Take gentle strides to help your pet get used to being held, such as sitting beside them and picking them up briefly every now and then. Sitting down will also mean that your own position is secure because you will not sway and panic them.
Another advantage is that if they do kick away in this scenario, they are not falling from a significant height and you will be able to respond quickly by placing them back on the floor.
Pet your rabbit first before picking them up. Showing them you are friendly and gentle will gain their confidence.
The most important thing to remember when picking up a rabbit is to provide back support, as this will make them feel physically secure.
Spinal support – Without spinal support, or if inadequately applied, your rabbit may be harmed if they happen to panic.
Maintain the spinal curve – If they do panic, try to prevent them from bucking backward, as this is the most common way to cause back damage.
Provide both upper and lower body support – Usually, the most effective approach is to gently keep your rabbit’s body pressed against your own.
Use the crook of your arm to cover their eyes – Rabbits find darkness relaxing, and doing this will prevent a panicked reaction to any movement.
Utilize your own physical capabilities – When you first bring your rabbit home, you should expect them to make a sudden run for it. It is therefore a good idea to stand in front of the door to keep them in one area while using your whole body to gently guide them into their cage.
What to Avoid
Significant caution is advised when handling any pet rabbit as they have a sensitive and nervous disposition.
Do not grab them by:
a leg – This is not a wise approach. Any panicked response could easily break a leg, so take a well-informed and careful approach to ensure you do not end up with a bigger problem on your hands.
the tail – Similarly, a tail is sensitive, and handling it is likely to cause the rabbit to buck, which will make the spine particularly vulnerable.
the stomach – Some pet owners might assume this is fine if they are used to picking up cats. Rabbits are built differently, however. Their backs are the most crucial part of their bodies, needing firm support, so picking them up by the stomach leaves them vulnerable.
the ears – Some owners mistakenly believe that because rabbits have big ears, it is okay pick them up by them. This is a big mistake, as a rabbit’s ears are tender and delicate.
scruff of the neck – An inexperienced owner might also pick a rabbit up by the scruff of its neck. Though it’s usually okay to steady your rabbit’s position by placing your hand on the back of its neck while it is being handled, do not be tempted to use the scruff for lifting.
Clumsy contact with any vulnerable parts of your pet will cause them stress. Consequently, you must keep a close eye on any children who will be interacting with the rabbit and teach them what to do and not to do.
Different Carrying Styles
There are a range of advisable approaches when picking up your rabbit. While they all differ slightly, they have one central objective: keeping your pet in a safe and comfortable position.
- Maintain a position where your rabbit’s body is always close to your own, as this will stabilize them.
- Some rabbits prefer you to use one hand to steady their back legs while supporting this hand with your other. In this way, you have a semi-free arm that will allow you to carefully feed or stroke your rabbit.
- If you need to use your other hand, then you can simply place your rabbit’s paws against your abdomen for a short time. Your rabbit might also enjoy being able to maneuver their upper body while in this position, especially if food is available. Allowing their feet to dangle is fine as long as their back is supported. If your rabbit is dangling, this shows they are relaxed. This approach is especially effective with bigger rabbits, while smaller bunnies might prefer to tuck their paws under.
- When placing your pet back down on the floor, always look for a flat surface and put them down paws first. If uncertain where to place them, try a blanket, towel, or rug, which rabbits tend to like.
- Although steadying your rabbit’s back is vital to prevent injury, steadying their paws, too, will add to their comfort.