Have you ever wondered if rabbits shed actual tears when crying? What do a rabbit’s different distress noises actually mean? Rabbits have a wide range of vocalizations to communicate various needs. But unlike humans, rabbits don’t have overflowing tears stream down their face when upset. Understanding the nuances of rabbit cries is essential for any owner to respond to their pet’s distress properly. This article will cover everything you need to know about crying in rabbits – from baby rabbit screams to subtle whimpers in ill rabbits. You’ll learn to decipher the causes and meaning behind your rabbit’s various vocalizations and “teary” eyes. Get insight into the secret world of rabbit communication and how to comfort your crying pet.
Why Do Rabbits Cry?
Rabbits cry for a variety of reasons. Crying in rabbits can indicate that the rabbit is in pain, stressed, lonely, hungry, or sick. Mother rabbits may also cry out to their babies. Understanding why your rabbit is crying and what their cries mean can help you better care for your pet.
Rabbits have a wide range of vocalizations that they use to communicate different needs and emotions. While rabbits don't cry tears the way humans do, they have distress calls and noises that serve a similar communicative purpose. Learning to differentiate these cries can help you figure out what your rabbit is trying to say.
Some common reasons for rabbit crying include:
- Pain or injury
- Stress, fear, or anxiety
- Loneliness or needing comfort
- Hunger or thirst
- Sickness or disease
- Mother rabbit calling to babies
- Startling noises or predators
- Discomfort from heat or cold
Crying in rabbits should not be ignored, as it often indicates an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. Paying attention to what triggers your rabbit's crying can help you pinpoint the exact cause and what your rabbit needs from you.
Do Rabbits Cry Tears?
No, rabbits do not cry tears in the way that people do. Rabbits have tear ducts and produce tears, but their tear production works differently than humans.
Rabbits naturally produce tears all the time to keep their eyes lubricated. However, when rabbits cry audibly it does not necessarily mean they are producing more tears. You will likely not see actual tears streaming down a rabbit's face when they are in distress.
The tears rabbits regularly produce coat the surface of their eyes and then drain through their nasal passages. Rabbits actually do not have very effective tear drainage compared to humans. Their tear ducts drain tears through the nasal cavity rather than an enclosed duct system.
Because rabbits expel excess tears through their noses, you may notice more wetness around your rabbit's nose when they are stressed or in pain. But visible tears will usually not be a sign of crying in rabbits.
The closest rabbits come to crying tears is if they have an irritation or infection of their tear glands. This can cause excess tear production that looks like watery eyes. But these "weepy eyes" are due to illness rather than emotion.
So while crying in rabbits does not involve literal tears, that does not mean they feel emotion any less deeply. Rabbits show they are upset through behaviors, vocalizations, body language, and facial expressions.
Is Rabbit Crying the Same as Human Crying?
Rabbits and humans cry for similar emotional reasons, but the physical process is quite different.
In humans, crying is characterized by tear production and sobbing sounds. The tears come from emotions stimulating our lacrimal glands. In rabbits, distress calls don't actually involve excess tears even if they are "crying."
But while rabbit crying doesn't involve literal tears, it serves the same communicative purpose as human crying. Rabbit crying sends signals to other rabbits and humans that something is wrong. This allows the opportunity for aid, comfort, or intervention.
Some key similarities between rabbit and human crying include:
- Occurs during times of distress, fear, pain or sadness
- Communicates a need or elicits comfort
- Can indicate emotional attachment between bonded individuals
- Differs between individuals in frequency and triggers
Rabbit crying is considered true crying because it is involuntary communication of distress. The sound is instinctual and stemmed from emotions like fear or pain. Even if tears are not involved, rabbit crying is meant to get a response.
However, there are some key differences:
- Rabbits cannot actually sob
- The physical process involves noise rather than tears
- Frequency of crying varies greatly between rabbits
- Crying may strictly signal physical, not emotional needs
So while rabbit crying differs physically from human crying, the two share many emotional and communicative similarities. Paying attention to rabbit crying provides insight into their emotions and needs.
What Do Rabbit Crying Noises Sound Like?
Rabbit cries can range from loud shrieks to soft whimpers depending on the reason for their distress. Here are some common rabbit crying noises:
High-pitched scream or squeal – This loud, sharp cry often signals extreme fear, pain, or distress. It can occur due to injury, a frightening stimulus, or even a life-threatening situation.
Grunting or growling – Low grunts are a sign of discontent, anxiety, or submission. Growling is a warning sign a rabbit feels threatened.
Honking or oinking – This unusual crying sound is related to respiratory disease in rabbits. It occurs if they have an obstruction in their nasal cavity or upper airways.
Rhythmic whimpering or sobbing – A softly whimpering rabbit may be lonely, timid, neglected, or sad. The rhythmic nature differentiates it from cries of pain.
Purring – Not all rabbit cries are upsetting. Rabbits may purr or click their teeth together when content. This is a low humming sound.
Screeching – Some rabbits screech or squeak when excited, not just distressed. You may hear this when anticipating food or attention.
Baby screaming – Baby rabbits separated from mom cry with an urgent, high-pitched wail. Nursing does may also grunt to summon their litter.
Getting familiar with the nuances of rabbit cries helps clue you into your rabbit's internal state. Sudden, loud screams require urgent attention while softer whimpers may indicate emotional needs.
Why Do Baby Rabbits Cry Out?
Baby rabbits cry for two main reasons: hunger and fear of being alone.
Newborn rabbits, called kittens, rely completely on their mother. They nurse frequently, so crying out alerts the mother to feed them. If the mother does not quickly attend to crying kittens, they can become malnourished.
Kittens also cry loudly when separated from their mother and siblings. Rabbits are prey animals, so isolation makes them incredibly vulnerable. The crying summons the doe to retrieve and protect the babies.
As the kittens grow older, they cry out less frequently. Once their eyes open around 10 days old, they can see their mother and start hopping around the nest. By 3-4 weeks old, the kittens are weaned off milk and do not require as much attentiveness from their mother.
Abandoned or orphaned baby rabbits have an even greater tendency to cry. Without a mother's care, they are extremely susceptible to hunger, dehydration, and predation. The nonstop crying instinctually tries to elicit help for their survival.
If you rescue orphaned baby rabbits, you can help reduce their distress by:
- Keeping babies together in a nesting box
- Feeding kitten milk replacer frequently
- Gently stroking babies to mimic grooming
- Making soft shushing sounds to provide comfort
With diligent care, the crying and anxiety of baby rabbits gradually lessens as they mature. But their crying communicates essential needs, so monitoring orphaned kittens is critical.
Stressful Things That Can Cause Rabbit Crying
Many different triggers can stress out rabbits and elicit crying. Some common causes of crying from stress include:
Loud sounds – Unexpected noises from appliances, vehicles, music or other pets often make rabbits cry out.
Disruption of routine – Changes to their environment, feeding schedule or family members being absent can cause distress.
Lack of socialization – Lonely, neglected, or unsocialized rabbits may whimper and grunt more. Rabbits are very social by nature.
Predators – Cats, dogs, hawks, snakes, coyotes, etc. frighten rabbits and make them scream or grunt.
Pain or injury – Physical trauma causes immediate, loud shrieking. Rabbits cry out when injured to signal they need help.
Illness – Sickness and respiratory infections cause labored breathing and strange crying sounds like honking.
Excessive handling – Some rabbits get overwhelmed from too much petting and cry softly in protest.
New home – recently adopted rabbits are more likely to cry until they adjust to unfamiliar people and surroundings.
Punishment – Physical discipline or loud scolding is cruel and heightens a rabbit's distress.
By being attentive to situations that cause your rabbit anxiety, you can minimize crying episodes. But some crying from a healthy rabbit is normal, and not always a dire signal of danger.
Do Rabbits Cry When in Pain?
Yes, rabbits often cry loudly when in pain or injured. The crying helps alert both humans and other rabbits of their distressed state.
Rabbits are prey animals and vulnerable to predators. A wild rabbit that cries out in pain risks further attack. So their pained crying is an urgent, instinctual response to immediately signal they need help.
The crying from pain usually sounds like loud, sharp, shrieking screams or squeals. It is different from softer whimpers of hunger or loneliness. Rabbits may grunt while injured as well.
Some situations when in pain that may cause a rabbit to cry include:
- Broken bones or sprains
- Bites from predators or aggressive rabbits
- Scratches or wound trauma
- Dental problems like tooth spurs digging into gums
- Gastrointestinal issues like gas pain or bloat
- Ear or eye infections
- Foot sore hocks or abscesses
- Urine scald from soiled living space
- Muscle cramps or arthritis
If your rabbit is crying loudly and suddenly, always check them over for any signs of injury or trauma. Even gentle handling toinspect their body may elicit more crying if they are hurt.
Get veterinary help immediately if the crying persists and no cause is found. Pain cries in rabbits should never be ignored, as they need treatment to recover. Staying quiet due to injury only increases their suffering.
Do Rabbits Cry When They Die?
No, rabbits do not cry as they are dying. Any crying indicates they are still alive and in distress.
Rabbits may cry out when initially injured if the cause of death is traumatic, like a dog attack. But the crying will stop once the rabbit passes away.
When rabbits die from non-traumatic health issues or old age, they typically pass very quietly with no crying. Loss of consciousness and sensations happens quickly in the final moments.
Dying rabbits may demonstrate labored breathing, lethargy, or seizure-like muscle spasms. But again, audible crying or distress sounds do not occur during the actual dying process.
However, a sick rabbit may cry in the period leading up to its death if in pain or respiratory distress. For example, rabbits with pasteurella pneumonia often honk and grunt in their final days due to breathing issues.
While the end moments are peaceful, don't assume a dying rabbit that is crying is past help earlier on. Get prompt veterinary euthanasia to alleviate any suffering if your rabbit seems to be in severe decline.
The lack of crying at the actual time of death is the rabbit's nervous system shutting down, not an indication they are content. No audible suffering provides some comfort to owners grieving the loss of their beloved pet.
Do Rabbits Cry When Sad or Lonely?
Yes, rabbits sometimes softly cry or whimper when feeling sad or lonely. These cries differ from the loud screams of pain.
Rabbits are intelligent, social animals that form close bonds with other rabbits and human owners. When a bonded friend leaves or dies, they show signs of depression and grieving.
Sad or lonely crying in rabbits involves repetitive, low whimpers and soft grunts. They may lose interest in food, activity, or toys and withdraw from attention.
A suddenly single rabbit that lost a partner may whimper more. Rabbits adopt humans into their social structure, so re-homing can cause sad cries too.
Less interaction, stimulation, and affection can also trigger crying. Rabbits become unhappy without enough exercise time, enrichment, or gentle petting.
To help a crying, sad rabbit you can:
- Spend more time playing, petting, and holding them
- Get a new rabbit friend if they lost a partner
- Ensure their habitat has hideouts, toys, and litter options
- Try interactive feeding like foraging or puzzle toys
- Provide a soothing environment away from stressors
- Get them examined if lethargic or avoiding food
With attentive care and socialization, a lonely rabbit's sadness and associated crying is often temporary. But any lasting depression or loss of appetite needs a veterinary evaluation.
My Rabbit Looks Like She's Crying
If your rabbit's eyes look watery and "weepy," this usually signals an eye infection rather than emotional crying.
Common causes of watery eyes and tear staining in rabbits include:
Conjunctivitis – Bacterial, viral, or fungal infection of the mucus membranes makes the eyes puffy and leaky.
Blocked Tear Ducts – Tears cannot drain properly and overflow outside the eyelids.
Irritation – Dust, debris, hay, bedding, or chemicals may be irritating the eye surface.
Injury – Scratches, ulcers, or trauma to the cornea cause reflexive tearing.
Teeth Misalignment – Tear duct opening alignment depends on proper tooth occlusion.
Pasteurella – Bacteria often causes respiratory infection and runny eyes.
Allergies – Irritants like smoke, perfumes, or pollen can inflame eyes and nose.
If your rabbit's eyes appear chronically wet, take them to a rabbit-savvy vet. Medicated eye drops, ointments, or antibiotics may be needed to treat the underlying issue.
Watery eyes in rabbits should never be ignored, even if they are eating and acting normal otherwise. Left untreated, eye infections can permanently damage vision.
What to Do If a Rabbit is Crying
If your rabbit is crying, whimpering, or screaming follow these steps:
Identify trigger – Note what preceded the crying like a noise, disruption, injury, etc.
Make sure they are safe – Gently move a hurt rabbit away from danger if needed.
Look for injury – Check their body for wounds if crying is from pain.
Isolate stressor – Remove other pets, turn off loud devices, stop excessive handling, etc.
Comfort the rabbit – Talk soothingly, offer a treat, pet them if crying is not from pain.
Seek medical care – Take to an emergency vet if crying is unrelenting or severe.
Diagnose problem – If pain is chronic, identify illness prompting crying.
Modify environment – Make their living space calmer by limiting stressors.
Increase socialization – Spend more quality time together if crying from loneliness.
Have patience – Give anxious rabbits adjustment time to new environments or bonding.
While you should immediately respond to crying, have patience resolving the underlying cause. Continue monitoring your rabbit's behaviors to ensure any stressors or health issues are fully resolved. Paying attention to their communication ensures happiness.