As a bunny owner, one of your biggest challenges may be handling your rabbit. This is because oftentimes, rabbits don't particularly like to be held, which means that they struggle, growl, and occasionally bite and scratch. Even if they do these things however, that doesn't mean you shouldn't handle them.
It does mean that you will have to take some time to establish a better bond between you and your bunny.
Step One:Pet your bunny. You have to walk before you can run, and petting your bunny is the first step towards being able to pick it up and handle it. Bunnies like to have their heads gently scratched and rubbed,
but they generally do not like to be touched under the chin or around their hind quarters. If you want to earn your rabbit's trust, giving it a gentle head rub is an excellent way of doing that. After a while your rabbit may even start running up to you and demanding that you pat it.
Put the bunny in your lap. Sit on the floor with the bunny and gently put the bunny in your lap. Let it run off if it wants to, but let it get used to the idea that being picked up and put in your lap is not the
end of the world. If you cannot pick your rabbit up at all, try luring it into your lap with treats.
Try holding your bunny. Odds are that your rabbit will not like being restrained. Remember, these are prey animals, and to them, being held down or trapped by a bigger creature often means death. Is
there really any wonder that they fight so hard to be let go? Bonding with your rabbit in the first two steps, and being gentle but firm when you do pick the bunny up will go a long way to helping your bunny become more amenable to being picked up.
Picking Up Bunny Checklist:
Support the bunny under its chest
Support the hindquarters
Hold the bunny close to your body. Let it rest against your body if you can. This will provide it much more security.
Once you've picked your bunny up, hold it for a few seconds, or until it stops struggling, and then release it gently. Rabbits will often start struggling again when they feel themselves being released, so make sure you do this very close to the ground. Giving the bunny a treat may sweeten the experience as well. Beware that once you put the rabbit down it may try to bite you for your effrontery. This is where fast feet (yours, not the rabbit's) come in handy!
Here is some further information on how to pick up and handle your bunny that is helpful:
Rabbits should never be held by only the scruff or the ears; many other ways exist to transport a rabbit safely. Suspension and/or struggling of the rabbit can lead to fracturing of the spine. Carrying by the ears can, furthermore, trigger reflex hypertension, which can be fatal in rabbits.
Carrying by only the scruff, without support of the lower spine and posterior limbs is dangerous. Suspension of the body can lead to vertebral column luxation or fracture at the lumbar level (more specifically, the 7th lumbar vertebra).
Carrying a rabbit by the ears is particularly cruel, causing needless pain as well as damage to the cartilage that supports the ears. Suspension of the body or a violent struggle can lead to vertebral luxation or fracture of the spine or neck.
Safe methods of transport
Several methods are available for proper and safe transport of rabbits from the carrier to the examination table. All include firm hold of the rabbit, to avert escape, and support of its lower spine region and hips to prevent fracture. As a rule, one hand supports the chest of the rabbit, with fingers resting under its axilla (armpits). To prevent compression of the chest, the front limbs of the rabbit are placed over one hand. The second hand or elbow supports the rabbit's weight and is placed underneath its rump. A rabbit kicking against a hard surface when held may injure or fracture its spine. Hind limbs pointing away from the human's body will reduce struggling by the rabbit and scratching of the human by sharp nails.
"Safe Handling", video by Debbie Hanson, with the help of registered vet technician Melissa and the rabbit Skyler:
The following illustrations show common and safe methods of carrying rabbits. Depending on the experience of the carrying person, veterinarian, and the size and weight of the rabbit, the way in which the rabbit is held may slightly differ.
To examine the ventral abdomen the rabbit is held firmly against the chest, with support of the lower part of its body.