Why Does My Rabbit Lick Me? 6 Reasons Explained

Why Does My Rabbit Lick Me?

Rabbits, being non-vocal animals, communicate through body language which can make it challenging for humans to understand their behavior. As a result, many rabbit owners may wonder about the significance of their pet rabbit’s licking behavior, which is a common occurrence.

Rabbits lick their owners to communicate various things such as affection, seeking attention, or showing dominance. This behavior is a strong indicator of a rabbit’s love and respect towards its owner as it shows recognition and a desire to care for them.

So, while it can be challenging to interpret a rabbit’s behavior, their licking can be a significant sign of their emotions and intentions towards their human companion.

What Does It Mean My Rabbit Is Licking Me?

One common reason rabbits lick their owners is to show affection. Rabbits are social animals and can form strong bonds with their owners, and licking can be a sign of trust and affection.

Another reason a rabbit may lick you is to ask for something, such as food or attention. If a rabbit sees licking as a way to get something they want from you, they may start to lick more frequently to get your attention.

Sometimes, a rabbit may also lick to groom you. Rabbits are clean animals and groom themselves and other rabbits as a form of hygiene and social bonding. If a rabbit licks you, it could be a sign that they see you as part of their social group and want to groom you.

It is essential to pay attention to the rabbit’s body language and behavior to understand the context of their licking. If they seem relaxed and happy while licking, it is likely a sign of affection. But if they appear anxious or agitated, it could indicate that they are asking for something or trying to establish dominance.

Why Does My Rabbit Lick Me?

Licking is a behavior in rabbits that is not necessarily tied to their perception of your cleanliness. Rather, it is a way for them to show affection and establish their status. In return, you can show your rabbit affection by petting its head.

In the wild, rabbits lick themselves to keep clean and avoid leaving a scent that could attract predators. Domestic rabbits also have a natural inclination towards cleanliness and are highly sensitive to dirt due to their delicate constitution.

They are prone to infections that could be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Thus, cleanliness is crucial for their well-being.

Despite the differences between wild and domestic rabbits, licking remains a natural behavior for them. It is a way for rabbits to express their love and maintain their social bonds.

1. Hierarchy

Let’s start by discussing the hierarchy in a rabbit family. There is always a dominant rabbit at the top of the order, with subordinates below them.

The subordinates typically provide the dominant rabbit with food, protection, and affection. Dominance is often displayed through behaviors such as chasing, mounting, circling, and even biting other rabbits.

On the other hand, subordinates may display submissive behaviors, such as providing more grooming to the dominant rabbit. If a rabbit is licking you, it may indicate that they respect you and view you as dominant.

However, it is not entirely clear what the hierarchical relationship is between humans and rabbits. While rabbits can display dominant or submissive behaviors towards humans, the relationship is different from that within a rabbit family.

2. To groom you

Grooming is the process of cleaning and maintaining hygiene, and for rabbits, it doesn’t necessarily involve water. Like cats, rabbits are self-grooming animals and are capable of keeping themselves clean without being bathed. They typically groom themselves multiple times a day, which contributes to their clean and odorless nature.

When a rabbit licks you, it is a form of grooming that they are familiar with. It is their way of showing affection, caring for you, and maintaining cleanliness. So, while it may feel like a kiss or a sign of love to humans, for rabbits, it is a natural behavior that serves multiple purposes.

3. To show affection

I believe that one of the most significant reasons why rabbits lick their owners is to show affection and love. However, building trust and a bond with your bunny is crucial to earning their love and trust.

As prey animals, rabbits are naturally cautious, and they won’t display signs of affection like licking unless they trust you completely. The more time you spend with your bunny, the more it will open up to you and trust you. By putting in the effort to gain their trust, you will establish a strong bond with your bunny.

It is worth noting that rabbits are capable of showing affection not only to humans but also to other rabbits. Licking is a behavior that can be likened to a kiss, just like it is for dogs and cats.

4. They want your love

When your rabbit licks you, it’s also a sign that they want to be groomed in return, as it shows that you love them back.

At this point, the relationship between you and your rabbit should be based on equality rather than hierarchy. Your bunny doesn’t want the affection to be one-sided, and love, care, and attention should be mutual.

In my personal experience, I have a relationship with my rabbit that’s based on equality rather than hierarchy. He licks me, and I pet him back to show him that I love him just as much. I also give him head rubs while he licks me to show him that I care for him.

It’s worth noting that when your rabbit licks you, they may also nudge you to indicate that they want you to groom them in return. Therefore, mutual grooming can help strengthen your bond with your bunny.

How to groom your rabbit in return

As our pet rabbits can’t understand us, how do we groom them back so that they feel loved and comfortable? it isn’t much of a big deal.

Rabbits love to be petted only on the upper half of their body such as their head, cheek, nose, and ear. So, you may want to avoid touching or petting the lower half and underneath their body.

You can give little light strokes over the head and ear to make it feel like it’s being groomed by another rabbit. You can also dip your fingers in warm water and give little strokes so that it feels more like another rabbit is licking him.

5. They want something you

While less common, your rabbit may also lick you as a way to manipulate you into giving them something they want. If they associate licking with getting what they want from you, they may do it more frequently.

For instance, my rabbit has become an expert in manipulation. Whenever I approach the fridge or the treat jar, he starts circling and licking my feet, believing that this behavior will encourage me to give him food.

6. To say thank you

n addition to asking for something, rabbits may also lick you to show gratitude or appreciation, especially if you have given them a treat or their favorite food. While this behavior is not very common, some rabbits may express their thanks through licking.

However, it’s important to note that not all rabbits will exhibit this behavior, and it’s perfectly normal if your rabbit doesn’t lick you to show gratitude. Remember that each rabbit has its personality and preferences, and they may show affection and appreciation in different ways.

Why Does My Rabbit Lick Me So Much?

Here are a few possible explanations for why your rabbit may be licking you so much:

1. Grooming

Licking is a natural grooming behavior for rabbits. Rabbits are meticulous groomers, and they often groom themselves and other rabbits as a way of maintaining cleanliness and bonding. When your rabbit licks you, it may be trying to groom you as it would another rabbit, which is a sign of affection and acceptance.

2. Salt content

Human skin can have a slightly salty taste due to sweat, which might attract rabbits. If your rabbit licks you, it could be seeking the saltiness on your skin. However, it’s important to note that excessive salt consumption is not healthy for rabbits, so it’s best to discourage them from licking too much.

3. Social bonding

Licking can also be a way for rabbits to bond and show affection. By licking you, your rabbit may be expressing its trust and affection towards you. It’s a sign that your rabbit sees you as a member of its social group and wants to strengthen the bond between you.

4. Exploration and curiosity

Rabbits use their mouths and tongues to explore their environment. When your rabbit licks you, it may be investigating your taste and scent, trying to understand more about you and your surroundings.

5. Attention-seeking

Some rabbits may lick their owners to get attention. If your rabbit has learned that licking you results in attention or rewards, it may use this behavior as a way to interact with you and seek your attention.

How To Stop Your Rabbit From Licking

While it’s natural for rabbits to lick to show affection and groom, excessive licking can sometimes become a problem, especially if your rabbit starts to nibble or bite. Here are some tips on how to stop your rabbit from licking.

1. Distract them with a toy

If your rabbit is constantly licking you, try distracting them with a toy or chew stick. Provide them with a variety of toys and chews to keep them entertained and focused on something other than licking.

Check out the “Best toys for rabbits”

2. Reward good behavior

Whenever your rabbit stops licking you and focuses on a toy or treat, reward them with positive reinforcement, such as a treat or praise. This will encourage them to repeat the behavior.

3. Say “no” firmly

When your rabbit starts to lick you, say “no” firmly and gently push them away. This will help them understand that licking is not acceptable behavior.

4. Provide them with a companion

If your rabbit is constantly licking you, it could be a sign that they are lonely or bored. Consider getting them a companion rabbit to keep them company and reduce their need for excessive licking.

5. Seek advice from a vet

If your rabbit’s licking behavior seems excessive or is accompanied by other symptoms such as hair loss or skin irritation. If this happens to be the case, it is important to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues.

Remember that rabbits are social animals and need plenty of love and attention from their owners. While it is important to discourage excessive licking, it is also important to continue showing your rabbit affection in other ways, such as cuddling, playing, and providing them with a comfortable and safe environment.

Why Does My bunny lick me and then bite?

Bunnies may exhibit licking and biting behaviors for various reasons. Here are a few possible explanations for your bunny’s behavior:

1. Overstimulation or irritation

Bunnies have sensitive skin, and what might be intended as a gentle nibble or lick can sometimes escalate if they become overstimulated or if something bothers them.

If your bunny bites after licking, it could be a sign that they have reached their threshold of tolerance for interaction or that they are trying to communicate that they need some space.

2. Communication and Boundaries

Bunnies also use nipping or biting as a means of communication. It could be their way of asserting dominance or telling you to stop doing something they don’t like. They may feel the need to establish boundaries and set limits for interactions with you.

3. Hormonal changes

Unaltered rabbits, especially during the breeding season, may exhibit more dominant behaviors, including biting. This behavior could be related to hormonal changes and their instincts for mating and territoriality.

If your bunny hasn’t been spayed or neutered, considering that procedure could help reduce aggressive tendencies.

4. Fear or discomfort

If your bunny feels threatened or scared in certain situations, it may resort to biting as a defensive mechanism. It’s essential to create a safe and calm environment for your bunny, minimizing stressors and ensuring they have a suitable hiding place or retreat if needed.

5. Lack of socialization or handling

Bunnies that haven’t been properly socialized or handled may be more prone to biting. If they haven’t had positive experiences with human interaction early in life, they may feel uneasy or anxious, leading to defensive behavior.

6. Redirected aggression

Sometimes, bunnies may redirect their aggression toward you if they are frustrated or anxious about something else. It could be due to a perceived threat, loud noises, or changes in their environment. In such cases, the biting may not be directly related to you, but rather a result of their heightened emotions.


Scientifically speaking, the hierarchy between humans and rabbits is not well understood. Your bunny may see you as the submissive, always-catering subordinate, or they may see you as the one with more power as you dictate their daily activities.

In a group of bunnies, the hierarchy is clearer, but there is nuance to it. A rabbit that grooms more may not necessarily be subordinate; it may just be more of a groomer.

Note that if your rabbit is not a natural licker or has had a traumatic past, it may not lick you. However, this does not mean they don’t love you. Licking is not the only way rabbits show affection, and each rabbit has its unique way of expressing love.

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