Why Do Rabbits Lick Things?

Have you ever watched your rabbit interacting with the world and wondered what on earth she was doing? Bunnies can display some rather questionable behaviors which may cause owners to scratch their heads and wonder if their rabbit is normal. Licking is a common behavior but can be a bit strange if your rabbit seems to be doing it obsessively, so why do rabbits lick things?

Rabbits lick things instinctively as a way to explore and understand their environment. If they are attracted to a certain scent, then they may feel the urge to lick whatever surface it is on. Licking is nothing to worry about and provided that whatever your rabbit is licking is in no way dangerous, you can allow it to continue.

That being said, there may be times when your rabbit licks things too much, particularly when looking at grooming and this can be a sign that the bunny is bored or suffering from anxiety.

Why Is My Rabbit Licking Everything?

Rabbits are very inquisitive animals. Curiosity may have killed the cat but it could just as easily come for a rabbit. These sweet little animals love to interact with the world around them but since they don’t have hands as we do, they have to explore in other ways.

rabbit licking

The rabbit has a very good sense of smell and will use this to gain information about any particular thing. She will also use her whiskers to feel out items and explore. But the tongue is also an important body part when it comes to understanding the world and your rabbit will use it to determine texture, for grooming, and as a way of showing dominance. Moreover, licking is a sign of affection from a rabbit.

If you watch your rabbit moving around the home or garden, you will more than likely have seen her rubbing her chin against everything she comes across. This is due to the bunny having scent glands in the chin that are used to mark territory. But this is not the only way that rabbits claim territory as their own.

Licking is a common way for a rabbit to leave her scent on something, letting all the other rabbits know ‘hey, this is mine!’

In grooming, rabbits will lick themselves to stay clean but it is not uncommon for bonded pairs and those in groups to groom one another. This is particularly true of dominant and subservient rabbits with the submissive bun regularly maintaining a grooming routine for his master.

While grooming is an important part of a rabbit’s life, there could come a time when it is done too often and this can cause the fur to begin to shed, leaving bald patches on the rabbit. Normally, rabbits will not over-groom themselves, so if you find that they are, there is likely a cause for this.

Rabbits are very intelligent and need a lot of mental stimulation as well as plenty of physical exercise to burn off all their energy. When they are not given enough of this, they can become bored and anxious leading them to groom themselves to excess.

Why Do Rabbits Lick Clothes?

Rabbits will sometimes use licking as a way of showing affection. However, if they lick your skin, this is seen as grooming and may show you that the rabbit is submitting to you. Of course, any proud bun won’t want their owner thinking they’ve got the upper hand so they turn to licking your clothing instead. This allows the rabbit to show you a degree of affection without having to groom you.

In addition to this, you might find that your rabbit has a penchant for a certain texture. Perhaps your favorite pair of faux leather trousers, a wooly jumper, or a cotton T-shirt. You might think of this in the same way that humans like the feel of certain objects and so will run their hands over them. Since rabbits use their tongues to feel, this is just their way of enjoying a particular texture, like your clothing.

Do Rabbits Need Mineral and Salt Licks?

When you adopt a rabbit, there are a lot of things that you need to think about buying. Your pet will need a large enclosure, plenty of hay, bedding, toys, food, and a salt lick, right? Most rabbit owners will tell you that their bunny loves their salt lick but there has been a lot of debate over whether this is needed.

If you feed your rabbit a high quality food that already has a sufficient amount of salt, there is no need to also use a salt lick. You might place a salt lick in the cage only to find that your rabbit pays it little to no attention. This is because domestic rabbits will only take as much salt as they need. If the food they are eating provides them with this, then they won’t be interested in the salt lick.

Rabbits, just like you and I, need a certain amount of salt in their diet. But, again, just like humans, this isn’t a very large percentage and too much can be a bad thing. There has been some research into the amount of salt that rabbits need but the results are still pretty sketchy. However, one study showed that only 0.5% of a rabbit’s daily intake needed to be sodium.

What Age Can Rabbits Have Salt Licks?

The dietary needs of a bunny will vary depending on its age. For example, younger rabbits may need to be fed a high quality pellet that is specifically designed for their growing body. However, at this age, there is no need to provide a salt lick.

Some owners stop feeding pellets to their rabbits after the age of six months and will then stick to a purely hay and vegetable diet. In this instance, it is possible to provide a salt lick and your rabbit will use it if they need it.

Are Mineral Chews Good For Rabbits?

Mineral chews are not necessary for rabbits. While they can be used, there has been some evidence that rabbits who use a mineral chew are more likely to gain too much weight. It is thought that this is a result of the rabbit having too much calcium in their diet.

The only time that you need to provide a mineral or salt lick to your pet is if they are not getting enough sodium or minerals in their diet. Furthermore, you can provide them to beat boredom but it is usually better to supply your rabbit with wooden toys and things that they can chew and play with.

There is some suggestion that a salt lick or mineral chew will be beneficial in terms of keeping your rabbits teeth healthy and short. However, nibbling on hay should be enough to do this especially if wooden toys are provided.


Darren is the founder and editor at Bunny Advice and has been caring for rabbits for over a decade. He has a passion for helping animals and sharing his experience and knowledge with others.

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