How should you hold a rabbit?

Socialising your rabbit from an early age is important, as otherwise, they can find human contact distressing. Always be gentle, move slowly and talk quietly around rabbits so that you don't startle them. Picking a rabbit up close to ground level is another way to avoid scaring them. Covering their eyes gently with the crook of your arm can also help them to feel more relaxed. Always hold a rabbit gently but firmly and use the minimum level of restraint necessary. Always supervise children, and never pick up a rabbit by their ears. Rabbits are naturally sociable and inquisitive, so developing a good relationship with them can be rewarding for both of you.

It's crucial to get rabbit handling right, as without correct handling, it's possible your rabbits will perceive you as a threat. Watch vet Molly demonstrate how to hold a rabbit so that your rabbits can learn to see you as a friend and companion.

Top tips for handling rabbits

Start early

Get your rabbits used to human touch by socialising them early. Rabbits who aren't handled regularly from a young age, or rough handling at any age, may find human contact distressing.

Be gentle

Move slowly and talk quietly around rabbits so not to startle them. They're more likely to be relaxed in a quiet and calm handling environment

Picking rabbits up when you're close to ground level is less likely to scare them, and is also more safe, as it helps prevent them being dropped by accident from a height. We advise all interaction to take place on ground level when possible.

Covering their eyes (with a towel or in the crook of your arm) can help them feel more relaxed whilst being held, but you should ensure the nares (nostrils) aren't obstructed.

Be safe

Safety is paramount when handling rabbits as their fragile spines can be seriously, or even fatally, damaged if they feel insecure and struggle when held.

  • Hold rabbits gently but firmly, ensure one hand supports their back and hindquarters at all time. Help them feel secure by holding all four feet against your body. 
  • Never pick rabbits up by their ears. It would be extremely stressful and is highly likely to injure them.
  • Reduce stress and minimise the risk of injury by using the minimum level of restraint necessary. This depends on the animal's temperament, health status and the activity undertaken.
  • Supervise children at all times, and only adults or responsible older children should be able to pick up rabbits.
  • Avoid placing rabbits on slippery surfaces. Placing a towel down can help make rabbits feel more secure.

If you're concerned about your rabbits' behaviour, seek veterinary advice to rule out any form of illness or injury that could be causing problems. Their reaction to handling may also depend on their past handling experiences, so you'll need patience to help grow their confidence around people.

Please download our Rabbit handling advice (PDF 380KB) for more on handling and training. Or why not try something new today and enjoy watching your rabbits investigate and play with different toys and objects.

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