Rabbits can make playful, affectionate, loving, and lovable pets—if you know how to relate to them.
Bonding with your rabbit is crucial for their well-being and happiness, as well as your own enjoyment of your relationship with your furry friend.
Establishing a relationship with your rabbit isn’t like bonding with your dog or your cat.
Rabbits have unique needs and a unique psychology that every rabbit owner must understand to bond with their pet rabbits.
In this article, we will give you two important rules you need to follow before and during the first few months you have your pet rabbit.
Then we will give you tips for bonding with your rabbit at every stage of its life. Let’s begin with the most important consideration for an affectionate relationship with your rabbit.
Why Bonding with Your Rabbit is Important?
Bonding with your rabbit is essential for several reasons. For starters, it helps build trust between you and your pet, making it easier to handle and care for them.
Rabbits are social animals, so they crave interaction and companionship. Building a strong bond with your rabbit ensures their mental and emotional well-being.
A close emotional connection can also help improve your rabbit’s overall health. Rabbits can become stressed if they feel lonely or neglected, and stress can lead to health issues in the long run.
Bonded rabbits are less likely to become anxious and worried, making them happier pets and prolonging their lifespan.
Additionally, if you plan to introduce another rabbit to your household, bonding is crucial.
Properly introducing and bonding two rabbits may result in them grooming each other and keeping each other company.
Just like human siblings or best friends, bonded rabbit pairings can squabble, but they will generally support and care for one another.
Also read: Why Does My Rabbit Follow Me?
Tips to Bond With Your Rabbit/Bunny
Now let’s go through some useful tips that will help you bond with your bunny:
Choose the Breeds that like People the Most
A rabbit that has never seen people before might come up to inspect you when you are hiking across its territory, but most wild rabbits are wary of people.
There are good reasons for this behavior.
After all, there are hunters who kill rabbits. Even if you love pet rabbits, any rabbit will be instinctively fearful of you if you approach it quickly or you swoop down to pet it from overhead.
All rabbits have an instinct to flee danger.
But some rabbits are more likely than others to overcome their self-defensive fears and warm up to their owners:
- Lionhead rabbits are small and fragile. They have to be handled gently. But if you allow your Lionhead to get acquainted with you while you get down on the floor to pet it, and then a few weeks later start bringing it to lap level, it will thrive on being petted and cuddled.
- Mini Lops are active little bunnies that like to burn off their energy at playtime, and then snuggle up to their human to take a nap.
- Polish rabbits can be described as affectionate pets that have a mild case of ADHD. They enjoy being held, until they see something interesting and want to hop away. Let your Polish rabbit explore its world. It may hop away from you for a minute and then hop right back into your lap.
- Flemish Giants stand out in the rabbit world because they are, well, giants. There have been multiple news reports of a Flemish Giant that grew 4 feet 4 inches (132 cm) long and weighed 49 pounds (nearly 22 kilograms). Fortunately, for rabbit lovers, large rabbits, and relaxed and confident rabbits. Flemish Giants don’t mind being petted or picked up. Just be sure you do not restrain their hind legs,
Have Your Rabbit Spayed or Neutered
It’s possible for your rabbit to love you too much.
A single rabbit that is constantly following you around and wants to hump your leg may want you as its mate.
Female rabbits that are not spayed go through constant cycles of heat. They will mark their territory with urine.
They will become much more territorial about their hutches. Does in heat will rub against their owners and constantly seek attention.
Bucks (males), in mating season, also start marking their territory with urine.
They will deal with their frustration by gnawing on furniture, electrical cords, baseboards, skirting, and beading. They may try to mate with everything that moves.
Rabbits that have been spayed or neutered are calmer and easier to handle. If you are keeping rabbits as pets, not for breeding baby bunnies, have them fixed.
Sit Down (or Lie Down) with Your Rabbit
To a rabbit, a human standing directly overhead is a scary giant.
When you stand close to your rabbit, all the rabbit can see is your feet and lower legs. All your rabbit can see when you are seated in a chair, and it is on the floor, is your feet and lower legs, too.
Getting down on the floor where your rabbit can see your entire body, especially your face, helps your rabbit feel more at ease.
Even better, lie down on the floor next to your rabbit, and it may hop up on you to explore.
Make sitting on the floor with your rabbit part of your daily routine for the first few months as it is a part of your family. Give your rabbit lots of time to get to know you before you approach it from directly overhead.
Also read: Why do Rabbits Dig at Your Clothes?
Let Your Rabbit Come to You Instead of Going to Your Rabbit
Rabbits need to overcome their fears of humans before they can be affectionate pets.
Each rabbit does this in its own time, but your rabbit will become comfortable with you faster if it initiates contact.
In nature, rabbits have many predators. They instinctively feel threatened when they are cornered. Allowing your rabbit multiple paths to escape when it comes up to you on the floor helps it get to know you.
Here is the flip side of this principle.
Never chase your rabbit.
Any rabbit that is being chased instinctively runs away. When you want to take your rabbit someplace, you might need to chase it—to keep it from dashing out into traffic, to separate it from a dog—use a leash and harness to keep your rabbit close to you.
Also read: Why is My Rabbit Grunting At Me?
Give Your Rabbit a Predictable Routine
Wild rabbits are extremely sensitive to small changes in their surroundings.
Because an unusual scent, a sudden sound, or disturbed vegetation can be a sign a predator is nearby, rabbits react to changes with fear.
Give your rabbit a predictable routine.
- Feed your rabbit around the same time every day. This way, they won’t worry about their next meal.
- Schedule your rabbit’s playtime for the same time every day. You will enjoy watching them zoom around their pen in anticipation of getting out for exercise on their daily schedule.
- Make your rabbit part of regular family activities. Do you check your phone at the same time every day? Let your rabbit sit beside you while you scroll down your screen. Do you have a favorite television program? Let your rabbit watch it with you. Sit down in front of the couch, gently petting your rabbit seated on the floor.
Practice Picking up Your Rabbit
Every rabbit needs to be held occasionally, whether it’s for grooming, trimming their nails, or putting them in their carrier for a trip to the vet.
Make sure your rabbit knows what to expect when you have to pick it up.
Hold your rabbit’s torso close to your body, but make sure its hind legs are free.
That way, it will have a sense that it could escape you if necessary. It may kick the first few times you have to pick it up, but it will eventually learn that you can be trusted.
Pet Your Rabbit Regularly
Young rabbits are full of energy.
They may sit still long enough for you to pet them for a few seconds, but their world is too full of things to explore for them to let you pet them very long.
Older rabbits enjoy petting more than younger rabbits.
Get them in the habit of enjoying a gentle massage by petting them every day, but only as long as they want it. Here is how to encourage your rabbit to enjoy getting petted.
- Give your rabbit a treat (a berry, a carrot stick, a hay pellet) every time you pet them. Move your hand slowly toward your rabbit as you offer them a treat.
- If your rabbit does not run away, offer another treat. This time gently touch them on their forehead—just a single, gentle touch.
- As your rabbit becomes accustomed to contact with your hands, give them more gentle touches on their forehead and behind their ears.
- As your rabbit becomes more and more comfortable with petting, try gentle strokes down their back.
If at any time your rabbit seems nervous or afraid, stop petting them and try another day again.
Give Your Rabbit a Quiet and Comfortable Environment
To bond with your rabbit, it’s essential to create a comfortable environment that caters to their needs.
This will make them feel safe and relaxed around you. In this section, we will discuss three important aspects: the hutch or cage, temperature, and safety.
Hutch or Cage
The first step in creating a comfortable environment for your rabbit is selecting the right hutch or cage.
A well-designed living space will help your rabbit feel secure and content. Keep the following tips in mind when choosing a hutch or cage:
- Ensure it’s large enough for your rabbit to stretch out, stand up, and hop around comfortably.
- Provide separate areas for sleeping, eating, and using the bathroom.
- Use soft bedding, like hay or shredded paper, to make it cozy.
Rabbits are sensitive to temperature changes, so it’s important to maintain a comfortable environment. Here are some guidelines to help you:
- Keep the temperature between 60°F (16°C) and 75°F (24°C) to ensure your rabbit stays comfortable.
- Use heating pads, blankets, or extra bedding during colder months to keep your rabbit warm.
- Keep the hutch or cage in a shaded and well-ventilated area during hot weather to prevent overheating.
Also read: Can Rabbits Survive in Cold Weather?
Ensuring your rabbit’s safety is crucial for building a strong bond. By protecting them from potential dangers, they will trust and feel more comfortable with you. Follow these tips to guarantee their safety:
- Protect your rabbit from household hazards like electrical wires and toxic plants.
- Ensure the hutch or cage is secure and free of sharp edges or protruding objects.
- Regularly inspect and clean their living space to maintain hygiene and prevent illnesses.
By focusing on these three aspects – hutch or cage, temperature, and safety – you are well on your way to creating a comfortable environment for your rabbit.
This will make bonding with them much easier and enjoyable for both of you.
Give Your Rabbit a Safe Space
Every rabbit needs to exercise. Rabbits in nature run as much as 4 miles (6 or 7 kilometers) daily.
They need room to run around to burn off energy. They need to graze and forage to keep their teeth worn down and to maintain a healthy diet.
Some rabbits are OK with an indoor playspace of about 100 square feet (10 square meters, or a little less). As long as they can run and hide in their protected indoor space, they stay healthy.
Other rabbits need a predator-proof rabbit run attached to their hutch outdoors.
They need to forage on real grass. But they also need barriers that prevent predation by hawks, dogs, raccoons, and snakes.
You have to spend more money upfront to give larger rabbits outdoor living space, but they will reward you with playful antics and gentle affection.
Give Your Rabbit Toys (Play with Your Rabbit)
Bonding with your rabbit can be fun and enjoyable for both of you through play and toys.
Providing your rabbit with various toys is essential for mental stimulation and helps keep them happy and healthy.
Let’s explore some great types of toys that can strengthen your bond with your rabbit.
Rabbits have a natural urge to chew, so providing them with safe chew toys can help satisfy this need and prevent them from destroying your belongings.
Here are some examples of chew toys that are perfect for your rabbit:
- Wooden blocks or sticks: Untreated, hard wood like apple, pear, or willow branches are great options. Make sure they are free from pesticides and cleaned thoroughly.
- Cardboard: Empty toilet paper rolls or cardboard boxes can keep your rabbit entertained for hours.
- Hay cubes: These are made from compressed hay and are an excellent option for chewing and snacking.
Remember to always supervise your rabbit when introducing a new toy to ensure it’s safe for them to play with.
Also read: Can Rabbits Play With Dog Toys?
Spending quality time bonding with your rabbit through interactive play is both engaging and beneficial. Here are some suggestions for interactive play with your rabbit:
- Tug of war: Gently play tug of war with a soft rope toy or an old towel. Be mindful not to pull too hard, though, as you don’t want to harm your rabbit.
- Hide and seek: Hide small treats in toys, tunnels, or around the play area to encourage your rabbit to explore and forage. This stimulates their natural curiosity and provides mental enrichment.
- Agility courses: Create a small agility course using tunnels, ramps, and jumps. This gives your rabbit a chance to exercise their mind and body while also bonding with you as you guide them.
During playtime, be patient and gentle with your rabbit. It may take time for them to feel comfortable and trust you in order to engage in play.
Remember to always reward your rabbit with praise and treats to reinforce positive behavior and make playtime an enjoyable experience for both of you.
Make Sure Your Rabbit Has a Hiding Place
Every rabbit loves a hiding place. If you don’t provide your rabbit with a hiding place where you can easily find it, your rabbit will find a hiding place where you can’t!
The writer of this article had two rabbits that loved to curl up for a nap in the potato bin. Sometimes the writer’s two-year-old nephew would join them.
Rabbits like to hide under furniture.
They will also curl up in bookshelves, sometimes nibbling on the books for an additional snack. Rabbits like to hide behind furniture, too.
A cardboard or plastic box on its side gives your rabbit a place to hide.
Buy a straw hiding house with an opening on just one side to give your rabbit a great sense of security and to give you an easy place to find your rabbit.
Give Your Rabbit Treats
One of the best ways to bond with your rabbit is by offering them treats.
Treats help your furry friend learn how awesome you are, while also providing them with some healthy snacks.
Small treats are usually healthier options that can be given to your rabbit more frequently. Some examples of small treats include:
- Small pieces of fresh vegetables like carrots, broccoli, and celery
- Fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, and basil
- A few pellets of rabbit food
Remember to keep the portions small, as overfeeding can lead to obesity and other health issues.
By offering these small rewards regularly, you can help build trust and a strong bond with your rabbit.
While small treats are great for everyday rewards, tasty treats are special indulgences for your rabbit.
They should be offered in moderation, as too many can cause health problems. Some examples of tasty treats are:
- Fruit, like apple slices and blueberries
- Store-bought rabbit treats, like yogurt drops and hay sticks
When offering these treats, make sure to keep the portions small and infrequent so they remain special and maintain their value as a bonding tool.
Keep Your Rabbit Separate from Other Pets
Do you have a dog, a cat, or a snake? It is generally better if your rabbits have their own space away from other pets.
No matter how gentle your dog or cat may be, it is probably a serious source of anxiety for your rabbit. And snakes and rabbits are simply incompatible.
Also read: Can Rabbits and Ducks Live Together?
Learn Your Rabbit’s Body Language
Rabbits communicate with their nose, ears, tail, and body position.
Rabbits communicate primarily through body language. It’s essential to understand your rabbit’s body language to bond with them and ensure their well-being.
Here are some common rabbit behaviors and what they mean:
- Binky: A sudden leap and twist in the air, indicating happiness and excitement.
- Flopping: Laying down on their side suddenly, showing they are relaxed and comfortable.
- Tooth purring: Lightly grinding their teeth, a sign of contentment.
- Thumping: Stomping their back foot, signaling fear or warning of danger.
Take note of these behaviors and try to respond accordingly to your rabbit’s needs and emotions.
A rabbit’s ears are expressive tools in their communication.
By observing the position and movement of their ears, you can gain insights into their emotions:
- Ears forward: Interested and engaged in their surroundings.
- Ears back: Potentially frightened or feeling defensive.
- Ears sideways: Relaxed and comfortable.
- One ear up, one ear down: Trying to listen to multiple sources of sound.
Always pay attention to your rabbit’s ears and adjust your behavior and approach accordingly.
Rabbit movements can be another crucial indicator of their feelings and well-being.
Understanding typical rabbit movements will help you bond with your pet:
- Freeze: Staying perfectly still, usually a sign of fear or uncertainty.
- Nose twitching: Indicates interest or curiosity in something.
- Circle running: Running in circles around you, possibly seeking attention or showing excitement.
- Grooming: Licking and cleaning themselves, a sign of relaxation and comfort.
By recognizing and interpreting these movements, you can tailor your interactions to support a positive bond with your rabbit.
Remember, confidence, knowledge, neutrality, and clarity are essential when communicating with your rabbit. Treat your rabbit with respect, and they’ll learn to trust you more and more over time.
Communicate With Your Rabbit in its Own Language
Twitch your nose at your rabbit to let it know you are paying attention. Lie down next to your rabbit to communicate that you trust them.
Imitate your rabbit’s grooming behavior by petting them to let them know they are part of the family.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I gain my shy rabbit’s trust?
Gaining your shy rabbit’s trust requires patience and consistency. Start by sitting or laying with your rabbit, allowing them to get used to your presence. Offer tasty treats to create positive associations with you. Always approach them slowly and calmly and avoid sudden movements or loud noises that may startle them.
What are the signs that my rabbit doesn’t like me?
If your rabbit shows signs of fear or aggression, they may not feel comfortable around you yet. Indicators include thumping their hind legs, grunting, biting, or hiding from you. It’s essential to give your rabbit time and space to overcome these feelings and gradually build trust.
How can I encourage my bunny to approach me?
Try sitting close to them at their level while remaining still and quiet. Offer treats or toys, and allow your bunny to approach you in their own time. Be patient and let them explore your presence gradually. This way, your bunny will learn to associate you with positivity.
What are the tips for holding a rabbit comfortably?
When holding a rabbit, ensure that their body is well-supported. Use one hand to gently hold the area behind their front legs, while the other supports their hindquarters. Keep your rabbit close to your body, and avoid holding them too tightly. Remember, some rabbits may not enjoy being held, so always be gentle and attuned to their comfort levels.
What games can I play with my bunny?
Playing simple games will help you bond with your bunny. Some ideas include:
– Rolling a ball towards them for your bunny to nudge back
– Creating an obstacle course or maze for your rabbit to navigate
– Offering cardboard boxes or paper bags for them to explore and chew on
– Hiding treats around their living area for them to search and find
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