One of the most common questions we hear is, “why do rabbits thump?” Does this mean they are happy? Are they trying to tell me something? I remember that when I had a rabbit as a child, I would sometimes be shocked by my rabbit thumping as I was trying to do my homework.
It seemed like it was always associated with our dog that was barking outside. It was like our rabbit was trying to tell us the dog was barking. I would check on the rabbit, and his ears would be pointed forward. Then, he would start thumping again. I couldn’t quite tell what was going on.
Is This a Sign of Happiness?
Rabbits don’t thump when they are happy. They are thumping because they are trying to communicate something. There are two large reasons a rabbit is thumping.
- The rabbit is scared and is trying to warn everyone that something is happening
- The rabbit is displeased with what is happening around them
If you have heard a rabbit thump, this can be a jarring noise. I remember that our rabbit’s thump sounded like someone dropped something on the ground. There was one time our rabbit thumped so hard that a book on top of its cage fell on the ground!
I never knew a rabbit could make so much noise. If the rabbit kept thumping, he quickly had the attention of the entire house! If you have a rabbit, you need to know a few key points about thumping!
The Evolution of Thumping
Rabbits, and their behavior, are a product of evolution. This includes thumping, which is important for survival.
While these behaviors might not be as important in a domestic environment, it is important in the wild. Rabbits tend to live in families, and they use thumps to communicate with each other.
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When rabbits live underground, the sound of a thumping foot travels a lot farther than the meow of a cat or other audible noises.
This evolution took place underground and is one of the reasons why you don’t hear your rabbit make many vocalizations. Instead, rabbits communicate with a thumping foot.
A Way to Alert the Group
If you’ve watched your rabbit move, you know that it has very strong hind legs. This is why the thump is so loud.
I remember that when our rabbit thumped, he instantly looked alert. His ears were pointed forward, and he was ready to run (or thump again!).
He would always stop and listen, then move to another place in the cage and listen again. A thumping rabbit is assessing the situation and looking for danger.
Think about rabbits you have seen outside. They’re above ground, right? On the other hand, most rabbits spend their time underground where it is safe.
If there is something going on above ground and the rabbit thumps, this vibration travels underground as well.
This is similar to a book being dropped upstairs, and people in the basement can hear it. A thumping rabbit is warning its family below ground that there is danger outside.
This is why rabbits thump. So, when your rabbit thumps at home, what does this mean?
Thumping Could Mean Fear
While a domesticated rabbit doesn’t have to worry about the same threats as wild rabbits, they still have those same instincts.
Therefore, they are going to thump when they sense danger. Thumping rabbits is a fear response, and it is automatic. Think about “fight or flight” responses. This is what is taking place in rabbits:
- Or THUMP!
If a rabbit is thumping out of fear, they usually continues to thump over and over again until the threat is gone.
The thumps are usually separated by just a few seconds. So, what might trigger a fear response in a rabbit? There are a few common culprits
Most animals hear much better than people, and rabbits are no different. I remember that there were a few common loud noises that would trigger our childhood rabbit to start thumping. These included:
- The dog barking outside (or the neighbor’s dog)
- The vacuum cleaner running
- The lawnmower passing by the rabbit’s cage at the window
While these were a few of the common noises that made our rabbit start to thump, there were also times when our rabbit seemed to be thumping at nothing at all!
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It is important to note that sounds that might be scary to a rabbit might seem normal to us.
For example, I remember that my rabbit would thump every time someone died while I was playing Halo with my friends!
My rabbit didn’t seem to like that noise, so I would turn down the volume.
Rabbits also have a great sense of smell. Like dogs, rabbits rely on their noses to figure out what is happening.
I remember there was one time when I came home, and my rabbit didn’t seem to want anything to do with me. He was friendly, so I was confused.
Then, I looked down at my shirt. I was covered in cat hair because I had just been to the pet store, and I was playing with kittens. Rabbits are afraid of cats. He smelled cats and started thumping immediately.
This is just one example of how strange smells can invoke the fight or flight response in rabbits. The response is thumping.
A Response to Pain and Injury
Finally, pain and injuries can cause rabbits to thump as well. Injuries are confusing and scary for all living creatures. I remember slipping and falling on the pool deck when I was 12 years old.
I hadn’t broken a bone before, but I knew my arm was broken. I was hysterical. Rabbits are the same way.
If your rabbit starts to thump, this could be a sign that it is sick or injured. The rabbit might need to go to the vet for a checkup.