Why Do Rabbits Thump Their Feet? (7 Possible Reasons)


After living with house rabbits for a while I’d often hear them thumping their feet, I started to wonder, why is it they do this?  after looking into it here’s what I found out.

Rabbits thump their back feet as a reaction to perceived danger.  In the wild, a rabbit will do this to communicate to other rabbits (even those underground) that danger is near.  Pet rabbits may also thump their back feet if they hear a loud noise or get sight of an unfamiliar animal or human.

This answer explained a lot, in fact, It then clicked that the rabbit often stamped his feet when the washer-dryer was noisy.  However, on further investigation I found that there were quite a few other reasons that rabbits would exhibit this behavior, so here are the 7 reasons I found out.

7 Reasons Why Your Rabbit Is Thumping It’s Feet

ReasonExplanation
1. To communicate dangerAs prey animals, rabbits are understandably nervous about becoming a meal, after all, they sit at the bottom of the food chain alongside other plant-eating animals such as cattle and sheep.  A rabbit’s noise-making ability is also quite limited which is a problem when they spot a predator and might need to communicate the danger to their fellow lagomorphs.

Rabbit thumps are their solution to this problem!
 
Despite not being as vocal as other animals (e.g. meerkats) those impressively large feet and powerful hind legs are a perfect combination. When a rabbit thumps the resulting ‘thud’ creates a sound along with a vibration that can be felt even by their friends inside the burrow.
2. To show that they are annoyedRabbits are very temperamental sensitive animals that can be easily upset. Aside from fear, sometimes your rabbit will thump simply because you have done something that he doesn’t appreciate or because he is not happy with the way you are treating him (think not giving them that extra treat, or locking them in for the evening!).

A rabbit is happiest with his four feet firmly on the ground and does not usually appreciate being picked up against its will.

Any action that involves picking a rabbit up and putting them down is likely to result in it becoming agitated and foot thumping, Put plainly thumping can be a rabbits way of telling you he is annoyed and to ‘back off!’ in some cases foot thumping may be a pre-cursor to other aggressive behavior such as biting and kicking out with the legs.
3. When they have reached maturityIf your rabbit is showing signs of aggressive behavior including foot thumping, consider that a rabbit between 3-6 months old may be reaching sexual maturity (think troubled teenager!).

Continued aggression can usually be curbed through spaying or neutering which should be done as soon as possible as it will greatly increase your rabbit’s life expectancy (females have a high risk of death through uterine cancer between the ages of 3 and 5 years) neutering will also reduce spraying in young males.
4. When they are sickA pet rabbit who continually thumps its feet for an extended period of time may be experiencing an illness.
For anyone unlucky enough to lose a rabbit to a sudden illness it’s shocking how fast a rabbit’s health can deteriorate.

Rapid health deterioration is down to the fact that a rabbit may mask illness or vulnerability as a means of deterring opportunistic predators who often choose to go for the easiest possible prey.

Unfortunately, this instinct in pet rabbits can mean that a serious condition or illness may only become apparent when it’s already too late.

If your pet is thumping the ground excessively and you have ruled out other causes then an urgent trip to the vet is necessary.  This is especially true if a rabbit’s ground stomp is accompanied by uncharacteristic aggressive behavior such as biting, scratching, and kicking the legs.
5. When they are physically injuredIs there a sign of injury? maybe their body language just seems a bit off? Although it’s less likely, physical injury is also a possibility for our curious fluffies so consider that any rabbit that exhibits unnatural thumping may have hurt itself while exploring (or perhaps landing awkwardly while performing rabbit binky).

If you fear this is a possibility it’s important to take the bunny to a vet for a check-up. Pain may also be accompanied by teeth grinding if the rabbit is in pain although teeth grinding itself is not always a sign of injury, read more about rabbit tooth grinding in our post here.

Remember if your pet has been hurt physically by something in the hutch or pen, ensure you carry out a thorough search to identify the hazard and remove it.
6. When it’s too noisyAnother possible cause of a rabbit thumping is noise. A rabbit has highly developed ears that complement its eyesight perfectly and give it the ability to be able to detect much higher frequency sounds than us humans. They also have the ability to move each ear independently, homing in on danger up to two miles away.

For a domestic rabbit, the noise from a fairly innocent home appliance such as televisions and tumble dryers can be enough to put that cute noise out of joint.
7. They Smell Something badA rabbit’s sense of smell is another highly developed attribute and is very important to its survival. In comparison to humans who have 12 million smell receptor cells, a rabbit possesses 100 million which gives the rabbit a superior nose that can smell food even when it’s buried under thick snow.

Sense of smell helps a rabbit to detect friends, enemies, and also possible mates, and the nose is constantly ‘blinking’ to give the rabbit up-to-date information relating to its environment. A thumping domestic bunny may be indicating that it smells something unfamiliar or unusual.

Keeping Rabbits Safe

When taking a bunny into unfamiliar surroundings, it’s important to carry out a risk assessment on the area to ensure you are not putting your rabbit in harm’s way (physical or emotional). If you are setting up a rabbit’s home consider the new environment and if there is anything that may cause the animal stress to make necessary changes.

For example, if you live in a neighborhood full of cats that regularly walk by the patio door in full view of your rabbit it would be kind to install a window blind or relocate the rabbit to an area where he won’t be frequently scared.

Aggression in Rabbits

A stressed rabbit may transfer aggression so if you are unlucky enough to get bitten in the process of calming your bunny ensure you treat the pet with love and affection rather than anger or aggression (this is very important for the preservation of your relationship).

Wrap Up

We all want to give our rabbits the best life possible and learning more about rabbit behavior a good way we can work to achieve this.

As owners, we should all be aware of the signals a rabbit gives out when he is unhappy or in pain and strive to do our best to prevent the stress which may be causing thumping by ensuring that they are not unnecessarily exposed to dangerous situations.

Remember that although a rabbit has heightened senses that help him survive in the wild domestic rabbits are also gentle timid animals that rely on us to keep them safe from harm.

Further Reading

What does it mean when a rabbit thumps it’s foot? kb.rspca.org

Why is my rabbit thumping? vethelpdirect.com

Why do rabbits thump? lafeber.com

Related Questions

Why do rabbits thump their feet at night?

Rabbits thump their feet at night in reaction to something that has startled them. A rabbit’s level of night vision is similar to a human meaning that in complete darkness they are almost blind. As such, a rabbit will perceive the creak of old floorboards as a predator sneaking up on them, especially in the dark.

Darren

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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