How to Pet a Rabbit

How to Pet a Rabbit – Proper Care and Training 

Some people think that rabbits don’t like to be pets, while rabbit owners know that their bunnies love a good petting session or a full-body massage. The magic in bonding with your rabbit is all in how you pet them and where. 

So how do you pet a rabbit? 

Petting your rabbit starts with approaching your rabbit slightly from the side so they can see your hand. Gently stroke the top of their heads, before moving to the area behind their ears. As your rabbit relaxes, move to give them a full body massage by also stroking them down their back. 

Want to know more about petting your rabbit, what to do when your rabbit doesn’t like getting massages, and more? We’ve got all the information you need right here. 

Do Rabbits Like Getting Petted?

Rabbits actually do like getting petted. 

Young rabbits have a lot of energy, so they may not like sitting with you for long periods and being petted (even though they’d like short petting sessions). 

Adult rabbits like to chill with their fur-parents and enjoy being petted or massaged. This also presents a nice opportunity for you to bond with your rabbit and spend time with them. 

Plus, being petted calms your bun down if they are feeling anxious. 

How to Pet a Rabbit in Five Steps

how to pet a rabbit in five steps

Petting a rabbit correctly is essential; you want your bunny to feel safe and relaxed with you. 

Follow these steps to pet your rabbit the right way: 

Step 1: Show Your Hand 

Your rabbit has a blind spot right in front of its noses. So if you approach your rabbit directly in front of them, they won’t be able to see you or your hand. 

It is best to approach your rabbit in a way that they can see you coming so they don’t get scared. 

To make sure your bun can see your hand, approach them a little to the side of their head. 

Step 2: Pet Your Rabbit’s Head 

Once you approach your rabbit’s head a little bit from their side, pet your rabbit’s head. Make sure your hand stays above your head. 

Rabbits like to be petted on their foreheads. You can do small strokes with your hand or make little scritches (a light scratching or rubbing) with your fingers. 

Always respect your rabbit’s boundaries. If you have a new rabbit, pet them on the head. Stroke. Wait to see how they react. Stroke. Wait. And so on. 

If then move away, respect your rabbit’s space and try again in a few days. As your rabbit feels more comfortable with you, you can stroke them for longer.  

Step 3: Pet Your Rabbit’s Neck or Behind Their Ears 

Once your rabbit is comfortable with you petting their forehead, you can move to pet them behind their ears and their neck area. 

Massage your rabbit, and if they enjoy it, you’ll see their weight shifting – it’ll look like they are melting into the floor. 

If you are wondering if you should pet your rabbit’s ears, the answer is that you can touch your bun’s ears. But your rabbits aren’t going to enjoy their ears being massaged because it’s a pleasure-neutral area. 

Step 4: Do a Full Rabbit Body Massage  

From massaging their forehead and behind their ears, you can move to a full body massage if your rabbit is comfortable. Stroke your rabbit down their back. 

You may start with half strokes down their back so your rabbit can get more comfortable before moving to full strokes down their back. 

Step 5: Petting Your Rabbit’s Cheeks 

Some rabbits like it if you pet their cheeks. As you massage your rabbit’s head, you can rub them on either cheek occasionally to get your rabbit used to the sensation. 

The more you pet them, the longer you can spend on petting their cheeks. 

How to Know If My Rabbit Enjoys Being Petted?

Your rabbit’s body language will tell you if they enjoy being petted and massaged. Look out for these signs that your rabbit likes being petted: 

Sign 1: Rabbit Purring 

If your rabbit is grinding their teeth or doing the rabbit variety of a cat’s purr, you know your rabbit is happy. You may not always hear this purring sound, but there’ll be a soft vibration as your bun grinds their teeth together. 

You may see your rabbit’s whiskers moving as they purr. You may also feel a vibration as you stroke their forehead. 

Sign 2: Requests for More Petting 

If you’ve been massaging and petting your rabbit and you stop, your rabbit may nudge your hand with their nose. 

This is a request to continue petting them. Your rabbit may also just continue sitting next to you expectantly – this is also a sign that they want to be petted. 

Sign 3: Stretching Out  

A rabbit that’s enjoying being petted – especially when it comes to a full body massage – will shift their weight until they are sprawled out on the floor. Once lying on the floor, your rabbit will put their chin flat on the sofa or ground. 

It looks like your rabbit is melting like butter onto the floor – this is how comfortable and relaxed they feel with you massaging and petting them. 

Why Doesn’t My Rabbit Want to Be Petted?

Why Doesn’t My Rabbit Want to Be Petted

There are a few reasons your rabbit doesn’t want to be petted:

Reason 1: Trust Issues 

If you have a new rabbit, your bunny may not want to be petted because they don’t trust you yet. 

Rabbits are prey animals. So they aren’t trusting when they are in a new environment (that is, your home) or with new people around. 

Your rabbit may also have suffered bad previous experiences with people touching them. Or your bun may associate you petting them with being picked up. In general, rabbits don’t like being picked up and held. 

Reason 2: Petting Is Too Rough 

Rabbits prefer soft, gentle touches. So if you are roughhousing your rabbit or have a heavy touch, your rabbit isn’t going to want to be petted. 

Reason 3: Petting in Wrong Areas

There are a few areas where rabbits don’t like to be petted. So if you’ve touched your rabbit in these areas, they’ll have negative thoughts associated with being petted. 

Rabbits don’t like being touched on the bottom around their tail, chest, belly, chin, and feet. 

Reason 4: Shyness

You may simply have a shy rabbit that doesn’t seem to like being a pet. 

Reason 5: You’ve Offended Your Rabbit 

Understanding why your rabbit doesn’t want to be massaged or petted means you need to see things from their perspective. You should also understand the behavior of a dominant rabbit

In a group of rabbits, the dominant rabbit will showcase their position by coming face to face with the submissive rabbits. They will essentially get in the submissive rabbits’ faces. 

So if your rabbit believes they are dominant and your hand comes straight at them, they’ll be offended. Your bun may even get aggressive. 

Reason 6: Simply Doesn’t Like It 

There is a small percentage of rabbits who genuinely don’t want to be petted, even after you’ve tried to desensitize them and make them feel comfortable with you. 

What to Do When a Rabbit Doesn’t Want to Be Petted

If your rabbit doesn’t want to be petted, follow these steps: 

Step 1: Find out Why Your Rabbit Doesn’t Want to Be Petted 

Only when you know why your rabbit doesn’t want to be petted, that you can take action.

However, if you really aren’t sure, follow the rest of these steps. 

Step 2: Bond With Your Rabbit 

Bonding with your rabbit is one of the first steps to make them feel more comfortable with you. You want your rabbit to associate you as the person who feeds them, takes care of them, and makes them feel safe. 

Once your rabbit is familiar with you and trusts you, they’ll more readily accept being touched and petted. 

Step 3: Know Where You CAN Pet Your Rabbit 

Knowledge is power, so knowing where your rabbit will enjoy being petted will guide you to petting your rabbit. 

Step 4: Approach Your Rabbit Correctly 

Also, make sure you approach your rabbit from the side of their face where they can see you (not directly in front of them because this is their blind spot). 

Step 5: Don’t Pick Your Rabbit up When You Pet Them 

You don’t want your bun to think you are going to pick them up and hold them every time you pet and massage them. 

Make being petted and massaged good memories for your rabbit, and simply pet them with no intention to pick them up.  

Step 6: Get Started With Petting Your Rabbit – Take It SLOW!  

To start petting your rabbit:  

  • Start with soft and short forehead strokes. 
  • After the first stroke, wait a bit and see how your rabbit reacts. You can also give your rabbit a treat while you stroke them on their head. 
  • If they sit still, you can stroke them again. 
  • If they hop away, respect your bun’s boundaries. And try petting them later, but bond more with your rabbit. 

Petting your rabbit is a process. Take it slow and always make sure your bunny is comfortable. You may need to give them treats every time you touch their head until they don’t shy away from you. 

Repeat the forehead strokes for a few days until you see your rabbit relax. Also, learn how they like to be petted. 

When your bun seems content with you petting their head, move onto the area behind their ears. Start with petting their head and then move to their neck. 

Again, once your rabbit is comfortable and seems relaxed, move on to half-back stroking before you give your rabbit a full body massage. 

Step 7: Respect Your Rabbit’s Boundaries 

Just like with people, you should also respect your rabbit’s space and boundaries. If they don’t want to be petted today, don’t force it on them because you want to pet your rabbit. 

This isn’t going to make your rabbit trust you, and instead, it will only make them not like being petted (even more).  

The Last Bunny Massage  

Part of loving and caring for your pet rabbit is petting them while they chill with you on the sofa or you chill with them on the floor. 

Always make sure your rabbit is comfortable with being petted and massaged. Watch their body language as this will give you the clues you need to know your rabbit is happy and relaxed. 

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