Why Do Rabbits Lick You? 11 Reasons for This Common Behavior

beige rabbit in the grass

If you’ve ever questioned, why do rabbits lick you, then you have come to the right place. Like other species, they have unique and, sometimes, quirky ways to express themselves. Licking is one of those. So if you’ve ever wondered, why your pet rabbit couldn’t seem to resist showering you with licks and kisses? Let’s have a look at these interesting signs of affection.

Why Do Rabbits Lick?   

Licking is an ingrained behavior in rabbits, meaning nature hard-wired them to do so. While humans use their hands to explore the world, pet rabbits rely on their mouths to sample the different tastes and textures in their environment. Their whiskers, teeth, and tongue serve as tools, allowing them to gather information and interact with their surroundings.  

Being social creatures, rabbits, especially domestic rabbits, will often give a little lick as a show of affection.

Note: Even though licking is perfectly normal for rabbit, excessive licking isn’t. So if you notice your rabbit licking excessively, it could be a sign that something’s not right with your fur baby.  

white rabbit licking his paw

Why Does Your Rabbit Lick You?   

Because rabbit behaviors are all unique, there’s no one-size-fits-all explanation for why your rabbit licks you. The main reason often depends on the individual bunny and the rabbit’s body language. If you find yourself at the receiving end of a little lick, it’s a good sign that your pet may be trying to tell you any of the following:   

1. I Trust You  

Rabbits are skittish by nature. Some buns hate being held, even by their humans, and they’re ready to hop away at the first hint of danger. So when your pet starts giving you this sign of affection, take it as a sign of trust. It’s like he’s saying he feels cozy and safe around you and that fleeing is farthest from his mind.  

2. Sign of Love  

Licking is a rabbit’s way of showing affection. As social animals, both wild and domesticated buns lick each other all the time to show acceptance and approval of their kind. That’s why consider it a huge compliment when your furry friend starts showering you with licks. It means he sees you as part of his family and wants to make you feel included and loved.  

3. I Want to Smell Nice and Clean   

Their status as prey animals makes it vital for bunnies to remain as scentless as possible because strong odors help predators track them down. As such, natural rabbit behavior is to keep themselves clean all the time. They also do a lot of mutual grooming of their clan for the same reason.  

4. You Smell Good  

Having over 100 million scent cells give rabbits an excellent sense of smell. They use that ability to find food and sense predators. Have you noticed how your bun’s sniffer keeps twitching? That’s your furball’s way of processing the various scents in his surroundings.   

You’re part of his environment, and if your furry pal catches a whiff of something he likes, he may give you a tongue bath to find out if you taste as good as you smell. Rabbits love to eat, so your bun will be interested in anything that seems appetizing.  

5. You Taste Good  

Rabbits are curious social creatures, and we mentioned that licking is one of the ways they explore the world. If your bun smells something appealing, he might investigate it further by licking. Don’t be surprised if the gentle tongue lashing continues as buns usually like the salty taste on human skin.  

Also, maybe you spilled a tasty drink on your hand, or your pet finds the scent of your lotion intriguing. Licking you is like a taste test; if you pass the flavor exam, he might return for more.  

6. You’re the Boss   

In the wild, rabbits live in groups with a strict hierarchy. A dominant rabbit always calls the shots, and submissive rabbits follow the leader. These lower-ranked buns are also expected to groom their fellow rabbits. When your bunny licks you, it’s his way of acknowledging your authority and showing that he sees you as the top bun.   

7. I’m the Boss  

Well, licking isn’t always a sign that your rabbit considers you the head bun. It could also mean he’s claiming that title and thinks you are part of his territory. It’s like he’s saying, “You’re mine,” using his tongue and scent glands.   

Understanding whether it’s submission or dominance that’s behind the licks can be tricky. You’ll need to look at other indicators of authority to determine if your pet is crowning himself the king. These signs include biting (not nibbling), lunging at you, nudging, and growling.  

brown rabbit licking his back

8. I’ve Got the Hots for You   

Your bun could bond with you so strongly that he sees you as a part of their family, to the point that he develops romantic feelings for you. That could be a bit awkward, but nothing to be alarmed about as it is normal behavior for a maturing rabbit.   

Rabbits reach sexual maturity between 2 and 6 months old, depending on the breed. If your intact fur baby is around that age and has started licking you constantly, he might be trying to woo you. Regardless of if you have a male or female rabbit, there is a good chance they both might exhibit these behaviors. Of course, simple affection for you as his human could also be the reason for the tongue baths.   

Other signs can confirm if your pet sees you as a love match. These include circling your feet, making uncustomary honking or grunting sounds, chinning (rubbing his chin on you), and mounting while biting your foot.  

9. Feed Me  

When your fluffy bunny starts giving you those sweet licks, he might be saying, “I’m starving, human!” Consider this reason if your furball gives your hand insistent tongue lashes around dinnertime.  

Other behavior might accompany the licks, indicating that you have a hungry bunny. These are sniffing the air while standing on his hind legs, running to his food bowl after catching your attention, or even tossing the bowl after picking it up with his teeth.  

10. Sign of a Happy Rabbit  

The sheer pleasure of being with you could drive your pet to give you friendly licks. You see, when rabbits are happy and content, they show this in various adorable ways. Aside from binkying, licking is a bunny’s way of expressing their signs of affection.  

So if your bun starts showering you with licks, consider yourself lucky. It’s a sign that you’re doing a great job at keeping your furry friend feeling safe and loved.  

11. Sign of Boredom  

Being intelligent animals, rabbits need physical and mental stimulation to prevent boredom. If your rabbit lacks exercise, interaction with a human companion, or fun activities, it could lick you just for something to do.  

Boredom could lead to destructive behaviors, such as eating paper, chewing wires, and digging on the carpet. Provide your rabbit with toys and frequent playing to keep him occupied and prevent excessive licking.  

As you can see, the answer to the question why does my rabbit lick me varies. Your fluffy little buddy might be trying to show some affection, mark you as part of his territory, or even enjoy the salty taste of your skin.  

Should you discourage the habit? Better not. Imagine the effect on your bun if he’s licking you to show affection, and you try to stop it. But if you are uncomfortable with the act you could employ several techniques to lessen or eliminate the licking. Anti-licking sprays and behavior modification are some of those.  

More on Rabbit Behavior

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