How Smart Are Rabbits? What’s Behind Those Twitching Noses

How smart are rabbits

How smart are rabbits? Are they as intelligent as other pets? How can you ensure your rabbit is as smart as he can be?

Unfortunately, rabbits are misunderstood by many as “dumb” or “useless” animals. But those people don’t know just how smart rabbits are (and I feel sorry for them). And, lucky you, you’re about to find out!

Today, you’ll learn just how smart rabbits are and how you can give your rabbit what his mind needs to be as smart as he can. Let’s get started!

Are Rabbits Smart?

Rabbits are brilliant. They’re not as intelligent as humans, of course, but they’re much more than their instincts. Not only can rabbits be house-trained, but they can also recognize their name and even a few other commands.

They also love puzzle games and other brain teasers. Because of this love for logical thinking, I’ve found rabbits to be great at busting out of their enclosures, which is why it’s so important to keep your rabbits entertained.

Rabbits need stimulation and enrichment. Being alone and in a cage all day with nothing to do can be terrible for a rabbit’s mental health. They need mental and social stimulation and some challenges to make their minds and bodies work.

As smart as rabbits are, they should always be supervised. When exploring and having fun, they can make poor decisions that can get them into trouble, like chewing on wires or other dangerous household items. So, make sure your home is rabbit-proofed before letting them explore.

What Makes a Rabbit “Smart”?

Simply put, there are four ways to look at rabbit intelligence:

  • Instinctual Intelligence means having strong instincts (like being apprehensive of predatory animals, their natural foraging instincts, and the flight/fight/freeze instinct) and relying heavily on these instincts.
  • Inherent Intelligence comes from your rabbit’s pedigree or genes. Some rabbit breeds are said to be more intelligent, like Belgian Hares, Lops, and Netherland Dwarf rabbits.
  • Emotional Intelligence is the ability to feel emotions. Although there isn’t much research on rabbit emotions, I can tell you from personal experience that rabbits can be very emotional. Rabbits are no strangers to emotions like happiness, anger, fear, and sadness. They can also feel complex emotions like jealousy, grief, and depression.
  • Human-Perceived Intelligence: This means trainability, obedience, solving puzzles, doing tricks, and understanding human language. Most rabbits don’t demonstrate as much of this kind of intelligence as dogs, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Many rabbits can learn to do tricks.

Are Rabbits Smarter Than Other Pets?

are rabbits smarter than other pets

It’s not fair to compare rabbits to other animals. It’s a lot like comparing apples to oranges. A rabbit’s brain just doesn’t work like a cat’s or a dog’s. But if you HAD to compare them, a rabbit would be more like a cat.

They can be housetrained and do a few tricks, but for the most part, they like to do their own thing. Again, rabbits are smart in their own ways, like exploring, foraging, and other things a rabbit should know.

Are Domestic Rabbits Smarter Than Wild Rabbits? 

Again, it’s not right to compare the two because even though they’re the same animal, they don’t think the same way. Years of breeding and human socialization have changed rabbits, some say even physically.

Wild rabbits aren’t wise about the ways of a domesticated rabbit, but they could adjust if need be. However, a domestic rabbit probably couldn’t adjust to life outdoors. After generations of being tame, a house rabbit doesn’t know how to live in the wild.

That doesn’t mean that a wild rabbit is necessarily more intelligent. It’s like being school smart as opposed to street-smart. It’s all about your perspective and how you define intelligence.

Can Rabbits Understand Their Humans? 

Rabbits can understand their humans to a certain extent. They can’t understand as many words as a dog, but they can understand their name and a few commands. And, no matter what they try to make you think, they CAN understand the word “no.”

Are Rabbits Easy to Train?

Every rabbit is different, but they are generally easy to train. However, trainability depends on things like their age since younger rabbits take to training without the resistance that an older rabbit would have. Some breeds are also said to be easier to train, but I’ve never seen a difference.

Another factor is what you’re training your rabbit to do.

Litter training a rabbit is relatively easy if you use these steps. Tricks, however, may prove to be a bit difficult. But it CAN happen. I’ve never trained my rabbits to do tricks beyond standing on their hind legs or doing a spin for a treat. However, I’ve known plenty of rabbit owners who have taught their rabbits to do other tricks, like going through an obstacle course.

Do Rabbits Get Bored Easily?

Because rabbits are so intelligent, they become bored quickly, and when that happens, they tend to get destructive. I’ve had rabbits break out of their cages and wreak havoc, but that was before I knew better.

If they can’t find a way to have fun or do something, they can become stressed, restless, or depressed. Social and mental stimulation are paramount to a rabbit’s mental health, which is why it’s so beneficial to have two rabbits instead of one.

Rabbits get bored when not mentally stimulated

How to Keep Your Rabbit From Getting Bored

The number-one way to keep your rabbit from getting bored is to keep his mind occupied. Spend time with your rabbit, play with him, and make sure your bond is tight.

When you can’t spend time with your rabbit, make sure he has lots of space to run around, not including exercise space. In my opinion, free-roam rabbits are always happier and able to exercise their mind.

And speaking of mind exercises, your rabbit needs plenty of those too. That means brain games, some fun and challenging toys, and non-destructive ways to act on their instincts, like foraging and burrowing.

How to Test Your Rabbit’s Intelligence

After reading this, you’re probably dying to calculate your rabbit’s intelligence. And luckily, there are plenty of fun ways to test your rabbit’s smarts!

Before starting, remember that rabbits are very food motivated, which means that if you want them to do something, you’ll need some tasty treats to get and keep their attention.

Here are some ways to test your rabbit’s intelligence:

  • Puzzle toys like this one from Boomcat.
  • Create a maze or use a tunnel and time how long it takes to get out.
  • Play “Hide and Snack” by stashing treats all over the room.
  • Play the shell game with a treat and three tippable food bowls. You can also do this with a treat in one hand or with this toy.

Can You Make Your Rabbit Smarter?

Are rabbits intelligent

Of course, you can make your rabbit smarter! By playing lots of challenging brain games, letting your rabbit explore (safely, of course), and providing fun things to do, your rabbit can become more intelligent.

But really, the best way to make your rabbit smarter is to ensure your rabbit gets everything he needs to be as intelligent, happy, and healthy as possible. That means providing a balanced diet with all the right vitamins and nutrients to keep his brain healthy, proper housing with a spacious, clean environment, and enrichment and challenges to keep his brain active.

Does a Rabbit’s Welfare Tie Into Intelligence?

The All-Ears Study analyzed the connection between rabbit welfare and the owner’s perception of their pet’s intelligence.

The researchers wanted to understand how owners’ beliefs about rabbits’ intelligence and emotions affect how they care for them. They surveyed 1516 rabbit owners about their rabbit’s living conditions and behavior, as well as the owner’s perceptions of rabbits.

The study found that owners who believed that rabbits were intelligent and capable of feeling pain and emotions, were more likely to provide their rabbits with a varied and appropriate diet, more enrichment, a companion, and appropriate housing.

Simply put, people who think their rabbits are more intelligent are much more likely to give them the proper care and attention.


Rabbits are incredibly misunderstood as unintelligent when they are just as intelligent as any cat or dog, just in their own ways.

Most rabbits are easily trained and can even do some tricks. But usually, rabbits will stick to doing what they want. And believe me, if your rabbit wants to do something, he will find a way to do it.

Without proper welfare, a rabbit can’t reach his potential and may become stressed, bored, or depressed. So, above all, the best way to ensure your rabbit is as smart as he can be is to give him the absolute best care you can.

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