Rabbits are a very popular pet, typically ranked only behind cats and dogs as the animals that we are most likely to keep. They do require quite a bit of care, including daily exercise and cleaning, but they don’t need walking and their grooming requirements are less than with a lot of animals. They can also be docile and tolerant of handling, and with regular and careful handling, they can grow to appreciate being picked up.
However, they are quite small animals, and you do need to take care when picking them up to ensure that they are comfortable, and you don’t cause them any injuries. Picking a rabbit up isn’t too difficult, but if you’ve never owned one and have no experience handling rabbits, you can’t be expected to know the proper way to do so.
Below, we highlight the steps and offer some tips on how to pick up your rabbit and minimize the risk of injuries. We also look at some of the breeds that are most tolerant of handling and make the friendliest pets.
The 11 Tips to Pick Up a Rabbit
1. Stay Calm
Firstly, picking your rabbit up should be an enjoyable experience for both of you. If you are nervous or too noticeably apprehensive, the rabbit will pick up on this, and it may not enjoy the experience at all. If you’re calm, you’re less likely to squeeze too tight and it will be better for both of you.
2. Coax, Don’t Drag
It is easiest to pick a rabbit up from a top-opening cage. It can be difficult to navigate and contort yourself into the right position to pick one up from a front or side opening cage, although it is still possible. Whether you are picking a rabbit up through a front-opening cage or attempting to grab it from under an obstacle after letting it out of its cage, don’t grab and drag the rabbit out, try using treats to coax it out into the open.
3. Be Gentle, But Firm
Obviously, you don’t want to drop your rabbit, but this doesn’t mean you have to grip it tightly. You need to have a firm hold, ensuring that your bunny is secure and won’t slip out of your hands, but you don’t want to squeeze so tight that it is uncomfortable or causes an injury to your rabbit.
4. Supervise Children
The need to have a firm but not overly tight grip is one of the reasons that children need to be supervised whenever they handle rabbits. But it is only one reason. If the rabbit moves suddenly, you don’t want a child to drop them and you need to ensure that the child doesn’t grab the rabbit by the ears or feet.
5. Clear the Room
This is very important if you have dogs or cats because no matter how much you trust your pets, they are animals. An otherwise placid dog might be tempted to give chase if a rabbit suddenly leaps and darts in front of it. Similarly, a cat will see a darting rabbit as potential prey and may give chase.
6. Start Low
Rabbits don’t like to be held too high in the air, with experts suggesting that they have an innate fear of heights. Also, if you haven’t developed a relationship with your rabbit, you don’t know how they will react to being picked up. If you hold your rabbit at head or even chest height, and it jumps, it could land awkwardly and do a serious injury. Hold the rabbit at waist height by kneeling or sitting at ground level.
7. Don’t Restrain Them Too Much
You don’t need a vice-like grip to keep a rabbit secure in your hands. You will have a hand under the chest and another behind the rump, but you don’t need to completely encapsulate them to ensure their safety.
8. Use Two Hands
Even if you have a Dwarf Rabbit species, you should use both hands to pick up and secure the rabbit. It makes it more difficult for them to jump and run and it also means that you can provide support to the whole body. If you pick a rabbit up with one hand you can end up putting too much pressure on the ribs or belly.
9. Proper Hand Placement
When picking the rabbit up you will want one hand under the front armpits and one behind the rump holding the rear and rear legs. This position enables you to keep the rabbit steady and secure without having to grip it tightly.
10. Secure Them Against the Body
Once you have the rabbit out of the cage or off the floor, and with your hands in the right position, you can hold them against your body. This reduces escape routes, and it also gives your rabbit a sense of security and protection and the closeness will help you build a bond.
11. Don’t Use the Ears
You should never pick a rabbit up by its ears and nor should you pick it up by its feet. While you can use the scruff of the neck to steady the rabbit, you shouldn’t pick it up by the scruff, either.
Top 3 Friendly Rabbit Breeds
Rabbits can make great pets that not only tolerate being handled but actually enjoy it. This does require regular handling, ideally starting when the rabbit is still young. It also requires that you are gentle and careful when handling, and getting the right breed of rabbit can also help improve your chances of having a pet that will enjoy being picked up. Some of the friendliest pet rabbit breeds include:
The Lionhead is a beautiful rabbit breed that has a thick mane around its neck, which gives it its name. Although the name sounds like a big breed, Lionheads are actually a dwarf breed that will grow to around 3 pounds. The breed can be a little jumpy, and may not be ideal for novice owners, but in the right hands, it will become a loving pet that enjoys nothing more than being held and handled.
The Rex is a medium-sized rabbit that weighs around 8 pounds when fully mature. They have very soft coats, and they are docile rabbits that enjoy being picked up. They form a close bond with their humans, although they also still enjoy hopping around and checking out their surroundings.
3. Mini Lop
Mini Lops weigh approximately 4 pounds and have long, lop ears. They also have thick coats, and they are known to be friendly, fun, and trainable rabbits. They don’t always do well with loud noises or sudden movements, though, so they may do better in child-free households or houses with older children.
How Do You Get a Rabbit to Trust You?
The two biggest factors that will encourage a rabbit to trust you are time and handling. Start handling your rabbit when it is young, or as soon as you get it and it has had time to become acclimatized to its new home. Be respectful and careful when handling and try to ensure that you handle the rabbit every day. With some species, the rabbit will trust you quite quickly, but with other species, it can take months before a bond develops.
Is It Safe to Pick Up a Rabbit by the Scruff of Its Neck?
When picking up a rabbit, place one hand under its belly and behind the front armpits and use the other to support the rump and rear legs. You should never pick a rabbit up by its ears, legs, or its scruff. It can cause pain and may lead to injury, and it will certainly cause your rabbit to distrust you.
Do Rabbits Like to Be Handled?
With regular and caring handling, rabbits will not only learn to trust you they will also learn to enjoy being picked up. They are sociable animals and while this usually means they like to spend time with other rabbits, pet rabbits can also form a close bond with their humans, and this can lead to them enjoying being handled.
Rabbits can make great pets. They do need more care than a lot of novice owners think, however, and if you want a rabbit that enjoys being picked up, it can take time and effort every day to reach the stage where your rabbit truly enjoys handling. To pick a rabbit up safely, use both hands, place one hand behind the front armpits, and use one to support the rump and rear legs. Once you have the rabbit off the ground, bring it to your body, offering further support and security.
Keep up the handling, ideally trying to hold your rabbit every day, and once your rabbit trusts you, it will feel safe and comfortable in your hands.
- Related Read: 8 Best Outdoor Rabbit Cages – Reviews & Guide
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