Is it Really THAT Bad to Hold Your Rabbit Like a Baby?

is it bad to hold rabbits like a baby?

Is it okay to hold a bunny cradled like a baby? It’s a common question from new rabbit caretakers. Given that rabbits so cute, we all want to cuddle with them more. However, you probably heard someone say that being cradled like a baby is bad for your rabbit and causes them to be stressed out (that’s why you’re reading this article, I assume). Unfortunately, this is often the truth.

If holding your rabbit like a baby means you are cradling them on their back, I recommend you find new ways to cuddle with your rabbit. While some rabbits may appear comfortable being held on their backs, this position can actually be quite stressful for them. It forces them into a catatonic state where they are, essentially, “playing dead.” 

We all want to know that our beloved pets are happy, so it’s important to learn the best practices for handling them. Handling rabbits correctly (or choosing to cuddle with them on the floor) can also help create a stronger bond between you and your bunny since it will cause less overall anxiety for your rabbit.

cradling a rabbit upright
It’s okay to cradle a rabbit like this, in a more upright position.
cradling a rabbit on their back
You want to avoid cradling a rabbit all the way on their back, like this.

What do you mean when you say “hold your rabbit like a baby?”

So, there is a little bit of nuance to the question of whether or not cradling a rabbit like a baby is okay. This comes down to the exact way that you are holding your rabbit. 

It is possible to cradle a rabbit in a somewhat upright position. Holding your rabbit like this, with their belly exposed is fine. If this is what you mean when you say you hold your rabbit like a baby, you’re doing fine.

The crucial distinction here is whether you hold the rabbit and lay them back, pretty much flat. When rabbits are cradled so they’re almost flat on their backs, it could inadvertently induce a trance-like state. 

This is also known as “trancing” or tonic immobility. While initially it might seem peaceful, as if the bunny is relaxed and enjoying the position, trancing is actually a stressful experience for them.

It’s important to recognize that trancing is not a sign of contentment. Instead, it’s a last-ditch evolutionary defense mechanism that causes predators to believe the rabbit is dead and put them down, giving the rabbit another chance to escape.

Stress responses in rabbits are often misunderstood, and interpreting their lack of movement as enjoyment is a common mistake (so don’t feel bad if you were doing this). I made this mistake with my first rabbit too. Now that I know how stressful it is for rabbits to be held on their backs, I avoid it altogether. 

Lying next to a rabbit
When rabbits are comfortable around you, try laying next to them and hugging your rabbit on the ground.

Does your rabbit like being held at all?

Many rabbit caretakers really want to hold and cuddle with their pets. However, in reality, most rabbits do not enjoy being held at all (no matter what position you hold them in). Their instincts tell them that being lifted off the ground equates to being caught by a predator. It’s a scenario far removed from the cuddly pet image you may have in mind.

If you hold your rabbit too frequently, they may begin to associate you with that fear they feel when they are held. It’s one of the main things that prevent people from forming a closer bond with their pet rabbit.

Understanding that rabbits usually prefer to keep all four feet on the ground can help improve your interactions with your pet. Consider interacting with your rabbit down on the floor, sitting at their level. This is safer and more enjoyable for them. 

I know! It can be tempting to want to hold and cuddle your pet, but consider if your rabbit shows signs of happiness during these moments or if they are simply tolerating the interaction.

For those who really want to create a bond that respects their rabbit’s comfort levels, it might be worthwhile to learn how to cuddle rabbits without causing them fear or stress. This involves sitting on the floor and allowing the rabbit to come to you on their own terms. Through patience and careful attention to their body language, you and your rabbit can enjoy a more mutually agreeable form of affection.


  1. McBride, A; Day, S., McAdie, T., Meredith, A., Barley. J., Hickman, J. and Lawes, L. “Trancing Rabbits : relaxed hypnosis or a state of fear?” Proceedings of the VDWE International Congress on Companion Animal Behaviour and Welfare, University of Huddersfield. August 2011, 
  2. “Trancing.” Rabbit Welfare Association And Fund.

Tips and Tricks Newsletter

If you are new to caring for rabbits, check out the Bunny Lady bimonthly newsletter. Right after you sign up, you’ll receive a FREE pdf rabbit care guidebook. I put together a guide that goes over all the basics of rabbit care so you have it all in one place. Then you will receive tips and tricks about rabbit care straight to your inbox so that you know you’ll be taking excellent care of your new rabbit.

Recommended Products and Brands

Important: These are Affiliate links. As an associate to Amazon, Small Pet Select, and, I may receive a small commission from qualifying purchases.

The two brands that I use when buying food for my rabbit are Oxbow and Small Pet Select. These both have high quality rabbit products and are companies that care about the health of our small animals. If you are purchasing anything from Small Pet Select use the code BUNNYLADY at checkout to get 15% off your first order.

Amy Pratt

Amy Pratt is a lifelong rabbit owner who has been specializing with rabbits at the Humane Rescue Alliance. She helps to socialize the rabbits and educate volunteers on the care and behavior of these small mammals.

Recent Posts