In the cartoon Bambi, the rabbit Panpan meets a pretty bunny. When the rabbit approaches Panpan’s muzzle to greet him, he starts tapping the ground with his hind leg in a frenzied manner. But your pet rabbit is also tapping his foot without you being able to make the connection with such a situation. So why does it do this?
Rabbit body language
In the wild, rabbits live in colonies. To organize their social life, communication is essential. Rabbits have a wide range of possibilities: attitudes, movements and noises. The domesticated rabbit has not lost these skills and you will find them in your rabbit.
The position of the body, the position of the ears or the tail subtly combine to express submission, fear, aggression, relaxation or curiosity. Rabbits can quickly modulate their body position to match that of their fellow rabbits and avoid conflicts most of the time.
As a rabbit owner, it will be useful for you to learn about rabbit body language. Even if he knows that you are not a rabbit yourself, he will communicate with you in his rabbit way. It will be easier to tame your pet by using its language. For example, you can get down on your stomach and greet your rabbit by rubbing your nose against its nose, or you can rub your feet on the floor, as if you wanted to wipe them off, to show your displeasure at one of its stupidities. This will be very effective.
Ears that are upright indicate an alert rabbit, if they are bent forward, the rabbit is curious, bent backward a little, the rabbit is relaxed, but more so, the rabbit is aggressive, etc.
You can thus understand the potential vulnerability of ram rabbits for which breed standards require that the ears be well drooped and immobile. These rabbits are more easily subject to sudden aggression from other rabbits with more mobile and non-falling ears. However, let’s not make complete victims of these rabbits because they still have olfactory and auditory communication, and visual communication using their legs and tail.
Your rabbit is tapping its foot
Some happy rabbit owners wake up in the middle of the night because their rabbit is tapping its hind leg on the ground without knowing what to do to make it stop. Given your knowledge of rabbit body language, you know that the rabbit means something. But what does it mean?
Half asleep, you have only one fear, that it will wake up the neighbor or other people in the household, and one desire, that it will put you back to sleep. Then daybreak comes and you have to find a solution.
Rabbits have peaks of activity at dawn and dusk and don’t sleep through the night in one sitting, waking up quite often. During these waking phases, they react to their environment.
When the rabbit taps its hind leg, it usually expresses concern about a danger and wants to inform its colony. Even if your rabbit is alone in its cage, which is not very good for its morale, it will be eager to communicate its fear. And the noise and vibration of its paws are meant to be perceived all the way underground, in the tunnels of the burrow.
These paws can also show annoyance: something is annoying your rabbit. In this case, not only does it hit with its hind leg, it may also make a high-pitched growl.
Another way to distinguish between fear and annoyance is to observe the attitude of other rabbits. In the first case, the others will freeze to identify the danger, and may even start tapping their paws as well. If they haven’t perceived anything particularly threatening, they will go about their business, but it will still be a source of stress to hear his blows. In the second case, the other rabbits will remain indifferent as soon as the noise starts.
Finding the cause to get back to sleep
If the problem persists over time, your sleep may suffer. By moving the cage away from your room, you can reduce the nuisance. But it won’t solve the problem your rabbit is obviously facing.
The rabbit is a fearful animal because it is vulnerable. So the only solution is to find out what is worrying him so much. If your rabbit is alone, it may be anxious to be without a companion. Perhaps he sees a shadow that has started to move with the wind and that he finds threatening. To test this hypothesis, you can cover his cage with a sheet to limit his vision at night. If he already has a companion, it could be a conflict between the two rabbits.
In any case, you will need to spend some time observing your animal (and its possible companions) to understand the situation and find a solution to calm it down.