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, and wondering this question on numerous occasions myself, I decided to conduct some research into the topic. Here is what I have been able to find on the subject.
So, what does it mean when a Rabbit licks you? Rabbits lick to communicate and affection to their owners. It’s a positive sign that indicates that the Rabbit is happy and content with its current surroundings and environment and feels safe and calm. Generally, it is a great indicator that your rabbit likes you.
Let us now explore why Rabbits lick and some of the other things to consider regarding this behavior
Why Do Rabbits Lick?
A lot of people underestimate the connection that rabbits can have to their owners. Many think of them like a hamster or mouse – a pet that is to be kept primarily in a cage and exhibits limited communication skills. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Rabbits are a lot more intelligent than people give them credit for. They are capable of expressing rather complex emotions. They can be happy and bored – they can even get depressed! They can’t just state their feelings as straightforward as a person though. Licking their owners in one way in which a rabbit can express its affection.
They do this in a similar way as a cat or dog would. Why do they think this is a sign of affection?
This type of behavior may seem odd at face value, but the more you think about it, a lot of animals do this. What is the social significance of such an action? We don’t need to stray far from home to find it.
Most people would find it a little odd if you started licking your friends and relatives randomly. The average person just says “I love you,” but that wasn’t always the case. Although it is difficult for us to determine how exactly our ancient ancestors greeted each other, we can make a few assumptions by observing our evolutionary cousins.
Other closely related primates, such as Chimpanzees and Bonobos, have complex social interactions which are comparable to ancient Homo Sapiens. One of their trademark behaviors you can see in any documentary involves grooming.
When an Ape likes another Ape, it will comb through their hair for bugs. This is how they groom each other. For a modern Human, you may argue it’s like playing with someone’s hair (as we are at a point when we don’t normally have bugs crawling through our scalp).
For other animals that don’t sport poseable thumbs, they rely heavily off their mouths to do anything done. Most mammals groom by licking. We can see it in wild animals (like tigers and foxes) all the way to our furbabies in our homes (like cats and dogs).
Rabbits also fall under this category of animals that groom by licking. Grooming is a way of showing another animal that they care about their health and hygiene. They do it with their companions and babies. When your rabbit licks you, it is trying to say that they care about you like that.
How Else Can You Tell If Your Rabbit Likes You?
Rabbit licking is a sought after sign of affection that isn’t exhibited in all pet rabbits. Although it is a great indicator that your rabbit likes you, it is not the only sign of affection. Rabbits are prey animals, which means they are skittish by nature.
Honestly, just the fact that your rabbit doesn’t panic every time you approach their cage means that they’re comfortable with you. If your rabbit is letting you handle them without a fuss or -better yet- voluntarily approaching you or hopping in your lap, this is a sign that they love you.
There are also some more subtle behaviors you may have to look out for. Another affectional behavior they share with a cat is “chinning.” This is when they rub their chin on you -as you might notice them doing with their cages or other rabbits. They do this because they have a gland there that releases a scent that lets other rabbits know that they’ve claimed you!
Other signs involve them letting their guard down in front of you. Even if they don’t groom you, the act of grooming themselves puts them in a more vulnerable position. If they are regularly cleaning themselves in front of you, it’s their way of saying they no longer see you as some kind of threat.
Another adorable sign of trust is when they “flop” when they lay down in front of you. This is another activity that would prove risky to do if a predator were to walk by.
For the most part, you can normally accurately gauge how they feel about you. It’s rather easy to tell the difference between a rabbit who is excited to see you and a paranoid one who is hiding every time you walk by their enclosure.
How Do You Make A Rabbit Feel More Relaxed?
If your Rabbit is constantly on edge, this means that their body is undergoing a lot of stress. Stress isn’t healthy for anyone, and a rabbit’s delicate body is especially vulnerable to the negative impact of stress.
It is perfectly normal for it to take some time for your Rabbit to warm up to their new home (and owners), but some take longer than others. Sadly, there is no magic way for you to let your rabbit know that it safe.
Here are some tips you can follow to make your rabbit feel more comfortable, relaxed and at home in the environment .
A Place To Hide
Especially in the beginning, a Rabbit is likely to feel more nervous if they are forced out into the open. It’s a good idea to offer them some kind of hiding place or shelter so they have the option to hide themselves away. As time goes on, you may find that your rabbit doesn’t even use it anymore, but it is an important investment in the beginning.
The Igloo Hideaways are a favorite among bet owners and are a great option if you are looking for something that is colorful and can easily be cleaned. You can get these for a great price over at Amazon.
As I stated earlier, Rabbits get bored. They need to be entertained and may exhibit behavioral disturbances with they are bored. Filling their habitat with some toys can help create an environment they are more comfortable with.
There are all different options available (just be aware that some get a little loud if you keep the cage in your bedroom). Eventually they may even play with you!
A Friendly Face
If you want your Rabbit to connect with you, you will need to be friendly to them. Try to interact with them regularly and be patient if they are nervous. Being quiet and not forcing your rabbit to be pet or handled when they are very opposed to it are also good tips to keep in mind.
If there are other non-rabbit pets in the house, it’s a good idea to keep them away for a bit as an excited dog or eager cat may add some additional stress. Try to communicate these ideas with kids in the house. Keep in mind a nervous rabbit will bite an excited child if they get scared.
Rabbits tend to like having a companion. It is advised that you have at least one other rabbit in the cage (note they can get territorial and this is something you must closely monitor).
They look up to each other, and having each other will help bring up their morale. Plus, if one of the rabbits is already warmed up to you, the other may come around faster.
It should go without saying that a happy rabbit is a healthy rabbit.
Make sure to feed them properly, regularly and keep their cage nice and clean. Be sure to do this several times during the week to make they environment clean, hygienic and pleasurable for your Rabbit to live in.
After some time, so long as you take care of them, your Rabbit(s) will realize that you’re the one doing this for them. You’ll be rewarded for this effort.
If you have ever seen or encountered a Rabbit licking you or their owner, then this is not a cause for concern.
In fact, its a behavior that you would like to see your Rabbit exhibit from time to time. Its a positive behavior, a show of affection and a sign of contentment, happiness and trust.
If you’re Rabbit is licking you from time to time, then you are doing something right! Keep up the good work, and be sure to continue your handling, treatment and care for your Rabbit because they are clearly enjoying it.
On the other hand, if your Rabbit does not lick you, consider that your Rabbit may not be inclined to do this behavior. Maybe they are not comfortable yet, maybe its not within their character. Again, its not a cause for concern but you may want to consider getting some toys, improving their environment and habitat and just upping the care in general!
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.