Handling

  • Be sure to allow at least a week for a new pet bunny to settle in before a lot of handling is done. This decreases general stress and anxiety as well as helps in the training process.
  • Never "force" handling or cuddling. An animal that learns to fear being handled will resist more and more each time it is attempted!
  • Rabbits are built to live on the ground. They are never carried as babies by their mothers. Being picked up in the wild usually means death, so until the bunny trusts you, leave petting and handling to the floor level.
    • Sitting in a small area such as a hallway and doing something else will give your bunny a chance to explore the room as well as see you as non-threatening. This is a great way to "break the ice" with a new pet rabbit.
  • When picking up a rabbit, kneel or get as close as you can to the rabbit. Cup your hand under its chest and scoop up the rear end with your other hand, putting a slight bend in their backbone. Bring the rabbit to your chest so that all four feet are resting on you.
    • Picking up a bunny usually isn’t so bad, it’s putting them back down that can be stressful. If possible, sit in a place where the bunny can leave your lap on its own and get back to its cage when it wants to.
  • Kicking and scratching means that neither bunny nor human is happy. A rabbit has very powerful hind legs and can actually break its own back by struggling. Prevent this by staying close to your bunny when transporting it, and keeping it away from startling noises such as barking dogs or a loud radio.
  • Scruffing (picking the rabbit up from the back of the neck) should be avoided and used only if necessary. It can invoke fear, is not comfortable, and if done improperly, can injure a rabbit. It is what an alpha rabbit would do to punish another rabbit and can make him or her even more fearful.
  • NEVER pick a rabbit up by its ears.
  • A rabbit can be "hypnotized" or tranced, which is useful for nail trimmings or other procedures. To do this, simply stroke the bunny on its head, and once his eyes begin to close, slowly ease him backwards, supporting him gently.