Why Do Rabbits Circle You? Does it Mean Anything?

Does your rabbit “spin you right round…like a record player” or simply run circles around you? There are several reasons why that may be, and figuring out what your rabbit’s may be is important. Not only do you probably want to stop your rabbit from constantly being underfoot, but if it has a want or need that is so intense it feels the need to run around you like a little furry planet orbiting about your feet, chances are you should answer it as soon as possible.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at why your rabbit may be running around you in a circle.

Other Kinds of Motion

Before we circle around to that, however, we should first take a spin around a few other common motions and actions rabbits make to express themselves.

No motion is more associated with rabbits than hopping, and this is almost always a sign of joy. While we’ll see how this can vary in terms of them hopping around you in circles, for the most part hopping in rabbits is a good sign. The same holds true for rabbits flopping down in fatigue. Rabbits who flop down in this way are typically tired and content after a long day spent playing.

On the other hand, if instead of flopping down your rabbit is “chinning up” on people, other rabbits, or items, this may be a sign that your rabbit is trying to be territorial. Rabbits have scent glands on their chins, and so rubbing them on things can be a way of trying to spread their scent and thus their territory. Their scent may be undetectable for humans, but for rabbits it’s very easily recognized, allowing one rabbit to tell another which territory is theirs.

Rabbits can thump their feet or grind their teeth if they are anxious or sense danger, or toss objects around the house if they’re in the mood to play.

Running Circles for Fun

The most common explanation for rabbits running around you in circles is, thankfully, a happy one, namely, that they want to play! Rabbits are very playful creatures, especially with those to whom they are closest and most familiar to them, and that naturally includes you.

If you want to play, you can recognize this unique form of engagement by your rabbit doing “a binky” – that is, circling you while doing a jump with a twist in the middle.

Running Circles for Food

Sometimes rabbits have ulterior motives for circling around you. While a lot of the time they are interested in you, sometimes they’re more interested in what you’re carrying – especially if it’s food. Rabbits love food and search for it after all, so when they see it (or think they do) in your hands, they may naturally get excited. After all, you and they are best buddies, so surely you’ll share your bountiful harvest of newfound food with them.

This kind of circling is especially recognizable byyour rabbit begging. This type of circling is all about trying to get your attention so it can get some food, so you can expect your rabbit to run between your legs or sit up or jump all around you.

Running Circles for Dominance

Then again, sometimes rabbits run circles around you in an attempt to encircle and dominate you as their own. Rabbits can be highly territorial animals. They can be quite active when trying to claim something or someone, including you. This type of circling is thus distinguished by a great amount of hormonally-driven action. For example, if your rabbit sprays you with urine while they circle you, chances are they are doing so to “mark their territory.”

This can be done for dominance, especially if there are other rabbits and pets in the house. If you have other rabbits or pets in your home, your rabbit is bound to pick up their scent and want to declare you as their own.

As a child we owned both rabbits and ducks and kept them in our back garden (it was pretty big). When both were left to roam free the rabbit would often round up the ducks a bit like a sheep dog in old England 🙂 It’s funny to watch!

Another sign of this kind of territorial and hormonal behavior is to run through your legs. For rabbits, running circles around one anothermay be a kind of courtship. True, you may not think that having something run between your legs or spray you with urine is all that “courtly,” but for rabbits, it’s like an Austen-worthy courtship ball – “Scents” and Sensibility, if you will.

Circling and Honking

On the surface, this may appear to be a strange one – who ever heard of a rabbit honking? They aren’t geese or cars, after all. In fact, however, this is another case of rabbit courtship in action. Odd as it may be to hear if you’ve never heard them do it themselves, rabbits can indeed make honking (or even oinking!) sounds when trying to attract mates, all while doing those same circular “dances” mentioned above.

Of course, this is often accompanied by other mating behavior. For example, males can try and “mount” females after they have circled them and honked a few times (truly, the peak of romance!). If the female rabbit accepts him, she will typically raise her backside and hind legs, providing him with an “opportunity,” and the two may then begin to mate.

If neither of the parties involved have been fixed, the female can have a litter of several baby bunnies roughly a week after this encounter.

That said, rabbits aren’t always the best at telling potential rabbit mates from others walking around, including you. If you have a rabbit that’s circling and honking, oinking, grunting, or making other ungainly sounds, there’s a fair chance that this is the reason.

Running Circles After Neutered

Of course, while you may be flattered that your rabbit feels so “affectionately” toward you, chances are you’ll want it to stop circling and honking (and spraying) you, and one of the fastest and most effective ways of putting an end to that once and for all is having your rabbit fixed.

Spaying and neutering your rabbits is the responsible thing to do if you don’t want them to procreate as prolifically as much as rabbits tend to do. If your rabbit has been spayed or neutered recently, it may start running through your legs all over again. On the other hand, they may also start to run circles around one another, as the rabbits still attempt to keep on with their old courtship routines.

This is most likely to occur within the first couple months after the operation, as the last remains of these hormones leave your rabbit’s body. That being said, it’s important to remember that every rabbit is different, and that they will respond to spaying or neutering differently. Some rabbits may continue to circle or be territorial even after the procedure. The later you have your rabbit fixed, the later they are to continue their courtship dances.

Running Circles Around the Cage

As you can probably tell by now, rabbits are highly social creatures, and running circles can be part of several social engagements. That’s what can make it all the more disconcerting when your rabbit runs in circles on its own. This isn’t territorial behavior, begging for food, eagerness to play, or courtship, but the action of a rabbit that’s going around in circles mentally as well as physically.

One reason for this may be the small, confined space you have afforded to your rabbit. This kind of environment is not good for a rabbit at all. Rabbits are accustomed to roaming free in big open spaces, after all, and even those which have been domesticated and live with humans all their lives still have this impulse and desire.

Just as you probably don’t want to stay cooped up in your room all day, neither does your rabbit.

You should thus make sure you let them out when possible for a few minutes to a few hours each day. Additionally, you need to make sure that their cage feels more like a home and less like a prison. A rabbit’s cage should offer themat least 32 sq ft of room.

Other signs to look for that may indicate mental distress on your rabbit’s part while in its cage includes:

  • Tilting its head to one side
  • Appearing disoriented or uncoordinated
  • An inability to stand up straight
  • Shaking or wobbling
  • Appearing droopy, especially with its ears
  • Drooling and lethargy
  • Drastically diminished appetite

It is worth noting that all of these symptoms can be connected with myriad other conditions. You should thus only consider them in this context if you actually see your rabbit circling the cage as well.

There are several reasons why your rabbit may be circling around you. Maybe it is hungry for the food it thinks you’re holding in your hand for it, or maybe it’s simply hungry for attention. Maybe it’s mopey with isolation and ennui, and maybe it’s ready to engage in courtship.

Whatever the reason, this guide can help keep you from going around in circles and instead head straight toward whatever resolution to this issue best suits you and your rabbit.