What It Means When a Rabbit Runs in Circles

A rabbit running in circles can be alarming for any bunny owner. However, while this behavior may seem strange or concerning, it usually signals something quite normal for a rabbit's instincts. In the wild, circling is thought to relate to survival, safety and communication.

For domestic rabbits, circling most often occurs for the following reasons:

  • Marking territory. Rabbits like to identify an area as their own by depositing droppings and urine around the perimeter. Circling allows them to mark the boundaries of their space. This is especially common in unneutered males.

  • Showing excitement. Some rabbits may run circles when they are happy and excited, such as when anticipating feeding time or playtime. The energy builds up and they need an outlet. Circling allows them to burn it off.

  • Getting attention. If your rabbit has learned that circling gets your attention, they will repeat this behavior. Try to avoid reinforcing it by distracting them or waiting for them to stop before interacting.

  • Feeling frustrated. Rabbits that are cooped up without enough space or stimulation may circle to let off frustration. Make sure your rabbit has an adequately sized habitat and opportunities for exercise and mental stimulation.

  • Exploring new surroundings. When placed in a new environment, a rabbit may initially run circles to survey the new territory and map it out. This is a normal response as they adjust.

  • Hormones. Unspayed/unneutered rabbits may circle due to hormonal influences and mating urges. Getting them fixed often reduces circling driven by reproductive hormones.

While circling may seem peculiar, it's typically nothing to be worried about on its own. Pay attention to when the circling occurs, duration, frequency and any accompanying behaviors to help decipher causes. If it becomes excessive or obsessive, consult your vet.

Why Is My Rabbit Circling and Honking?

If your rabbit is circling and making loud honking noises, this unusual behavior could signify a potential health problem requiring veterinary attention.

Some possible reasons for circling and honking in rabbits include:

  • Ear infection – Inner ear infections, often due to mites like ear canker, can cause balance issues, head tilt and circling. The honking cries are expressions of discomfort.

  • Abdominal pain – GI stasis, bloating, gas or other sources of abdominal discomfort may cause a rabbit to circle and vocalize. Honking can indicate pain.

  • Sore hocks – Irritated, inflamed or injured hock tissue from sitting on hard surfaces may lead to circling and honking.

  • Arthritis – Degenerative joint diseases can cause musculoskeletal pain, stiffness and loss of coordination. The rabbit circles to compensate.

  • Brain disorder – Encephalitozoon cuniculi, toxoplasmosis and other neurological conditions may trigger circling, rolling, tilting and honking.

  • Blindness – Sudden blindness from cataracts, glaucoma or other eye issues could explain the disorientation and honking.

  • Stress/fear – High anxiety or a frightening situation can stimulate odd behaviors like circling and loud vocalizations.

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder – Repetitive circling may be a compulsive behavior if it occurs frequently and without clear cause. The honking can reflect anxiety.

If your rabbit is exhibiting these behaviors, schedule an exam with your vet right away. Proper treatment depends on an accurate diagnosis. Some underlying issues may be very serious if left untreated. Stay calm when handling your rabbit, minimize stress and monitor for any worsening of symptoms. With veterinary guidance, your bunny can likely make a full recovery.

Why Is My Neutered Rabbit Circling?

It's not uncommon for a neutered rabbit to circle or run laps occasionally. But excessive or constant circling in a neutered rabbit could signify an underlying issue requiring veterinary attention.

Here are some potential reasons why a neutered rabbit may be circling:

  • Vestibular disease – Ear infections, stroke or other inner ear disturbances affect balance and cause neurologic circling.

  • Pain – Arthritis, sore hocks, urinary tract infections and other sources of pain can elicit circling.

  • GI problems – Issues like gas, bloating or an obstructed gut cause discomfort and odd behaviors.

  • Liver disease – Hepatic lipidosis, cancer or inflammation alter metabolism and neurological function.

  • Parasites – Parasitic infections like E. Cuniculi or toxoplasmosis invade the brain and central nervous system.

  • Stress/boredom – Circling can be a stereotypical behavior arising from anxiety, loneliness or inadequate mental stimulation.

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder – Repetitive, ritualistic circling may reflect a neurochemical imbalance in the brain.

  • Vision loss – Impaired eyesight or blindness often leads to disorientation and circling motions.

  • Brain tumor – Abnormal growths in the brain may disrupt normal function and mobility.

  • Developmental disorder – Neurological conditions present at birth could cause innate circling tendencies.

Have your rabbit thoroughly examined by a rabbit-savvy vet to pinpoint the reason. Early treatment of underlying physical or mental conditions is key to stopping unwanted circling behavior in neutered rabbits. Address any factors that may cause stress or boredom as well.

Why Are My Rabbits Circling Each Other?

It's not uncommon to see two rabbits circle around each other, especially if they have just been introduced or one is encroaching on the other's territory. There are a few possible reasons rabbits circle each other:

  • Establishing dominance – Circling is sometimes viewed as a display of dominance as rabbits figure out their hierarchy. The more submissive rabbit may circle around the dominant one.

  • Territorial behavior – A rabbit may circle another that has entered its perceived territory as a means of marking space and asserting ownership. This often occurs in unfixed rabbits.

  • Herding behavior – One rabbit may attempt to control or herd the movement of another rabbit by circling around it. This reflects natural social grouping instincts.

  • Courtship ritual – An unneutered male rabbit may circle a female rabbit he is interested in as part of a mating ritual or courtship process.

  • Fighting/aggression – Circling can sometimes erupt into nipping, chasing or full fighting. It's important to intervene at the first signs of possible confrontation or aggression between rabbits.

  • Lack of socialization – Rabbits that are not properly introduced or well-socialized may compulsively circle each other due to fear, uncertainty or territorial instincts.

  • Playing – Gentle circling and chasing can also be a form of play between bonded rabbits, like a game of tag. It's usually accompanied by binkying.

Pay attention to body language to differentiate harmless circling from signs of possible conflict or stress. Consult a rabbit-knowledgeable vet or behaviorist if the circling seems problematic. Proper bonding techniques, spaying/neutering and environment management can curb unwanted circling behaviors.

Why Is My Rabbit Circling Around My Feet?

It can seem puzzling when your rabbit suddenly starts circling rapidly around your feet for no apparent reason. In the wild, circling is associated with courtship, territorial marking or attempting to confuse predators. For domestic rabbits, this quirky behavior generally stems from one of these motivations:

  • Showing affection – Circling your feet is your rabbit's way of expressing love and trust. Rabbits form strong bonds with their owners and see you as part of their social circle.

  • Seeking attention – Your rabbit may have learned that circling your feet gets a reaction and makes you interact with them, reinforcing the behavior. Try to only give attention when they are exhibiting calm behavior.

  • Asking to be picked up – Some rabbits will circle feet in anticipation of being lifted up. Responding intermittently reinforces the circling. Wait until they stop to pick them up.

  • Herding – Your rabbit may try to control your movements by circling around your feet. In nature, circling is linked to herding within social groups.

  • Territorial marking – Circling feet allows rabbits to spread their scent and mark you as their territory. This is most common in unneutered males.

  • Boredom – A lack of stimulation can cause rabbits to endlessly circle feet out of restlessness and a need for activity. Make sure your rabbit has adequate exercise and enrichment.

  • Stress/fear – Anxious rabbits may compulsively circle as a self-soothing mechanism, similar to obsessive circling in a cage. Try to minimize stressors.

While the circling itself isn't problematic, be careful not to trip or accidentally step on a circling rabbit. Address any underlying causes of obsessive circling, like boredom. And enjoy the bunny kisses if it's just their way of showing you some love!

Why Is My Rabbit Running in Circles in Cage?

A rabbit obsessively running circles in their cage can be distressing to observe. While some occasional circling is normal, excessive repetition of this behavior may signal an underlying welfare issue.

Possible reasons your rabbit is compulsively circling in their cage include:

  • Boredom – Lack of stimulation and confinement triggers repetitive circling. Make sure your rabbit has enriching toys, adequate exercise time out of the cage and social interaction.

  • Stress – Circling can be calming during situations causing anxiety or fear. Address potential stressors and provide comforting hiding spots in the cage.

  • Frustration – Being cooped up without an outlet for energy and natural behaviors causes circling. Allow more free-range time for moving, grazing, digging, etc.

  • Lack of space – Circling is common when rabbits are confined to cramped cages. Upgrade your rabbit to a larger enclosure that allows at least 3 hops in each direction.

  • Nesting instinct – Unspayed female rabbits may circle while building a nest in preparation for giving birth. Spaying eliminates this hormonal impulse.

  • Compulsive disorder – Repetitive, ritualistic circling may reflect an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Consult an exotics vet about possible treatment.

  • Pain/discomfort – Issues like sore hocks, arthritis or gastrointestinal problems can cause circling. Have your rabbit examined for any pain sources.

  • Under-stimulation – An absence of mental stimulation can cause neurotic circling habits over time. Incorporate more interactive feeding puzzles and rotate toys.

If environmental changes don't curb the obsessive circling, your rabbit may need anti-anxiety medication or other therapies. Address the behavior soon to improve your rabbit's welfare.

Why is My Rabbit Spinning in Circles?

It can be jarring to see your rabbit spinning repeatedly in circles for no apparent reason. While circling is common rabbit behavior, excessive spinning likely indicates an underlying health or behavior issue needing attention.

Possible causes for a rabbit persistently spinning in circles include:

  • Inner ear infection – Common rabbit ear diseases like ear mites, canker and bacterial infections affect balance and cause head-tilting, rolling and spinning.

  • Head trauma – Injuries, even mild, can impact the inner ear and vestibular system leading to lack of coordination and spinning motions.

  • Stroke – Circling, rolling and spinning can signify a stroke or other brain disorder impairing normal function.

  • Dementia – Aging rabbits may begin to compulsively spin due to cognitive decline. Seek medication to manage dementia symptoms.

  • Eye problems – Suddenly reduced vision or blindness often causes disorientation and repetitive spinning.

  • Pain – Arthritis, urinary tract infections and other sources of chronic pain can manifest as obsessive spinning.

  • Anxiety/stress – Spinning may be a self-soothing, compulsive behavior in frightened or anxious rabbits. Try to identify and minimize stressors.

  • Boredom – Inactive, solitary rabbits with limited enrichment may develop neurotic spinning habits over time. Increase exercise and mental stimulation.

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder – The innate urge to spin in circles may stem from a neurological imbalance. Medication can help manage OCD tendencies.

Have your spinning rabbit checked by a rabbit-experienced veterinarian to accurately diagnose any underlying cause. With proper care and treatment, rabbits can recover from many conditions causing disorienting, repetitive spinning behavior.


In summary, rabbits have a natural tendency to circle for purposes like marking territory, playing, showing affection and displaying dominance. But frequent circling, spinning or running laps can also signal underlying health or behavior problems requiring veterinary attention.

Key things to watch for are any signs of pain, changes in appetite or bathroom habits, head tilting or rolling, falling over, anxiety, or obsessive repetition. Make sure circling rabbits get a thorough check-up. Provide adequate space, enrichment and bonding time. Monitor the rabbit's condition and environment. With proper care, treatment if needed, and some patience, obsessive circling can often be resolved.



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