You’ll see a rabbit running in circles for a variety of reasons – like if they’re bored, trying to establish their dominance, or courting.
But there are other reasons a rabbit might run in circles too.
Read on to find out more and what (if anything) you can do to stop it.
If you see your rabbit circling, what or who they’re circling will usually indicate why they’re doing it. Accompanied with other forms of communication like honking or doing a binky, circling is used as a body language for a rabbit to express what they want.
Here are eight reasons why your rabbit might be running in a circle.
If an un-neutered male is circling a female, it’s often an indication that they want to mate. Males reach sexual maturity around three to four months old, and you can see circling any time after that.
A female rabbit might run circles when she’s in heat and ready to mate. Circling is a natural urge that raises a rabbit’s hormonal balance. The best way to calm this urge in rabbits is by neutering them.
A neutered pair might circle each other (and display other courtship behaviors) for up to two months after their operation – when their hormones are still in their system.
After this point, they might still circle because it’s become a habit even when it’s not driven by hormones.
A rabbit circling (and mounting) another rabbit is a way to determine who the top, dominant rabbit is.
Rabbits who have bonded and lived together will have one or more rabbits who are submissive, and one dominant. If there’s a power scuffle, you might see fighting, circling, and other aggressive behavior until it’s settled.
If your rabbit is running around your feet, they’ll be trying to get your attention because they want something. This could be food, drink, treats, attention, or that they want you to move.
You’ll usually see this if you’re standing up or doing something and therefore not paying as much attention to your rabbit.
When two or more rabbits are together, circling might be the first move in a game. Rabbits can spend hours chasing each other – and if they’re happy you might even see them binky (a mid-air twist).
This is great for bonding, mental stimulation, and socialization.
A bored rabbit might run in circles or pace when they’re itching for some fun. This is more likely if they haven’t got a companion, if their cage is too small, or if they’ve been home alone and cooped up for too long.
If boredom is the reason for circling, you should try to give your rabbit more attention and let them stretch their legs.
If a rabbit is irritated from dirty or matted fur, they might start circling to let you know that they need brushing or help with a skin problem.
You should be able to see if this is the case – and, usually, a good brush should be able to sort this out.
If your rabbit is circling an object (e.g., their cage, a toy, a place in your house, or even a person), it might be a territorial act to mark it as their own.
Along with chining and spraying, circling is a clear order to stay away from the rabbit’s turf. For more on territorial behavior, check out our post all about this.
Rabbit circling is a natural and instinctive behavior. There isn’t a specific, known reason why they circle, but there are usually clear reasons and sometimes preventative measures you can take to stop it (e.g., neutering, giving them attention, and providing toys).
Wild rabbits sometimes run in circles to escape predators and work their way towards the safety of their warren – but they also circle to mate, establish dominance, play, and mark territory.
A different movement that might be mistaken for circling is spinning.
This is when a rabbit is spinning around on the spot. In other words? Not moving from the point where they’re standing except in what direction they’re facing.
This could be because of a condition called head tilt, that can be caused by an ear infection, poisoning, parasite, stroke, or from head trauma.
This is a serious problem (fatal if untreated) that should be discussed with a vet ASAP.
Look out for these other signs of head tilt:
- Lack of coordination.
- Unable to stand straight.
- Head wobbling or shaking.
- One (or both) of their ears are drooping.
- Their lips are drooping.
- Lack of appetite.
- No energy.
- If their head is tilted to one side.