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In my experience, rabbits are avid climbers when they’re young, and then the desire to be a mountain goat and climb their human like a tree drops off a bit.
Rabbits like to be up high
I mean, it makes sense. The higher up a rabbit is, the more they can see and the faster they can react to any sudden predators.
Also, rabbits are nosy, and want to know what’s going on all the time.
These are definitely related, but the more rabbits are bred as pets, the less likely they are to care about sudden predators, and the more they just generally care about what’s going on.
Rabbits can jump surprisingly high, and weirdly, even a sheer wall can give them a bit more height.
Don’t be surprised if your rabbit jumps onto windowsill that are a good few feet off the ground.
If you’re curious about how high rabbits can jump, go and watch this video on rabbit show jumping. It’s wild.
Though wild rabbits aren’t known for their tree climbing, some rabbits are good at climbing.
I don’t know if this is just my experience, but lops and rexs seem to be the most avid climbers, suggesting that this is something they’ve got better as as they’ve been bred.
I just the idea that some rabbit breeder was like ‘I’m gonna selectively breed rabbits with floppy ears, soft coats, and can scale a sheer wall in 30 seconds’. It probably didn’t work like that, but it’d be funny it did.
Rabbits in the wild are built for speed and agility, so I’m guessing as we bred for fur and meat (which probs slows them down) their limbs became shorter and stronger and they became better at climbing.
I could be wrong. Perhaps wild rabbits are out their climbing trees like those tree-climbing goats.
Your Rabbit might be playing
Rabbits play in a million different ways.
I’ve never had a rabbit that played like Holly before though – she only does one kind of playing, and that is running.
She runs and runs and runs round in circles (we set up two doors on her pen she can do laps in the living room).
She sometimes tips over her stacking cups (probably just by accident) and she does like to dig in a towel occasionally) but it’s usually just the running.
But some rabbits love to be with their human and climb all over them. We’ve had rabbits that liked to sit on our shoulder, pirate style (sounds cute af but is very impractical, especially if your bladder is as small as mine).
I wouldn’t say it’s that common, but if your rabbit likes to come and climb on you, and doesn’t you know bite or dig at you, they’re just playing with/on you.
Your rabbit might be asserting their dominance
The shoulder-sitting wasn’t about dominance (I don’t think) because she used to just settle down on my shoulder and go to sleep.
If you rabbit climbs on your chest, they’re probably trying to assert their dominance.
Er, they may pee on you. I’m afraid that whilst it’s not that common, it is normal (and gross).
Extra points if they stare at you whilst they’re doing it, though usually they just pretend that you don’t exist, which is a real power move in the world of asserting one’s dominance.
I love rabbits, but some of them are really into making life a power struggle without actually bringing any real bargaining power to the table.
I will NOT be dominated by a little fluffy freeloader. Go get a job and we can talk.
If they do this, put them on the floor. If you feel that they still think they’ve won, go and stand in their pen. I know it won’t feel like you’ve won, but you have. Go the extra mile and take a sip out of their water bowl (I jest, don’t do that unless you’ve just washed it).
Your rabbit might be using you to assert their dominance over another bun
‘LOOK AT ME, I’M SAT ON THE HUMAN.’
I don’t like to be used as a pawn in a power struggle I don’t want to be a part of.
If you’re confident that the rabbits are well bonded and don’t fight, you can play devil’s advocate by giving treats to the other rabbit.
You can’t withhold treats from the other rabbit (unless you’re a monster ofc) but getting them of your chest (literally) and treating the other rabbit (and them if they come over) reinforces that even if they are dominant of the other rabbit, you’re the real MVP in this house.
Although it doesn’t always feel like it when you have to go work and clean the house and cook the food, and the rabbits just always be chilling.
Your rabbit wants your attention
I quite like this.
Rabbit behaviour is often pretty cryptic. You’ve rushed them to the vet with a possible ear infection because they shook their head, and it turns out they were just trying to get you to play.
I like that something as clear as ‘I sit on you, stroke me’ can sometimes happen.
It’s not that common though. A lot of rabbits just aren’t bold enough to put themselves in such a vulnerable position.
I love that some rabbits have zero fear response.
I mean, they would NOT survive in the wild, but so long as you keep them in a space where they have no need to be fearful, I love that they can really live their best, carefree life, and will go ahead and climb on your knee when they want a cuddle.
A lot of bunny caregivers would LOVE to have a bunny climb on them, and I get it.
Be careful what you wish for.
As I mentioned in an article about rabbits digging on you, encouraging rabbits to climb on the sofa (or worse, the bed, because they’ll probs pee on it) is cute in theory until you’re trying to:
- watch something with wired headphones in
- play on your device whilst it’s charging
- try to drink a glass of wine that doesn’t have fur in it
- get up to pee
I let my rabbits on the sofa, but I don’t encourage them up. It’s a small difference, but it kind of reinforces the fact that being on the sofa is a privilege, not a right.