Rabbits are pretty quiet animals. They don’t bark up a storm like dogs or meow, purr, and hiss like cats, and oftentimes don’t vocalize many sounds at all. That’s what can make it all the more disturbing when you do finally hear them make a sound and it’s a piercing high-pitched scream.
But why would a rabbit scream? There are a few possible reasons, as we’ll see, and none of them are good. When you hear your rabbit screaming, you should come running because it means that there’s an emergency. Rabbits are prey in the wild, which means that screaming and alerting predators to their positions is a bad idea. As such, they’ll only risk screaming if they absolutely need help.
When rabbits do scream, therefore, they aren’t being drama queens. They mean it, and what they mean is that they’re in big trouble.
Injury or Pain
When we hurt ourselves badly, we often let out a sudden yell or scream of pain and rabbits are the same way. That said, the pain has to be pretty severe for rabbits to resort to this. When you hear a rabbit scream this way, it means that they haven’t just sustained any old bump or bruise but have hurt themselves badly enough that they want to alert others they know to the fact, or else simply can’t suppress a scream. That’s a pretty big injury and should mandate your immediate attention.
What’s more, these screams are typically accompanied by a few telltale signs of severe rabbit pain, including your rabbit grinding its teeth, hunching over, trying to hide, shaking, or staying rooted to a single spot for a long time.
There are any number of potential causes for this degree of pain as well. For example, your rabbit will yell out if its fur is forcibly ripped from its body or if it has severe digestive issues, such as GI stasis. Rabbit skeletons are also quite lightweight, which is what allows them to dash here and there in the wild, but the tradeoff of that is that their bones are far more fragile than ours, making broken bones another big possibility for why your rabbit might scream in pain.
The emotional trauma felt by rabbits screaming can also take its toll. They can go into shock after such a scream and even potentially die a day or two afterwards if you aren’t careful and don’t treat the cause. It’s yet another reason why, when you hear your rabbit scream, you need to act as though the clock is ticking to save it. Wait too long and even if you do eventually treat the cause of their pain, the shock alone could kill them.
Finally, it is worth noting that rabbits can scream when having seizures. This is obviously a rare occurrence, but it could prove a fatal one and is yet another reason to see your veterinarian immediately.
Speaking of shock, rabbits can also scream in instances of extreme fear. A rabbit has lots of threats to its life in the wild, and so it can often be susceptible to the extreme fear of being devoured by some dinner-seeking predator. Even though they shouldn’t be susceptible to that kind of fear in your home, old habits die hard. What’s more, if you have another pet in the home, the rabbit may fear that it’s a predator and fall back into its own instincts of fear.
For as annoying as this might be for you, for the rabbit, it makes sense. Rabbits need that fear instinct in the wild to stay alive. However, as alluded to above, too much fear can lead to shock, which in turn could prove fatal.
Rabbits can thus scream out of fear after having seen (or thinking that they saw) a predator, or because of extreme pain which they fear may lead to death. Unfortunately, given how severe this fear is for your rabbit, they can actually die of fear by giving themselves heart problems or other issues stemming from that severe fear. When rabbits scream this way, they’re trying to call out for help from others or are screaming with abject terror as they think that death is imminent.
If you are worried that rabbits dying is the only possible reason why they may be screaming this way, you’re in luck as there’s another big reason why they may be doing this. The downside, however, is that it’s due to the rabbit experiencing another highly negative emotion — extreme anger.
Rabbits are often seen as calm, docile animals but they also have an angry side. For as cute and cuddly as they may appear, when rabbits unleash their angry side, it often isn’t pretty. Rabbits can release high-pitched screams and other ugly sounds when they’re infuriated or throwing a temper tantrum.
When a rabbit screams this way, it hates what you or whoever is handling them is doing. That said, rabbits rarely scream like this, so whatever you’re doing, it’s probably something that the rabbit finds truly intolerable. For example, if you handle them in a way that causes them discomfort or pain, they may yell at you to try and get you to stop. Rabbits who yell in this way can growl, snort, hiss, and stomp their feet. The most common sign of a rabbit displaying anger or stress is them grinding their teeth, so if they do this as well, you should know that whatever you’re doing is wrong.
Whether your rabbit is screaming out of fear, pain, or anger, the fact of the fact of the matter is that your rabbit is almost certainly experiencing severe trauma. If you let this persist, it could very well mean the death of your rabbit. You thus need to do whatever you can to resolve whatever is causing your rabbit to scream, and do so immediately. Once they have stopped screaming, you should take them to the veterinarian in order to make sure that they are completely healed. Waiting to do so can have dire, possibly deathly consequences.