Your rabbit is probably nudging you because they’re trying to communicate or they’re being territorial. This action of pressing their nose or head on you is a common action seen in rabbits.
But there are other reasons why your rabbit might be nudging you and other actions that are often mistaken as nudging. Check out this post to find out why else your rabbit might be nudging you.
Reasons Why Rabbits Nudge
There are a bunch of reasons why your rabbit might be nudging you, and this could change multiple times in a day. But nudging usually falls into two categories – to communicate in some way or to explore.
Your rabbit might be nudging:
- To ask for something: This could be your rabbit wanting something – like a treat, for you to move out their way, for s cuddle, or a number of other possibilities. This is a good time to bond with your rabbit, and they’ll likely persist in trying to get your attention (until they eventually lose interest and give up).
- For attention: Your rabbit might want you to pet them! They’re nudging you so you’ll take the hint and pay them the attention that they want. This is a common way for a bonded rabbit to get their human’s attention.
- To mark territory: Chinning is a way of rabbits putting their scent (through glands on their chin) on someone or something they want to claim as their own. To humans, there’s no odor or visible mark – but other rabbits will understand the claim. You can learn more in our post all about this.
- Being curious: Rabbits are super curious creatures – they can often be seen smelling anything that takes their interest. They might nudge to learn the texture of something, to see if they can make it move, and more.
- Because they learned it: Your rabbit might have nudged you in the past and right after you gave them a treat or positively reinforced the behavior. They can quickly form a connection between the action and it being a good thing and learn to repeat it.
Similar Actions to Nudging
Although it might look like your rabbit is nudging you, their head position and the context around the behavior might mean something else entirely.
Your rabbit could be:
- Apologizing: Rabbits apologize by pressing their heads against each other for a few seconds and gently rubbing. They can also do it to you if they feel like they owe you an apology (and if you need to say sorry that’s the clearest way to do it).
- Headbutting (aggressively): When your rabbit is angry they might sharply headbutt you. Along with lunging and sudden movements, headbutting can be a sign of an angry rabbit warning you to move away. Your rabbit might be trying to assert dominance.
- Headbutting (affectionately): If your rabbit butts against your hand while you’re petting them, it could be a positive sign that they’re enjoying the attention and letting you know about it. They’re sharing their scent and probably feel comfortable around you.
Can I Do Anything About Nudging?
Yes, you can train your rabbit and play games to entertain them by using their nudging.
In terms of aggression, sternly calling your rabbit’s name and saying no will teach them not to do the action – but nudging isn’t something you should punish them for if they’re using it to communicate or explore.
Through nudging, you can:
- Teach them tricks: You could teach your rabbit to ring bells, communicate for specific things, or any other trick that involves nudging!
- Set up obstacle courses: Rabbits need mental stimulation to prevent boredom, so setting up obstacles for them to figure out is a great way to play with your rabbit.
- Play by hiding things: Hiding treats in different locations not only hones your rabbit’s smelling and foraging skills, but it’s another way to prevent boredom.
Is Headbutting Normal for Rabbits?
Yes, headbutting is normal behavior for rabbits. There are several reasons why your rabbit might be doing this – and not all of them are bad! Some rabbits might headbutt you regularly, and some hardly ever, it depends on the individual rabbit.
How Else Do Rabbits Communicate With People?
As well as nudging, there are plenty of other ways your rabbit can communicate with you. This could be through licking, chinning, verbal noises, and many more. Understanding your rabbit will make it easier for them to convey what they want to you, and spending time with them will strengthen your bond with your rabbit.