Bunny flopping is when your rabbit literally flops over from being upright to being on its side and is a normal thing for a rabbit to do and is usually a sign of a rabbit who is content and happy.
Rabbits sleep quite a bit, and before a nap, sometimes they flop into position.
There are times when flopping occurs excessively, not just for naps. This behavior, while usually normal, may sometimes indicate that something is wrong with your rabbit.
If you observe that your rabbit is flopping and have concerns, continue reading to determine if you have cause for worry.
9 reasons why your rabbit may be flopping more than usual
When stressed or fearful, rabbits may flop down, shrinking back from you or from a perceived danger.
If you move quickly or are very loud, your rabbit may act differently towards you. Your rabbit may act out in fear because quick movements or loud sounds are associated with danger.
Making very slow movements or allowing your rabbit to come to you for a treat may help in this case.
Likewise, being sure that there are no larger animals or loud noises near your rabbit will also be beneficial.
Your rabbit may also flop if it is experiencing an illness or pain. One of these is called GI Stasis, a condition where the rabbit becomes bloated with gas and may have difficulty passing stools.
This can be very serious, especially if your rabbit cannot pass stools. To reduce gas, rabbits will flop on their belly or side to relieve pain and bloat.
Although this usually is corrected within a few hours, it is crucial to keep an eye on your rabbit to ensure there is no serious issue that requires veterinary care.
Floppy Rabbit Syndrome
There is a specific illness called FRS (Floppy Rabbit Syndrome), where your rabbit has a neurological condition that produces weakness in the legs and neck areas.
This weakness may make it difficult for your rabbit to stand or to stand for very long. One of the main warning signs of this illness is if your rabbit has a weak or floppy neck.
This is an acute condition. However, rabbits will remain alert and will continue to eat.
Rabbits can become injured, resulting in them having pain when upright. Injury can also lead to weakness, even after the injury has been healed.
If injured or having weakness in the legs, especially the hind legs, your rabbit may flop over more often.
When having seizures, the rabbit will flop and may lay still, shake, or the body may twist in a strange position.
Aside from FRS, there are other issues that result in seizures, such as illness, head injury, and ingesting toxic substances.
Fatigue from activity
Fatigue that results from a lot of activity may result in flopping followed by a deep sleep. Rabbits who are not ill love to play hard and take plenty of naps.
Rabbits who have been playing or mating expend a lot of energy that requires some rest to recover from. They love to play and also take frequent naps.
Fatigue from illness
When illness is present, fatigue may be present in rabbits who have become ill and require rest to recover or who have a severely decreased energy level due to being sick.
They will flop and take long naps, sleeping more than usual.
Rabbits flop to nap or rest, especially when happy and content or after having a meal or their favorite treat.
If you notice that your pet rabbit flops near you after playtime or treats, it is a sign that your pet is comfortable with you and feels safe in your presence.
Unfortunately, rabbits do not live forever and sometimes do have terminal illnesses. Your rabbit may flop and be limp when he or she is dying.
There may be tremors, groans, squeaks, and your rabbit may shake or shiver. If you know that your rabbit is dying, talking softly, gentle strokes, and just being present is all that can be done.
Try not to add stress to your rabbit at this time so that you can ease their passing.
When is excessive flopping a concern?
Flopping multiple times within a short span of time
This behavior may indicate an issue that is not normal. There may be no cause for concern if your rabbit has been playing a lot or has been very busy expending energy and flops between activities.
Likewise, if this is normal behavior, there is no concern since rabbits enjoy taking frequent naps.
A change in behavior
If your pet is flopping more than usual and does not appear relaxed and comfortable after the flop, you may want to see if there is a cause that indicates an illness or injury.
If your rabbit has a bloated tummy, excessive flopping may be your rabbit’s way of relieving gas.
However, if your rabbit is having difficulty with or unable to pass stools, a veterinarian should evaluate this.
Flopping in unusual places
If you observe that your rabbit is behaving abnormally and is flopping more than usual or in places that are unusual for your pet, you may have cause for concern.
This can indicate a weakness or injury that requires care.
Limp or low energy
A limp rabbit that flops and appears to have little energy may be ill, seriously injured, or dying.
If this is accompanied by a change in nutritional or bowel/bladder habits, this is a serious concern.
Flopping repeatedly with no space between
If your pet is repeatedly flopping, getting up, and flopping again, it may indicate that your rabbit has a severe illness or injury that requires veterinary care.
If this happens, observe your rabbit closely to see if there is a weakness around the neck or in the hind legs.
If either or both of these symptoms are present, this may indicate a severe condition requiring immediate veterinary care.
If the rabbit is doing this and is shaking or his body is twisting in strange ways, he may be having seizures.
What to do if you think your rabbit is flopping too much today?
Flopping is generally normal.
Rabbits like to flop before getting in a nap. When your rabbit flops near you, especially after playtime, it shows that your rabbit is comfortable with you and feels safe around you.
You may notice that your rabbit flops more than once throughout the day.
Rabbits enjoy taking many naps. If eating is normal, eyes bright, and your rabbit is alert, there is no cause for worry.
Stop stressing a stressed rabbit.
If your rabbit is stressed, being touched repeatedly or forced to move will further stress the rabbit.
Stress can cause issues with rabbits, so giving your rabbit a quiet space that does not have bright light where he or she can calm down is recommended.
Monitor eating and drinking.
Making sure that your rabbit has been eating and drinking is essential. Rabbits require a lot of water and can become dehydrated quickly.
If your rabbit is not drinking or eating normally for more than a short time, consult with your veterinarian to see if your rabbit needs to be seen immediately.
Monitor bladder and bowel movements.
If you notice a change in the color, amount, or smell in the rabbit’s urine, this can indicate an illness that requires immediate veterinary care.
If your rabbit is not passing stools as much as expected, or not at all, there may be an issue, G.I. Stasis, where your rabbit will need help from a veterinarian. If gas, this will correct in a few hours.
If your rabbit is flopping more than usual and has a swollen belly, this may be helped a bit by very gently massaging the belly of your rabbit to help relieve the gas.
Check for injuries on back legs.
If your rabbit has injured her back legs, flopping more than usual may occur due to weakness or pain.
To know if there may be an injury that you are unaware of, gently touching the area will tell you because your rabbit will not want to be touched in an injured area.
Get veterinary care if you know or suspect that your rabbit has had an injury and you notice this behavior.
Monitor for neurological problems.
Observe your rabbit when it flops. Look for weakness in the neck and hind legs if the rabbit is shaking or has twisting in the body. (The twisting is generally from the waist area and will look unnatural.)
Contact a vet.
You have observed a change in your rabbit’s behaviors or know that there is an injury. The best course to take is to get your rabbit to a veterinarian immediately.
To do this, put your rabbit in a safe carrier (the hard type for small dogs usually works for average-sized-rabbits) that fits their size and gives them enough room to stand and drive to the animal clinic.
If you are unsure if you should take your rabbit to the veterinarian, call first. There is never an error in being over-cautious with your rabbit.
Knowing what flopping is and that rabbits typically have this behavior is helpful when observing your rabbit.
It is important to get to know your rabbit and his/her behaviors, including when and where flopping is normal.
By knowing normal behaviors and habits, you will be able to identify abnormal ones, including when your rabbit is flopping more than normal or in a different way.
Seeking help from a veterinarian may be a necessary step to take to get your pet care to remedy illness or injury.