Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Rabbits > Why Does My Rabbit Lick Me? 15 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Why Does My Rabbit Lick Me? 15 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

hands holding a rabbit

Vet approved

Dr. Lauren Demos Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

If you’re an animal lover who has recently entered the realm of pet rabbit ownership, you will quickly have realized that rabbits don’t communicate like cats or dogs. They may appear not to be as expressive or communicative as your other pets, but the truth is they are “talking” to you all the time.

Rabbits have many curious means of interacting with one another and with you. Licking is a very important way in which rabbits try to communicate with you, and although not all rabbits will lick their humans, many do. There isn’t only one reason that bunnies do this but, rather, several possible explanations. Read on to discover 15 reasons why your rabbit licks you.


The 15 Common Reasons Why Your Rabbit Lick You

1.  Affection

One of the most simple and probable reasons that your rabbit licks you is affection. If your bunny’s licks are gentle and consistent, then it’s just showing you that it likes you. It’s their way of returning the love and care that you provide them with. Think of those little licks as bunny kisses.

Wild and domestic rabbits living in groups, or colonies, do this to each other all the time—to show that they accept and approve of one another. Licking for affection is closely related to the next point on our list.

pet rabbits on the bed
Image By: Alla Relian, Shutterstock

2.  Grooming

Body cleanliness and grooming is an instinctive built-in behavior in most animals. As prey animals, it is even more important for rabbits to remain as clean and scentless as possible to avoid attracting predators.

Licking is one of the ways that rabbits groom themselves and each other. There is a significant incentive for keeping other members of the colony clean too, since the colony is only as strong as its weakest member.

When your bunny licks you, it is showing you that it accepts you as part of its colony and wants to groom you, along with its other fluffy mates.

3.  Trust

This reason is closely linked to the first two. If your rabbit affectionately licks or grooms you, then this is a good indication that they also trust you. Sometimes, all they are communicating by licking you is their trust in you. The licking may then evolve into a show of affection or an act of grooming, or they may simply lick you in acknowledgement of their trust and leave it at that.

4.  Texture

A rabbit’s mouth and tongue are very important sensory organs, and they use them—along with their other senses—to understand their environment. They may become fond of licking a particular part of your body because of its texture. They may enjoy that your skin is rough, extra wrinkly, smooth, or even hairy! Alternatively, they may take a fancy to a certain fabric of your clothing and start licking it repetitively because it feels good to them.

rabbit lying on the carpet
Image By: ZouZou, Shutterstock

5.  Smell

Rabbits have a keen sense of smell, which they use to find food and sense predators, amongst other things. You may notice your bunny’s nose is constantly twitching, as it smells the many scents of its environment and in the air.

You are also one of the objects in its environment, and if you have a smell on you that your rabbit finds particularly alluring, it may lick you to taste what the smell could be—as your bunny is particularly interested in anything that may prove to be edible!

Your bunny may also lick you if it thinks you smell dirty, in which case, it may commence grooming you to an acceptably clean state!

6.  Taste

Following on from the previous point, if your bunny smells something attractive on you, it is likely to sample the smell by tasting it. If the taste meets with his approval, he may well continue licking for enjoyment’s sake.

Our skins are salty as a result of pore secretions that are part of our normal bodily functions, and some rabbits will lick a human’s skin because they enjoy the saltiness.

7.  Submission

Rabbits exhibit hierarchy within their colonies, which they consider you to be a member of. One way that they signal their acceptance of you being dominant over them is by licking you in a certain way. Rabbits that rank lower in the hierarchy are expected to groom their superiors. Particularly, they will groom the head—the ears, eyes and forehead. However, the bunny who is receiving the beauty treatment will not be in a submissive stance—it will likely be relaxed, with its head raised confidently.

So, if your bunny tries to lick your face, this might mean that it views you as the Big-Bun!

English Lop rabbit
Image By: Krit Akaravanich, Shutterstock

8. Dominance

Having just read the previous point, this point may seem confusing. How can licking signify both submission and dominance? To add to the confusion, a dominant rabbit will also lick a submissive rabbit’s eyes, ears, and face. However, there is a clear difference in the submissive rabbit’s body language that signifies its deference. The lower-ranking bunny will lower its head to the ground, making itself smaller and more vulnerable.

Whilst it’s easy to distinguish dominance amongst the rabbit colony, it’s not as easy to tell if your rabbit is showing dominance over you if it is licking your face. It could equally be showing you that it loves you.

There are, however, other indicators that your bunny is trying to dominate you, and if it exhibits any of these, combined with face licking, then you may conclude that it is showing dominant licking behavior.

Other Dominant Behavior To Look Out For:
  • Aggression towards you
  • Charging or lunging at you
  • Biting you (not to be mistaken for nibbling, which is an affectionate gesture)
  • Refusing to be handled or touched
  • Trying to move you out of their way, or just move you from your chosen spot

An overly-dominant bunny can be no fun as a pet, and even have the potential to hurt small children. If your rabbit is displaying signs of overt dominance, you may want to consider having it spayed or neutered.

9.  Boredom

Even instinctive habits that normally have a useful purpose can become bad habits. This is also the case with licking. If your bunny is not receiving enough attention, exercise, or stimulation, it may become bored and express its boredom by excessive licking. If you happen to be around when they’re bored, then you may well become the subject of the mindless licking.

10.  Territory

Rabbits will often lick things to claim them as their territory, and licking you is no different. By licking you, your rabbit may simply be letting all the other rabbits and household pets know that you belong to them. Whilst this may be correctly interpreted by other rabbits in the home, other species may not understand such a statement being made.

Young wild rabbit running in the grass
Image Credit: Fritz_the_cat, Pixabay

11.  Courtship

Uh-oh! Yep, your rabbit may have accepted you so thoroughly as a part of its colony, that it might develop the “hots” for you! You should be flattered, rather than alarmed. Whilst this may feel a bit awkward, just be thankful you’re not dealing with a pet bull with amorous inclinations!

Rabbits reach sexual maturity anywhere from 2–6 months of age, depending on the breed. If you are unsure whether your bunny is trying to woo you with its licking, other signs might confirm this.

Unneutered and unspayed rabbits will also exhibit some or all of the following courtship signs:
  • Trying to mount you or your foot, coupled with biting
  • Following you around and circling your feet
  • Constantly sniffing you
  • Making distinct and unusual grunting or honking sounds
  • Rubbing their chin on you, known as “chinning”

12. Greeting

Your bunny’s casual passing lick might just be its cute way of saying “Hi!”—whether you are seeing each other for the first time that day, or if you had left the room and returned. It’s just your rabbit’s way of acknowledging your presence, and making sure that you know it notices and appreciates you.

13. Hunger

Holland Lops rabbit breed. A brown rabbit is eating mango in garden home
Image Credit: Noypb, Shutterstock

Particularly if your bunny licks your hand, it could mean that it is asking you to feed it. If this is the case, their licking will also be accompanied by other behaviors—they might also dig in (or around) their food bowl, stare at you expectantly, stand up on their hind legs sniffing the air, run back and forth between you and their food bowl, or even pick up their food bowl with their teeth and throw it around.

14. Happiness

Bunnies lick because it’s instinctive. So sometimes, their licking simply means that they’re happy and content enough to exhibit natural, relaxed behavior. If your bunny licks you regularly, though not obsessively, you can rest assured that it is a happy little camper. You can be certain that whatever it is you are doing as a bunny parent, you are doing it right!

15. Attention Seeking

If your bunny licks your hand, it might be asking you to pet it. You could possibly confuse the hand licking as a request for food, but you can distinguish between the two demands by the accompanying body language.

If your rabbit is also nudging your hand or pushing itself under it—in much the same way that some dogs and cats do when they want to be petted—then it is almost certainly demanding some physical attention.

divider-rabbitpaw1Should I Try and Discourage Licking?

Definitely not! Only if you find it especially unpleasant when your rabbit licks you should you try and discourage it. Most of the time it is showing you affection—telling you that it loves you—and if you try to stop it, you are essentially shunning its love. This could be psychologically damaging to the rabbit and could even lead to other undesirable, perhaps even destructive, behaviors.

Of course, there are almost always exceptions. Rabbits that lick their humans will usually be “lickers” in general. They might enjoy sampling a wide variety of objects by licking. If your rabbit falls into this category, then you will need to keep a watchful eye on it to ensure it makes sensible decisions of what is safe to lick and what is not. If your rabbit is undiscerning in its choices,f then you may need to discourage the behavior to prevent it from licking something dangerous or poisonous.

If you would like to dissuade your bunny from excessive licking, it is first advisable to consult with your veterinarian to establish if there’s a health reason for the behavior. If your bunny receives the all-clear, then there are a few things you can try to discourage the licking, such as behavior reinforcement and anti-licking sprays.

What if My Rabbit Doesn’t Lick Me?

If your bunny is not a “licker”, don’t worry, this doesn’t mean it doesn’t love or trust you. There are many other ways in which your pet rabbit might communicate its affection for you, such as:

  • Chinning: A non-threatening territorial gesture that rabbits carry out to claim ownership of whatever they are chinning. Rabbits have scent glands under their chins, and they rub these on whatever they want to lay ownership to.
  • Binkies: A distinctly bunny act of jumping for joy, like little springs, that are a sign that your bunny is a super happy chappy!
  • Flopping: Exactly how it sounds, flopping is when your bunny is so relaxed that it demonstratively flops down into a lying position. It’s even more telling if it flops down near you, signaling that it loves you and feels secure around
  • Purring: Yes, bunnies pur! They only do this when they are completely relaxed and happy, so if your bunny purs with you, it’s a sure sign that it likes you very much.
  • Lap-sitting: If your bunny appears to enjoy sitting on your lap, then you may be certain that it likes you. An even greater demonstration of its love for you is if it comes and jumps onto your lap of its own!


Distinguishing between all the different kinds of licking behaviors may be a bit difficult at first. Whilst some types of licking are simple to interpret, others are not quite as easy to discern. However, as time goes by, you will learn to decipher the subtle differences and become confident in understanding what your bunny is saying to you in each moment.

Featured Image Credit: MorningbirdPhoto, Pixabay

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets