If your rabbit has started licking you, you may want to know why and what this behaviour means. Is this a good and positive thing or is there a wider issue and something to be concerned with? Having had many rabbits over the years, I thought I’d share what I have come to know.
So, what does it mean when a rabbit licks you? When a rabbit licks you, it’s often a sign of affection and trust. Rabbits use licking as a way to show love and comfort, similar to how they groom each other in the wild. If your rabbit licks you, it likely feels safe and comfortable in your presence, their current surroundings and environment.
Let us now explore why rabbits lick and some of the other things to consider regarding this behavior
Reasons Why Your rabbit May Lick You
To Show Affection
When a rabbit licks you, it’s often a heartfelt display of affection.
In the wild, rabbits show affection to their pack members by grooming them.
Your rabbit sees you as part of its family and licks you as a way of expressing love and closeness.
This behavior is similar to how dogs and cats express their fondness for their owners.
They Are Seeking Attention
Rabbits are social animals and crave interaction.
If your rabbit licks you, it might be seeking more attention or playtime.
This is especially common in rabbits that are used to regular interaction and engagement with their human companions.
They Are Comforting You
Rabbits are sensitive to the emotions of their owners. They can often sense when you’re upset or stressed.
In such situations, a rabbit might lick you as a way of offering comfort, much like a friend giving a reassuring pat on the back.
They Are Grooming You
In rabbit communities, grooming is a vital social activity that strengthens bonds and ensures cleanliness.
When your rabbit licks you, it may be attempting to groom you, incorporating you into its social grooming rituals.
Licking can also be a way for rabbits to mark their territory.
By licking you, they leave their scent, which in their language, designates you as part of their territory or group.
This is a sign of ownership and belonging.
The taste of salt on human skin can be appealing to rabbits.
Your rabbit may lick you simply because it likes the taste, especially after you’ve been sweating or if there’s a residue of food on your skin.
Out of Curiosity
Rabbits are naturally curious creatures. Licking is one of the ways they explore their environment.
Your rabbit might be licking you out of curiosity, exploring the texture, taste, and smell of your skin or clothes.
If you have other pets that lick you, your rabbit might start to mimic this behavior.
Rabbits are intelligent animals and can pick up habits and behaviors from observing others.
Licking can be a crucial part of a bonding ritual between you and your rabbit.
Regular licking sessions can strengthen the bond, as it’s a sign of trust and comfort from your rabbit’s perspective.
They’re Asking for Food
Sometimes, a rabbit’s licking can be a more pragmatic request for food. If it associates licking with being fed or given treats, it might lick you as a way of asking for its favorite snack.
For Stress Relief
Just like in cats and dogs, licking releases endorphins in rabbits, which are hormones that help relieve stress and induce feelings of pleasure.
Your rabbit might lick you as a way of self-soothing.
Out of Habit
If your rabbit has been licking you since it was young, it might have become a habitual behavior.
This habit is often reinforced if they receive a positive response from you, like petting or talking softly.
To Check Your Health
In the wild, rabbits will often check on the health of their pack members.
Your rabbit licking you might be its way of performing a health check, ensuring that you are well.
They Are Exploring Textures
The different textures of human skin or clothing can be fascinating to rabbits.
Your rabbit’s licking could be an exploration of these textures, experiencing something different from its usual environment.
They’re In A Playful Mood
Younger rabbits, in particular, may lick as a part of playful behavior. It could be a sign of a playful mood, indicating that your rabbit is feeling happy and energetic.
Out of Submission
Licking can be a sign of submission in the animal kingdom.
Your rabbit might lick you as a way of showing respect and acknowledging you as the dominant figure in your shared environment.
If your rabbit senses that it has upset you, perhaps after nibbling on something it shouldn’t have, licking can be its way of apologizing.
It’s a sign of remorse and an attempt to mend the relationship.
Should You Let Your Rabbit Lick You?
You should let your rabbit lick you. Allowing your rabbit to lick you fosters a deeper bond between you both. It’s a sign of trust and affection from your rabbit, and responding positively to this behavior can strengthen your relationship.
However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind to ensure that this interaction remains safe and healthy for both you and your rabbit.
Considerations When Allowing Your Rabbit To Lick
Firstly, be mindful of your skin’s condition. If you have any lotions, creams, or residues on your skin that could be harmful if ingested, it’s best to gently discourage your rabbit from licking those areas.
Rabbits have sensitive digestive systems, and certain chemicals or substances found in skincare products could be harmful to them.
Secondly, pay attention to the frequency and context of the licking. If your rabbit’s licking behavior becomes obsessive or is accompanied by signs of stress or anxiety, it might indicate an underlying issue that needs addressing. Excessive licking could be a sign of boredom, lack of stimulation, or even a health problem.
It’s also important to consider your comfort level.
If you’re not comfortable with your rabbit licking you, it’s perfectly okay to gently redirect their behavior.
Rabbits are intelligent and can learn boundaries over time.
Should I be worried if my rabbit licks me a lot?
There’s usually no need to worry if your rabbit licks you frequently. It’s generally a positive sign indicating that your rabbit feels bonded to you. However, excessive licking, especially if accompanied by other unusual behaviors, might indicate stress or a health issue, so it’s always a good idea to observe your rabbit’s overall behavior and consult a vet if you have concerns.
How should I respond to my rabbit licking me?
Responding gently and calmly to your rabbit’s licks is the best approach. You can gently pet your rabbit or speak to it in a soft voice to reinforce the bond. Avoid sudden movements or loud noises that could startle it. Remember, every rabbit has its unique personality, so always be attentive to how your rabbit likes to interact.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.