Why Do Rabbits Shake? ( What does it mean)

rabbit shaking

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There’s no worse feeling as a pet rabbit owner than recognizing something’s wrong with your furry little family member and not being able to remedy it fast.

This is especially true when your rabbit starts to shake uncontrollably, seemingly out of the blue.

Luckily, though, with the help of this quick guide you’ll be able to easily (and accurately) diagnose the trouble your rabbit is dealing with when they are twitching and trembling.

When it comes to shaking, the most common reasons behind this behavior include:

  • Temperature Changes
  • Fear and Anxiety
  • Extreme Physical Pain
  • Bites from Bugs and Mites
  • Ingesting Toxins and Poisons
  • Trouble with Their GI Tract

Let’s dig a little bit deeper into why do rabbits shake right now.

Why Do Rabbits Shake? – The Six Main Causes

For starters, it’s important to know that rabbits are prey animals. Their body language is instinct based more than anything else, which means there’s always a primal and automatic reason for their behavior to change.

If your rabbit has started to shake there’s definitely something going on “under the hood”, so to speak.

It’s up to you as the responsible pet owner to diagnose the trouble quickly and to remedy the situation ASAP – which may mean a visit to the vet!


Rabbits have evolved to be a lot more resistant to cold temperatures than most small mammals.

Their dense fur coat and thick layer of body fat gives them the ability to keep themselves warm in very low temperatures.

At the same time, though, the same things that help rabbits survive in freezing temperatures can prove to be real health risks when rabbits start to overheat.

Anytime the temperature starts to rise above 80°F you’re going to see your rabbit start to shake. It’ll start in their ears and if the problem persists the shaking will move to encompass their entire head.

Any reddening of their ears, any panting, and any lethargy combined with the shaking usually signals heatstroke related issues.

It’s critical that you get out in front of overheating ASAP. Cool down your rabbit with a cloth damped with cool water or visit an emergency vet straightaway.

5.Scared or Nervous

As highlighted above, rabbits are prey animals in the wild and are (generally) pretty nervous most of the time.

Loud noises, sudden movements, and a whole host of other things that can happen in a busy household can spook them pretty good. Most of the time your rabbit will be able to rebound from those stressors quickly, but not always.

If your rabbit is particularly twitchy, has begun to tremble or shake, and can’t seem to stop after 10 or 15 minutes and need to remove the stressor (or the rabbit) from that environment.

Move them into a quiet, dimly lit space that they feel comfortable and allow them to calm down naturally.

They’ll calm down faster than you expect when the perceived threat has been eliminated.


As prey animals rabbits do a pretty good job of hiding their pain, doing their level best to project strength to potential predators that are always looking to pick off the weakest animals they come across.

This is why you can bet that if your rabbit is shaking because of pain there’s really something wrong. In these instances you want to see out veterinarian assistance just as soon as you can.

When a rabbit is shaking from pain it’s almost always well beyond the capacity of rabbit owners to treat, may be an internal issue that has to be addressed, and usually can only be properly diagnosed by a vet with all their tools and technology.

Get them help in a hurry.

3.Mite and Bug Bites

Rabbits are magnets for mites and other bugs.

These little bugs can quickly build up a population without you even noticing, only becoming aware of the infestation after your rabbit starts to twitch and shake while scratching themselves.

Ear mites, fur mites, and burrowing mites are usually the type of bugs you are going to be up against.

Diagnosing the problem is pretty easy (you’ll see the army of bugs swarming along their ears or body), as is the solution.

Take them to a vet to get a topical treatment that will wash those mites away quickly. It should also protect your rabbit from future infestations as well.

2.Ingesting Poisons/Toxins

If you have begun to notice your rabbit laying on their side and shaking while also looking or acting clumsy or disoriented the odds are pretty good that they’ve eaten something that’s poisonous or toxic.

Truth be told, there are a lot more food dangers out there than you may be aware of – particularly if you are a new rabbit owner.

Yogurt, avocado, iceberg lettuce, walnuts, any kind of bread or pasta, cereal, rhubarb, chocolate, corn, and a whole bunch of other foods you might think are safe for your rabbit to eat can actually put their lives in jeopardy.

If your rabbit is laying down, shaking, and disoriented or having difficulty moving on their own it’s time for an emergency veterinarian visit.

1.Trouble with their GI Tract

Rabbits have finicky gastrointestinal tracks and it really doesn’t take much for their internal systems to get thrown out of whack, potentially threatening their lives along the way.

GI stasis is a big problem with rabbits in particular.

This is a dangerous condition where the digestive system of your rabbit slows down or shuts down completely, allowing bacteria to build up throughout the intestines, basically poisoning your animal from the inside out.

The build up of gas also becomes quite excruciating for rabbits to have to deal with, forcing them to avoid eating or drinking. All of a sudden you’ll notice your rabbits become dehydrated, start to lose weight, and even start to lose patches of fur.

This condition is usually triggered by rabbits eating the wrong kind of food, shutting down their systems and causing blockages. You have to be really conscious about what you’re giving your furry little friend.

Anywhere between 80% and 90% of your rabbits daily diet should be high-quality hay or “roughage”. You have to be sure that they are getting enough water every day, too.

Vegetables and fruits that are high in starch or sugar should only ever be given as a very rare treat. You need to avoid processed foods and carbohydrates that can cause GI stasis issues entirely.

Can Rabbits shake with happiness?

Rabbit do react to happiness and excitment just like humans. However, it’s less of a shake and more of a hop, skip and jump.

You can clearly tell the difference between an act of fear or issue and the physical action of excitement. If you spend time with your pet rabbit or any pet for that matter you’ll notice a change in their normal behavior.

Rabbits shake from fear, pain, anxiety, and illness. Observe your pet rabbit closely and if you see them shaking you should investigate the issue as it’s not a good sign. Rabbits do not shake with happiness. So, presume that there is an issue if your rabbit starts to shake.

Is it normal for rabbits to shake?

It is normal for a rabbit to shake occasionally. They will shake when they sleep and when they are happy, but they will lie down and shake if they are stressed.

How to calm a shaking rabbit?

If your rabbit is lying down and shaking, cover their eyes gently with your hands, talk calmly to them, and remove any stressors that might be scaring your rabbit (look for loud noises, other animals, or strange smells).

Why is my rabbit shaking?

Rabbits shake for many reasons. They shake while they are sleeping, they shake when they are excited, they shake when they are scared, and they shake when they are sick.

Will my rabbit die from shaking?

Your rabbit will not die from shaking. If you notice your rabbit shaking while lying on their side, you should bring them to a vet. They might be shaking because of an illness, and if left untreated, the illness could kill your rabbit.

Closing Thoughts – Why Do Rabbits Shake?

At the end of the day, keeping your rabbit healthy and happy is going to take a little bit of work – but that’s what we all signed up for as responsible pet owners.

Now that you know how to recognize your rabbit shaking (and understand why do rabbits shake a little better) you shouldn’t have to worry as much. Most of these issues can be spotted a mile away and quickly remedied.

On top of that, most of the problems that cause rabbits to shake aren’t life threatening unless ignored. Use the info above to help you spot the more severe issues faster, get help immediately, and keep your furry little family member healthy!

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