How to pick up and hold rabbits
Rabbits don't usually like being picked up and held unless they've become used to it from a young age and even then handling must be done carefully and gently. Sometimes you may need to pick up your rabbits and it's important you do this safely.
Rabbits who aren't used to being picked up can bite, scratch or even kick their owners. They tend to prefer being petted on the floor so they feel safer, rather than picked up and cuddled.
In the wild, rabbits are prey animals and so are naturally cautious. They feel much safer on ground level where they can run and hide if they need to. This instinct still runs strong in our domestic rabbits, who might be nervous and scared when you pick them up.
The best way to pick up your rabbits
If you need to pick your rabbits up for any reason, you need to be able to do this confidently and correctly. If they panic, they could hurt themselves or you. We wouldn’t advise allowing young children to pick up rabbits because of this.
Rabbits should always be approached in a quiet, calm and confident manner and sudden or rapid movements should be avoided.
You should pick up your rabbits (one at a time!) by:
- Placing one hand under your rabbit's chest
- Place your other hand under their hind legs
- Lift your rabbit and hold them against your body to keep them nice and secure, but don't squeeze too tight.
If you can avoid it, try not to hold your rabbits for too long. They prefer to be able to run free and play on the ground and can find being held quite stressful.
To put your rabbit back down, keep them as close to your body as possible and lower them to the ground as you squat down. Keep them held in a secure grip and put them down gently.
What to avoid – bunny etiquette
Rabbits should never be picked up by their ears or by the scruff of their neck. Some people might also hold their rabbits on their back in a “hypnotised” or “tranced” state, where they go really still. This experience is actually really terrifying for rabbits, as it is their response to being caught by a predator and they are playing dead to protect themselves. You should never do this to your rabbits as it is very distressing for them.
Can children pick up rabbits?
We wouldn’t advise allowing young children to pick up your rabbits, especially larger rabbit breeds which can be even more difficult for young children to handle. Instead, they can spend time with them in other ways. Remember to always supervise your children with your pets.
- Create a secure area where your rabbits can run free
- Ask your child to sit on the floor or a low seat (your bunnies will feel better and less threatened if they’re on the same level)
- Give your child some of your rabbits’ favourite treats or veggies and let your rabbits come to them in their own time
- Be aware that rabbits don’t like loud noises or sudden movements, so help to teach your children to use quieter voices and gentle movements when around small pets.
Once your rabbits and children are used to each other, your rabbits will be happier to spend more time close to them and your children can start gently stroking your rabbits while feeding them.
How can I spend time with my rabbits?
While it’s best not to pick your rabbits up if you can avoid it, there are other ways you can show them you love them. You can make toys for them at home and watch them play. You can also spend time with your rabbits by sitting in a secure enclosure with them and allowing them to choose to come to you for attention. They might even see you as a new toy to play on! If they start to look worried or hide, back off a little until they’re ready to come out again.
Company for rabbits
Rabbits need other rabbits for company. Find out more about keeping rabbits in pairs or groups and how to introduce a new bunny to the mix.