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Why Do Rabbits Thump Their Feet?

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Rabbits are interesting animals that display many different behaviors to communicate with other rabbits, animals, and human family members. While rabbits do not tend to be vocal, they do communicate in other ways, such as thumping their feet. But why do rabbits thump their feet? Knowing the reasons will help you better communicate with your pet rabbit as time goes on. Here, we outline the common reasons that rabbits thump their feet and what, if anything, you can do about it if the thumping becomes annoying or distracting.

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Thumping Out of Fear

One of the most common reasons that a rabbit thumps their feet is due to fear. If a loud noise, earthquake, or power outage happens, your rabbit could become alarmed and start to thump one or both of their back feet. They may even become alarmed about something that you are not aware of, like a wild animal trying to get in through the cat door or sniffing around the windows.

If alarmed or scared, your rabbit will continue to thump their foot or feet until they feel that the threat has disappeared altogether. This could take seconds or several minutes. It all depends on the specific situation. You can soothe your rabbit by checking out the source of the problem and addressing it if possible. Stroking the rabbit and speaking to them calmly can help soothe your scared rabbit until the perceived threat passes.

black otter rex rabbit-pixabay
Image Credit: macdeedle, Pixabay

Thumping to Frighten Others

Another reason that rabbits thump their feet is to defend themselves and scare a perceived predator away. This happens when the rabbit feels sure that the noise will frighten a predator and improve their chance of survival. The thumping is a warning sign for would-be predators to turn away and look for another prey. For example, this could happen if a rat enters the space surrounding a rabbit or when a noise is heard that does not yet seem like an imminent threat. When a rabbit thumps their feet to drive possible predators away, they typically sit in an upright position with their ears on alert at the same time.

Thumping to Express Frustration

Sometimes, rabbits get frustrated for one reason or another. Some call it throwing a tantrum, which in some cases, could be true. Most of the time, rabbits thump their feet in frustration for good reasons. They might lack wooden toys to chew on or need their water refreshed so they do not end up drinking urine, fees, or debris.

They may be upset because their rabbit friends are taking over all the fun stuff in their habitat. Or they could be trying to defend their territory from new habitat members. Foot thumping can even be a sign of irritation due to a lack of expected treats. Also, if your rabbit is stopped from doing an activity that they enjoy, thumping could be the result.

rabbit on hay grass
Image Credit: Kevinsphotos, Pixabay

Thumping to Get Attention

Most rabbits love to get attention from their human companions. If they do not get as much attention as they expect, they could start thumping their feet at you. This most commonly happens on days when the humans in the household are too busy to pay as much attention to their pet rabbit as they usually do. For example, the whole family might go on an outing from morning until night or go camping for the weekend while the rabbit stays at home alone. Once returning home, you can soothe your rabbit and their thumping feet with a cuddle and a conversation.

Thumping to Get Food

Sometimes, rabbits want to eat when there is no food available. Other times, they will do so to gain access to their favorite snacks. If your rabbit loves strawberries, carrots, or popcorn and has not had any in a while, they may thump their feet while sitting at their food dish or in their favorite snack spot in an attempt to get the food that they are craving. Another common reason for thumping tantrums is when a rabbit is put in their habitat at bedtime when they do not feel ready to head in for a snooze.

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Imaeg Credit: Ivonne Wierink, Shutterstock

Do Rabbits Thump Their Feet for No Reason?

The truth is that rabbits never thump for feet for no reason. They could be doing it for one or more of the reasons discussed here, or they could be doing it simply because they enjoy doing so. In any case, it is important for us rabbit owners to discover the reason for our rabbit’s foot thumping, to ensure that we are meeting all their needs and expectations the best that we can. Pay attention to the other behaviors that your rabbit is displaying while thumping their feet.

If they are doing so near their food or water dish, chances are that they are hungry (or have the munchies) or thirsty. If they thump their feet in the middle of the night, they are probably trying to warn a would-be predator that they perceive is hanging out somewhere within the vicinity. If you put on your detective hat, you should always be able to find a reason for your rabbit’s foot thumping.

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In Conclusion

Rabbits are interesting animals that deserve the time and attention it takes to discover what they are trying to communicate to us. The thumping of feet can mean various things, but it should not take long to figure out why the thumping is happening. The most important thing to do is pay close attention to your rabbit’s communication cues at any given time to determine their needs and help them live their happiest, healthiest life.


Featured Image Credit: No-longer-here, Pixabay

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Rachael has been a freelance writer since 2000, in which time she has had an opportunity to research and write about many different topics while working to master the art of fusing high-quality content with effective content marketing strategies. She is an artist at heart and loves to read, paint, and make jewelry in her spare time. As a vegan, Rachael is obsessed with helping animals in need both in her community and anywhere in the world where she feels she can make a difference. Animals also happen to be her favorite topic to write about! She lives off the grid in Hawaii with her husband, her garden, and her rescue animals including 5 dogs, a cat, a goat, and dozens of chickens.