Before I got my first pet rabbit, I’d only ever had dogs.
So I naturally wondered how I can show affection to my bun, what would it be like to be petted, and where are safe areas on a rabbit’s body that I can pet, stroke, and massage.
Are rabbits like dogs? Can you pet them under the chin, for example? Where do rabbits enjoy being petted?
Rabbits like to be petted on the top of their heads, behind their ears, and their back. Some rabbits like it if you pet their cheeks, so see how your rabbit reacts the first time you pet them here to know whether it is an enjoyable spot for some love.
Areas that are no-gos to pet a rabbit are its chin, tail, tummy, feet, and chest.
Do Rabbits Like to Be Pet?
Yes, most rabbits like to be petted.
However, using the right techniques, knowing how to approach your rabbit, and ensuring your rabbit feels comfortable are essential elements for your rabbit to be calm while being petted.
Even a shy rabbit will enjoy the attention of your touch if you are patient.
Benefits of Petting Your Rabbit
Here are some of the pros to petting your bunny:
- It helps to relax an anxious rabbit
- It lets you know your rabbit trusts you
- You know your rabbit feels comfortable with you
- It’s a way of spending time and bonding with your rabbit
How Do You Know Your Rabbit Enjoys Being Petted?
You’ll know whether your rabbit enjoys being petted by reading your rabbit’s body language.
If your rabbit hops away, it is a clear sign they don’t want to be touched.
If your rabbit does any of the following, it is a clear sign that your bun is enjoying the attention:
Rabbit’s purr by grinding their teeth together. This makes a soft vibration that you can sometimes feel when you stroke your bunny’s head or cheeks.
The sound of a rabbit’s purr is very soft, so you may not hear it.
You may also see your rabbit’s whiskers moving, which is a sign that they are purring when you pet them.
If you see that your rabbit melts into the floor – like they just fully sprawl out – it is a sign they are very content and are enjoying the massage.
You’ll even see your rabbit putting their chin on the floor or sofa. Your bun will look completely and utterly relaxed.
If you stop petting your rabbit, they may nudge your hand or arm with their nose. This is your rabbit asking for more attention.
They are clearly enjoying being petted if they ask for more, right?
Stays Next to You
If your rabbit continues sitting or lying next to you after a petting session with no indication they want to go anywhere, it is a sign that they would like more massages and affection.
Where Should You Pet Your Rabbit
So now that you know most rabbits do, in fact, like being petted, where should you pet your rabbit?
Pet your rabbit:
On Their Head
The safest place to pet your rabbit is on its head. This is also where you start petting any rabbit – whether it is a new rabbit that’s joined your family or one you’ve had for the past 5 years.
Rabbits love being petted here. You can do short strokes before moving into longer massage-like touches or even scritches (light scratches) with your fingers.
Behind the Ears
From petting your rabbit on their head, you can move to pet them behind their ears. This is quite the sweet spot for rabbits – they love being massaged here.
You might even see your rabbit shifting their weight to fully relax into the floor or table or couch.
Notice your rabbit’s reaction – if it looks like they are visibly melting from pure enjoyment, you know you are doing an excellent job.
Down Their Back
From the head and behind the ears, you can move to stroking or messaging your rabbit’s back. You may find you need to only stroke them halfway on their back.
When your rabbit gets more comfortable, you can give them a full body massage from the top of their neck all the way down their backs.
On Their Cheeks
Not all rabbits like their owner petting them on their cheeks, so start with short cheek strokes and see how your bun reacts.
Your rabbit may also be startled the first few times you pet their cheeks.
So get them slowly accustomed to you petting their cheeks. Start by rubbing their heads and do a quick, short stroke over their cheek.
Move back to their head where they enjoy being petted, and every now and again, pet their cheeks.
Over time, your bun will associate you petting their cheeks with the same pleasure they get when you stroke or massage the top of their head.
On Their Ears
The ears of a rabbit aren’t sensitive. It’s a neutral area so you can pet your rabbit’s ears.
However, your bunny won’t enjoy it like they would a head rub, a neck or full body massage, or a cheek stroke.
Areas You Shouldn’t Pet Your Rabbit
There are a few areas where you shouldn’t pet your rabbit.
Once your rabbit feels comfortable with you petting them on their heads, behind their ears, and down their backs, you can desensitize them to these “no-go” areas.
It is important for them to learn to accept your touch on these areas.
For example, your bun should feel comfortable with you handling their feet when you need to cut their nails. They should be ok with you touching their cheeks so you can do a dental check.
If you touch your bun in these areas, they might jump away. So initially, don’t touch your rabbit on their:
Rabbits don’t like being touched on their chin.
Your bun will quickly shy away if you touch them there.
Belly and Chest
Other areas you shouldn’t pet your rabbit are on their belly and chest. You’ll find that your rabbit carefully guards their underside because they know this is a vulnerable area.
As prey animals, a rabbit wants to stay safe and ensure they survive as a species. So protecting their most vulnerable body areas is second nature to them.
If you touch your rabbit on their belly and chest, they could run away or lie down flat with their belly and chest almost pushed into the floor so you can’t touch them there. Your bun may also become angry and thump at you.
Butt and Near Their Tail
Your rabbit’s butt and the area around their tail are sensitive.
As such, your bunny doesn’t like it when you pet them there.
The reason why rabbits don’t like their fur-parents touching their feet is also related to them being prey animals.
A rabbit prefers to be in control of its limbs. If there is a threat nearby, the bunny can run away.
How to Start Petting Your New Rabbit: Step-by-Step Guide
There are techniques to petting your rabbit and how to start petting them if you are a newbie rabbit owner.
The “Rules” for Petting Your Rabbit
Some rules first:
- If you are a cat or dog-person, remember that a rabbit isn’t a cat or dog so you can’t pet your rabbit in the same way.
- Respect your rabbit’s space and their boundaries. If you stroke their head and your bunny hops away, understand that they aren’t interested in affection right now. They may be busy exploring their world or chewing on that interesting chew toy you got them.
- Be patient. When you get your pet rabbit, they won’t instantly feel comfortable around you and in their new space. It takes time to bond with your rabbit and for them to love you.
- Make sure you don’t pick your rabbit up every time you pet them. In general, rabbits don’t like to be picked up and held. So if your bunny associates you petting them with being picked up, they are not going to like being massaged or stroked.
- Start slowly the first time you pet your rabbit. Watch their reaction so you can act appropriately.
- Wash your hands every time you’ve petted your rabbit.
How to Pet Your Rabbit
Always follow these steps when you pet your rabbit:
Step 1: Show Your Rabbit Your Hand
Rabbits have a blind spot right in front of their noses. So if you ever approach your bunny from in front of them, they won’t see you approach and they may get scared.
It’s the same situation when you approach your bunny to pet them. Make sure your arm and hand approach your bunny a little to the side, almost in line with their cheek.
This way your rabbit will see your hand and will later know you want to pet them.
Step 2: Pet Your Rabbit’s Head
It is good to start by petting your rabbit’s head. If this is the first time you pet your rabbit, then quick, light strokes are best.
Once you’ve correctly approached your rabbit, keep your hand above its head. Give them a quick and light stroke on their head, and wait.
You want to see how your rabbit reacts. If they hop away, try to pet them another time.
If they sit and wait, you can give them another stroke. See how they react. If they seem fine with your petting them, then continue but stop if your bunny gives you any indication it doesn’t want to be petted.
Step 3: Pet Your Rabbit Behind Their Ears
From petting their head, massage your rabbit behind their ears next. As your rabbit enjoys this, it’ll melt into the floor.
Step 4: Pet Your Rabbit’s Back
When you move from petting your rabbit behind their ears to their back, only pet them halfway down their back. And then see how your rabbit responds.
Again, if they seem comfortable, you can pet them all the way down their back. Move your hand in the same direction as their fur.
If your rabbit isn’t used to you petting them, take it slow. Start by petting their head. If they don’t object to this affection, then move to their neck area. Every once in a while, just pet them on their back before moving to the areas your rabbit is comfortable with you petting.
Step 5: Pet Your Rabbit’s Cheeks
You can also pet your rabbit’s cheeks. As you pet your bunny on their head, stroke their cheek now and again before moving back to their head.
As your rabbit feels more comfortable, you can spend more time massaging its cheeks.
As a rabbit owner, you want to show your rabbit love and affection. One way of doing that is by petting them.
The majority of rabbits love being petted, especially after they’ve eaten or when they are chilling with you. Always be patient with your rabbit and respect its boundaries.
Other articles you may also like:
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- Why is My Rabbit Stomping at Night? 6 Main Reasons!
- Why is My Rabbit So Active at Night?
- How Do Rabbits Communicate? Some Cues to Look for!
- Why Do Rabbits Wiggle Their Tails?
- How do Rabbits Show Affection? 12 Signs to Look for!
- Can You Touch/Handle a Baby Rabbit?