For rabbits of any age and temperament, it’s vitally important to acclimate them to contact by regularly picking them up and holding them. Whether it’s to get them out of harm’s way, put them into a carrier, or just give them a good snuggle, knowing how to safely and effectively pick up your rabbit will make both of your lives more pleasant!
Picking up your pet rabbit can be challenging, though. Because they are prey animals, most rabbits don’t take too kindly at first to being picked up and held. However, over time, they can adjust to your unique way of interacting with them – and even come to enjoy being held!
So how do you pick up your rabbit in the best way possible? Check out our 5-step guide below for all the information you need to get started picking up your bunny:
Step 1: Get on Your Rabbit’s Level
Remember how we said that rabbits are prey animals? Well, almost all the animals that might want to do harm to your pet rabbit share one thing in common: They will grab rabbits from above, usually after a chase. Foxes, hawks, and even pet dogs can give your rabbit a terrible fright or worse.
What this means for you: Kneel next to your rabbit and get as close to their level on the ground as possible! This helps to signal your intentions as a friend, rather than a predator – making your rabbit calmer and more friendly.
Step 2: Calm Them with Pets
Once you’ve established that you’re not a large, scary predator, the next step is to continuing soothing your rabbit with gentle pets. Go for smooth and steady strokes along your rabbit’s back, avoiding pressure on sensitive areas like the eyes and joints.
While some rabbits seem to enjoy having their feet pampered, most do not. Exercise caution if you’d like to coddle your rabbit’s toes and stop if they pull their feet away.
Step 3: Practice Your Scoop
Getting your “scoop” down can make the difference between a smooth and successful pick-up, or a constant struggle with your bunny friend.
Practice by slowly placing one hand under your rabbit’s chest, followed by your other hand on its behind.
Then, make a scooping maneuver by picking-up from its chest, and pushing its butt forward in one smooth motion. Done properly, your rabbit will feel safe and secure the whole time.
Step 4: Hold Them Close to You
After executing a successful scoop, be sure to hold your rabbit firmly but gently, and directly next to your body. While rabbits with different personalities and body types enjoy being held differently, they all appreciate the feeling of security that comes with being held close to their human.
When holding your rabbit, be careful with how quickly you stand up from the floor! If a rabbit senses danger of any sort, they’re likely to thrash or kick, possibly thinking that jumping to the floor is a safer option than being held.
Sadly, rabbits are fragile creatures, and a fall from even a modest height can easily lead to injury. Prevent this by making sure that your rabbit is always held securely and be ready to drop them closer to the ground if they become alarmed.
Step 5: Release Them Close to the Ground
When you’re done holding your rabbit, always be sure to return them as close to the ground as possible. Not only is this safer (for the reasons listed above), but it helps to establish a degree of trust between you and your rabbit. When you return them back to their natural state, it sends a strong message that you will always take care of their comfort and safety when picking them up.
What Not to Do When Picking Up Your Rabbit
No matter what, you must always avoid picking your rabbit up by the:
Each of these areas has extremely fragile connective tissue, and picking your rabbit up by them could cause permanent injury! Keep your rabbit safe by always choosing to pick them up by well-supported areas.
What if My Rabbit is Being Stubborn?
Even with a step-by-step guide, sometimes there is no accounting for a rabbit’s preferences. So, what can you do if your rabbit isn’t cooperating with a stage of the process?
If your rabbit isn’t so excited about you handling them or even being next to them, we recommend bribing them with treats. A few salad greens or a very small piece of apple can go a long way towards helping your rabbit make positive associations with being picked up! Later, once they’re more comfortable with the process, the treats will no longer be necessary.
Picking up your rabbit can be a wonderful bonding experience or a serious pain in the butt for both of you. Follow along with the directions in this article, and you’ll be on your way to smooth and carefree rabbit holding in no time at all!
Featured Image: Anastasiya Gepp, Pexels