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I used to work next door to my vets, so whenever my rabbits had surgery, I’d go round when I finished to see if the rabbits were ready to pick up.
I was allowed to take them home earlier than other clients because I lived about two minutes away.
Usually, a rabbit wouldn’t be allowed home unless they’d eat something, but I’d get there before they’re really woken up.
So I became privy to the vet’s secret to knowing when a rabbit was coming round from anaesthetic, which is…that their noses start twitching.
Annoyingly, the one time I had to work late was when one of our rabbits was having a tumour removed.
She was 11 and I worried about her being sedated at that age, but the vet said she was eating the proffered food (coriander/cilantro I believe) before she’s full woken up. That’s my girl.
Rabbits twitch their noses to help them smell better
You know when someone asks you to smell something, or you’re on a walk on a summer afternoon and you suspect you smell someone having a barbeque so you sniff the air to smell better?
That’s what rabbits are doing all the time.
Try doing it for a sustained period of time. It’s really hard.
No wonder rabbits spend so much time sleeping. All that sniffing is exhausting.
But yeah, rabbits need to be keeping abreast of any new smells all the time, just in case a weasel is sneaking up on them or something.
If you notice your rabbit’s nose is twitching really quickly, they may have smelt something that they don’t like, or that is stressful to them (like a dog).
On the flip side, they may also have smelled something they like – another rabbit, their dinner, a new couch just waiting to be chewed on.
When you bring a new bunny home, you may also notice their nose going twitch-crazy. I mean, yeah, they’re probably a bit stressed, but they’re also taking in all of the new smells, including you.
A twitching nose often merely indicates that your rabbit is trying to smell something really deeply, not necessarily that they’re scared or stressed. You should see Holly’s nose go when the toaster’s on. She bloody loves toast (and no, it is not a suitable snack for a rabbit, but I’m not gonna police what she twitches her nose at).
Rabbits twitch their noses to help regulate their temperature
Rabbits don’t sweat or pant, so they don’t have a lot of options when it comes to cooling down.
This is why it’s so important that your rabbit has somewhere to cool down in the summer. Don’t worry about getting them cosy beds in winter (they’ll just pee on them!), since it’d have to be REALLY cold to bother a rabbit.
Just make sure they have somewhere cool in the summer. A couple of floor tiles will do.
What to do if your rabbit’s nose is twitching quickly
This is unlikely to be a vet calling event UNLESS your rabbit is in distress, overheating, or also breathing really fast.
That being said, if you notice that your rabbit’s nose is twitching very quickly and you can’t work out why, be sure to keep a close eye on them if you think they might be in distress.
Remember that a rabbit’s world is considerably smaller than ours. Even if yours has the run of your whole house, they don’t get out much.
Anything can warrant an exciting new development if you’re a rabbit.
You may wonder why putting a box on the floor warrants much nose-twitching, and that walk they do with their ears forward, but to a rabbit, that’s the most excitement they’ve had all week (apart from when you dropped that bit of your sandwich and they nicked it, prompting a panicked ‘can rabbits eat mayonnaise’ google search).
Do rabbit’s noses twitch when they’re sleeping?
Except I think they sometimes do when they’re dreaming. It’s so hard to tell when rabbits are actually sleeping since they don’t necessarily close their eyes.
Sometimes when I know they’re dreaming (eyes rolling around under their eyelids, teeth chomping away) their nose is going too.
I’d love to know what rabbit’s dream of – it can’t just be eating. It seems so energetic for just eating. I swear Holly dreams she’s robbing a banana shop or something.
When rabbits are calm and content (often when they’re being petted) the nose twitching calms down, since they’re pretty chill. I assume they’re thinking that you’ll protect them/any predator would get whoever’s petting them first.
I mean, you can tell dogs are running in their dreams when their back legs go, but rabbits move around so much when they’re dreaming, but they never move their legs! Are they on a rollercoaster or something?
Rabbit nose twitching is super cute and they 100% know it. If your rabbit is on your knee trying to steal your lunch, know that their nose isn’t twitching because they’re sniffing your lunch, it’s to make them seem cuter so you’ll let them have a bite.
So now you know.