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We all know that pet rabbits show us love and provide us companionship, but do pet rabbits actually recognize their owners? After decades of keeping bunnies, I can assure you that any rabbit can learn to recognize their owners with the right training and some patience.
Rabbits can recognize their owners, and most do naturally after they’ve been around their owners for some time. How much time it takes for a rabbit to learn its owner depends primarily on how much time the bunny and owner spend together and how safe the bunny feels, but you can speed the process up.
Rabbits are intelligent creatures who can be trained to use litter boxes, do all kinds of tricks, and respond to their names. A rabbit that is bonded with its owner will recognize them by sight, sound, and even smell.
Rabbits have strong memories because they live in the wild as prey. They are naturally programmed to remember safe places and animals, as well as dangerous areas. Therefore, if you take time to bond and spend time with your rabbit they will surely come to know you as their safe friend or even protector.
All rabbits will come to know their owners simply with time and familiarity as long as they have consistent time with their humans and as long as they feel perfectly safe in their environment.
However, you can teach your pet bunny to recognize you more quickly if you follow the tips below. These are tips and tricks that I have personally tried and tested with my pets throughout the years; these tips will help your bunny begin to recognize you more quickly.
It is important again to point out that each rabbit is unique, you might find that you bond more easily with one rabbit than another. Bonding and training take time and patience but I assure you, it is one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have as a pet owner.
Before we dig into the tips, let’s make sure that we all understand how rabbits recognize their owners.
How Rabbits Recognize Their Owners
Rabbits can learn to recognize their owners by sight, sound, or smell and they do so by associating their senses with enjoyable things in their life.
You see, rabbits have more of an associative memory than episodic memory. This means that your bunny remembers things by association, instead of having fond memories of that time that you went for a walk together in the backyard. For example, a clicker sound followed by a treat done a hundred times will teach your rabbit to associate hearing that clicking sound with the anticipation of receiving a treat.
This is essentially how we train rabbits, by associating enjoyable bunny things with behaviors that we want to encourage.
So, if you were to keep a few healthy bunny treats in your pocket, and rewarded your bunny each time she came running up to you, in no time you’d have a bunny that recognized you and was excited to greet you each time you enter the room.
But we have some other tips that will speed up the process and keep your bunny from getting fat from all of those treats.
How To Know If Your Bunny Recogizes You
It’s very easy to know if your rabbit recognizes you. The fact that they don’t hide when you step into a room is a huge factor. This means they don’t see you as a predator and it’s the first step to bonding with your new pet rabbit.
As your bond gets stronger and you move from the ‘not a predator’ zone to the ‘friend and protector’ zone, you’ll begin to see your bunny showing affection in other ways.
7 Signs Your Rabbit Knows And Likes You
Bunnies are affectionate and social pets, but if you are a new rabbit owner, reading a rabbit’s body language to understand if your rabbit knows you and likes you can be tricky. So let’s create a list of 7 signs that your bunny recognizes you and, more importantly, that your bunny likes you.
This is one of the most adorable bunny behaviors, and as such I wrote a whole standalone article about this crazy bunny running, jumping, and twisting behavior that is affectionately called “binkying”. But whether it be a full binky or a half binky this cute rabbit quirk is a sign of a happy and contented rabbit.
If you find that your rabbit sometimes binkies whenever you are around then that is a huge sign that your pet knows you and that they love you.
P.S. That binkying article that I mentioned before also includes some super cute bunny binky videos. If you click here, it will open in a new tab so you can easily come back to this article later.
2. Running In Circles Around Your Feed
Rabbits running around in circles is usually considered a mating or a courting ritual for unfixed rabbits. However, if you have a neutered or a spayed rabbit then this means something else, your bunny loves you!
Rabbits have many ways to show their excitement, running around in circles is one of them. If you’re really lucky they might also combine this with a binky!
3. Demanding Head Rubs
We, humans, are quite familiar with the importance of physical contact when it comes to showing affection and some bunnies share your joy in being rubbed or stroked.
If your bunny nudges you with their nose and sits expectantly by your side then this means that they want something from you, most possibly head rubs. You should indulge in this behavior because it also helps to foster that bunny-human bond, besides it is proven that petting your pets can lower your and your bunny’s stress or anxiety.
4. Flopping And Chilling
Super relaxed rabbits that feel 100% safe and secure sometimes flop and stretch. If your bunny does this behavior near you then this means that they are not only comfortable in your presence but that they consider you a safe friend and maybe even a protector.
Remember that a bunny who is stretched out with its bellies on the ground is a bunny who will not be able to run away as quickly when a predator comes so consider yourself loved because this means that your rabbit trusts you and sees no danger when you are around.
5. Clicking Noises
Clicking noises are caused by tooth clicking that happens when a rabbit rubs their teeth together. This can be hard to hear so you would have to be very quiet and listen carefully.
Tooth clicking is the rabbit equivalent of a cat’s contented purr. Rabbits tend to click their teeth when they are happy or content such as when they’re chilling out beside you or getting their much-demanded head rubs.
6. Licks and Nibbles
Your rabbit might lick or nibble at you, but not because they want to know what you taste like.
In the rabbit kingdom, licking or nibbling is a grooming behavior and a sign of submission. It is also considered to be one of the most obvious signs of affection because bunnies who are bonded will groom each other. Therefore, a bunny who licks and nibbles you means that they accept you as part of their family.
7. Regular Naps
Rabbits sleep a lot, as a matter of fact, it’s one of the most common things that rabbits do during the day (here is a list of everything rabbits do during the day). However, rabbits don’t nap when they feel threatened.
If your bunny naps around you, or even naps when laying in your lap or against your leg, they definitely know you and love you.
8. They Keep A Routine
Rabbits are creatures of habit when they are living the good life. If your rabbit is healthy and happy sharing their home with you, then they will develop a routine that works for the whole household.
For example, they might nap harder before you get home from work or school, just so they are ready to hang out when you get home. How sweet is that?!?!?
9. They Lay Touching You
Bunnies are social animals, and when they feel safe and secure with their house-buddies, they like to lay touching each other.
If your bunny lays so close to you that she’s touching you, then that’s a clear sign that you’re more than just a friend. Enjoy!
P.S. If you’d like a more complete list of rabbit behaviors and what they mean, you should read our article about reading your rabbit’s body language.
How To Get Your Rabbit To Recognize You
For rabbits to recognize you, you need to foster a bond with them. This could involve any of the following activities.
Some rabbits tend to be more aloof than others while other rabbits are more active, curious, and generally easier to bond with.
The secret to bonding with your rabbit is patience. If you provide them the best care, give them the space and time they need. In time, they will surely come to love you.
Bunny Play Time
Spending time with your bunny is the best way to bond with your rabbit and get them to know you and to trust you.
Consistent rabbit playtime is essential to building this bond.
It is better if you can bond in an isolated environment far away from loud sounds. You would like your playtime to be as peaceful as it can be. Rabbits do not like loud and sudden noises and our #1 goal here is to make your bunny feel comfortable.
Avoid chasing your rabbits as this will make you look like a predator. If you’re playing with your rabbit you should go down to their level and gently give them head rubs. Avoid picking up your rabbit while you’re trying to bond, most rabbits do not like to be held so it is better to establish a relationship with them first before carrying them off the ground.
If your rabbit feels comfortable during their playtime with you, they will soon learn to associate this feeling with you.
Bunny Treat Time
I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his belly. Well, I think there is some truth to that, and I know there it also applies to bunnies.
Food is not only a high-value reward but can also be a great bonding tool. If you regularly give your rabbits their favorite snacks then they will soon learn that good food is given by the amazing human.
Just make sure that you don’t feed them and then flee. Instead, feed them and then sit down near their food so they begin to associate you with one of their favorite things…good food! You can start sitting quite a ways away, and then just move a little closer each day until the food bowl is between your legs.
Rabbit treats are also high-value rewards and can be used to teach your rabbit tricks and commands. Litter box training can also be expedited by the use of treats. Once your rabbit uses their litter box correctly, reward them with treats and they’ll know that using the litter box means they’re going to the bathroom in the correct place.
You can also teach rabbits their names using treats. Hold the treat away from your rabbit, ask him to come by saying his name. The rabbit will come near you to get the treat, reward him if he comes to you. He will then associate his name with a good experience and will eventually learn to come when called.
Bunny Talk Time
Rabbits do not need to understand you, they just need to feel safe around you. Soft noises are very soothing to a rabbit. So try to talk to your rabbits in a soft manner, try murmuring to them, this will relax your rabbits. Try talking softly to them while giving them gentle head rubs to soothe them further.
Rabbits are very unlike dogs who require lots of high energy play to bond. Rabbits are known to take a more laid-back approach to life and so you should also adjust your bonding plan according to their needs.
Besides, talking to your rabbit does not only soothe your pet; gentle talking will comfort your rabbit ease any anxiety and tension they are experiencing.
Do not ever handle your rabbit roughly. If you have small children, teach them the proper way to handle a rabbit. Rabbits are used to being prey animals, and if you handle them roughly they expect to be eaten soon.
Also remember that rabbits are fragile pets, and you should avoid dropping your rabbits accidentally. Any fear associated with you might get your bunny to recognize you, but only as a threat and not as someone they like and trust.
Do not ever punish your rabbit. Your bunny might have accidents in the house now and then but that is not a reason to punish your rabbits. Punishing a rabbit will only encourage the rabbit to associate you with bad experiences. That’s not what you want.
I hope I was able to at least give more information about the capability of rabbits to recognize their owners.
Rabbits are social creatures and they thrive when living as part of a family. If you take the time to spend time with your rabbits you will unquestionably become one of the lucky ones who would have been fortunate enough to experience the unconditional love and loyalty that bunnies can provide.
Your Rabbit Friend,