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Why Is My Rabbit Thumping?

Rabbits have certain behaviors that owners should learn to recognize to ensure their good health and happiness. The reason for one rabbit action should be clearly understood. Why is my rabbit thumping?

Why is my rabbit thumping? Your rabbit will usually be thumping its legs either because it perceives a threat (rightly or wrongly) or it is unhappy about something.

Spend enough time with your rabbit and eventually, you’ll notice this behavior. You may think that they just have an itch or perhaps they’re trying to get rid of a fly that’s landed on one of their feet, trying to shake it off.

The answer is more interesting than you think and due to the amount of rubbish I’ve seen on the internet. I felt obliged to write this short article which should tell you everything you need to know about this behavior.

There are, of course, reasons why it perceives certain things as a threat and why some things appear to make it unsettled.

Although there are some things you can do about this it is really no cause for alarm unless it is happening continually and for longer periods of time. If this is the case, it can be quite serious.

Thumping is A Rabbit’s natural reaction

Why is my rabbit thumping?

There are some natural reactions that all animals have and despite keeping them for pets, occasionally these reactions will come out. A cat will sink low and pounce at a toy as if it’s a mouse trying to get away from it.

Some dogs may try and herd little children when outside as if they are sheep. Rabbits, which are arguably even less domesticated than these, have their fair share of natural reactions also.

Imagine this scene: A rabbit is exploring the land around her burrow. She looks up and sees something move in the distance. A possible threat? How can she quickly alert the other members of her family down below in their burrow, warning them not to come out just yet?

Well, you guessed it, she can make a noise with her feet! This may be with just one of her hind feet or both of them and as she can’t make noise (of significant volume) any other way, this really is the best method. 

Of course, when you see them thumping their hind legs they aren’t just outside their burrow and (hopefully) there isn’t a large eagle swooping down to whisk them away for an early dinner. You are most likely either in your garden or inside your house. So, what exactly is the problem?

IS the Rabbit thumping because of a threat?

The reason your little rabbit is thumping its feet could be because it has perceived a threat nearby. The reaction of a rabbit varies enormously between individuals and it might not take much for her to be spooked if you have a particularly nervous specimen.

So, what kind of things could cause this reaction in your pet? Well, quite a few, unfortunately, such as:

  • Another pet (cat or dog typically) which the rabbit sees as a predator.
  • Sudden movements in humans (usually children).
  • A loud or unfamiliar noise.
  • Adverse weather conditions (thunder, hail or strong winds, for example, can be quite scary to her).

Is the Rabbit thumping because they are unhappy?

It is more likely that something has disturbed your rabbit, it was then spooked and they start thumping. However, it could also be because they have raised levels of anxiety for some reason. These raised levels of anxiety might be caused by a change of some sort.

For example:

  • If you are moving house, initially you will have lots of things in different places (as you prepare to move and are boxing things up) and then of course after you move the rabbit won’t recognize anything and all the smells it had become used to are different.
  • A new person in the house, such as a baby can create all kinds of issues for her. Not only is this something she hadn’t seen before but there will be all kinds of noise that she’s not used to also.
  • A change of routine can unsettle your rabbit. For instance, if you used to feed them at the same time for a long period then suddenly that routine changes it can raise levels of anxiety.
  • You may have had good intentions when putting that new toy in their rabbit-run but they may take an instant dislike to it. There’s no reason behind this that we can grasp and there’s no way we can predict it. However, it is something else to think about if you’re trying to get to the bottom of where the problem is.

How long will your Rabbit thump for?

Your rabbit may continue thumping for as long as it perceives a threat or is unhappy. I know that might be obvious but it’s also quite useful for you, the owner.

If you notice them thumping in the morning and then in the evening then you know that something is definitely troubling them. They won’t be doing it continually during all that time of course but if you notice it then is there something that possibly happens each time they see you that scares them? 

Usually, though, you’ll notice the behavior for only a few seconds and then things will proceed as before. 

Is your Rabbit thumping because of a problem with their health?

Unfortunately, yes. You should not just leave a rabbit which is continually thumping. As you now know, they are doing it because something has agitated them and they will have raised anxiety levels during this time. Not many people realize that these raised anxiety levels can be fatal in certain circumstances.

Rabbits are known to be susceptible to heart-failure when shocked. This typically happens when an event occurs that creates panic, for instance, a big dog chasing the rabbit in her garden.

But this is not what we’re talking about here really, we’re talking about an event that isn’t so dramatic – we have more opportunity to manage this. If the rabbit continues in thumping though, it should be considered as serious as the elevated heart rate and anxiety can be fatal over time. 

If this happens the rabbit needs to be reassured and made safe. How you do this depends on the situation but if you can identify what’s causing the stress, then remove it from the environment of the rabbit as soon as possible. 

Why is my rabbit thumping? Rabbit being held

Be careful if you’re considering moving the rabbit when you believe it is stressed. The reason being, the rabbit, that will already be stressed, may become even more stressed when picked up, even if it is by you.

Their natural instincts might make them believe that they have been picked up by an animal and could possibly be eaten! 

Your good intentions can actually make things a lot worse and some people have said that it actually was this latter action that proved fatal to the rabbit, not the original cause. This can obviously be heartbreaking.

I’ve actually written another article purely discussing whether rabbits like to be petted – do check it out if you’re interested as I discovered some interesting things whilst researching!

Summary – why is your Rabbit thumping?

So, there you have it. A rabbit will thump the ground because it either perceives a threat and / or is particularly unhappy about something happening at that time. It can be quite serious if left unaddressed and the cause of their concern should be identified and removed from their environment as soon as possible.