When you first bring home your pet rabbit, you might notice that they don’t enjoy being held as much as you hoped they would. But with patience, a gentle hand, and a commitment to bonding, it is possible to get your rabbit to enjoy hanging out in your hands. However, keep in mind that all rabbits are different, and they have their own unique personalities and temperaments. Some will take better to being held than others.
So, it might be easy for your rabbit to get used to being held, or it could be a tough process that you must work at as time goes on. That said, the only way to get your rabbit to like being held is to take steps that will help make it happen.
The 8 Tips for Getting a Rabbit to Like Being Held
1. Interact Early and Often
You should start to physically interact with your rabbit as soon as you bring them home for the first time and continue doing so at least once a day. Early interaction and socialization will get your rabbit used to being around humans and help them learn how to trust that you have their best interests in mind. If your rabbit is resistant to being picked up, just pet them, and lightly rub the base of their body until they get used to your touch. As time goes on, they should start feeling more comfortable when you pick them up.
2. Always Be Gentle
Make sure you always handle your rabbit with gentle hands so as not to startle them or make them feel panicked due to the unexpected handling. This will help keep your rabbit nice and relaxed so they are more likely to enjoy the experience overall. Gentle handling will also help keep your rabbit from squirming, which can result in you accidentally dropping them to the ground.
3. Never Force Handling
If your rabbit resists your handling, don’t force them to be held. Let them go, and start again slowly by softly speaking to your pet and gently petting them. If they pull away, go do something else, and come back later to try again. With any luck, you’ll eventually be able to pick up your rabbit for at least a quick cuddle. If you force your rabbit to be held or get petted, it can cause them to become stressed out whenever it happens, and the result could be that they never want to be picked up.
4. Avoid Picking Up Your Rabbit in the Wrong Way
Picking up your rabbit by the ears, tail, legs, or scruff is painful to rabbits, even if they don’t visually or auditorily display the pain. Doing so can cause them to distrust you and fear you whenever you come near to handle them or pick them up. The proper way to pick up your rabbit is by placing a hand under their torso and gently and slowly moving them toward your body where you can secure them with both hands. Support their hindquarters to help them feel safe and secure. Be firm to ensure that you don’t drop them, but don’t squeeze.
5. Use Rabbit-Safe Treats
A great way to get your rabbit to show interest in being held is to reward them with treats. Whenever your rabbit allows you to pick them up, even just for a moment, give them a tasty treat. This will help them associate the handling process with a positive experience. Rabbits enjoy various foods as treats, and options to consider include:
When you’re using treats as rewards, just a nibble is enough to help correlate enjoyment with being picked up.
6. Be in a Quiet and Safe Space
If your rabbit is stressed out due to loud noises happening in the house or other animals running around, chances are that they won’t want to focus on getting picked up and interacting with you. So, when you’re teaching your rabbit to like being picked up, it’s a good idea to do so in a quiet room of the house where there are no loud noises or distractions. Make sure no kids or other animals are in the room. You can even play relaxing music at low volume to help set the mood. Take your time while interacting with your rabbit, and let them move at their own pace.
7. Encourage Your Rabbit to Come to You
A great way to get your rabbit to like being picked up is to turn things around and make it seem like it’s all their idea. Instead of going to them and trying to pick them up, encourage them to come to you so you can pick them up. Hold greens in your hand to entice them over. While they’re nibbling on the greens, they will have an opportunity to sniff you and get to know what you smell like. They will also get used to being close to you in general. Once they are comfortable near you, go ahead and pick them up while allowing them to continue nibbling on the greens if they want to.
8. Don’t Give Up
If at first your rabbit does not react positively to your efforts of picking them up, practice patience and don’t give up. It can take a while for them to get comfortable enough around you to trust you with their bodies in your hands. Don’t push the issue if you are met with resistance, and instead, try again the next day. Keep a kind and understanding attitude even when it seems pointless, and you’re sure to see results eventually.
Why Don’t Some Rabbits Like Being Held?
There are a few different reasons that a rabbit might not enjoy being held, no matter how much handling and socialization they receive. Some rabbits simply prefer to be bodily independent and interact less intensely, like some cats.
Another reason a rabbit might not like being picked up is that they’ve had a traumatic experience in their lifetime. If you adopt a rabbit from a shelter or buy one from a store, you likely won’t know what their past was like. They could have been mistreated by people who owned them before. If your rabbit refuses to get used to being held, you may have to accept that you’ll be interacting with them in different ways.
A Quick Recap
Rabbits are great companions for people of all ages. They’re fun for children and adults to engage with. As a new rabbit owner, you’re likely eager to hold your pet and make them feel comfortable while interacting with you. However, if you’re too pushy, you could end up slowing the process of getting your rabbit to like being held. So, start slowly and stay patient, and you should see the results that you’re looking for.
Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock