Rabbits make a wide range of vocalizations, but do they actually scream before death? This is a common question for rabbit owners and those interested in lagomorph behavior. In this article, we’ll explore the science behind rabbit screams and vocalizations to find out if and when rabbits might scream as they near death.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: While uncommon, some rabbits may scream or squeal in distress immediately before or at the moment of death. This vocalization seems to be an involuntary reaction to pain or fear. Read on to learn more.

Normal Rabbit Vocalizations

Rabbits are known for their silent nature, but contrary to popular belief, they do have a range of vocalizations to communicate with each other and their human caretakers. Understanding these vocalizations can help rabbit owners better understand their pets’ needs and emotions.

Let’s explore some of the common rabbit vocalizations:


Similar to cats, rabbits can purr when they are content and relaxed. Purring in rabbits is often accompanied by a relaxed body posture, closed eyes, and gentle grooming. It’s their way of expressing happiness and relaxation.

If you hear your rabbit purring, it’s a good sign that they are feeling comfortable and safe in their environment.


Grunting is a vocalization commonly used by rabbits to express displeasure or annoyance. It’s their way of saying, “I’m not happy with this situation.” You may hear your rabbit grunt if they are being handled in a way they don’t like or if they are feeling territorial.

It’s important to respect your rabbit’s boundaries and give them space when they grunt.


Honking is a unique vocalization that some rabbits make when they are excited or anticipating something. It sounds like a cross between a purr and a snort. Honking is often associated with rabbits who are eager for their mealtime or expecting a treat.

It’s their way of expressing enthusiasm and anticipation.


Squealing is a high-pitched vocalization that rabbits may make when they are in pain or feeling threatened. It’s their way of alerting others that something is wrong. If you hear your rabbit squeal, it’s important to assess the situation and ensure their safety.

Squealing can also occur during aggressive encounters between rabbits, indicating a need for intervention.


While growling is less common in rabbits compared to other vocalizations, some rabbits may growl to express fear or aggression. It’s a low, guttural sound that serves as a warning to others. If you notice your rabbit growling, it’s crucial to assess the situation and address any potential sources of fear or stress.

Seeking guidance from a rabbit behavior expert may be beneficial in such cases.

Remember, each rabbit is unique, and their vocalizations may vary. It’s essential to pay attention to your rabbit’s body language and other cues to get a complete understanding of their emotions. By being attuned to their vocalizations and behavior, you can establish a strong bond with your furry friend and provide them with the care they need.

Distress Calls

Rabbits are known to be vocal animals, using various sounds to communicate with each other and express their emotions. When it comes to distress, rabbits have specific vocalizations that indicate fear, pain, and even their final moments.

Understanding these distress calls can help rabbit owners identify when their furry friends are in trouble and provide appropriate care and attention.

Fear Squeals

One type of distress call that rabbits make is the fear squeal. This high-pitched sound is emitted when a rabbit feels threatened or scared. It serves as a warning to other rabbits in the vicinity and can also act as a defense mechanism to startle potential predators.

Fear squeals are often accompanied by other behaviors such as freezing, hiding, or attempting to escape. If you hear your rabbit making a fear squeal, it’s important to assess the situation and ensure their safety.

Pain Squeals

Another distress call that rabbits make is the pain squeal. This sound is produced when a rabbit is experiencing physical discomfort or injury. Pain squeals can vary in intensity and duration depending on the severity of the pain.

It’s crucial to pay attention to these calls as they indicate that something may be wrong with your rabbit’s health. If your rabbit is making pain squeals, it’s recommended to consult a veterinarian for a thorough examination and appropriate treatment.

Death Throes

While it is a common misconception that rabbits scream before death, they do exhibit certain behaviors during their final moments. As prey animals, rabbits have evolved to hide signs of weakness or distress, including vocalizations.

Instead of screaming, rabbits may show symptoms such as labored breathing, loss of appetite, lethargy, or unusual body postures. If you notice any of these signs in your rabbit, it is important to seek veterinary assistance immediately to ensure their comfort and well-being.

Why Rabbits Would Scream Before Death

Rabbits are generally known for their quiet and timid nature, so it may come as a surprise to learn that they are capable of screaming. While it may be distressing to hear a rabbit scream, it is important to understand the reasons behind this vocalization.

There are several factors that could contribute to why rabbits would scream before death.

Pain Response

One possible reason for a rabbit to scream before death is due to a pain response. Just like any other living creature, rabbits have nerve endings that can transmit pain signals to their brain. If a rabbit is experiencing intense pain, such as from an injury or illness, it may vocalize its distress through screaming.

This can be a way for the rabbit to communicate its suffering and seek help or comfort from its caretakers.

Fear Response

Another reason why rabbits might scream before death is as a fear response. When rabbits feel threatened or scared, they may emit loud vocalizations as a way to deter predators or alert other rabbits in their vicinity.

This instinctual behavior is a survival mechanism that can help rabbits avoid potential danger. If a rabbit is in a state of extreme fear or panic, it may scream as a last resort to protect itself.

Involuntary Reaction

In some cases, a rabbit’s scream before death may be an involuntary reaction. When a rabbit is in distress or experiencing severe pain, it may lose control of its vocalizations, resulting in screams. This can be similar to a reflex action, where the rabbit’s body reacts automatically without conscious thought.

It is important to remember that these screams are not intentional, but rather a physiological response to the rabbit’s condition.

It is worth noting that not all rabbits will scream before death, and the occurrence of this vocalization can vary depending on individual factors and circumstances. If you have a pet rabbit, it is essential to provide them with a safe and comfortable environment to minimize any potential stress or pain that could lead to screaming.

If you are concerned about your rabbit’s well-being or notice any unusual behavior, it is always best to consult with a veterinarian who can provide expert guidance and care. Remember, rabbits rely on us to advocate for their health and well-being, so it is important to be attentive to their needs and provide appropriate medical attention when necessary.

When Rabbits Are Most Likely to Scream

During Predator Attacks

One of the most common situations in which rabbits may scream is during predator attacks. When rabbits sense danger, their natural instinct is to freeze and remain motionless, hoping to go unnoticed by the predator.

However, if they feel trapped or cornered, they may emit a high-pitched scream as a last-ditch effort to startle the predator and escape. It is important to note that not all rabbits scream in this situation, as some may rely on silent evasion techniques instead.

Botched Euthanasia

Another unfortunate scenario where rabbits may scream is during botched euthanasia attempts. Although euthanasia is sometimes necessary to end a rabbit’s suffering due to illness or injury, it must be performed by a trained professional using humane methods.

If the procedure is not carried out properly, it can cause immense pain and distress to the rabbit, leading to vocalizations such as screams. It is crucial to always seek the assistance of a qualified veterinarian when considering euthanasia for a rabbit.

Accidents Causing Severe Injury

Rabbits may also scream when they experience accidents that result in severe injury. These accidents can occur due to various reasons, such as falls from heights, getting caught in machinery, or being attacked by other animals.

The intense pain and fear associated with these injuries can cause rabbits to vocalize their distress through screams. If you suspect that your rabbit has been seriously injured, it is important to seek immediate veterinary attention to alleviate its suffering.

Preventing Distress in Dying Rabbits

As responsible rabbit owners, it is important to provide proper end-of-life care to ensure that our beloved pets do not experience unnecessary distress during their final moments. Here are some key steps to consider:

Proper End-of-Life Care

When a rabbit is nearing the end of its life, it is crucial to provide a calm and comfortable environment. Keep the temperature in the room moderate, as extreme temperatures can cause additional stress to the rabbit.

Ensure that the rabbit has access to fresh water and a soft, cozy bed or blanket to rest on. Additionally, it is important to keep the surroundings quiet and minimize any sudden loud noises that could startle or upset the rabbit.

It is also important to monitor the rabbit closely during this time. Look out for any signs of pain or discomfort, such as changes in appetite, difficulty breathing, or unusual behavior. If you notice any concerning symptoms, it is essential to contact a veterinarian for guidance and possible pain management options.

Soothing an Injured Rabbit

In the unfortunate event that your rabbit is injured and in distress, it is crucial to provide immediate care and comfort. Start by gently examining the rabbit for any visible wounds or injuries. If you are unsure about how to handle the situation, it is best to consult a veterinarian for guidance.

To help soothe the rabbit, you can try gently stroking its fur or speaking to it in a calm and reassuring voice. Providing a safe and quiet space can also help alleviate stress for the injured rabbit. It is important to remember that rabbits are prey animals and may instinctively hide any signs of pain or distress.

Therefore, it is crucial to be observant and responsive to any changes in their behavior.

Humane Euthanasia Practices

When it becomes clear that a rabbit’s suffering is beyond alleviation, it may be necessary to consider humane euthanasia. This decision should never be taken lightly and should always be made in consultation with a veterinarian.

Euthanasia methods used for rabbits are usually quick and painless. Most commonly, veterinarians administer an injection of a euthanasia solution, which causes the rabbit to peacefully pass away. This process ensures that the rabbit does not endure any unnecessary suffering.

It is important to remember that every rabbit’s end-of-life journey is unique, and the level of distress experienced may vary. By providing proper end-of-life care, soothing injured rabbits, and considering humane euthanasia practices when necessary, we can ensure that our beloved pets are as comfortable and at peace as possible during their final moments.


While not a common vocalization, some rabbits may involuntarily scream or squeal as a reaction to severe pain or fear in the moments before death. Rabbits use a variety of other vocalizations to communicate in normal situations and in distress.

Understanding lagomorph vocal behavior can help rabbit owners identify signs of pain or fear and provide proper care to minimize suffering, even at the end of a rabbit’s life.

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