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. This also means that your own position is secure so you do not sway and panic them.
Plus, if they do kick away in this scenario, they are not falling from a significant height. While you are also 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, physical harm can result if your rabbit happens to panic.
Maintain the spinal curve – If they do happen to panic, try to prevent them from bucking backward. That is the most likely 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 this prevents a panicked reaction to any movement.
Utilize your own physical capabilities – When first bringing your rabbit home, you should expect them to make a sudden run for it. Standing in front of the door is advised to keep them in one area, while you can use your whole body to gently guide them into their cage.
What to Avoid
Significant caution is advised when handling any pet rabbit as they are all likely to have a sensitive and nervous nature.
Do not grab them by:
A leg – 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 have a bigger problem on your hands.
The tail – Similarly, a tail is sensitive and handling it is likely to cause the rabbit to buck. The spine is particularly vulnerable should this happen.
The stomach – Some pet owners might consider this an adequate approach 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, meaning this approach leaves them vulnerable.
The ears – Pet rabbits with big ears have sometimes been at risk of misinformed owners using them to pick the poor animal up with. This is a big mistake, as a rabbit’s ears are very tender and delicate.
Scruff of the neck – This is another part of the rabbit that the misinformed might assume is okay. Though it might be fine 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 in a position to interact with the rabbit, so they can quickly learn what not to do.
Different Carrying Styles
A range of advisable approaches to picking up your rabbit can be taken. They can differ in some respects but all have one central objective, which is keeping your pet in a safe and comfortable position.
Maintain a position so your rabbit’s body is always close to your own. Being close is ideal for stabilizing them.
Some prefer a hold that involves using one hand to steady the back legs, then using the other hand to steady the other. In this way, you have a semi-free arm that, with caution, will also allow you to feed or stroke your rabbit.
Plus, should you require the use of your other hand, then placing your rabbit’s paws against your abdomen will make this possible at least for a short time. Your rabbit might also enjoy being able to maneuver its upper body in this position, especially if food is available. Also, allowing their feet to dangle can be fine as long as their back is supported.
If you do find your rabbit dangling this shows they are relaxed. This can be especially effective with bigger rabbits, but with smaller bunnies it might be best to stick with letting them 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 take to.
Although steadying the back is vital so your rabbit is not injured, steadying their paws adds to their comfort.