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Most rabbits don’t like to be picked up or held. Their reaction to handling may also depend on previous experiences, so you may need to be patient with your bunny as their confidence in people grows. Learning the correct way to handle a rabbit can help you to build up a relationship with your pet, but it’s crucial that it’s done in the right way so your rabbit doesn’t see you as a threat and get scared. If a rabbit is frightened they may try to jump from your arms to escape and end up falling and fatally injuring themselves. They need time to get used to you handling them and know that they are safe.
If your rabbit is frightened at the thought of being picked up, before attempting it, you need to teach them that they can trust you and allow you to touch them. As you stroke your rabbit, or interact with them, try touching the areas of their body (bottom and chest) associated with being picked up, but don’t lift them. Your rabbit will be more relaxed if they know they can get away at any moment. Once they are comfortable with this, you can try lifting your rabbit, placing one hand under their chest, and gradually lifting their front paws up, being sure to keep their back paws on the ground so they feel secure. Don’t rush this step, it may take a few weeks, or even months, to get to a point where your rabbit is comfortable with you lifting them. To fully pick up your rabbit, you will need to place your other hand on their bottom to support the weight. Start by lifting your rabbit only a short way from the ground, or moving them only slightly, gradually increasing the distances that you move them. As they get more used to it, you’ll be able to lift them higher and carry them if needed, without them fearing you.
Start Early – The earliest you get your rabbit used to human contact, the better it will be, as they will grow up used to it. Rabbits who haven’t had much handling at a young age, or have been roughly handled at some point in their life, may find human contact distressing.
Be Gentle – Create a quiet and calming environment, moving slowly and talking quietly to your rabbit, to avoid startling them.
Get to Their Level – It’s best to pick rabbits up when you’re close to ground level as you’ll be less likely to scare them, and it’s also safer, as it helps prevent them being dropped by accident from a height. It’s advised that any interaction with your bunny takes place down at they’re level, whenever possible.
Make them Feel Relaxed – Cover their eyes (with a towel or in the crook of your arm) whilst being held, being sure you don’t obstruct their nostrils. Reduce stress by using the minimum level of restraint necessary.
Be Safe – Rabbits have fragile spines that can be seriously, or even fatally, damaged if they feel insecure and struggle to get free when held.
Supervise children at all times when they are with the rabbit, and don’t allow them to pick it up.
Use two hands to lift a rabbit, and hold them gently but firmly, so they can’t leap out of your hands. Place one hand under their chest, and use the other to support their back and hindquarters at all times. You can help them to feel secure by holding all four paws against your body.
Never pick up a rabbit by their ears, legs or tail. It would be extremely stressful and is highly likely to injure them as they react by trying to pull away.
When placing a rabbit back down, always be sure to lower them all the way. Don’t let go too early or allow a rabbit to jump from your arms, as they could land badly and seriously injure themselves.