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How to hold a rabbit

Rabbits are naturally sociable and inquisitive, so developing a good relationship with them can be rewarding for both of you. Socialise your rabbit from an early age so they're comfortable with human contact.

animal care assistant holding domestic rabbit © RSPCA

It's crucial to get rabbit handling right, as, without correct handling, it's possible your rabbits will see you as a threat.

Watch vet Molly demonstrate how to hold a rabbit so that your rabbits 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 who experience rough handling at any age, may find human contact distressing.

Be gentle

Move slowly and talk quietly around rabbits so as 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 safer, as it helps prevent them from being dropped from a height by accident.

We advise all interactions 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 while being held, but you should ensure their nostrils aren't blocked.

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 times. Help them feel secure by holding all four feet against your body.
  • Never pick rabbits up by their ears - this would be extremely stressful and is highly likely to injure them.
  • Minimise restraint - reduce stress and minimise the risk of injury by using the minimum level of restraint necessary. This depends on your pet's temperament, health and activity.
  • Supervise children at all times - only adults or responsible older children should be able to pick up rabbits.
  • Avoid placing rabbits on slippery surfaces - putting a towel down can help make rabbits feel more secure.

If you're concerned about your rabbit's behaviour, ask your vet 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.

Have a read of our rabbit handling advice for more on handling and training your rabbit. Or why not try something new today and enjoy watching your rabbits investigate and play with different toys and objects?

Find out more