Rabbits are often thought of as low maintenance animals that make good pets for apartment dwellers. They are quiet animals, but that doesn’t mean they don’t communicate. Rabbits have an elaborate system of body language that they use to tell their owners how they feel.
So why does my rabbit follow me everywhere? Simply put, your rabbit is craving attention and wants to be with you. Your rabbit may also want something from you, or may simply want you to know that they’re happy
Rabbits are not pack animals, but they do understand hierarchy and they can have bonds with each other and their owners within this hierarchy. Unlike with dogs, it doesn’t matter if your rabbit wants to be dominant in the relationship. What ultimately matters is what your rabbit wants from you. In this article we will look at the different things your rabbit may be trying to tell you and how you can address those needs.
Your Rabbit Wants to Mate
Yes, your intact male wants to mate with everything, including your legs. Rabbits are ready to be sexually active as early as 4 to 6 months old, so if your cute little kitten suddenly starts exhibiting the following behaviors while following you into the bedroom, it may be time to call your vet for a spay or neuter appointment.
In the bunny world, circling has a variety of meanings. If two rabbits start circling each other, a fight is about to begin (especially if their ears are back). If a boy rabbit (a buck) starts circling a girl rabbit (a doe) or your legs, he probably wants to mate. This is part of ritual or dance wherein the doe may run away from the buck before submitting.
Your intact male rabbit may make grunting noises while he circles your feet. This is his way of vocalizing how much he wishes your legs were available.
This is probably the least subtle of all “vocabulary” in bunny body language. It’s also a surefire way to know that you need to call the vet. Having your rabbit spayed and neutered is the hallmark of responsible rabbit ownership. Not only are you preventing pregnancies, but you are decreasing risk for a variety of cancers and other diseases.
Assuming you’ve done the right thing and gotten your rabbit fixed, the rest of these behaviors may explain why your rabbit follows you everywhere.
Your Rabbit is Happy
Peculiar pet behaviors sometimes trigger worry in pet owners. But in this case, your rabbit may simply be happy. Once owners bond with rabbits, they can enjoy warm companionship from them. This expression of happiness may take a couple forms beyond merely keeping pace with your feet.
The Bunny 500
The Bunny 500 is a phrase unique to the world of rabbit owners and describes a one rabbit race. Your rabbit will run as fast as possible around your house or apartment with you roughly at the center of the race. Loosely translated, this means I’m happy!
Binkying (from Binky, which is used as a verb) is another peculiar word unique to rabbit owners. This describes a specific kind of jump that your rabbit makes when especially delighted. Sometimes combined with running (like the Bunny 500), your rabbit will jump into the air and twist its body or flip its ears around, signaling happiness.
Your Rabbit Wants Attention
Like cats and dogs, your rabbit wants attention from you and may be following you to get it. Rabbits want to be petted and get head rubs, and if they enjoy their weekly or daily brushings, they may be asking for that too.
There are basically three things your rabbit will do to get your attention. Your rabbit will nudge you with its paws or headbutt you gently. Your rabbit may also give you a quick, light nibble, or your rabbit may “dig” at your feet or hands. Rabbits are natural diggers, so it makes sense that they would use this instinctual action to communicate with their favorite person.
In all cases, these behaviors are not signs of aggression, but merely your rabbit’s way of saying, “Hey! Pay attention to me!”
Your Rabbit is Curious
Rabbits are both cautious and curious, and in a battle between the two impulses, curiosity will often win the day. Your rabbit may be following you around out of curiosity over something you have, or something you’re doing.
These things usually follow two lines of thought. You are doing something new, or you have food that your rabbit wants. Here are a couple of things to watch for.
Remembering circling? The meaning of this behavior depends on the context, and if your bunny is circling your feet quickly, then food may be involved. Especially if you’re eating a banana or a carrot or something your little buddy has eaten before, your rabbit may be asking you to share a bite.
The other possibility is that you have something new in your hand or you are doing a new behavior that your rabbit is wondering about. In this case, it’s the ears you’ll want to keep your eye on, and the signs are easy to spot. Your rabbit will put its ears forward and stretch its neck out a little. The only time your rabbit shows this ear position is when he is very curious.
At times you may be able to tell when your rabbit is about to investigate if his ears stretch out wide from the head and face forward. This can also be a sign of nervousness, so make sure your rabbit’s neck is still stretching forward. Your rabbit may also stand up tall and look around.
When your rabbit comes over to investigate what it is your doing or holding, it’s good, if you can, to give a portion of whatever you have. Let your rabbit nibble at it, smell it, or play with it. As your companion your rabbit wants to share your stuff.
Your Rabbit is Annoyed
This is the least likely reason your rabbit is following you everywhere, but since it is still a possibility, let’s talk about it.
Like all animals, rabbits can get annoyed, irritated, and downright angry. Let’s look at some signs of these things so you can know what to watch for.
As with curiosity, the ears tell much of the story. Rabbits will typically have their ears up or slightly forward as a sign they are basically content. When your rabbit’s ears go backward, it’s starting to get angry, and your rabbit will show increasing anger by lowering its ears toward the body as they continue to point backward.
Usually this ear trend will be accompanied by your rabbit holding its tail straight out from its body.
Again, it seems unlikely that your rabbit would follow you if something you were doing or holding was causing agitation. However, it’s always good to be aware of the signs so you can address your rabbit’s needs.
In all the talk of understanding your rabbit’s way of communicating, let’s not forget your rabbit’s safety. Rabbits are small and quiet and can easily be ignored if your busy cooking or with some other chore.
Furthermore, rabbits can want to burrow between your feet for comfort and safety. The last thing you want to do is inadvertently hurt your rabbit. In one case, a rabbit owner on a forum said this was how her rabbit got a broken leg.
Let’s talk about some simple safety tips. At bare minimum, increase your awareness. You have a small pet, so add some simple, mindful actions to your normal routine. Glance around periodically to keep track of your rabbit’s position. If you’ve been standing in one place for a few moments, glance down at your feet to see if your rabbit is there too.
If these don’t work, or you just can’t seem to remember them, here’s a great suggestion from the rabbit owner I mentioned earlier: collar with a little bell. That way you always know where bunny is at.
For most pet owners, having a cute little ball of fur follow you around everywhere you go is pure bliss. After all, companionship is why we have pets in the first place. Just keep some body language “vocabulary” in mind, so you can keep track of what your rabbit may be trying to tell you.
If your rabbit is an intact male, he probably wants to mate, especially if he’s circling your feet and grunting. At that point it’s best to have the neuter talk with your vet.
But if your rabbit is already fixed, your rabbit may be curious about what you’re doing and want to share in it, or your rabbit may want attention from you. Finally, your rabbit may be what we all want for our pets: happy!