Why is my Rabbit Thumping?

Anxious rabbit

Lots of things can cause a rabbit to ‘thump’, but it’s usually a response to a frightening situation. It’s probably a way of warning other rabbits that there’s something scary nearby. In fact, it’s a bit like a dog’s bark, a meerkat’s warning screech or a parent’s worried yell… except rabbits don’t tend to vocalise, and instead use the noise of their feet. This has the advantage that the noise will likely be easy to hear underground in their warrens, and the vibrations are likely to be felt, too.

Some rabbits will thump for reasons other than fear, including annoyance. They’re using the thumps to communicate that they want you to stop doing something, or start doing something. It can be a warning to back off and not pick them up, or it may be a demand to cuddle.

 

How does a rabbit make a thumping noise?

Rabbits have a special posture that they use to create a thumping noise. They tend to arch their backs a little and freeze, and will look very alert. They then use one or both feet to hit the ground hard, just like ‘Thumper’ in Bambi. Some rabbits will make one thump, others will do several in a row.

 

What sort of things cause a rabbit to thump?

Rabbits can thump at anything that scares them, and rabbit owners have reported them thumping at everything from the smell of peanut butter to strangers in the house. One rabbit reported in the Daily Mail even thumped at a burglar, and possibly scared him off! Many rabbits will thump in the car and at the vets, especially if they don’t have their bonded partner with them to help them cope with the stress.

Just like humans, some rabbits are more highly-strung than others. These rabbits are more likely to be anxious and may react to lots of different things. Others are pretty relaxed and may only be frightened by something that they’ve had a bad experience with, such as other animals in the house.

 

How can I stop my rabbit from thumping?

If your rabbit is thumping in fear, it’s sensible to try to get to the bottom of what’s frightening them and see if there’s anything you can do to stop it. Long-term stress is bad for your pet’s welfare and can cause medical problems. Start making a note of when your rabbit thumps. Every time they do, have a look around you – what could it be? If a noisy car just went past then that’s your answer, but it’s possible there’s something less obvious involved. Sounds, sights, and smells can all frighten a rabbit so it’s important to keep an open mind about what it could be. Even vibrations from passing lorries could be at fault. Try to narrow it down over several thumps and find what’s upsetting them, although remember it could be more than one thing.

 

Once you’ve found what’s upsetting your rabbit…

it’s time to work out how to help them feel more comfortable. Some things, such as a bird swooping past the window, are unavoidable, and if it isn’t happening too often it might be best just to leave it. However, if you’ve got some birds nesting in the rafters and each swoop terrifies your bunny then moving them away from the window or even drawing the curtains should help. Providing them with plenty of hiding spaces should help – cardboard boxes with holes cut in are great if they aren’t likely to get wet, or purpose-built hides can be bought for outdoors. For very nervous bunnies, tunnels leading to their food, water and toilet area can allow them to move around and do what they need to do whilst still feeling safe.

For unavoidable situations, it might be best to try desensitising your bunny. This involves exposing them to very small amounts of the threat – such as a dog at a distance, a smell in the next room, or a sound played out of speakers very quietly – and then making it seem positive. It’s best to make a desensitisation plan with your vet or a behaviourist in order to ensure it remains a positive experience – you don’t want your rabbit to get worse!

Whatever the reason for your bunny to be thumping, it’s best to try to reduce it if it’s happening often. And as always, if you’re worried, talk to your vet or vet nurse.

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22 thoughts on “Why is my Rabbit Thumping?

  1. My rabbit vibrates or “thumps” on my legs and arms and does it anytime I take him out. Do you know what’s happening?

    1. I would suspect that it’s a stress or fear response – from his point of view, a large predator has just picked him up! Try to spend time with him on the ground, rather than picking him up, to let him get used to you. Most rabbits don’t actually like being picked up, so whenever possible, make a fuss of him at ground level.

  2. My rabbit has only just started thumping in the night! I don’t think she is scared but I couldn’t be sure. When I go over to the cage she runs over straight away and lets me stroke her face and is eating fine so I don’t really know why she is thumping, do you think it could be for attention from me?

    1. It’s not impossible – if she’s learnt that you give her attention when she thumps, then she’ll thump! Remember, rabbits are social animals and should always be kept in pairs or groups, if she doesn’t have any rabbit friends, she might be relying on you for social support.

  3. My foster rabbit lived out back. One day a mom/baby racoon coyly entered the yard for food. Knowing nothing about rabbits, I was fascinated to see this rabbit go all the way up to them and thump very loudly and distinctly. She didn’t want them in the yard! I scooted her away and the raccoons left. No harm done.

  4. My rabbit just thumped foenthe first time while staring at me. He loves me and loves to be around me alot. He is clearly not scared of me because he follows me around. He thumped really loudly once then a silent timenstaringnat me and then a second time and then he stared at me and then played down. We think he was trying to show that he wanted out of his cage. Could this be the case?

    1. It’s not impossible – while it evolved as a warning, rabbits are intelligent social animals and if he’s learnt that by thumping he gets what he wants, he’s likely to remember it!

  5. It doesn’t matter what I do my male always thumps at me. I’ll give him food water toys and I have a female bunny. She doesn’t do anything thumping at all. She come to the edge and everything. I made there cage 3x bigger for them but he’s not happy about it. He won’t let me touch, take care of him or play with him. I’m going to rehome him at this point. I’m trying but he’s not having it.

    1. Sometimes a relationship just doesn’t work! However, have you considered having him neutered? It may help.

  6. my bunny is usually very social and happy because she lives in my room but lately she has been running around as if she’s mad and thumping her foot while making weird noises as if she’s humming, she has also been waking me up by pulling my hair out. any suggestions why she’s doing this?

    1. This behaviour would suggest either pain, or severe stress. We’d advise ruling out medical causes – call your vet for advice, and see if they can do a remote consultation. Other possibilities would include reproductive behaviour – is she neutered? Because if not, it might be worth discussing that with your vet too.

  7. I’ve just woken to a thumping noise an gone round the house an realised it’s the rabbit outside. I’ve never heard him do this before. Should I be worried?

    1. It suggests that he is for some reason! It might be that a predator like a fox or cat passed through the garden; or it might be that there’s something else causing him stress – check his hutch or paddock to make sure it’s secure, then see if there’s anything you can do to help him feel safer and more relaxed.

  8. My rabbit is free roam in a huge living room, plenty of toys, she’s happy. However if me or me partner tries to leave or go towards the door (to go to the bathroom mainly) Our rabbit follows and then runs around our feet in circles and thumps, what can this be? Because it’s only when we go towards the door. We do have another 2 rabbits in another room which are also free range but all 3 don’t get along so they’re separated. If we close all doors and let Our rabbit come with us to the bathroom she goes straight to the door with the other rabbits behind it and scratches to get in???

    1. Stress in rabbits can be really hard to get on top of! Check out some ideas from here, then if you’re still having issues, get a check up with your vet to make sure there aren’t any other underlying issues.

  9. My new female baby bunny stomps at me whenever I try to pick her up. I try not to hold her often but I need to get her back into her cage. I have sat with her silently and let her come up to me many times but nothing seems to be working.

  10. My rabbit lives outside and I have a large piece of carpet that covers the hutch. She sometimes thumps late at night and if I’m awake and hear it whenever I go out to her she seems fine.

    1. It might be that there’s a predator prowling around outside – or that she’s been disturbed by something.
      It might be a good idea to get her a friend – rabbits should never normally live alone – and it may help her feel safer.

  11. My rabbit thumps and then binkys, could her thumping be an indication of happiness or something more deep rooted? I have only had her 3 weeks and she isn’t as sociable as our other rabbit, she is still a little uncertain when it comes to giving her a stroke but every now and again she will happily let us stroke her, she also has a tendency to bite at the cage enclosure and the floor, is there anyway of being able to educate her in what is right and wrong?

    1. Some rabbits are naturally more nervous than others; 3 weeks isn’t a very long time. She should gradually get used to the way you do things – but from what you’ve said, nervousness is likely to be the cause of her thumping. In general, I’d suggest very gradually doing more with her, perhaps rewarding her with a small treat when you come closer, and see if you can persuade her you aren’t scary!

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