In Disney’s Bambi, Thumper is a rabbit with a habit of thumping a lot, and this is where Thumper got his name. Not all rabbits thump as part of their body language communication, but if your pet bunny has thumped, you’d know it.
So, why do rabbits thump? What are they trying to communicate? Thumping is instinctive for both domesticated rabbits and wild rabbits. In the wild, rabbits stomp their feet to warn underground rabbits that a predator is nearby. Other reasons for thumping are seeking attention or expressing annoyance or anger.
When your bunny thumps, it is loud and quite jarring, like a heavy book that’s slammed down hard on a table. Your rabbit will be the loudest one in the room if it thumps continuously; however, it can also just thump one.
Let’s dive into the details of why rabbits thump:
Why Rabbits Thump
Here are the causes your pet bunny may start thumping:
Thumping is an evolutionary behavior that bunnies developed to help them survive. It’s also less about the survival of the rabbit that thumps and more about their survival as a group or family.
Rabbits are very alert in the wild, and when their ears are piqued, they are listening for danger. They may stop and listen intently. When a bunny senses danger, it is ready to stomp. The thumping alerts above-ground bunnies and those in their underground warren of danger.
Thumping can also be used to warn predators that they are ready to fight. They essentially say to the predator, “I know you are there, and you won’t catch me easily.”
You may wonder about the effectiveness of this method, but some predators prefer animals (or meals) that are easy to catch.
A rabbit may also thump because they are scared, and in this case, they will continue to thump frequently by stomping every few seconds.
A rabbit has very good hearing, and sounds that are “normal” for us, like a dog barking, may seem very loud to a bunny. This can be scary for them, and so, they may start stomping on the ground.
Your pet bunny can also be scared of strange smells or when you rearrange the furniture, and then start to thump.
Annoyed or Angry
If your rabbit thumps once because it is annoyed, frustrated, or angry, it is a territorial instinct. Accompanied with this thump maybe a growl, or your bunny may even give you the cold shoulder.
Rabbits may get annoyed if you try to pick them up or hold them. This is not something they are a fan of. So once you put your bunny back on the ground, they may thump at you to let you know how annoyed they are. If you continue picking up or holding your rabbit, it may learn to thump at you every time you come near.
Rabbits enjoy knowing they’ll be fed in the morning and when they can get out to enjoy some exercise. If you don’t stick to this schedule, your rabbit may thump at you in irritation and let you know that it’s expecting to exercise or be fed.
Young rabbits may also thump if their cages are too small. You see, they are very energetic and playful, so when they are bored and want to exercise outside of their cage, they’ll thump to let you know about their displeasure.
Sick or in Pain
A rabbit may stomp the ground when they are sick, in pain, or injured. When you are injured, you may feel scared or confused, and your bunny feels the same.
Your floppy-eared friend may also thump in warning when you are entering its territory. They will also pull their ears back, and the thump says, “Don’t come any closer.”
While your rabbit may accept you as part of their family once they are familiar and comfortable with you, new members of the family may get this warning thump.
If their warning is ignored, your bunny may lash out or act aggressively by lunging and swiping. A bite is also possible. Most rabbits, however, aren’t this brave, so they may just continue thumping, running, and thumping some more.
Rabbits will quickly learn that if they thump, they get your attention. So, if you pet your bunny or give it treats every time it thumps, it will learn to thump to be petted or get treats.
The easiest way to discourage this behavior is to notice when your bunny is thumping because it is scared, ill, territorial, or wanting attention.
If your rabbit is scared, then comfort them; if they are ill or in pain, you may need to take your bunny to the vet; and if it is territorial, back away and give it some space. These thumps will accompany other behavior too that will clue you in on the situation.
However, if your bunny thumps because it wants attention and to be adored, ignore them. Once they stop, you can give them a treat so they learn that attention-seeking thumping is not desirable behavior.
Again, if your rabbit thumps for attention, this may be accompanied by confident body posture, ears back at an angle, one thump to see if you react and may continue if you don’t, and stop thumping when you give them attention.
How Do Rabbits Thump?
Rabbits are four-legged mammals, but sometimes they move into a tip-toe position. With their ears on alert, they lift their hind legs and then thump. While some rabbits thump with two legs simultaneously, others thump with one hindfoot.
How to Stop a Rabbit From Thumping
The best way to stop a rabbit from stomping its hind legs is to figure out why they are stomping. Besides the thumping, identity other behavior.
For example, a scared rabbit that is thumping may also have wide eyes, ears in an alert and forward position, alert body posture, and ready to run away and thump continuously. To stop this thumping, you can sit with your rabbit and try to pet them.
You can also try to distract your furry friend by offering them a treat, or reinforcing some tricks, like getting your rabbit to give you kisses or high-fives.
The Final Thump
Rabbits seldomly thump for no reason, even though we don’t always know what that reason is (and it could be strange, loud noises, or you getting a big package delivered).
Understanding why your rabbit is thumping helps you take better care of it as you’d identify what is wrong and know whether your bunny needs comfort, the vet, a distraction, or to do some training to discourage attention-seeking thumping.