Do Rabbits Cry When in Pain, Sad, Hungry, or They Die?

Do your rabbits cry out in distress, thump their feet wildly, or have constant weepy eyes? The secret crying life of rabbits is more complex than you may realize! In this fascinating 10000 word article, learn why rabbits cry, what their cry noises mean, and how to respond to crying to meet your pet’s needs. Get invaluable insights into pain cues, loneliness, kit vocalizations, environmental stressors, crying misconceptions, and serious medical causes. Don’t let crying rabbits suffer in silence – understand their rich communication abilities and vocalizations to improve their wellbeing and bond more deeply with your pet.

Why Do Rabbits Cry?

Rabbits cry for a variety of reasons, usually as a means of communication. Crying can indicate that a rabbit is in distress, in pain, hungry, or just seeking attention. Rabbits are social animals that use crying noises and behaviors to bond with each other and interact with their owners. Understanding what your rabbit is trying to "say" when it cries will help you identify issues and provide better care.

Do Rabbits Cry Tears?

No, rabbits do not produce tears when they cry. Rabbits have a third eyelid called a nictitating membrane that swipes horizontally across their eyes to keep them clean and moist. This membrane gives the appearance of glossy or wet eyes, but rabbits do not actually shed tears even when in distress. Crying in rabbits refers to noises or behaviors meant to communicate, not liquid from their eyes.

Is Rabbit Crying the Same as Human Crying?

There are some similarities in the purpose and psychology behind crying in rabbits and humans, but also important differences. Human crying involves tear production and sobbing sounds as an emotional release. Rabbit crying serves as communication by using high-pitched vocalizations, thumping, or gestures. Both species may cry due to grief, loneliness, or distress. However, rabbits lack the complex social and emotional cognition that results in crying being cathartic for humans.

What Do Rabbit Crying Noises Sound Like?

Rabbits make a surprising variety of sounds that each communicate something different. Some common cries include:

  • High-pitched squealing or screaming: Indicates extreme pain or distress.

  • Rhythmic grunting or honking: Shows excitement or satisfaction, often while playing.

  • Clicking teeth: Signals either anticipation or danger.

  • Whimpering or soft squeaks: A sign of loneliness or need for attention.

  • Loud bellowing: Means fear or anger.

  • Shrill shriek: May express pain or protest being handled.

  • Purring: Expresses contentment.

Why Do Baby Rabbits Cry Out?

Baby rabbits, called kits, cry out for a number of reasons related to their needs and vulnerabilities:

  • Hunger: Kits nurse frequently so will cry loudly if they miss a feeding.

  • Loneliness: Rabbits are highly social so kits cry if separated from litter mates or parents.

  • Distress: Loud unfamiliar noises, bright lights, pain, fear, or illness can cause crying.

  • Cold: Being chilled without adequate warmth and cuddling causes crying.

  • Need for stimulation: Kits cry when they want maternal attention and affection.

Proper nesting, feeding, and bonding with the mother prevents most crying. Kits that frequently vocalize likely have an unmet need that requires intervention.

Stressful Things That Can Cause Rabbit Crying

Any stressful, painful, or unfamiliar event can trigger crying in rabbits of all ages. Common specific causes include:

  • Hunger or thirst

  • Loneliness from isolation

  • Boredom from lack of enrichment

  • Being in an uncomfortable cage or environment

  • Lack of bonding time with humans or rabbit partners

  • Pain from injury or illness

  • Fear of predators, loud noises, bright lights, etc.

  • Being restrained or mishandled

  • Grief from loss of a bonded rabbit companion

  • Certain medications or medical procedures

Reducing environmental stressors and providing proper care promotes rabbit wellbeing and prevents unnecessary crying.

Do Rabbits Cry When in Pain?

Yes, rabbits frequently cry out when they are in pain. Signs that crying is from pain include:

  • High-pitched, shrill screaming

  • Grinding teeth

  • Motionless stiff posture

  • Pulling out own fur

  • Loss of appetite

  • Aggression when touched

  • Hunching in a corner

Common sources of painful distress are illness, injury, dental issues, surgery, gastrointestinal problems, and arthritis. Crying indicates the rabbit requires urgent veterinary care.

Do Rabbits Cry When They Die?

No, there is no evidence that rabbits cry as they are dying. Rabbits may vocalize in pain or distress as the medical issue that will ultimately cause their death first develops. However, during the actual death process they are unlikely to cry out. Wild rabbits also typically die silently to avoid attracting predators. Any crying indicates a rabbit is not dead yet. A dying rabbit may show other signs of suffering like labored breathing, twitching, or bleeding. Euthanasia may be appropriate if a rabbit is clearly actively dying with no chance of recovery. After death, rabbits may still have residual muscle twitches but no voluntary cries.

Do Rabbits Cry When Sad or Lonely?

Yes, rabbits do sometimes vocalize and display behaviors indicative of sadness or loneliness. Signs include:

  • Whimpering, purring, or grunting

  • Listless lethargy and lack of interest in food or play

  • Excessive grooming

  • Chewing cage bars

  • Aggression towards humans

  • Pacing and foot thumping

  • Seeking human contact and attention

These behaviors increase when a bonded rabbit companion dies or is separated. Social interaction, toys, and a pleasant environment can help remedy rabbit crying from sadness.

My Rabbit Looks Like She’s Been Crying

If your rabbit's eyes appear wet, crusty, swollen, or have discharge it likely has some eye irritation but is not actually producing tears when crying. Possible causes include:

  • Conjunctivitis: Eye infection causing swelling and discharge.

  • Foreign object: Debris, dust, or eyelash in eye.

  • Dry eyes: Insufficient tear production.

  • Dental issues: Tooth root problems creating eye pressure.

  • Blocked tear ducts: Preventing drainage.

  • Face shape: Some breeds are prone to teary eyes.

  • Allergies or respiratory infection: Can cause irritated runny eyes.

Seek veterinary diagnosis and treatment if your rabbit's eyes appear chronically wet or inflamed. This will relieve any discomfort and prevent eye damage.

What Causes Weepy Eye in Rabbits?

The medical name for a chronically wet eye due to excessive tear production in rabbits is epiphora. Common causes include:

  • Eyelid shape: Rolled in eyelids or lashes rubbing the eye can irritate it.

  • Overgrown teeth: Misaligned incisors put pressure on tear ducts.

  • Blocked tear duct: Debris, infection, or anatomy prevents drainage.

  • Conjunctivitis: Eye infections cause inflammation and discharge.

  • Foreign body: Something lodged behind eyelid or in the eye.

  • Abscess: Infection of the tear gland pushes tears out.

  • Facial injury: Trauma can damage drainage system.

  • Birth defect: Cleft lip or palate alters eyes and drainage.

Surgery and medication can correct anatomical abnormalities leading to excessive tear production and runny eyes.

What to Do If a Rabbit is Crying

If your rabbit is whimpering, screaming, or showing other signs of crying or distress:

  1. Try to identify the source of discomfort and address it if possible by providing food, warmth, bonding time, etc.

  2. Check for signs of illness or injury requiring emergency veterinary care.

  3. If crying persists with no obvious cause, schedule a veterinary exam.

  4. Make sure your rabbit is spayed or neutered to reduce hormonal behaviors.

  5. Give your rabbit enrichment toys, activities, and affection to reduce stress.

  6. Monitor their environment for potential frights or discomforts.

  7. Consider whether grief is causing crying after a companion rabbit passed away.

A crying rabbit that is inconsolable needs intervention. Proper handling, socializing, and veterinary care can get crying and associated problems under control.


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