If you’ve never been around rabbits, you probably think they’re totally silent. Whenever you see a rabbit it is just sitting there, trying to go unnoticed or else it is munching away on some tender grass or hay.
But did you know that rabbits actually make a variety of different sounds, each with a different meaning?
Rabbits are like most other mammals in that they make these sounds to communicate among themselves and also to signal for help or to alert other rabbits, and they even do it to communicate with you.
Keep reading and I’ll tell you all about 12 different sounds that rabbits make and what they mean…
Table of Contents:
A sharp grating or clicking sound made by your rabbit’s teeth is one of the most alarming things you can hear, and is invariably a sign of pain or pronounced discomfort.
If you ever hear your rabbit doing this, you need to check them over carefully and consider getting them to a vet straight away.
It is especially common when a rabbit has a problem with their teeth or in their mouth.
It should be noted, though, that rabbits don’t always grind their teeth when they’re in pain. They might make other sounds, or make no sounds at all, so don’t rely on this as the only indicator that your rabbit needs a checkup or medical care.
But again, if you do hear it, there’s almost certainly a problem.
Yes, believe it or not, rabbits can growl, and they growl for pretty much the same reason that all other mammals do.
It’s a warning that the rabbit is about to go on the offensive, or else a bluff to get you, or some other creature, to stop what they are doing.
Note that a rabbit growl doesn’t sound like a dog or some other larger animal: it is low pitched, short and clicked, but will be repeated.
Especially if this is displayed in conjunction with the rabbit laying their ears back at an angle and the tail being raised, you know that your rabbit is definitely unhappy with the situation and feeling cornered or territorial.
Intact male rabbits, as expected, typically do the most growling.
A very rare rabbit sound, one that some owners don’t believe rabbits can actually, make but as evidenced by the video above, it’s indeed possible…
This is another warning behavior, usually only done when a rabbit feels cornered and threatened with no way out.
Most rabbits will hiss immediately before lashing out if they are forced to, swiping and kicking, and sometimes biting.
Also, some rabbits that are averse to handling are known to his immediately before or right after being picked up, probably in an effort to dissuade or distract whoever is picking them up so that doesn’t happen.
In all cases, if you have a rabbit that hisses when it’s being picked up, even if it seems content, it is uncomfortable with the situation and generally should be left alone.
If a hissing rabbit is picked up and subsequently decides to make a break for it, it could fall and be seriously injured.
Pretty much all animals I know of of sneeze at one point or another, and rabbits are no exception. But rabbit sneezes aren’t intense like yours and mine, or even our dogs’ and cats’.
A rabbit sneeze is short and sharp, but sounds more like a cough or a loud squeak than an achoo.
As expected, your rabbit will typically sneeze when something has irritated their nose or respiratory tract, often dust or some other irritating piece of debris.
If your a rabbit sneezes once, twice, or a few times and then stops, you probably don’t have a single thing to worry about and your rabbit probably took care of the irritant.
If you notice any of them sneezing consistently throughout the day, even if it’s just one or two at a top, or they’re showing any other symptoms like drainage or inflammation of the eyes or nose you should probably seek medical attention for them.
Also, sneezing in conjunction with other breathing issues like wheezing or hitching is an immediate red flag, and you should take them to the vet.
Crazily enough, rabbits also get hiccups but they don’t get hiccups for the same reason that people do (which, as far as I’m concerned, is still a mystery).
When rabbits get hiccups it’s usually because they are out of breath. Pick up some most commonly observed, and heard, after a rabbit has engaged in an intense period of physical activity.
If you have any rabbits that like to play hard, or get the zoomies and race around the house at full speed, you can expect a short bout of hiccups to follow when they catch their breath.
Rabbit hiccups sound like low pitched squeaks or soft, short yelps, typically accompanied by rapid breathing and the rabbits head jerking gently up and down for anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute.
If the episode resolves itself and your rabbit seems normal, there’s nothing to worry about.
However, hiccups that last longer than that, or hiccups that occur for seemingly no reason on a more frequent basis are troubling, and definitely warrant a trip to the vet.
Whining, also known as whimpering, is pretty much a universal sign in mammals including rabbits that they’re scared and anxious.
Rabbit whines are squeaky and drawn out, and will typically accompany some stimulus that has stressed out your animals.
It doesn’t necessarily mean anything else is wrong, but it does mean your rabbits need space, calm, and quiet in order to settle down.
If there was a loud sound, some sudden movement that startled them, or if there was another animal around that they have determined to be an unknown or predatory, your rabbits will likely start whimpering.
This is also common behavior if strangers come around, or if you get a new domestic rabbit yourself. It means they just aren’t comfortable.
Pay attention for tense, still body language and other signs of distress.
I’m starting to think that rabbits basically make all of the same sounds that people do. Jokes aside, rabbits will snore like many other animals, and this is a mostly normal occurrence.
And, as be fits their small size, rabbits don’t have a loud, chattering snore like people and dogs do.
Rabbits have proportionately quiet, squeaky snores, and if you have a rabbit that is a known snorer whenever they are asleep, napping or otherwise, it does not indicate a problem.
However, snoring that spontaneously starts in a rabbit that isn’t known to snore, or snoring that happens alongside any other signs of illness or respiratory distress is again definitely worrisome.
Most probably it indicates a respiratory tract infection that you’ll need to get treated pronto. If you have any doubts, call your vet, but typically snoring is nothing to worry about.
Honking? Seriously? Yes: honking is a rabbit sound that is difficult to describe and is alternately called clucking or oinking, but even that doesn’t do it justice.
This is an almost entirely unique rabbit sound that they make when they’re happy or eager.
Owners of domestic rabbits commonly report this sound when their animals are ready to engage with them, or are about to get fed their favorite treats.
Make sure you listen to or watch the video above, but the best way I would describe it is almost like the slow tempo of an idling engine, almost a soft puttering sound.
Feel free to argue about what the sound really sounds like so we can all try to decide on a better onomatopoeia for it, but the important thing is that you know what it sounds like and what it means when you hear it coming from your rabbit. At least this one’s always a good thing, right?
Another sound that only technically applies to rabbits, but it is the closest name for the sound that rabbits sometimes make.
This is another one that rabbits make with their teeth, unlike the way cats generate the sound.
But just like cats, this soft, rubbing chatter that they do with their teeth indicates they’re happy, content and relaxed.
However not all rabbits are truly auditory when they are purring, and if you can handle or pet your rabbit, you’re much more likely to feel the vibration of it through their head than you are to hear it, especially if you have poor hearing like I do.
The sound is also typically accompanied by twitching or bobbing whiskers, and it furthermore sounds entirely distinct from the harsh, audible grinding of teeth that I described above.
But, once you know what it feels and sounds like, this is one sign you’ll always be happy to hear your rabbits make- or feel them make as the case may be!
We all know the Disney character got his name from somewhere, and as it turns out, real life informed that decision.
Rabbits thump their hind legs, sometimes rapidly, as an announcement or warning. A series of rapid but softer thumps is usually a rabbit trying to alert another rabbit to its presence.
A short thump, though, can sound like a crack or snap on a hard surface and is a definite warning.
This sound is completely instinctive for rabbits, as wild rabbits will it thump their legs one or more times to alert other members of their family or group, usually tucked away in an underground warren, of the presence or approach of danger.
But concerning our rabbits, sometimes a rabbit that is well adjusted to you will thump its legs if you’re doing something that it doesn’t like.
So things are going well with your rabbit, and then suddenly it seems standoffish and tense, listen for a thump and you’ll know that you need to back off for a bit.
Grunting is another warning sound made by rabbits and is a little bit rarer than the ones that discussed above, although nowhere near as rare as hissing.
Rabbits use grunts among themselves to communicate displeasure or as a warning that they want to be left alone or need space.
If your a rabbit is grunting at you, he doesn’t want you to continue petting him or trying to pick him up. A grunt usually sounds like an extended squeak or a single note in a growl that’s held for a little bit longer.
If you persist, or if another rabbit persists, and bothering a rabbit that is grunting, it is likely that they will get swiped, kicked, or bitten.
It’s called a warning sound for a reason, so just give any rabbit that is grunting space until they calm down.
Know that if you have a new rabbit and it is grunting at you every time you try to touch it or handle it, it will take time for its anxiety to subside so be patient.
This is, without question, the most harrowing sound that any rabbit can make and it is one that luckily most owners will never hear.
A scream is an extremely high pitched, long squeal of intense distress, and it is a sound that rabbits will only make when they are stressed out of their minds, convinced they are going to die, or in intense pain.
If you hear this, you know that something truly bad has happened, although every once in a while, some rabbits seem to have a “drama queen” personality and will scream over relatively minor infractions or discomfort, so always do your due diligence.
Also, sometimes when a rabbit experiences a truly terrible health crisis, such as a seizure, heart attack or something like that they might scream and then die shortly thereafter.
So, assuming you weren’t dealing with a primadonna rabbit that’s always raising a ruckus, if you hear any of your rabbits make this sound, you need to investigate and take action at once.
What Sounds Do Baby Bunnies Make?
Baby bunnies will make many of the same sounds that adult rabbits make, and for the same reasons although they tend to be an even higher and squeakier pitch across the board.
But baby bunnies, when they’re content, also make continual soft, chirp like squeaks to communicate among themselves and their mothers.
Generally speaking, when you hear baby bunnies making these squeaks as long as they aren’t showing any other signs of distress and you know they’re warm enough, fed, and have fresh water, there is no cause for concern.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.