Rabbits thump, purr, honk, nibble, head butt, and even lick. It is one thing when your pet rabbit engages in these behaviors with another rabbit, and quite another when it is you on the receiving end. So what does it mean when your rabbit licks you?
When your rabbit licks you, it means they love and trust you. Rabbits lick each other when they are bonded and groom each other. So your rabbit licking you can mean they are returning the “being groomed” favor. Or they can be asking for some love and attention in the form of massages and being petted.
Here’s more information on why rabbits lick their fur-parent, how else they show affection, and what you can do to get your bunny to like you.
Why Do Rabbits Lick Humans?
There are a few reasons why rabbits lick humans:
Reason 1: Love
Your rabbit may lick you because they love you.
You’ve clearly worked hard to earn your rabbit’s trust and affection, so a lick from your bunny is a good sign. A rabbit lick is quite similar to why household cats or dogs lick their fur parents.
In the wild, wild rabbits are social animals who live in an underground warren with their family. When rabbits groom each other, they lick each other. Licking is also a sign of affection.
Reason 2: Submission
Rabbits have social hierarchies where a submissive rabbit will groom and lick the dominant rabbit. The same behavior can be seen when you bond two rabbits.
So if your bun licks you, it’s a sign of submission.
Reason 3: A Salty Taste (or Not)
Some online forums suggest that rabbits lick you because they like the salty taste of your skin, especially if you’re sweaty.
There is no scientific evidence to back this up, and it isn’t like your rabbit needs a lot of salt in its diet.
A rabbit only needs a bit of salt, and if you feed your bun a healthy and balanced diet, no extra salt is necessary.
Plus, it isn’t like your bun will know you are sweaty and then come up to you to lick you all over. So this reason isn’t true.
Other Signs of Rabbit Affection
If your rabbit doesn’t lick you, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you. A rabbit can also show affection by:
Your rabbit could nip you for two reasons. Firstly, while you are grooming or brushing your bun, they could nip you every now and again because they are just trying to groom you back.
Secondly, your bun could nip you because they want some attention. This nipping could happen while you change out water or food bowls, or when your rabbit chills next to you on the couch and you stop petting them.
When your rabbit plays with their toys, they are mentally stimulated and let you know they are living a happy rabbit life.
Your rabbit may also play with you, and this is one of the signs of affection.
Showing Happy Feet
If your rabbit is laying down on their belly and their feet are sprawled out behind them, it means they are happy. This is called happy feet, and if dogs do this, it is called splooting.
This is a vulnerable position for your rabbit to be in, so they trust and love you if they show happy feet when you are around.
When a rabbit binkies, it means they are excited and happy. It is also their way of showing you they like you.
When your bun flops on the ground for the first time, you may think there is something wrong. The opposite is true, in fact.
A rabbit that flops to the ground is very content.
Sometimes your bun may even roll over and show you their belly. This means they are really comfortable with you and trust you – a rabbit is never likely to be in this vulnerable position unless they really trust you.
After all, rabbits are prey animals and are always on alert that they need to be careful.
A rabbit purring isn’t quite like a cat purring. A rabbit clicks or grinds its teeth together and the purr is quite soft.
Your bun may purr when it is happy. Purring is especially likely while you chill with your rabbit and pet them.
If your rabbit nudges you with their nose, they are asking for some affection, so pet your rabbit or give them a message.
A rabbit has scent glands underneath its chin. When your bun chins you, they are rubbing their scent over you to mark their territory.
A rabbit chinning you simply means your rabbit sees you as theirs, so they are happy to have you around.
How to Make Your Pet Rabbit Like You
If you have a new rabbit or one that hasn’t yet shown you any or many signs of love, here’s what you can do to make your bun like you:
Ensure your rabbit cage or hutch is big enough for your rabbit to spend some of their time, sleep, and potty.
Feed your rabbit a balanced diet. Your bun should have access to fresh hay all day, every day, and fresh drinking water. Feed your bunny fresh leafy greens with some veggies and pellets twice a day.
Ensure your rabbit is physically, emotionally, socially, and mentally stimulated. Your rabbit should:
- Get plenty of exercise twice a day.
- Have chew and nudge toys to play with
- Get enough attention from you or have a rabbit friend
- Be trained to do tricks and use a litter box
Take your house rabbit for regular checkups at the vet to ensure they are healthy and to get treatment for any illnesses that may arise.
The Last Lickity Lick
Every rabbit owner would want their pet rabbit to love and adore them as much as they adore their fluffy long-eared bestie.
Knowing what a happy rabbit looks like and what affectionate behavior your bun engages in lets you know you are doing a good job of taking care of your rabbit.
So the next time your rabbit licks you or does any of the other affectionate behaviors, you know you are loved.