As pet owners, we notice that our pets have peculiar mannerisms and rabbits are no exception. Rabbits exhibit many behaviors that we may find strange. A common behavior you may notice is how rabbits rub their chins on objects, places, people, and even other rabbits!
But why do rabbits rub their chins on everything? What is so special about rabbits’ chins? Here are five reasons for this unique behavior!
What Is “Chinning”?
Rabbits rubbing their chins on areas and objects is called “chinning”. The general idea why rabbits perform chinning is to mark their territory. Rabbits are territorial creatures, and chinning is the quickest, most common way to leave their marks on areas, objects, and even people.
The 5 Reasons Why Your Rabbit is Rubbing Their Chin on Everything
1. Marking Their Territory
Returning to the general notion as to why rabbits perform chinning, they use it to mark their territory! Rabbits are very territorial animals and use odor to identify territory. Rabbits leave their scent behind areas they claim as theirs, such as sleeping areas, certain areas of their cage, and even the area where they eat. To rabbits, having their own space is very important.
Just because your rabbit marked a specific area does not necessarily mean you or other animals in the house can “trespass”. This simply allows them to relax, knowing they are in an environment they can call home.
Although rabbits can share space with people and other rabbits, they are still very particular about their own personal space. Rabbits can exhibit a little bit of aggression if they feel that their territory or space is being violated. Your rabbit may grunt or even bite to protect its personal space, so remember to be mindful of your rabbit’s needs!
Aside from marking their territory, rabbits may use chinning to navigate new areas. You may find your rabbit chinning different places and objects when placed in a new area or environment. They use these scent markers as means of familiarizing themselves with the environment when exploring, telling them where they’ve been and where they haven’t been.
You can see this behavior if you and your rabbit just moved houses. You might find your rabbit exploring while also leaving its mark!
3. Claiming Property
You may find your rabbit chinning on objects and food. Aside from areas, rabbits can also claim objects as theirs. You may find that they chin on objects such as toys, shoes, or random objects lying around that they can easily find. Marking objects simply means that your rabbit finds comfort and security in the object. It can also mean that they find the object interesting, and leaving their mark can make it easier for them to find it and explore it at a later time.
Food is also considered an important property to rabbits. You may find that rabbits stake claims to food by rubbing their chins on them, especially if there is more than one rabbit in the household. Rabbits do not like to share food!
4. To Display Affection
We’ve discussed rabbits marking and claiming areas and objects as their own, but what does it mean when your rabbit rubs against you?
When marking territory and property, you, as the owner, may fall within that category. Your rabbit spends considerable time around you as their rabbit-parent, and chinning on you suggests that you belong to them. Rabbits have a very sensitive smell and can detect differences in scents, even when your human nose doesn’t notice it. You may find your rabbit chinning you again after you take a bath when its scent is no longer detected.
Rabbits in male and female pairs chin each other to show their love and affection. In addition, your rabbit can chin you to show that they love you! Rabbits know how to show their affection, especially when they know you take good care of them.
5. To Establish Dominance
You can also find rabbits chinning other rabbits. If you own multiple rabbits of the same sex, you may catch them chinning each other to assert their dominance. This behavior is more common in male-male pairs.
Eventually, the struggle for dominance ends with one rabbit bowing its head toward the winner of the struggle. Chinning will no longer be observed, but you’ll find one rabbit dominant over the other. This does not necessarily mean that they won’t become close over time, but there is a clear social hierarchy present in the rabbit world.
So Why Do Rabbits Use Their Chins in Particular?
Although we cannot see nor smell it, rabbits have scent glands located underneath their chins. These scent glands secrete a certain smell unique to each rabbit. When they rub their chins, they leave the scent on the surface.
You may notice your rabbit chinning on furniture, clothes, or other objects and wonder if you can smell the scent, but the truth is humans can’t see or smell the scents that rabbits leave behind! When rabbits leave their mark through chinning, it doesn’t ruin or even leave an observable sign that your rabbit has already left their mark.
The chin is not the only area with scent glands, meaning they can mark using other body structures aside from the chin. Rabbits have scent glands on their genitalia and anus as well. Chinning is merely considered the most convenient and socially acceptable method for rabbits, which is why it is the most common. As pet owners, we should familiarize ourselves with the habits of our rabbits, including their method of marking.
What Other Markers Do Rabbits Have?
Chinning is only one way for rabbits to mark. While we may find chinning a convenient and somewhat cute way of marking, the other methods of marking are not so appealing. Rabbits can mark their territory by defecating and urinating as a sign to other rabbits that they have claimed this space.
Rabbits have their own unique personalities, so some rabbits may use chinning, while others may prefer urination and defecation to leave their mark. We will only know what method a rabbit chooses when we get to know our pet rabbits enough.
Rabbits rubbing their chin is completely normal behavior. While cute to watch, it serves a very important purpose in the rabbit world. Rabbits use this to mark their territory and to claim things as their own. They also use this to show affection and ensure that they are in a safe space. As rabbit parents, we need to understand that rabbits have a huge sense of “mine-ness” and a unique way of exploring the world.
Featured Image Credit: Besjunior, Shutterstock