Maybe you’re enjoying a quiet time reading a book, or eating your favorite snack, and then suddenly you hear a loud “thump!”. So you stop and look around and realize that the thumping sounds are produced by your rabbit.
You might observe that your rabbit looks calm, a little bit alert, but calm nonetheless. So you think, why do rabbits thump?
This article aims to unpack all the reasons why do rabbits thump and to give you more insight into the mysterious world of rabbit body language.
What Does a Rabbit Thumping Look Like?
Thumping is usually a behavior done by rabbits when they’re scared. Wild rabbits do this in the wild to warn their colony that danger is nearby so this comes innate with domestic rabbits and is probably inherited from their wild ancestors.
However, there are other reasons why rabbits thump. Thumping can also mean they’re angry or annoyed at something.
A caveat, though – not all rabbit thump. So you might own a rabbit and think it’s strange that you have never seen them thump ever. Or you might have never seen a rabbit thump so you think what does thumping look like?
Rabbit thumping is when a rabbit stomps their hind legs loudly on the floor. Rabbits can thump once, twice, or continuously. You might also see your rabbit thump and scramble to hide.
Rabbits of any age, gender, and breed are more likely to thump than another but the thing is you can never really sure if your rabbit will thump or not. This is entirely dependent upon their personalities.
Some rabbits will raise their tails to alert of danger, wag their tails even if they’re annoyed or just scramble to safety when scared. Although thumping is like barking for rabbits, unlike dogs, rabbits have other ways to alert for danger.
Why Do Rabbits Thump and What Do They Mean?
Rabbits thump because of many reasons, including sensing danger, feeling fear, a warning sign, annoyance, or a sign that they are sick. Here’s a breakdown of each reason behind why rabbits thump:
Rabbit thumps first and foremost to alert their colony of danger. So if your rabbit is thumping, most especially if they do so continuously, you can observe other parts of their bodies to determine whether they find something threatening. Alert rabbits will usually arch their back with their ears slightly forward. They will also look like they’re frozen in place.
This means that your rabbit is alerted of something strange and he is scared. It is best to check out if something’s unusual in your surroundings and reassure your rabbit.
It’s not always something serious when your rabbit thumps. It does not mean someone is in your house. More often than not, it is just something that your rabbit is not used to.
Maybe rowdy kids are playing outside, or there is a piece of candy wrapper on the floor that looks suspicious, or maybe there’s a new pet and your rabbit is scared of them. Either way, you must identify the source of your rabbit’s agitation.
Rabbits are very fragile and if they’re scared they can die from it. So better to soothe your rabbit and keep their stress levels at a minimum at all times. As much as possible, do not change their routines because this will stress them out.
2. Sign of readiness
Did you know that thumping is also used in the wild so that rabbits will give away their position to predators? Yes, it’s true, and not it’s not counterintuitive. Rabbits will give away their position to tell predators that they’re in a certain place but to also say that they’re ready.
This is essentially like a bunny saying “You can try to catch me, but I’m ready for you”. Predators would rather like to conserve energy for the next hunt. This is the reason why they try to sneak an attack on unsuspecting prey.
When a rabbit thumps to alert a predator that they are aware of its presence, this will throw the predator off the rabbit’s trail and would just hunt another animal probably one that it isn’t aware of its presence.
Rabbits can also thump because of annoyance. Watch for your rabbit’s tail as well, if they thump and then wag their tails they’re annoyed. Rabbits wag their tails when they’re displeased about something.
Or maybe you just picked up your rabbit and once you put them down they start thumping and hopping away from you. This means that they did not appreciate you picking them up and could you please not do it again in the future.
Rabbits who have strong territorial instincts will thump as a warning. Once you get too close to their space they will thump as if to say “back off”. This could also be accompanied by vocal cues such as growling.
I advise that you back off when you see this happening. You don’t want your rabbit to lunge or bite you and you also, do not want your pet to see you as a threat. Although, territorial instincts should be curbed and corrected because this could cause fights with other pets and harm your rabbit.
5. Sickness or pain
Rabbits can also thump when they’re feeling sick or if they’re in pain. Pain in rabbits can cause fear so they’ll be more likely to thump. Try to check if there are other changes in your rabbit.
Are they hunching? Do they scream or kick when you touch a certain part of their body? Are their ears unusually cold or hot?
You must be well aware of your rabbit’s normal behavior so you will be able to rush them to the vet when needed.
Where did Rabbits Learn to Thump?
Species of the animal kingdom develop certain traits because these traits help them survive. For rabbits, their white tails help confuse predators and signal other rabbits nearby that danger is near so they’ve kept their white tails until now.
The same is true with thumping. Thumping is an effective mechanism in the wild that helps alert other members of the colony that danger is near and that everybody should scramble to safety.
If thumping wasn’t an effective tool for a species’ survival, this behavior would have died out and rabbits would have adapted to other techniques and physiological features to keep them alive.
Although thumping is a behavior that is cultivated in the wild, wild instincts can still be found in domestic rabbits. In the same way that dogs still have a prey drive even though they’ve been companion pets for such long generations now, rabbits also tend to have echoes of their wild ancestors in their blood.
Should You Stop Rabbits from Thumping?
Rabbit thumping is usually harmless. Sure, if your rabbits thump at night it could wake you up but remember that rabbits thump for a reason.
If your rabbit thinks it’s in danger then you should remove your rabbit from an environment that stresses it out or remove the thing that your rabbit is stressed about
If your rabbit is thumping because of territorial tendencies or aggressiveness then you should have your rabbit neutered or spayed. This will drastically reduce their territorial tendencies and lead to ls thumping, growling, or biting.
Besides, neutering your rabbit will be healthier for them in their old age.
Isn’t it amazing how a rabbit’s behavior can indicate so many things? It can be confusing for some but if you are rabbit owner that is closely bonded with their pet I am sure you would know what your rabbit is telling you.
But now that you know why do rabbits thump, you won’t be alarmed and instead you’ll understand their behavior better.