Rabbits Nose Twitching (6 Reasons Explained)

We all know that a rabbit makes the cutest of pets but I always wondered, why do rabbits twitch (or wiggle) their noses? I decided to look into it and here’s what I found out.

A rabbit’s nose twitches to improve its ability to identify odors. Twitching increases airflow over smell receptors inside the nose and can help a rabbit to detect the scent of a nearby predator, find food, or identify friends and potential mates. 

Having lived with several house rabbits I’d often observed this behavior. Sure, I understood wild rabbits need to detect predators but why were my domestic rabbits wiggling their noses so much? (I didn’t even own a cat or dog!) I knew there must be more to it. Here is what else I discovered

Why is my rabbit’s nose twitching?

Rabbits twitch (or wiggle) their noses frequently, this not only helps to draw air in to fill the lungs but also allows millions of smell receptor cells in the nose (also known as olfactory receptors) to help them to differentiate between tiny traces of chemical molecules or pheromones in the air. This helps them to detect danger and identify friends or potential mates.

Rabbits noses twitch constantly but sometimes at different speeds, this may be in time with their breathing but more often than not, its in response to a variety of stimuli in the environment around them.

picture of two rabbits

Found on every continent except Antarctica, a rabbits superior survival skills can be partially attributed to their sense of smell.

They communicate in most parts of their life through their noses, including locating food, perceiving danger, attracting mates, or demarking territories. A good sniff of the environment or each other is similar to us engaging in a long conversation.

Although it is directly related to the animal’s thoughts and feelings, nose twitching does not require any thought on the part of the rabbit, it’s a natural part of a rabbits anatomy and is as natural to a rabbit as the blink of an eye is to us. 

While not quite on the level of dogs, a rabbits sense of smell is far superior to us Humans. While we have around 6 million olfactory receptor cells in our nasal passages, rabbits have close to 100 million! This enables them to smell food even when it is below ground. Baby rabbits (kits) use smell to locate the nipples of its mother even with its eyes closed.

6 times that rabbits noses twitch

When Feeding Time arrivesWild rabbits mostly feed on grass but will use their highly tuned sense of smell to seek out other tasty foods such as small berries, shrubs, and even seedlings partially buried underground.

Domesticated rabbits also use their noses to determine if food is good to eat. Particularly if it’s something new and exciting. Personally we have had our own rabbits flatly refuse veggies that are even just a day past their ‘use by date’!

Of course, rabbits are also well aware of the smell of their favorite treats, if you are a rabbit owner, try observing your rabbit when it hears the rustle of a pack of dried fruit or the treat draw opening, its nose will probably be twitching quickly with excitement!

If you want to offer your rabbit a new and exciting food type and see how it reacts for yourself why not check out our complete feeding guide here.
When they are under stressA rabbit’s nose will twitch when they feel stressed. Stress factors are often environmental such as the presence of a nearby (or perceived) predator or extremes of temperature.

Predators are not usually a problem for domesticated rabbits, however, they are highly sensitive and there are many everyday situations where they can feel stressed or in danger.

From personal experience, it’s usually the sight of a pair of nail clippers that has my rabbits noses twitching frantically. For other rabbits, it’s likely to be anything from loud noises such as fireworks, other pets nearby (a perceived threat), or the prospect of being picked up!
When they are happy and relaxedRabbits love attention both from their bonded companions and also their owners. 

When a rabbit is happy or relaxed, slow nose twitching can usually be observed. e.g. when you are petting a relaxed rabbit on your lap.

When bonded rabbits relax together you will often see them cleaning each other, this might include cleaning each other’s ears and coats, or ‘washing’ each other’s faces.

Again this is very relaxing for a rabbit (a bit like going to a beauty salon for a facial) and will usually include some relaxed nose wiggling.
When they are exploring new territoryRabbits love exploring, particularly when they are put in a new or unfamiliar territory. They are naturally curious creatures, a characteristic that has been vital to their survival.

Whenever they are experiencing something new or interesting a rabbit’s nose is essentially processing information in the same way that a supercomputer does.

As well as marking these new territories with scent glands located under their chins they will follow their nose to investigate every possible hiding place.

As an animal that is vulnerable to all sorts of dangers, it pays to know these locations in the event of a predator suddenly appearing.

When it comes to the territorial markings that rabbits leave behind, we humans cannot smell these however, other rabbits know to keep clear.

Domesticated rabbits also mark territory, if they live in the house this usually means furniture, objects, toys, and sometimes even their favorite human.
When they want to communicateIn the wild when a rabbit becomes weary of danger its nose twitches quickly as it becomes more attentive to the possible danger and attempts to alert other members of its colony to this danger.  

While humans have not yet learned to translate the silent language of bunnies, bunnies understand these subtle signals and react accordingly.

introduce your rabbit to another rabbit, it’s nose will also twitch very fast as they gradually get to know them.
When you are building a bondWhen you first get close to or attempt to handle a rabbit it’s nose will certainly give you an indication of how it is feeling, and unless the rabbit is supremely confident its nose will be blinking rapidly.

At first, it will also be breathing heavily and taking in as much air as possible in order to ‘smell you out’ and determine more about you.  It wants to know if you are a friend or someone it should be scared of.

As you get to know the rabbit it will gradually become more relaxed in your company and of course the slower the twitching will become when it’s in your company.

Rabbit nose twitch meaning – Summary

You’ve probably gathered by now that a rabbits nose twitch’s in direct reaction to what is going on in its surroundings. As a natural behavior there are rarely any times when the rabbit nose won’t be twitching.

In brief, a rabbits nose twitches constantly. When the rabbit is contented or relaxed it will twitch slowly, and when curious or stressed it will twitch more quickly.

Two rabbits

Wrap up

Rabbit owners are always looking for ways of communicating with our pets, so it’s good to understand not just the sounds that our rabbits make but also the signs they give off. Nose twitching is one of a rabbit’s most endearing characteristics but it’s also one that has proved very important to their survival.

Further Reading

Why Do Bunnies Noses Twitch? pethelpful.com

Rabbit Nose Wiggling language.rabbitspeak.com

Rabbit Body Language PDSA.com


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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