Beginner’s Guide to Properly Handling Rabbits

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Rabbits can be such wonderful pets – they are affectionate, smart, and even goofy at times! These are just some of the reasons why so many people around the world choose them as their family pets. But before you commit to a rabbit pet, there are a few key things to know about. And the first and foremost is bunny handling. These are fragile and energetic creatures, and you want to know what is the best way to handle them easily and safely. It is all about the right approach and plenty of patience and care to ensure their safety at all times. 

Before you start, remember that you should not avoid handling rabbits. In fact, when done properly, handling your bunny can only enrich your bond. This is because rabbits are naturally social and affectionate creatures, especially when they are spayed and neutered. By handling them often and with gentleness and care, you will build a strong relationship with your pet and the affectionate nature of your bunny pet will quickly come to the forefront. However, it is crucial that you approach handling them with great care, because if you don't, you can either scare your bunny and damage your relationship, or even worse, inadvertently hurt them.

The Sooner You Start, the Better

The first thing to keep in mind is that you should start handling your bunny early on. Introducing your bunny to handling and human touch as early as possible will get them used to it much faster than if you wait until you try to pick them up. At this point, it is important to remember that, in nature, rabbits are prey for many predators. This means that they will have defensive instincts, and be naturally timid and fearful as a result. If you try to initiate physical contact abruptly, they can see it as a threat, and try to jump out of your hands, run away from you, or simply get too scared to get close to you again. Those first contacts are important, so be gentle, talk in a gentle and hushed voice, and take things slowly. Make no sudden movements! Don’t start handling in a chaotic or restless environment - peace and quiet can help relax your rabbit pet.

Be Gentle And Careful

As you start handling your rabbit, always keep in mind the fact that they can be quite fragile. Their little bones and bodies are delicate at best – so no squishing, strong grips, and holding them against their will. If a bunny is desperate to get out of your grip, they can end up hurting themselves from the sheer effort. Even worse, they can jump out of your hands and injure themselves from the fall, so take your time and be patient with them. 

It is best to get down low as you pick up a rabbit. Being closer to their level is less likely to scare them, and it also prevents you from dropping them from a height. Once you’re down closer to a safe height, remember to be slow and careful. Next, try picking them up: one hand should go underneath the bunny, across their chest, while the other should go beneath their backside. Once you are holding them with both hands, you can slowly place them against your body. Feeling your warmth and gentleness, and your soft words can help them feel secure.

It should be obvious, but never pick your rabbit in any other way than this – don’t hold them on their backs, tug on their ears, or hoist them by their legs. All this is very dangerous and potentially fatal for a little rabbit. 

What To Do If Your Rabbit Doesn’t Want to Be Held

Some bunnies, due to their high prey instincts, simply won’t enjoy getting handled. Others will accept it, and some only after a while. So take your time, and gradually lengthen the time you’re cradling the bunny. After a while, they will get used to you and become comfortable as well. 

As you are holding your pet rabbit, remember to show them affection. Slowly “groom” them by petting their head gently, around the eyes, on the ears, and on top of their nose. This imitates natural behavior between rabbits. Also follow the signs your rabbit gives you: some enjoy getting pets on the head, and others love getting back and butt scratches. If you take all these necessary steps and be patient and gentle, you and your rabbit will quickly establish an affectionate relationship that can last for many long years! 

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

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