Rabbits are so adorable and cute that it’s hard to resist a cuddle and snuggle and a few hundred bunny kisses, too. But should we be picking up our rabbits to do this?
As much as bunnies are lovely to have a cuddle with we must respect them and their likes and dislikes, not ours.
We must remember they are prey animals and to be lifted off the floor indicates what a predator would do in the wild after they have captured them. So understandably, that is why it can be so terrifying for some bunnies.
Never should we stress a bunny out by picking them up just because we want a cuddle. That is very selfish and your rabbit will have trouble learning to trust you and see you as a friend.
Some bunnies are fine with being held, but never assume that your bunny likes being picked up just because they don’t struggle in any way.
Many rabbits hate being held and will actually freeze with fear.
Our advise would be that it is always better to get down to your bunnies level and have a cuddle.
You can get just as much enjoyment out of cuddling your bunny by getting down to their level.
Lay or sit next to them and interact with them that way. Not only will this help build your bunny’s confidence, it will help them to build their trust with you in so many ways.
You can also try placing your bunny on to your lap while sitting on the floor. This will get them used to being off the floor.
Once a bunny is confident and learns to trust you, their personalities will shine through and you will have a little friend who’s character and antics will have you laughing and admiring them in ways that make your heart skip a beat.
If you are constantly picking your bunny up, there is a chance they will never learn to trust you and will remain nervous and shy.
But what about when we have to pick them up for reasons like carrying out a health check or taking them to the vets?
It is a good idea to get your rabbit a little used to being held for these reasons.
Also, many rabbits can really panic when being picked up. They struggle by flipping and twisting and even kicking. They may also go to bite you or attempt to jump out of your arms.
Struggling in this way is not good and could cause great injury to your rabbit as their spines are very delicate and could easily get damaged.
So, by getting them used to being picked up occasionally can really help in these situations.
How to help a bunny that really struggles to calm down when being held
It’s very important to build a bond and have your bunny trust you before attempting to pick them up.
Start by stroking your bunny while they are on the floor, then when they are nice and relaxed place your hands around your bunnies body as if you was going to pick them up, but only pick them up a couple of inches off the floor and than place back down and reward them. Tell them how good they are and give them a little treat.
Keep doing this (steady on the treats) and hold them a little higher and for longer each time.
If they struggle, stop and try again another time. If they don’t struggle, then slowly attempt to hold them and remember to talk to them calmly.
Keep it brief and reward them afterwards.
For rabbits that show clear signs that they do not like to be picked up, and continue to panic, it really is best to only pick them up when you need to carry out a health check or placing them into a carrier for a vet visit.
If your bunny flatly refuses to be held, it is important to try and keep them as calm as you can and never chase them.
Use a couple of puppy pens to partition them into a small area, so they cannot run away and place the pet carrier in this space and try to coax them into the pet carrier.
Always let your vet know that your rabbit is not ok with being held and does put up a struggle.
There is nothing wrong with asking your vet to examine your rabbit on the floor and we encourage rabbit owners to do this. There is a risk your rabbit could jump off the vet’s examining table and cause terrible injuries to themselves.
How to know if your bunny enjoys being held.
Signs to look out for…
In the following two pictures you can see the difference in this rabbits face from being on the floor to being picked up. It looks like a totally different rabbit.
While on the floor the ears are forward and the face is relaxed.
Being handled the ears are back and the face is no longer looking relaxed.
While you are holding your rabbit it is hard to see their face or reaction yourself, so look in a mirror and check if their eyes look normal or are they bulging with fear.
You can also check the speed of their nose twitching.
If your rabbit is relaxed, the nose twitch should be normal speed. If they are scared and not enjoying being held the nose twitching will be much faster than normal. This indicates they are stressed.
You can also try placing your finger under one of their front paws. Is their paw flat and relaxed or is it crunched up? If a rabbit is scared of being picked up then they will more than likely clamp their paw around your finger. This indicates they are far from relaxed.
Pick them up the correct way!
If you do pick your rabbit up, make sure it’s always the proper way and you are supporting their spine at all times.
It’s important that your bunny needs to feel secure in your arms.
Place one hand under the torso and bring your bunny close to your body. Support the rabbit’s hindquarters with your other arm.
Never pick a rabbit up by their ears or the scruff of their neck . That is totally wrong, cruel and causes pain to the rabbit.
Never let a child pick a rabbit up unless they know the correct way.
This photo illustrates just how dangerous it is for a child to pick a rabbit up incorrectly. There is a very high risk of injury and also being held far too tightly.
Teach children to get down to the rabbits level and socialise with them that way instead.
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