If you have a pair of rabbits and have spent time observing them, you will likely have noticed that they display a lot of subtle cues using their body language. Of course, rabbits can’t talk, so they have to communicate in unique ways. One way is through touch, but why do rabbits touch noses?
Rabbits touch noses as a form of communication. As well as showing affection, it’s thought that touching noses is a rabbit’s way of apologizing to their fellow lagomorphs. Rabbits have a hierarchy and may sometimes attempt to dominate a companion through aggression. You might also notice nose touching just before one rabbit grooms another.
That being said, there may be situations where nose touching is less of an act of forgiveness and much more aggressive. Knowing the subtle cues of this is important for rabbit owners.
Why Are My Rabbits Touching Noses?
Bunnies are very intelligent animals and will communicate with one another in several ways. Much of the rabbit communication is done through body language and they are instinctively able to understand what another rabbit is trying to tell them.
Rabbits will also bond in pairs and this can be a very solid relationship. But there may be times that the bunnies fall out, although, for the most part, this doesn’t last long. In these situations, it is not uncommon for rabbits to touch their noses together.
When they do this, the bunnies will be able to look into one another’s eyes and offer an apology. The submissive rabbit will typically bow his head when this happens as he is showing that he knows his place in the hierarchy.
If your rabbits are not yet bonded, you may notice that they sit and stare into each other’s eyes. This is one of the many ways that bunnies establish the pecking order. However, at this stage, there is a chance that a serious fight could break out so it is important to keep a close eye on the animals and separate them if things get aggressive.
But for bonded buns, this prolonged eye contact is one of the ways that they show affection to each other. A bonded pair might sit and touch noses while gazing loving at the other and this is perfectly normal.
However, sometimes, it may be the dominant rabbit that bows his head and this is a sign to his submissive that he would like to be groomed. But this doesn’t only happen after a fight. Where a pair is bonded, the dominant bun will often request grooming this way and most of the time, his hutchmate will comply.
But there may be times when the submissive bunny has other ideas and this could cause a degree of tension. Most likely, the dominant rabbit will nip which is usually enough to bring the submissive back into line. However, sometimes, he may bite back which could result in a fight proving that, even with bonded bunnies, owners must still closely observe and intervene when necessary.
Another reason that rabbits frequently touch noses is to understand a new scent. In bonded pairs, the two rabbits will become familiar with what the other smells like so if they notice something slightly off, they’ll want to investigate. This often happens if one of the rabbits has been taken out of the enclosure, perhaps for some one on one time with the owner or for a trip to the vets.
When he returns, the pair will need to show that the dynamic hasn’t changed. For the dominant bunny, there may be a concern that things will change but for the most part, the submissive will show that everything is still the same.
What Does It Mean When A Rabbit Grunts?
Rabbits will use body language to communicate for the most part, but there are some sounds that a rabbit will make to show how he is feeling. One of the most common sounds is grunting and this should be taken as a warning as it is typically a sign that the bunny is not happy.
Sometimes, when rabbits are touching noses, they may begin to grunt. This is a sign that they pair are not bonding but are about to fight. It is a good idea, at this point, to separate the bunnies and allow them to calm down.
Usually, if rabbits are not separated at this point, they will bite or nip their cagemate, which naturally, will develop into a fight. Prevention is better than cure, so they say.
But rabbits may also grunt in other situations including when you clean out their cage. Rabbits are creatures of habit and don’t like it when things change. While most rabbits will allow you to clean their enclosure and move things around, as long as they go back where you found them, some may grunt or become aggressive when you are doing it.
Do Rabbits Like To Be Held And Petted?
Rabbits make good pets because, in the main, they are affectionate. But just remember, that their stubborn nature means that petting will always have to be on their terms. If your rabbit shows any signs that he is uncomfortable or not happy, you should respect this and back away. If you don’t, you run the risk of losing your bond.
When petting a rabbit, you should always let him approach you. While it may take some time to gain his trust, once your rabbit feels safe with you, he will frequently come to you. How long this takes will vary from rabbit to rabbit.
In terms of handling your rabbit, it is best to do this as little as possible. Most rabbits like being petted on their cheeks, heads, and backs but picking them up can make them feel very vulnerable. That said, if you sit with your rabbit in your lap, he will likely remain there while you pet him.
It is essential never to carry a fidgety rabbit as there is a very real risk that he will suddenly jump and fall from your arms. This could result in broken bones which could end up being fatal.
Do Rabbits Like Their Noses Rubbed?
Where a rabbit likes to be petted is different for each animal. Just like us, rabbits have personalities, likes, and dislikes. A lot of rabbits quite enjoy being stroked with one finger along the bridge of the nose but may hop away when you try to touch that twitchy bit on the end as this is a very sensitive area for a bunny.
You might also notice that your rabbit uses her nose to nudge you when she wants to get your attention. This is a common form of communication in rabbits and is a good sign that your rabbit feels comfortable and safe around you. If you do get a nose bump from your pet, take it as a complement and be sure to give her some love back to seal your bond.