All rabbits are fine with jumping, having very powerful back legs, so they are very capable of hopping on your lap. Convincing them to do so might take some patience, however, but can be rewarding if you persevere, showing how much trust you have built up with your pet. Consider the steps below and try them out – one might just work for you and help your rabbit to feel every bit as affectionate toward you as a cat or dog.
How Challenging is Training a Rabbit?
When it comes to training a rabbit, owners will find young bunnies and older ones the most difficult. Younger rabbits are more willful and will want to do their own thing, though they may become calmer once spayed or neutered. Even so, give a young rabbit more time to get used to their environment before looking to bond closely with them or teach them tricks. As long as they feel unthreatened while making this adjustment they are likely to feel more confident interacting with you later on.
If you have an older bunny, expect them to have little interest in learning new things. Instead, they require an environment they are comfortable and relaxed in. Let them adjust, then see if they want to feel comfortable interacting and bonding with you.
Although they may strike many as shy and quiet, rabbits do love play and, like cats, will learn through play. Encourage them to play within environments where you might want to enjoy their presence, such as next to the couch where you sit. Play items such as willow balls are a great addition, allowing them to occupy themselves and gradually feel more at ease for doing so.
See if your rabbit enjoys having you also play with the willow ball. These small steps might be ideal for growing their affection so they will eventually jump on your lap.
Avoid Being Too Ambitious
Be aware that rabbits are not naturally cuddly like some cats and dogs. They may take some time before feeling comfortable remaining on your lap, even if they do jump on temporarily. Be patient with them.
Even if you’ve gone through a whole process of luring your rabbit onto your lap with treats, it might be they still feel less keen to hang around for a cuddle. Understand that any attempt to physically restrict them will only increase their discontent with remaining there.
Train Your Rabbit to Jump on Your Lap in Six Easy Steps
1. Hint for Them to Jump Over or Onto Something
Rather than simply placing them on your lap and hoping they get comfortable, take a different approach. Using treats, see if you can get them to jump over small objects, like a plant pot or stick. Choose something small at first and you may find they enjoy the exercise and challenge. They may also figure out that you’re encouraging them to jump when you show them the object.
Make sure that any treat rewards you include are good for them and, although this is meant to be a fun game, avoid cheering or making loud noises like you might to encourage a child, as rabbits like the quiet and will also shy away if they feel they are drawing too much attention.
So long as they are jumping over something for fun that will not harm them, it might be possible to steadily raise the height a little as a warm-up to encourage them to jump on your lap. Even taking a few days to encourage them in this game might be worth it as, once they realize what you are suggesting, you will find it easier to relate to them with unique actions and subtle sounds they come to interpret.
2. Sit on the Ground
If you want your pet to show you affection and feel comfortable on your lap, then they will first need to feel at ease around you. As rabbits are shy and cautious animals, this will take some time and gentle persuasion. Being on the ground allows them to see you close up, at the same time as offering a relaxed stance that will not alarm them. Much better than having them see your feet all the time as you’re stomping around the garden.
Sitting on the ground will encourage them to move and play around you. It also enables you to add gentle pets or strokes as signs of affection, allowing them to get used to you and feel pleased to have you around.
3. Place Their Front Paws On Your Lap
It is understandable that some owners might want to encourage their rabbit to sit on their lap by placing them there and gently preventing them from jumping away. It’s much better to get them to make the first leap, however. Taking all their paws off the ground will make them feel uncertain, so try sitting close by to see if they get curious to make the jump themselves.
Whenever interacting with animals, it is usually best to let them make the first move so they feel at ease. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any ways to speed up the process, however, as you can include treats you know your rabbit likes. Once they realize you’re laid back and gentle, they may then feel that they want to jump on your lap and be affectionate.
Offer your rabbit a treat if they get curious and happen to place both front paws on your lap, or even just as they get closer. Upping the stakes each time allows them to get used to you gradually.
Another hint for rabbit owners that sometimes works is to employ tiny pets just above their noses. Rabbits interpret this as a sign that you are pleased with them, meaning they may progress quicker, as all animals crave affection.
4. Convince Them to Venture Further Onto Your Lap
Once your rabbit shows comfort with placing their paws on you and receiving affection, you can then welcome them to go further by placing treats a little further away. As your bunny stretches to reach its favorite treat, it will get to realize that jumping on your lap is okay. Expect them to be shy at first, as you are asking them to jump onto a surface they are not used to.
Avoid taunting them with the treat by moving it as they stretch. Rather focus on adjusting what is required each time but letting them know that, if they choose to trust going further, then the treat will be there for them.
Pursue this process at a slow pace and be prepared to take a bit longer if your rabbit is small. Work a bit at a time, enabling your pet to feel comfortable around you and adjust to your scent. Even the most confident rabbits will be cautious in nature and need to learn that there won’t be any negative consequences when placing their trust in you.
5. The Final Jump
With all these steps taken and progress made, you’ll be keen to complete the process. Place the treat as close to the center of your lap as you need for the rabbit to have to hop on. Once they do so, use those familiar signs of affection that you’ve built up to let them know that they are safe to remain.
Don’t worry if they jump back down fairly quickly. It’s more important to show them that they have the freedom to do so if they wish. Physically keeping them in one place will not grow their trust in you.
Your rabbit will not immediately crave affection from you, so this trust will need to be built up. If successful, your pet’s attitude toward you will shift thanks to the time and care taken to establish a relationship.
6. Move to the Couch
If you’ve established that your pet now feels at ease jumping on your lap from a sitting position, it might now be worth trying on the couch. Similarly though, rather than picking them up, tempt them to jump onto the couch in the same manner using treats.
This might take some time as they will not be used to the surface and the jump is likely to be greater than attempted. You could use a step of some kind if you think it’s too high to make the process even more gradual.
Once tempted to jump onto the couch and comfortable with how its uneven surface feels, it should then be possible to get them onto your lap. Use the same methods as before and there’s no reason it shouldn’t work, perhaps quicker this time.
As with previously, use the same pets of affection just above the nose, so they’ll be familiar with being in your presence and soon at ease. Expect total comfort with being on your lap to take several days, but be sure that once the routine is successful they should become more and more content with being in close proximity.
Don’t be too disheartened if your rabbit still prefers to sit next to you. They are still close and comfortable in your presence and it is probably better to go with what their preference is rather than looking to force the issue.