Rabbits are highly adaptable and make great pets to people of all ages and children. However, your pet bunny still needs to be handled and socialized from a young age, otherwise, they can become easily startled and afraid of human contact.
So, how to pick up a rabbit?
- Pet your rabbit gently to help them feel comfortable with handling
- Place one hand under the rabbit’s chest and the other under its behind
- Make sure that your other hand is firmly holding the rabbit’s hind legs from kicking out
- Lift your rabbit and hold it close to your body to help it feel safe
While it might seem complicated, learning how to pick a rabbit properly isn’t that difficult. Stay with us till the end of this article to find out!
Do Rabbits Like to Be Held?
Despite common beliefs, rabbits aren’t really fans of being picked up. In fact, most rabbits are afraid of being picked up and held.
In the wild, rabbits are prey animals and, as such, they tend to be naturally alert and more cautious. It’s in a rabbit’s nature to feel more secure on the ground where they can run and hide at the first sign of danger.
Although your pet rabbit doesn’t have to worry about predators, their survival instinct is still strong and they might be scared or nervous when you try to pick them up.
Why Do So Many Rabbits Hate Being Picked Up?
Unlike cats and dogs who carry their kittens and pups by the scarf, mother rabbits don’t pick up or carry their babies. Being picked up isn’t natural for rabbits, and many bunnies hate to be held.
Furthermore, the only way a rabbit will experience being picked up in the wild is if a predator attacked and grabbed them. With that being said, it’s no wonder why so many bunnies dread the idea of being lifted and carried around.
To feel relaxed and at ease while being picked up, your rabbit has to learn from positive experiences that being lifted won’t cause them any harm. Start handling rabbits when they are just a few weeks old to get them used to be touched, petted, and picked up.
How to Pick Up a Rabbit?
Socializing your rabbit, and getting them used to be handled from a young age, is very important. Otherwise, your pet bunny can grow up being afraid of human contact.
Another thing to keep in mind is that rabbits have very strong and muscular hind legs. If your bunny kicks out with force, there is a big risk that they can injure their back and spine while you are trying to pick them up.
That’s why it’s important to learn how to safely pick up and restrain your rabbit when necessary. Here are a few tips that can help you do it:
1. Start by Petting the Rabbit Gently
Start with short intervals and as your rabbit gets comfortable increase the amount of time you spend petting them. Sitting on the floor will minimize your size and help your rabbit feel less threatened in your presence.
2. Practice Picking Up the Rabbit
Once your rabbit starts enjoying being petted you can try practicing to pick them up. Stay on the ground level to prevent any injuries in case your rabbit gets scared and tries to escape.
Practice placing your palm gently under the rabbit’s chest and lifting its front legs from the ground. Then gently put your rabbit back down on the floor and reward them with a tasty treat.
3. Hold The Rabbit’s Hind Legs Securely
Use the loose skin behind your rabbit’s neck to gently hold onto its scruff. Don’t attempt to pick up the rabbit by the scruff, just use the loose skin to prevent forward motion (source).
With your other hand, tuck the hind legs under the bunny and roll them underneath towards the bunny’s chest. Holding the hind legs securely with your hand will prevent your rabbit from kicking out and potentially injuring themselves.
4. Use Two Hands to Lift the Rabbit
It’s best that you get down on the ground the first time you attempt to pick up your rabbit. This will minimize the risk of accidents and painful injuries.
Place one of your hands under your rabbit’s chest and the other under its behind swaddling the hind legs so they point forward. Once you have a secure grip, lift your rabbit with hind legs toward you and place the rabbit under your arm.
Holding your rabbit to your side, or under your arm will help it feel more secure since it will have a place to hide.
Things to Avoid When Picking Up Your Rabbit
Never pick up your rabbit by its ears, legs, scruff, or tail (source). Also, don’t attempt to hold your rabbit on its back in a “tranced” state. Being on their backs is actually very terrifying for rabbits and puts them under a lot of stress.
Grabbing a rabbit by its limbs or tail could lead to severe injury and cause a fracture or tearing of muscle and soft tissues. To prevent injuries, make sure that your kids also know how to properly handle a rabbit.
Is It Safe for Children to Hold a Rabbit?
While children can pet a rabbit that is on the floor or sitting in an adult’s lap, they shouldn’t be allowed to pick up and carry a rabbit. Large and giant rabbit breeds, in particular, can be difficult for children to hold and handle.
There are many other ways your kids can play and interact with your pet rabbit without actually picking it up. Remember to supervise your kids while they are playing with your bunny to prevent injuries to either party.
Although it isn’t in a rabbit’s nature to be picked up, you can teach your pet bunny to be comfortable with being held. Knowing how to safely pick up your pet rabbit is very important and will help you handle and restrain your pet when necessary.
To ensure that your rabbit will feel safe and relaxed while being held, start socializing and handling them from an early age.