Thursday, 24 January 2008

Happy Rabbit

There are lots of different ways in the rabbit language to show happiness. The ears will be in a less tense position than a scared rabbit, and many rabbits shake their heads and make their ears wobble or flap when they are happy. This can develop into a twist of the whole body, usually whilst jumping in the air - known as a binky. These look very funny to watch, and a rabbit that is happy will run around the room jumping and twisting like mad.

A rabbit that is happy but sleepy will lie down in a relaxed position - the harder the position is to get up quickly from, the more relaxed the rabbit is. A rabbit lying on its front with back legs under it can get up instantly, and isn't as relaxed as one that is lying stretched out on its side with its feet sticking out behind it. This is a much harder position to run away from quickly, and shows that the rabbit is very relaxed and feels safe. If your rabbit lies down near you like this, it must be very comfortable with you, and feel that you are no threat whatsoever to it.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Not A Happy Bunny

There are several signs that rabbits use to show displeasure, and the signs depend on how unhappy we are, and for what reason. A rabbit that is scared or worried might have its ears back against its head but turned outwards to listen, or ears straight up and pointing forwards if its listening for danger (or for lops, ears turned forwards at the sides of the head), and may stamp its foot and run away to hide. Rabbits can be scared by sudden loud or unexpected noises, and maybe something that the rabbit has noticed that you aren't even aware of as they are very sensitive. The foot stamping is a way to warn other rabbits (and that includes you) that there might be some danger. If your rabbit is doing this, don't rush up to it or try to pick it up - you might scare it more. Approach slowly and put your hand in front of the rabbit so it knows that it's you, and stroke its head to reassure it. Occasionally, this also indicates grumpiness - Jemima stamps her foot if breakfast is late...

If you have done something that your rabbit doesn't like, it will make it very obvious that it's not impressed with you. The signs of this start with sitting near you but looking the other way as though there is something much more interesting over there, or slightly more serious is turning its back and completely ignoring you. If you have offended that rabbit even more seriously than this, you will probably see the rabbit flicking its back feet up at you as it runs away. Some rabbits also grunt when showing signs of displeasure. Any of these signs mean that you have some grovelling to do - sit near the rabbit and try to give it a stroke on the head - be aware that if your rabbit is very unhappy with you, it may take offence at you stroking it without being invited to, and then you will get the back of the rabbit to look at again!

Like most of the rabbit language, you can use these signals too. If your rabbit is being naughty, stop it from doing whatever its doing and then turn your back on it and walk a few steps away. Don't look back, and you will probably find the rabbit at your feet trying to make friends again. If you want to try running away flicking your feet, make sure that no one is watching!

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

What's Going On?

Rabbits are by nature very inquisitive, or some would say nosey, and we are interested in everything that is going on around us. You will often find that if you are doing something, your rabbit will be nearby watching what you are doing. If you leave the room, your rabbit may follow you, at least to the door to see where you are going. When a rabbit is trying to get you or another rabbit to follow, it will go a short distance, then stop and look over its shoulder at you, then set off again. If your rabbit does this, it is polite to follow. You can also try this - if you want your rabbit to follow, walk away a little distance and then stop, look over your shoulder to make sure the rabbit is watching you, then carry on another short distance. Keep repeating this, and your rabbit might follow you to catch up each time you stop.

Rabbit's noses show we are being nosey. Rabbits don't have to twitch their noses to breath or even to smell. The twitching shows how interested they are in whatever is going on. The faster the nose is twitching, the more interested they are. Try lying on the floor in front of your rabbit, and when it is watching you, twitch your nose at the same speed as the rabbit is doing - you will have to emphasise the movement as much as you can. Then try speeding up or slowing down, and your rabbits nose will probably do the same, to say "I'm as interested in you as you are in me".

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Who's The Boss?

As discussed in our post about The Society of Rabbits
there is a hierarchy of rabbits. Some rabbits are more dominant than others. If you have more than one rabbit together, you may find that one rabbit tries to be dominant over another. This usually involves the dominant rabbit (gently) pinning the other down by putting its head on top of the other rabbits head, or sometimes by doing something climbing on the other rabbits back. This looks like they are mating, but it can be done by either a male or female rabbit asserting its dominance over the other rabbit.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Mine, All Mine!

Territory. This is important to rabbits, and most of us mark our territory in some way. Unneutered males are the most territorial of rabbits, and often mark their territory by spraying urine on certain things, such as furniture, walls and people. Other ways of marking territory are less offensive (to humans!): a few pellets left here and there, or rubbing a scent gland under the chin on things. The scent from the scent gland is undetectable to humans, but urine that is sprayed around certainly isn't!

The best way to reduce or prevent spraying is to have the rabbit neutered. See a vet that is experienced with rabbits to talk about the risks and benefits involved with this. It certainly helps you and your rabbit to stay friends if neither of you feel the need to spray urine around the house or on each other..

Monday, 7 January 2008

Wanna play?

Did you know that we rabbits love to play? We are very playful, and will spend a lot of time running and bouncing around. Playing chase is fun - rabbits play this together, but we also play this with humans. You follow the rabbit around, and the rabbit will keep hopping just out of reach. Don't get to aggressive or that will be scary for the rabbit. Just a playful game of chase is fun!

Once you have played chasing your rabbit, turn around and run a little distance away, see if your rabbit wants to chase you back...

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Best Friends?

We rabbits are very friendly creatures, and we are easy to make friends with as long as we trust you. Spend time with your rabbit every day, and make sure that you are at its level. We are not very tall, and we get scared by big things looming over us. To us, people standing up look very big, and that can be intimidating, especially if we don't know you very well yet.

Get down on the floor, and just sit with your rabbit. We are very nosey and inquisitive by nature, and a rabbit will come to investigate anything new (i.e. you, when you have just appeared on the floor!).

We prefer to come and sit next to people on the floor rather than being picked up: it's an instinct from our wild ancestors that being picked up is scary because it might be a predator that's picking up the rabbit.

Rabbits love to be stroked, usually gently on top of the head and behind the ears is nice. Spending time stroking and just being near your rabbit will help you to bond, and this is the first stage in getting to understand each other. It's also a pleasant experience for both rabbit and human!

Saturday, 5 January 2008

The Society of Rabbits

A good starting point for understanding the bunny hopping around your living room is to learn a little about wild rabbits, and how they live together.

Rabbits live in a structured society with a distinct hierarchy of rabbits. They look after each other, and all rabbits gain benefits from the group. They find food together, and warn each other of danger.

Grooming seems to be an important indicator of status in the rabbit hierarchy, with the top rabbit being groomed by rabbits that are lower down in the structure. Top rabbit expects to be groomed.

Signs of this behaviour can be seen in many domestic rabbits: does your pet rabbit sometimes demand to be groomed? Signs of this are nudging your hand with his or her head, or if you are sat on the floor, approaching you and putting his or her head stretched forward on the floor near your hand.

Although grooming your rabbit on demand may appear to be making rabbit into the most important one in your home (i.e. above you), it does not mean that the rabbit will expect to be dominant in other ways. Training dogs, for example, relies on you being the pack leader. Training rabbits does not. We rabbits are happy to (usually) do what you want, as long as we get lots of grooming from you!

Often, rabbits will do this back to you, maybe licking your hand or face. I think that you humans call it giving you a kiss x.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Can Rabbits Talk?

Well you might think this is a stupid question because rabbits don't really make much noise at all..

OK so maybe we can't exactly talk, but we can be very communicative. We communicate with other rabbits, and humans can also learn to understand what all our different ways of communication mean.

A lot of our communication is with body positions, as well as subtle movements of our heads, ears and noses. If you live with a rabbit, keep a close eye on them, and you will see all sorts of different signals. It's just interpreting them that can be the challenge for a human.

We'll get back to this subject in the next few days to give you some clues about what some of our rabbit body language means.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

The First Post

And hopefully not the last...

Well for a start, let's introduce ourselves. I am the big rabbit, my name is Barney. The little one is my sister Jemima. We are a pair of house rabbits with huge personalities (and huge appetites too but that's another story).

We think that sometimes you humans need a bit of help understanding your pet bunnies, so we are very kindly and generously going to use our understanding of rabbits to educate you a little bit. We have spent a long time trying to train our humans to understand us and get them to do what we want, so it's time for us to spread the word..

If you don't live with a rabbit yourself, you are missing out. But think very carefully about it before getting one. We need time and commitment from you to be happy, and when we are happy, we will reward your time and effort with love, affection and entertainment.

If you do live with a rabbit, I'm sure that you know all this already, but we'll see if we can help you and your rabbit friends understand each other even more.

Take care, we'll be back soon..
Barney and Jemima