rabbit screaming in distress
Questions and Answers

Why Do Rabbits Scream?

A rabbit’s scream can be described as a long, loud, and sharp cry. Owners who have never heard the scream of a rabbit may find the noise alarming and disturbing. If you hear a rabbit screaming, you must pay attention immediately and find out what’s making your rabbit cry out.

Screaming among rabbits indicates alarm associated with fear, pain, and psychological distress. Your rabbit may scream because it is scared of being attacked or dying. Rabbits also scream when they’re in excruciating pain, or when they’re having a seizure. A rabbit may scream just before it dies as well.

If you hear a loud squeal from your rabbit, understand that it is a sign of extreme pain, terror, or calling out for help. Sit with your rabbit, pet it, and offer it comfort. In the meantime, look for signs of significant injury or disease and see a vet as soon as your rabbit settles down.

What Causes Rabbits to Scream?

Rabbits aren’t the most vocal animals, so screaming can alarm many owners. A rabbit can scream like a small child for many reasons.

Often, rabbits scream out of fear for their lives. Furthermore, if a rabbit is in extreme pain, it would scream just like a human would as it has no other way of getting help.

Screaming Caused by Severe Injury or Pain in Rabbits

Your rabbit is likely to scream if it is in excruciating pain or has a severe injury. In many cases, screaming will be accompanied by other symptoms of pain and distress, such as:

Your rabbit’s signs and symptoms will also depend on what’s causing the pain. Rabbits have fragile skeletons, so they’re highly susceptible to broken bones and painful limbs.

You can check if your rabbit is injured by gently palpating areas that you suspect may be injured. If your rabbit recoils when you touch a certain area, the chances are that it is the area of concern.

Severe gas is another cause of extreme pain in rabbits. Painful gas can be caused by GI stasis, which is a potentially life-threatening disease that can occur in any rabbit.

GI stasis involves the blockage of the digestive tract, causing severe bloating in pain in rabbits. Your rabbit may lie down on its side and shake because it doesn’t know how to manage its pain.

According to the PETA, forcefully ripping off fur from wooly breeds such as the Angora Wooler can cause pain, forcing your pet to let out a squeal.

Because rabbits are prey animals, they’re highly likely to hide signs of any pain or weakness. A rabbit will exhibit signs of pain, such as screaming, once its symptoms have progressed significantly. Therefore, immediate veterinary attention is critical if you notice that your rabbit is in pain.

A rabbit in pain can go into shock and die within 24 to 48 hours. This can happen even if the disease or injury itself isn’t life-threatening. Therefore, early management of pain and stress is key to ensuring your rabbit feels better.

Rabbits may also scream while dying due to pain and fear. Some rabbits may scream when they are dying from debilitating diseases, such as viral hemorrhage disease (VHD). Rabbits may also scream while being slaughtered.

Rabbits Screaming due to Extreme Fear

Your rabbit may also vocalize if it is in extreme fear. Rabbits can get scared of many things, with the most obvious one being predators. A rabbit can fear for its life from the sight, smell, or noise from a potential predator.

In the wild, the sole purpose of rabbits in the food chain is to be another animal’s food. Rabbits are a filling meal for many predators, and they’re well aware of that. This has allowed rabbits to sense danger in a plethora of ways to steer clear of anything that may harm them. Therefore, just sensing the presence of a predator can make them skittish and easily scared.

Rabbits were bred originally for food. Domestication made them slightly more docile, but it didn’t remove their fear instincts. Therefore, this old trait is strong even in domesticated rabbits even though the ones kept as pets aren’t meant to be eaten anymore.

Fear is what keeps rabbits alive. Unfortunately, in extreme situations, fear can also cause shock and cause a rabbit to die. Therefore, fear can cause screaming in two ways. Either your rabbit saw a potential predator and screamed for its life, or it screamed because of extreme stress that led to its death. Dying from fear is among one of the most common causes of sudden death in rabbits.

In any case, your rabbit is screaming because it is trying to call for help. It’s also sending out signals, such as “I am afraid” or “I am going to die.”

Therefore, as soon as you hear your rabbit screaming, you need to check if your pet is okay. Prolonged fear can lead to unbearable stress in rabbits.

Rabbits kept outdoors are more likely to die due to stress from potential predators, or by being attacked by predators. The ASPCA urges owners to house rabbits indoors as it’s much safer and far less stressful for pet rabbits.

Rabbits Screaming Due to Extreme Anger

Rabbits may release a high-pitched and unpleasant sound when they’re extremely angry, similar to a boisterous child throwing a temper tantrum.

When your rabbit screams as a result of extreme anger, it’s trying to tell you that it finds what you’re doing or what is happening deeply upsetting.

However, screaming due to anger isn’t common, even among the unhappiest rabbits. Rabbits that are displeased are likely to show signs of discontentment, by growling, snorting, hissing or foot-stomping. If a rabbit is stressed or doesn’t want to be handled, it may grind its teeth or whimper.

Why Do Rabbits Scream When They Die?

Your rabbit may scream while dying of fright. Rabbits are afraid of many things. Although not very common, loud and sudden sounds, such as loud music, lightning, or other pets can cause heart attacks in rabbits.

Leaving pets alone with your rabbit can also scare your rabbit into shock, eventually leading to its death. Even rabbits that have been raised around dogs see them as a potential threat.

Therefore, if your rabbit sees any animal that vaguely resembles a dog, such as your neighbor’s dog, a coyote, or a wolf it will fear for its life. The same goes for cats. Even if your rabbit isn’t afraid of your pet dog or cat, it’s best not to leave them alone with your rabbit.

If you end up hearing a loud, disturbing scream from your rabbit and find a pet dog or cat near it, with no physical harm done to your rabbit, it should still be a cause for concern. Prolonged stress can be detrimental to a rabbit’s health. Consider moving your rabbit someplace where other pets can’t access.

Why do rabbits scream when they die?

Rabbit Screaming During a Seizure

Your rabbit may squeal or scream while having a seizure. Although seizures are not common in rabbits, they can be extremely painful. Seizures can occur from:

  • Parasitic or viral infections
  • Trauma in the central nervous system
  • Medication
  • Toxicity
  • Mechanical causes
  • Systemic causes

One common cause of seizures in rabbits is the consumption of gardening products, such as pesticides, washing powder, or other cleaning detergents that may cause toxicity in rabbits. Toxicity leads to life-threatening and painful seizures in rabbits.

Therefore, if you are letting your rabbit hop around in your garden, make sure the environment is pet-friendly and free of toxic chemicals, cleaning products, and poisonous plants.

Note that not all seizures are the same. A rabbit suffering from a partial seizure, for example, will be partially conscious of its environment. It may throw itself around on the floor, and this is the point where it is likely to scream.

A rabbit may also have a generalized seizure. This is when a rabbit is not conscious and rolls on its side with its eyes rolled back.

Not all rabbits die from seizures, but death is still immensely possible. If your pet rabbit does recover from its seizure, it must be checked by a veterinarian immediately.

Rabbit Screaming When Picked Up

Never let children under the age of 12 handle a rabbit alone. Children that haven’t been trained in handling rabbits should not be allowed to carry your rabbit either. Improper handling, along with loud noises and running around from children can cause distress in rabbits.

Rabbits are emotionally and physically fragile animals. An adult should always be present while a child interacts with a rabbit. Not handling your rabbit correctly can break your rabbit’s bones, especially on its back. The stress from the pain may cause your rabbit to scream, or cause it to die.

Rabbit Screaming While Being Attacked

Rabbits are naturally designed to scream because screaming is their reaction to being chased down by a predator. Screaming can be a defense mechanism for rabbits, which is why the shrilling sound released by a rabbit can be so alarming and disturbing. A rabbit will scream if it is scared, being attacked, or feels as if it is going to die.

Surprisingly, rabbits do not have vocal cords to cry as humans can. They can’t use their voice to communicate like other animals. A rabbit’s scream is, therefore, a result of air being forced out of its lungs all of a sudden. This is why rabbits scream during a seizure, or while experiencing something that resembles a seizure.

Note that not all rabbits are the same. Some rabbits may scream more than others, and some may not scream at all in their entire lifetime. Some rabbits have been reported to scream when they feel like they’re about to be picked up by their owner. This is probably because they’re concerned about being attacked and dying.

What You Should Do When Your Rabbit Screams

If you hear your rabbit screaming, offer it comfort and support, while looking for signs of injury or trauma. Taking your pet to a vet may be your first instinct, but it is best to evaluate the situation first.

Your rabbit may be shocked by a neighborhood dog or a loud noise, thus forcing it to scream out of fear. If your rabbit seems to be in distress, picking them up and taking them in a stressful car ride to the vet may cause more harm than good. Therefore, it is best to judge the situation and wait until your rabbit calms down. Too much stress may even result in death.

Being near your pet, stroking them gently, soothing and whispering quietly is the best way to let your pet settle down following a scream. If you are aware of the source of your rabbit’s stress, eliminating it is necessary for your rabbit’s wellbeing. If your rabbit is stressed because of another pet, keeping your rabbit in a quiet, private space will help.

If you suspect your rabbit may be dying or screaming out of excruciating pain, you may offer it comfort and let it pass at home. Alternatively, you can take your rabbit to the vet to be humanely put down if you fear your rabbit is suffering too much.