Rabbit Language or "Are you going to eat that?", the book, is a perfect gift for those who share their home with a pet rabbit. Often imitated—but don't take our word for it—our first Amazon reviewer gave it five stars and said it's "a MUST-HAVE!". It's sold well since 2006. Order it from your book seller or Amazon. Over 30 color illustrations, softcover, get the 2nd ed: ISBN 978-0-9793088-0-2.

Carolyn Crampton also illustrated Dumbunny, a children's book by Mary Ann Wolf that is perfect for rabbit lovers and for children whose abilities or disabilities set them apart. It features over 50 full color illustrations, hardcover, ISBN 978-0-9793088-2-6, for children 3 to 12.

Note to rabbit rescue organizations: the publisher donates a portion of the proceeds of both books. Contact for more information: Howell Park Press.

 

 


 

Rabbit Language
or “Are you going to eat that?”

A humorous guide to communicating with your pet rabbit.

It is a big mistake to think of rabbits or other animals as without any language or culture, just because we have never taken the time to learn it. Domesticated animals have lost any culture they may have had in the wild. They have instincts and whatever learning that can be passed down in the short time they spend with their mothers. Rabbits are clever about manipulating humans although they are stubborn about learning what we want them to. My rabbits have trained me for 20 years to understand their bunny body language. Whatt follows below is what I have learned: (Click here to go to Rabbit Central for more valuable information.)

bunny rubbing
furniture

 

BEHAVIOR: Rubbing chin on things, such as houseplants, priceless armoires, Italian leather shoes. A great misconception: It does NOT mean “marking territory”—it’s a rabbit custom, like saying grace in front of a meal.
WHAT IT MEANS:
“One day I will eat you.”
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
Give your bunny more sticks and branches, keep your stuff off the floor, and kiss the antiques goodbye.

lazy listening

 

BEHAVIOR: Lying with one ear raised.
WHAT IT MEANS: Someone may be opening the refrigerator.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Give your fresh dandelion greens.

 

BEHAVIOR: Neck stretched out. Eyes widened. Ears way back. Somehow the effect is of a much younger, thinner animal. This behavior usually given when you have put on your shoes and are on the way out of the house.
WHAT IT MEANS:
I am starving and alone. I am your helpless baby bunny. Feed me. Don’t leave me alone.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
Take off your coat and stay home.
VARIATION: Rabbit sitting on your shoes as you are trying to lace them.

happy

BEHAVIOR: Bunny lying completely stretched out. Ears back flat against body. Eyes partly closed.
WHAT IT MEANS: Supreme happiness.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Leave your bunny alone but prepare snacks for when bunny wakes.

BEHAVIOR: Upright. Half raised on back legs, ready for flight and stomping. Eyes wild and open. Thumping.
WHAT IT MEANS: Danger. Get underground. The phone is ringing. Stomping also means sexual excitement, happiness, or furniture has been moved.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Run over to the bunny before the landlord hears the banging, and pet your bunny until he calms down.

 

BEHAVIOR: Male: Hopping around you in circles with tail up. VARIATIONS: Hopping in or out of your legs, possibly carrying a checkbook cover, stick or some other item, biting your feet, trying to get you to hop over him. Spraying.
WHAT IT MEANS: Courting behavior: Those are big sexy feet you have. I will have sex with them.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Quickly sit down on your feet.

BEHAVIOR: Ears tilted forward. Eyes widened. Neck stretched out. Low crouch, legs back in the last time zone.
WHAT IT MEANS: Caution. Curiosity mixed with fear. Exploring a new area, a strange animal.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Bunnies need to investigate the world. Just make sure they are safe and there are no dogs around.

 

BEHAVIOR: Female: Ripping her own fur out from all over her body, and collecting it in her mouth. Later burying it in your bedsheets when you are not looking. Running around the house with small stuffed animals or socks in her mouth.
WHAT IT MEANS: This is where I am having my babies.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Move out of your bed and sleep on the floor where you will be available for late night petting.

 

BEHAVIOR: Incessantly jumping on your head and digging in your hair while you are trying to sleep, no matter how many times you throw him or her off the bed.
WHAT IT MEANS: He is afraid there is something wrong with you and is trying to wake you up. Or he may suspect you have fresh veggies hidden under your head.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Stop trying to sleep, get up and play with your rabbit.
CONSIDERATIONS: Are you sleeping at the wrong time? Are you sleeping with someone else? Your rabbit may just be trying to protect you. Or, he may just want to play with you and your friend.

up on hind legs

 

BEHAVIOR: Balanced on hind legs, little front feet in the air. WHAT IT MEANS: Classic begging pose. Also means “let’s see if I can grab that food out of your hand.”
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
Lower your hand so that he has a fighting chance.

BEHAVIOR: Excessive licking that goes on forever.
WHAT IT MEANS: You are petting or scratching his back and thereby activating his licking instinct. OR, you have recently stopped petting him.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Resume petting his head just the way he likes it.

 

BEHAVIOR: Eating your clothes.
WHAT IT MEANS: Could be trying to get your attention. OR, something may be blocking her path and she intends to eat her way through it.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Pet, feed, or move object.

 

BEHAVIOR:Throwing things around. Excessively loud eating. WHAT IT MEANS: Feed me. Or, I am angry, feed me. Or, wake up and feed me.

 

BEHAVIOR: Biting things (like wires) that she knows are off limits. Or Crazed biting.
WHAT IT MEANS: She is angry. Rabbits have a real temper. Probably comes from being the world’s dinner. Rabbits do not like being overpowered. You must be more gentle.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Hold some paper or wood in front of her mouth that she can rip it to pieces. Try a loud sniff—rabbits sniff when they are angry, show her you are angry.

 

BEHAVIOR: Crazed biting of remote control. Repeatedly knocking over your beer.
WHAT IT MEANS: She needs that all important rubber, plastic, hops foodgroup.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Do everything in your power to remove plastic, rubber, tape and such from his mouth. Switch to Stout—they give it to racehorses and rabbits are just like horses.

 

BEHAVIOR: Sleeping in different locations.
WHAT IT MEANS: We are mystified by the system which dictates where rabbit sleep at different times of the day.
FUN EXPERIMENT: Don’t set your alarm clock at all. Bunny knows when you are supposed to get up and will wake you, unless you gave him Laxatone on his paw the night before. (Try Petromalt instead.)

 

BEHAVIOR: Biting and growling.
WHAT IT MEANS: You are trying to clean the rabbit’s area. Rabbits hate having anything changed or furniture moved. This includes your clipping of toenails, brushing, medicating, and suspicious touching. Or, you may be trying to put the rabbit into a cage.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Wear gloves and get a friend to help you. OR wrap bunny up like a burrito in a towel while you work on a limb. Rabbits don’t belong in cages.

 

BEHAVIOR NEEDING FURTHER RESEARCH: Smiling.
HOW CAN YOU TELL?: I do not know. But you CAN tell, a rabbit smile is unmistakable. It’s in the eyes.

 

 

BEHAVIOR: Grinding teeth.
USUALLY SAID TO MEAN:
Like cats’ purring.
WHAT IT MAY MEAN:
Because it usually occurs when petting, it may just be a function of pulling the ears back. Or it may be a verbal language cue. Remember: a rabbit’s hearing and vision are not the same as ours. Their hearing is probably on a slightly higher pitch. If you speak in a low range, your rabbit may not even hear you. Vision is focused on movement. Move slowly and approach from the side if you don't want to alarm your bunny.

 

BEHAVIOR: Jumping up in the air and kicking one’s heels. WHAT IT MEANS: Happy to see you.
Female:
I’m ready to have sex now.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
Be very glad you have such a happy bunny. Treat yourself to some chocolate ice cream.

 

Do you have curious bunny behavior to add to this? Or questions? Email more urgent questions to crampton@cramptonarts.com and put the word "rabbits' in the subject line please.

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