Rabbits can make for a very cuddly and affectionate pet, as long as they are socialised from an early age. However, not all rabbits enjoy being picked up and so there can sometimes be a struggle when you try to lift them. Since they have fragile skeletal systems, it’s crucial that you handle them the correct way when picking them up, holding them, and putting them back down.
Here are some of the best tips to keep in mind when picking up a rabbit:
Always be gentle.
As you approach your rabbit, move slowly and talk quietly so that they don’t get startled. Approach them from above or from the side, as their eyes are not situated to let them see directly in front of their noses. Get down to your bunny’s level - this is much safer than picking them up and holding them at a height. Petting can also help to put your bunny at ease.
Never pick them up by their ears, scruff, legs or tail.
When you think your rabbit is calm enough, gently scoop them up by placing your hand under their torso and pulling them close to your body. Never pick them up by the ears, scruff/neck, legs or tail. Not only is this incredibly stressful and even painful for them, but their bodies/spines are not built to support their own weight in that manner.
Support their hindquarters.
As you lift your bunny, make sure that you can support their hindquarters so that they feel secure in your arms. Hold them closely to your body without squeezing or applying force. Try to keep their head pointing straight or downwards (not up at your shoulder) as this may encourage them to start climbing upwards.
Stay calm if they struggle.
If your rabbit struggles, or kicks out, it may be from discomfort or fear. In this case, try to remain as secure and gentle with it as possible. Don’t try to restrain them even more, as this will only encourage them to leap out of your arms which can often lead to injury. If you can sense that they’re struggling, be ready to put them down rather than letting them jump from your grasp.
Put them down slowly.
As you place your bunny back down, squat slowly to get as close to the ground as possible while holding them close. Again, be gentle as you’re placing them down and never do it on a slippery surface where they can’t get a good grasp. Let them jump out onto the ground - they may kick you as they cart off, so be careful of being too close to their hind legs!
Supervise children at all times.
While rabbits are beloved by kids, it’s recommended that adults do the handling or supervise children when they do it to make sure that the rabbit doesn’t get stressed or injured. If it is possible, it is encouraged that children refrain from handling the rabbit as many innocent mistakes can happen when they do!
Understand that not all bunnies enjoy being picked up or held.
Just like people, some rabbits are less sociable than others. If you’re a new rabbit owner, try to make the first few interactions with your rabbit as positive as possible which means lots of gentle petting, treats and quiet bonding time. This way they’ll grow more comfortable with you - and you’ll be able to pick them up and hold them with better success. However, don’t get cross with them if they don’t enjoy being picked up. Not all rabbits have the same temperament and yours might just need a little longer to get to know you!