Most rabbits do not like to be picked up and handled; this is because they are prey species and being lifted from the ground is similar to being taken by a predator.
Handling your rabbit correctly and regularly will help them get used to being handled, making it easier for you and less stressful for them. Regular handling is important as it helps prevent your rabbit from getting overly stressed at the vet when they need to examine them. It’s also beneficial if you need to administer medication etc.
If your rabbit is very young or has never been handled before your should always approach them slowly and quietly. Start stroking your rabbit first and offering them a healthy treat like parsley. They will then associate being touched as a positive interaction. Encourage your rabbit to approach you by sitting quietly with a treat so that they come to you. This should start to build up their confidence and trust and will make them less nervous.
- Pick your rabbit up by its ears/ scruff of the neck this is very cruel and extremely stressful/ dangerous for your rabbit.
- Rabbits have very delicate spines and incorrect handling could cause serious damage or be fatal if your rabbit’s spine gets injured.
- If your rabbit starts to struggle do not let go of them, hold them firmly until you can get to the floor/ sofa to release them. Falling from a standing position can cause serious injuries.
- If you need to move you rabbit from one place to the next and they are nervous and often try to jump from your grip, transport them in a carry case until they get used to being handled. This will prevent any injuries should they fall from the hold.
- Always make sure children are supervised when they are handling the rabbit.
Handling your Rabbit
Always use two hands to pick up your rabbit, place one hand under their chest and one hand under their bottom. Make sure that your grip is supportive and firm but without causing pain. Lift the rabbit so all four paws are against your body. Keep your grip firm to prevent them from wriggling out of your grip and falling. This position will help your rabbit feel safer as they will be securely against your body. Your rabbit may try to kick out so make sure you have a firm grip on their bottom and keep it tucked firmly into your body.
When carrying out inspections like checking their bottoms or clipping their nails you can hold them in the crook of your arm. This technique is much the same as above. You will need to use two hands; one placed on the chest the other supporting the bottom. Rather than using your body as support, you position your rabbit in the crook of your arm, using your arm as the support. Keep one hand across the chest and the other firmly on their bottom. If you are carrying out nail clippings or inspections you should do this technique seated. You can then use your lap as your bottom support and wrap your arm around as shown in the picture below. This will then free you other hand for inspections. A seated position provides a safe area to put your rabbit should they start to struggle. You must make sure that your rabbit does not tip back into a tranced state. Your rabbit should remain awake and alert through out this process. Follow this link to find out why you should not trance your rabbit.
When you put your rabbit back down make sure that you keep your grip firmly. When your rabbits start to see the floor they may try to jump from your hands. It’s important that you don’t let them do this as they could get hurt. Make sure their feet are on the ground before you let them go.