If you’ve never heard or seen a rabbit thump before, or you’re new to owning rabbits, then your only reference is probably Thumper from Bambi, who thumped when he got “over-excited.”
While the whole “they call me Thumper” gimmick is cute, it’s not exactly an accurate depiction of why rabbits thump. But then again, Disney movies aren’t exactly known for their accuracy. The reality is that when a rabbit thumps, it’s usually not a good thing.
Today, you’re going to learn about all the reasons a rabbit thumps and, more importantly, what you can do to make it stop. Let’s get started.
Do Rabbits Thump to Communicate With Each Other?
Rabbits thump to communicate with each other and, in some cases, you. It’s one of their more noticeable methods of getting their point across since they’re not vocal like birds, cats, and dogs.
In the wild, a rabbit thumps to signal other rabbits, both above ground and in the burrow. A rabbit’s sonar-sharp hearing can pick up the vibrations underground (if they’re close enough). The sound warns other unsuspecting or vulnerable rabbits of a nearby threat.
Alternatively, your rabbit may be communicating with the threat itself. For instance, rabbits will thump on the ground to say, “I know you’re there, and I’m ready to run” to a predator. Rabbits also thump to ward off other rabbits that get too close to their territory, breeding partner, or nest.
Do Rabbits Thump When They’re Scared?
Most of the time, when a rabbit is thumping, it’s because he feels scared or threatened. Even if the supposed “threat” is nowhere near your rabbit or his line of sight, it could still scare him. In fact, this could even be more frightening.
If a rabbit is startled or surprised by something quick (for example, being surprised by you coming into the room too quickly), it will only thump once or twice, a few moments apart.
When a rabbit is scared by something or senses danger, he will thump multiple times, only seconds apart. He will also look tense, with his ears straight up.
Let’s talk about some things that scare your rabbits enough to thump.
Most animals hate being watched, more specifically, stared at. For predatory animals like cats and dogs, this is a challenge. However, for animals like rabbits, it feels a lot like you’re hunting them. They don’t say, “watch him like a hawk” for nothing. So, if your rabbit starts thumping and you can’t understand why it could be because he feels something is watching him.
You may think I’m crazy, but when I first got my rabbit Chile, he would thump like crazy at night, even after I did my best to eliminate every possible threat. I was up late to finish writing when he started again. I looked out my window, and looking back at me and Chile was a big black feral cat.
While my rabbit is used to my cat, this one was unfamiliar and had no intention of being his friend. To put it plainly: it was stalking my rabbit through the window because it was hungry. My solution? To start, I scared the cat off. I had to do it a couple of nights in a row before it got the message. I also installed curtains that I keep closed every night.
Loud or Unusual Sounds
Again, rabbits have sonar-sharp hearing, meaning they can hear the faintest sounds even humans can’t hear. But what that also means is that loud noises are even louder to them as well. Loud bangs from the Television, barking dogs, and your neighbour’s lawn mower are all things that could scare your rabbit and cause him to start thumping like he’s in danger.
When I had my first rabbit, I made the mistake of leaving the laundry room door open, and she got extremely scared by the sound of the water heater tank and started incessantly thumping until it stopped. I never thought how loud it actually was for her since I was used to it.
That’s why giving your rabbits a quiet, safe space is crucial. Too much hustle and bustle can cause a rabbit to become stressed, which could progress into more severe issues.
Like their sense of hearing, rabbits also have a wicked sense of smell that they can use to detect food, their friends, and predators. If your rabbit smells something off or different, especially if he smells an unfamiliar animal, this could set him off thumping like a pro-drummer.
If you can’t find what’s scaring your rabbit enough to keep thumping, this could be the cause. Put yourself in a rabbit’s shoes to see what scents can scare a rabbit, and try to find where they’re coming from.
Seeing an Unfamiliar Animal
House rabbits aren’t very much like their wild cousins since many have formed loving bonds with other pets like cats or dogs. It’s ironic since their wild ancestors depended on rabbits as a primary food source. But irony aside, rabbits can recognize their fur brothers and sisters.
However, when a new animal comes into the home, it’s no different than that feral cat I mentioned earlier. Except in this case, it’s in the same room, with no window to separate them. Clearly, this would be a terrifying instance for a rabbit, who could thump as a reaction to that fear.
Alternatively, seeing a new rabbit will also cause your rabbit to thump. It’s always best to have a bonded pair of litter-mates. But that isn’t always possible. In most cases, strange rabbits will thump at each other until someone initiates contact. Then, if they like each other and establish a “pecking order” without violence, it’s safe to start making friendship bracelets for them.
Do Bunnies Thump When They’re Mad?
Some rabbits will thump when they’re mad. Usually, this isn’t out of real anger but more frustration, stress, or slight annoyance. Some rabbits also thump when they’re angry about not being fed on time or when they’re not getting enough attention.
Luckily, this looks very different from fear-thumping. When a rabbit is tantrum-thumping, he has relaxed body language, and the thumps are less frequent.
How to End Tantrum-Thumping
If you have kids, you know that giving into tantrums will get you nowhere in the long run. We’re just blessed that rabbits don’t scream and cry like kids do. Either way, if your rabbit is thumping out of anger, it’s likely because he doesn’t feel he’s getting everything he needs. And most animals aren’t selfish, so he might just be trying to tell you something.
Check to see if your rabbit has everything he needs, meaning food, water, and enrichment. If you only have one rabbit, I highly suggest getting another one since that social interaction is vital for a rabbit’s mental well-being.
If your rabbit’s trying to get your attention, then simply pay attention to him. Spend some time petting or playing with your rabbit, and ensure you spend enough time with him. That should solve the problem!
Do Rabbits Thump When in Pain?
Sometimes, when a rabbit’s in pain, he will thump his feet to release the stress of pain. This kind of thumping will usually be accompanied by teeth grinding. If you can’t find a cause for the pain, take your rabbit to a trusted vet, in case it’s something internal.
Do Rabbits Thump When They Are Happy?
Rabbits only thump when they are afraid, challenging another rabbit, are in pain, or are angry. The only instance would be when they want to play and thump to get your attention. However, this technically means they’re mad about not already having that attention.
Why is My Rabbit Stomping at Night?
Rabbits mostly stomp at night because they’re scared. There could be things you don’t know or realize that scare your rabbit (refer to my stories about the water heater and feral cat).
Or, your rabbit could simply be bored, and if you’ve woken up to check on him and comfort him before, he has likely learned that thumping can get you up for some cuddles.
How to Get Your Rabbit to Stop Thumping at Night
If your rabbit stomps at night because he’s scared, find and remove the cause. And, if your rabbit’s stomping because he’s bored, give him something to do while everyone else is asleep.
Since rabbits don’t usually sleep at the same time humans do, make sure your rabbit has a list of things he can do to occupy his mind at night. If your rabbit spends the night in an enclosure, consider giving him more space.
Why Does My Rabbit Thump After Being Let Out to Run/Play?
When your rabbit is kept inside an enclosure (no matter how large), he’s bound to get bored at some point. If your rabbit starts thumping when you let him out to run or play, he may be trying to tell you that he doesn’t like being in the enclosure.
In that case, think about letting your rabbit go free roam so that there is always enough space to run around and hide if there is danger.
Why Does My Rabbit Thump After Being Held?
Most rabbits despise being held and cuddled like a doll. So, if your rabbit kicks his feet up at you or stomps a few times after you hold him, or he thumps and runs away when you’re trying to pick him up, you can take that as a sign that he wants nothing to do with being held.
A Thumping-Good Conclusion
Happy rabbits don’t thump, so if your rabbit starts playing “Happy Feet,” he’s definitely discontent about something. At the end of the day, there are only a few main reasons. Mainly, it’s fear that causes a rabbit to thump. But, they have also been known to express their anger through stomping and may express mild annoyance with you by thumping their feet.
Rabbits are also really smart. If they learn that thumping will get them what they want, you can bet they’ll milk it. Luckily, body language is a dead giveaway for deciphering fear thumping and anger or boredom thumping. Whichever it is, the only real solution is to find out what’s causing your rabbit’s thumping habit, eliminate any threats, and ensure lots of fun things to do.