How do you know if rabbits are happy?

Many individuals who want to welcome a pet into their lives are now considering rabbits as pets. For several years, rabbits have been a common pet and, in 2019, the PDSA Animal Welfare Report found that in UK homes there are about 900,000 pet rabbits!

Although this is still a small number, compared to 9.9 million dogs and 10.9 million cats, figures show that it is a growing trend in the UK to have a rabbit as a pet!

Thameswood Vets With more and more people wanting to have pet rabbits, how do we know if they are satisfied with our rabbits? In very basic terms, when they are well, well cared for, and have a stable and enriching atmosphere to live in, rabbits are happy.

How can I add happiness to my rabbit?

Thameswood Vets Like most pets, rabbits are happiest when well cared for by owners who understand both physically and emotionally what they need. Rabbits are little creatures that are sociable and inquisitive, they like to play, but they can also be very sensitive and skittish, so it is important to always treat them with respect as any other animal would

There are a variety of ways you can make sure your rabbit is happy, in this post, here are a few ideas we will explore:

Rabbits, typically housed as neutered males and females, are most content with a companion.
Rabbits just don’t like being picked up, so keep this to a minimum.
Rabbits need a hutch of at least 6ft x 2ft x 2ft (1.8m x 0.6m x 0.6m) and an 8 ft (2.4m) run.
Rabbits prefer a peaceful setting with clams
Rabbits like plenty of enrichment, like caves, castles of cardboard, and hay racks


Rabbit Thameswood VetsRabbits are sociable animals that work with a partner and do well. We always recommend that you should have at least two rabbits living together, called a bonded pair, to make sure they both have company for each other.

In order to keep them safe in the wild, rabbits rely on other rabbits, living in family groups called warrens, ensuring that they have protection in numbers to keep them out of danger all day and all night.

We now know that at home, your rabbits are not at risk of any danger (as long as their outer run is fox-proof), but rabbits don’t know that immediately. They are likely to become nervous and afraid if they live alone.

Ensure that they are both neutered when matching a pair of rabbits. For a number of reasons, from behaviour, wellbeing and unplanned pregnancies, we suggest neutering for all bunnies.

There is an excellent joint report on pairing rabbit groups by the British Veterinary Association (BVA), the British Veterinary Zoological Society (BVZS) and the British Small Animals Veterinary Association (BSAVA). It’s a long post, but it’s worth reading and it’s full of really helpful stuff.

Will they want to carry bunnies?
Although you may want to give your bunny a good big cuddle whenever you see him, this is still not suggested at all. Rabbits are creatures of prey and can be spooked and frightened quickly. They just don’t like being picked up and treated too much, except by people they like!

In general, rabbits are very delicate animals, and the only time they would be picked up in the world would be if a predator had captured them. There would be no hope of survival in this situation and this turn of events would normally be catastrophic.

You can probably see why rabbits don’t really like being treated too much with this in mind!

However, handling your rabbit is something you will need to learn to do well, just as with any pet, you will need to keep an eye on their wellbeing, check their eyes, nose, ears, nails, and bottoms!

We would suggest beginning by feeding your rabbits a little and often when they are young, so that they get a little more used to it. As even the calmest of rabbits can suddenly decide to leap out of your arms, make sure you hold on to them well.

You’ll have to hold very tightly onto your rabbits near you, but don’t squeeze too tight, rabbits have very weak bones that can quickly snap and cause all kinds of serious problems. If you’re ready to put him back down, get as low to the ground as you can before releasing him, they’re less likely to leap from a height out of your arms and injure themselves.

How am I going to play with my bunny?
If you pick up your rabbit from a pet store or from someone who is not as well versed in rabbit care as they claim to be, you might be left with the misconception that a hutch is all that your new friends need to be safe and happy. This notion is incorrect.

Rabbits need a living space that makes it possible for them to completely spread out and walk about, run and jump happily everywhere, while still being protected from outside predators. Rabbits need an enclosed hutch area to sleep in, just like chickens, and a running area to play and run around.

Make sure you have the room for such a setup in your garden before having a rabbit, and that you have read about stuff you can put in the rabbit enrichment run!

When they are happy, what noise do rabbits make?
You might be a little surprised to learn they make all sorts of strange and wonderful noises when you first invite pet rabbits into your life!

It’s definitely something that we as vets frequently hear about from concerned new rabbit owners, calls like, “My rabbit is making this odd noise, is it normal?” “Are reasonably prevalent.

Depending on their emotional state, rabbits make all kinds of noises. Some mean that they’re pleased, some mean that they’re afraid or irritated.

Recognizing these sounds will allow you to make sure that if your rabbits are unhappy, you can intervene quickly or carry on if your rabbits are happy.

Some of the sounds that you are going to hear and what they say are:
Grunting, a common sound commonly made by males who have not been neutered, typically suggests that they want to mate.
Clucking-This can sound like a rabbit hiccup, similar to the bruxing noise happy rats make, it’s a contented noise. It’s not unbelievably common, however when the rabbit eats or sleeps and is happy, it is most often heard.
Purring-A rabbit makes a purring noise much like a cat when it’s relaxed and pleased
Sighing- Another cheerful and happy sound, usually made when a rabbit sits comfortably and happily.
Growling- Growling is a common sound among animals, and for the same reason, rabbits growl: to warn you that you make them unhappy.
Hissing-Hissing is less frequent, but for a rabbit it is the next step up from growling. Hissing suggests that your rabbit is genuinely sad
Teeth Grinding-Teeth grinding can sound like rabbit purring, so the distinction needs to be taught. Tooth grinding typically occurs when your rabbit is in pain or discomfort.
Squealing, this one suggests that your rabbit is very unhappy and in pain, as you would expect. It is not a natural noise, and if you hear it, you should always investigate it.
Screaming-Another noise of distress for rabbits, still researching this echo
Wheezing-Wheezing typically means that your rabbit has a hard time breathing, much like other animals. This may be the product of a simple respiratory illness (such as a human cold) or a more severe sign of something. Pop bunny to be healthy alongside the vets
Sneezing and Coughing-Rabbits, like humans, will sneeze and cough as a means of clearing the airways. It’s unlikely to be serious if this is a one-off case, but if it happens, you will need to go along to your vet to make sure everything is OK.
Foot Stomping- This is where Thumper got his name, but a foot-stomping rabbit does this as a signal of a threat, unlike the happy cartoon,

Good Rabbits are Happy Rabbits
So now you know more about rabbit happiness and you have some great ideas on how to ensure that your rabbit is well looked after to live a happy and safe life.

The average UK pet rabbit will live up to 12 years, the same age as many pet dogs, and for that reason, we don’t recommend that individuals get rabbits as a ‘starter’ pet, but as a well-thought-out pet that for many years to come will be part of your family.

In our activities, we see many pet rabbits and we recommend that they are routinely vaccinated against illnesses. Three separate infections, myxomatosis, Rabbit Viral Haemorrhage Disease, strains 1 and 2 have been vaccinated.

Vaccines do not guarantee 100% immunity against the above-mentioned diseases, however, just as with the human flu vaccine, if they are unfortunate enough to catch it, vaccinated rabbits can show much milder signs of the disease.

The vaccinated rabbits can show much milder symptoms, but the vaccine does not guarantee 100 percent safety, which ensures that they can also be treated.

E.cuniculi is a brain and kidney-attacking parasite that can be contracted by rabbits. While it’s a parasite that is easily handled, it’s also a parasite that is easily caught, and early detection is very essential.

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