Congratulations on bringing a bunny home! If you devote time to properly bonding with your rabbit, you’re going to have one amazing pet.
But how do you go about bonding with your pet rabbit? Where do you start?
Like people, rabbits have preferences on how they want to receive affection. Some rabbits are cuddly bunnies, and some prefer quality time without as much touching. Some bunnies love to be held, while others will become distressed if handled.
We’re going to walk you through the best practices to use when bonding with your bunny. Let’s take a look at how you can make your new family member as comfortable as possible.
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Why Bonding With Your Rabbit Is So Important
If you’ve only ever had cats or dogs before, befriending a rabbit takes a different set of skills. Because of their place on the food chain, they can’t immediately trust you like a dog can. You need to earn that sense of trust, but once you do, they’re some of the most entertaining, personality-filled pets you can own. Not many people get to see how much personality such a small animal can have, because they never take the time to earn their trust. But if you devote the time to research how to get a rabbit to like you, you’ll soon see their trademark sass.
So to make the most of your relationship with your rabbit, here are some tips to implement to make you both happy!
Bringing Your Rabbit Home
While dogs are known for their love of car rides, rabbits are not quite as fond of car trips. The loud noises, the scary jostling, the weird smells, and the new environment can be traumatizing.
Rabbits are extremely territorial animals, and you’ve just taken them out of a territory where they felt comfortable. Once you get them inside, set them in their pen or cage and give them space. I know you want to immediately get in there and hug them (it’s hard to resist!), but they need time to get adjusted to their new area. Give them a few hours of quiet time so they can figure out their new space.
If possible, bring tokens from their shelter or previous home; if they had a blanket or a toy they loved, setting that object in their shelter will give them comfort. It’s something familiar to touch and smell. Part of bonding with your rabbit instructions include getting them used to your smell. But make sure they have something familiar to have with them.
Even if your rabbit is litterbox trained, don’t expect them to be perfect the first week. The best way to get them to use their litterbox is to give them their old litterbox; they’ll recognize their scent and remember to use that box. Every time you go in, pick up any poops they leave outside the box and put them where they belong; they’ll recognize the pattern and start to use it properly. To really motivate them, place some hay in their box; bunnies love to snack while using the restroom! It’s one of the strangest parts of bunny care, but a rabbit needs different things than dogs or cats.
How to Bond With Your Rabbit: Start the Socialization
Once they’ve had some alone time, you can enter their enclosure. If they’re going to be allowed to free roam, make sure you limit their space to one room for the first few days. They need time to adjust. Then only show them one new space at a time; they need time to cautiously get acquainted with their new territory and you don’t want to overwhelm them.
So I bet you’re wondering how to get a bunny to come to you. The first thing you need to do is establish trust.
The best way to get your rabbit to trust you is to lay down on the ground. By getting on their level, they see that you are not a threat.
Imagine you’re a rabbit; you’re small, defenseless, and almost any animal in the wild would love to have you as a snack. Of course you’re going to be cautious!
By getting on your stomach or laying on your back, the rabbit will have less to fear; you aren’t quite as overwhelming. They might start to tentatively investigate you; resist the urge to reach out and pet them, as that might scare them off. If you’re lucky, they’ll start to climb on you like a jungle gym! One way to encourage this behavior is by sprinkling healthy treats such as veggies on and around yourself to entice their curiosity.
Do Rabbits Like to Be Pet? How to Pet a Bunny
Once they start to get used to you coexisting in your space, you can try to pet your rabbit. When they approach you, put your hand in front of them so they can sniff you. You might be used to this technique if you’ve met new dogs before.
If they give you a good sniff and then bow their head, they want some cuddles! Go ahead and give a few tentative head rubs. Every motion you make should be done slowly. You don’t want to alarm them.
So where do bunnies like to be petted? Just like dogs, each rabbit has their own preferences. Some love to get petted right between the ears, some love to get stroked down their back. When bonding with your pet rabbit, you’ll start to learn about their preferences.
If they run in the opposite direction, don’t force it. Building this relationship takes time, and you don’t want to push them out of their comfort zone. If you are quiet, trusting, and patient, they’ll be drawn to you and start to reveal their personality. There are distinct rabbit behavior signs to look out for. Those will tell you how your bunny is feeling when you’re only just getting to know your rabbit.
How to Care for a Rabbit: Getting Your Rabbit Fixed
One very important thing to know about rabbits is that they will not develop a personality or become litter trained if they are not fixed. If your rabbit is not neutered or spayed, they will stay stuck with their instinctual tendencies and won’t fully become a domesticated pet. Behaviors like mounting, urine spraying, and general aggression are trademarks of an unfixed rabbit. For the health and safety of your rabbit, we highly recommend getting him or her fixed. Because of the health risks involved in not fixing them, most shelters won’t adopt out a bunny that isn’t fixed. If your rabbit is not yet fixed, make an appointment with an exotic vet.
Making Rabbits Feel at Home
Once your rabbit has started to feel like the king or queen of the space you’ve given them, you can open up more of your home to them. Wherever you choose to let them roam, make sure there are:
- No power cords. Rabbits are notorious for electrocuting themselves. Even ones that aren’t plugged in look like a very tasty snack! My first rabbit, Pancake, found an unsuspecting, unplugged charger my roommate left on the floor and very kindly chewed it into 14 pieces for her.
- No other animals. If you have another pet, it is possible for them to become friends, but this takes an extremely long time. It’s not something you want to do within the first few weeks of your rabbit coming home. Let them get comfortable with you and the space first before you introduce other pets! You need to be completely confident in how to take care of a bunny before you let other pets meet them.
- No objects you mind getting chewed. Rabbits love to explore with their teeth. We have nibble marks in our clothes, our couch, our pillows, our books, my husband’s beard…practically everything. Don’t leave out anything they could possibly get their mouths on that (a) could be toxic to them and (b) you don’t want savagely destroyed.
One way to keep rabbits safe when you can’t remove some of the dangers is by using freestanding pens. We highly recommend Chewy’s pens; we currently have about four or five in our house.
One thing some rabbits love is the ability to climb and explore. My rabbits love couches. Andy will climb on my lap, up my shoulder, and on to the back of the couch so he can survey his kingdom. If you can give them the opportunity to experience layers to climb, they’ll love it! However, always watch them carefully; you don’t want them jumping off and injuring themselves.
Make Your Rabbit Feel Like Part of the Family
The most detrimental thing you can do to your rabbit’s mental health is locking them up in a cage for their whole lives.
Repeat after me: the rabbit cages sold in PetCo and PetSmart are not big enough.
If your rabbit must live in a cage, you need to give them out-time every day so they can socialize and be free. Rabbits need exercise to maintain a healthy weight, mental stimulation to keep them entertained, and love from their caretaker to feel safe.
Your rabbit is just a part of your world, but you are their entire world. Give them the love they deserve, and I can guarantee they’ll more than return the favor. The most important tip to bonding your rabbit properly is always giving patience, attention, and affection.