Contributed by Rachael Sharpe
Many of us with house rabbits know the basics of bunny behavior. We know what a Binky is, we know that when rabbits are frightened they will flatten to the ground with wide eyes. We also know when they want to be petted they will lower their head and be still. But what do we really understand about talking to our buns? As animals with a spoken language, we often rely heavily on words to communicate with one another.
And while a majority of our communication is based on body language, we seem to be at a loss when communicating with animals. Has it ever occurred to you that your bun can probably read you better than you can her? Now let that sink in for a second. This is likely true for all your pets. They likely get you better than you get them. This is partially why we feel such deep bonds with our animals, and why they occupy the most intimate places of our lives and hearts.
The typical person’s upbringing in society comes at a cost when they try to connect with animals. The barriers we have put up keep us from full unbiased understanding of one another. Of these societal and self-imposed limitations there are many. I will address the most basic ones here. One of these is the misconception that you are smarter than your rabbit. Or any animal, for that matter. Intelligence, when properly defined, is at best a slippery concept. A quote from one of the world’s most recognized geniuses put it best: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Albert Einstein may have been referring to our assessment of intelligence regarding people, but it applies to any creature.
Second, be silent! Most of our communication is nonverbal anyway. As humans, we are constantly in a time other than our own. Our minds are elsewhere, always chattering about something. It is important to try to silence this mental chatter as much as possible when you are interacting with your buns. When you are with your bun, realize that she is talking to you. Animals are always talking to you, in one way or another. Your rabbit could be surveying you, cocking her head to one side and hoping you will come over with treats or a nice rub. If she is lying down, she’s letting you know that she trusts you.
Realize that the moment you walk into a room with your bun, you are starting a conversation. How does she react to your presence? Be curious about your bun! And remember she is always talking to you, telling you something. When you visit with her, try to really be with her. Sometimes it’s nice to watch TV or read a book with our pets, but often we forget to visit with them in silence as well.
Being fluent in silence means being able to turn off the voice in your head, your preconceived notions about humans and rabbits, and letting yourself be authentic with someone else. Let your opinions about what those differences mean stay silent. Allow your attention to be focused on your bun and your own senses open to the ways in which she communicates.
Whether you realize it or not, your rabbit has learned ways of communicating with you that are different from how she would communicate with another rabbit. She is smart enough to know that you and she are different, and alters her behavior to convey her feelings and wants to you. Your joint communication is an organic process. No two relationships, human or otherwise, are alike! You can find ways of speaking to her as well that are unique to human-rabbit interaction.
For example, my bun Mint and I have a close bond. When she’s out, sometimes she wants to be petted. However if I approach her head-on, even slowly, she runs away. This always puzzled me, and I chalked it up to her being a ‘typical’ prone-to-flight rabbit. But eventually I realized if I walked backwards toward her, or sideways, she would stay put and wait to be petted. This came intuitively. It wasn’t that she was afraid, but approaching head-on is aggressive behavior in any animal.
We have the same thing in the human world: we call it diplomacy. Usually rudeness is characterized by bluntness. The typical pleasantries in any conversation are about showing that we are friendly and mean no harm. We want to show our desire for interaction. When you begin to use intuition and an open-minded acceptance for understanding your rabbit on the same level of effort that you would for a close friend, you will find that you communicate much better.
Tackle engaging with your bun on the same level you would seek to understand the problems of a close friend. You won’t be disappointed.
About Rachael Sharpe: Rachael lives in Roswell, Georgia and is the proud companion of two buns, Mint & Channing, as well as a pirate cat, Aerie. She volunteers her time and money for the animals in her community.
Note: The above article was submitted by a guest author. All articles written by guest authors do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of ilovemyhouserabbit.com