent a lot of problematic behavior.
As a bonus, it can also get rid of the risk of cancer.
#8: They can smell something on you
Rabbits have a great sense of smell. They have 100 million scent cells. Thanks to this, their nose is very sensitive.
So if they smell something new or different from you, they can get curious.
Out of curiosity, they will lick you as if they’re thinking, “What’s that smell? Can I eat that? Let me try.”
If this happens, they tend to stop right away. They’ll realize it’s not food at all.
They only love to investigate and that includes investigating you.
Bunnies love sweet scents. So if you wear sweet-scented perfume…
They might think you have a treat such as fruits. This can also make them lick you.
For some ideas, here are scents that can make them lick you a lot:
#9: They’re happy
Rabbits can lick you too out of excitement and joy. Due to the happiness they feel, they can’t help but give you some “kisses”.
It’s like what you can see in movies. The main character gets so happy… they celebrate by kissing their love interest.
Well, for rabbits it’s not at all that romantic, but you get the idea.
It’s their way of saying, “You made me so happy.” or “I’m so excited.”
When they feel playful at the moment, they’ll also lick you a lot.
They could be trying to invite you to play with them too. These are all things they will do when they feel happy.
It’s a good sign that your bunny is healthy.
Don’t forget to check out: 19 Signs That You Have The Happiest Rabbit In The World
#10: To say “sorry”
Though rabbits can’t look guilty on their face like other pets…
Rabbits can say “sorry” in their own unique way. That is by licking you.
In the wild, rabbits groom each other after a fight. It’s a way to say they’re friends again.
So if your rabbit did something naughty, they can come to you and lick you to say, “I’m sorry.”
Not all rabbits will do this, so don’t expect the same from all bunnies.
In their nature, it’s more common for them to be more “insensitive” when it comes to making mistakes.
Don’t take it against them. They only don’t know or understand that they did something wrong.
But in case that your rabbit does, they will sometimes try to “make it up to you”.
Though they can’t understand our words…
Just like dogs, bunnies can recognize your tone of voice and facial expressions. This is how they can understand if you feel angry, sad, or happy.
You can show that you accept their apology by brushing their fur back or giving them a kiss.
This way, it’s like you’re grooming them back. This is how bunnies make up with each other in the wild.
#11: To say “thank you”
Other than to apologize, they can also lick to show gratitude.
But once again, not all rabbits will do it. They all have different personalities after all.
Though, it’s rarer to meet a bunny that is smarter than the average.
If your bunny happens to be one of them, they’ll know how to thank you.
They’ll give you a “kiss” in their own way, that is by licking you.
#12: To greet you
They can also do this to greet you. It can happen if you often leave the house or their room.
It’s their way of saying, “Yay! You’re back. I’m happy to see you.”
They’re showing that they like being around you. Your presence gives them joy.
If they don’t do this to other people, it’s a sign that they only feel bonded with you.
Bunnies can be picky about who they bond with. So if you’re their favorite person to greet with a “kiss” or a lick, then you’re the lucky chosen one.
#13: They trust you
If a rabbit licks you, it shows that they trust you.
As prey animals, they rarely come close to others. Unless they feel safe enough with you.
Licking you is their way of showing that they let their guard down around you. They also think they can come to you for safety.
Your rabbit thinks that you can protect them.
Rabbits are vulnerable when they groom. This can make it easier for a predator to catch them.
So if a bunny grooms around you and licks you to groom you too…
It’s a clear sign that they don’t see you as a threat at all. On top of that, they trust you a lot.
#14: They want you to pet them
Rabbits will also lick to ask for pets. This could be the case if they tend to lick your hand a lot.
They will lick you and nudge your hand with their head.
It’s like saying, “Hello I’m here, please pet me”.
When they lick you, some rabbits expect you to “return” the favor. They groomed you, so now it’s your turn to groom them back.
If your bunny does this, make sure to give them even a quick head scratch.
A lot of rabbits can get upset when you ignore them. So even if you’re busy, try to pet them even for a bit.
#15: They love you
A rabbit will also groom you for nothing else but love. They love you a lot, so they’ll lick you a lot.
To them, it’s the same as kissing. Grooming you to show you that they care and like you so much.
If they always lick you and hang around you for a while…
It’s a clear sign that they love you and there’s no need to overthink it. Accept it and give them the same love they’re giving to you.
You can learn more signs that a bunny loves you by clicking this video:
Should you let your rabbit lick you?
You should let your rabbit lick you because it’s their way of showing affection. Not letting them lick you is like rejecting their love. This can break a rabbit’s heart. It can discourage them from getting close to you again.
As a result, they can end up distancing themselves from you.
In the wild, grooming or licking can mean a lot of things for rabbits.
But use it the most as a way to show love and care. If a bunny doesn’t like someone, they reject the grooming.
In return, they can attack the other bunny too.
Your rabbit also eats clean so they won’t carry any disease that they can pass to you by licking you.
It’s safe to let them do so. It’s the same way many dog owners let their pet dogs lick them in the face.
As long as you know your rabbit is healthy, there’s nothing wrong about letting them lick you as much as they want.