If you’ve recently adopted a rabbit, you might be wondering how long it will take for your new furry friend to trust you. Building trust with a rabbit can be a gradual process, and it’s important to be patient and understanding as you work to establish a bond.
There are several factors that can influence the process of gaining a rabbit’s trust. Rabbits are naturally prey animals, so they may be wary of humans until they feel safe and secure in their environment. So creating a safe environment is crucial.
Rabbits that have had negative experiences with humans in the past will also take longer to warm up to their new caretakers. But I’ve worked with a lot of rescue rabbits over the years, so I know that even these scared rabbits can build a bond with people given time and patience.
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How long does it take for a pet rabbit to trust you?
While there’s no definitive timeline for how long it will take your rabbit to trust you, I generally expect it to take a minimum of 1-2 weeks. This initial period helps you build a relationship, as it is the time for your rabbit to become accustomed to its new environment and your presence in their life.
However, for some rabbits, particularly those with a history of negative experiences with humans, gaining trust can be a much longer journey. It is not uncommon for it to take several months or even years for these rabbits to fully trust humans. Consistency and patience from the owner play a vital role in this process, and you’ll need to learn how to celebrate the little wins along the way.
If you’re interested in a rabbit that may warm up to you more quickly, considering your rabbit’s personality or age is beneficial. Often, younger and more confident rabbits can adapt to you and their new surroundings and caretakers with greater ease. This can lead to a quicker establishment of trust.
When adopting a rabbit, talk with shelter workers and volunteers. They often have valuable experience with different rabbits and can provide guidance on choosing one that is generally more sociable or friendly.
- Learn more about techniques to help you befriend a shy bunny
How you can help your rabbit trust you faster
To build trust with your rabbit, it’s important to spend time with them on their terms. This might mean sitting quietly near their enclosure and letting them come to you, or offering them treats to help establish a positive association with your presence. Use these tips to help you befriend your rabbit a little bit faster.
Bribe them with treats
Offering treats is a tried-and-true method to gain your rabbit’s trust. Begin by placing a treat on the floor somewhere near you. Be patient and allow your rabbit to approach in their own time and snatch the treat (they’ll probably eat it and run away again). This is a positive reinforcement technique that lets your rabbit associate being near you with the reward of getting a treat.
If your rabbit is very shy, casually sit with your back turned toward your bunny. This makes it seem as if you’re not paying attention to them, making them feel a little safer when approaching you.
Gradually, as your rabbit becomes more and more confident, start offering a treat from your hand instead of placing it on the ground. The goal is to make your rabbit feel less intimidated when coming up to you, and associating your outstretched hands with treats.
- For treat options that are healthy (and tasty) for rabbits, check out my article on rabbit treats.
Sit quietly on the floor near them
To help your rabbit feel comfortable with you, try to be around without being too imposing. As they explore, sit a comfortable distance from them so they can approach you if they want, but can also keep their distance if they choose. It is best to make sure you’re sitting on the floor because it makes you appear less intimidating than if you were standing or sitting in a chair.
Do some kind of quiet activity while you sit (such as reading), to signal to your rabbit that you’re not paying attention to them. You also want to make sure you’re not blocking the path to their enclosure or home base so your rabbit doesn’t feel trapped or crowded.
Rabbits are curious creatures. If you make yourself available like this, they will eventually come up to check you out (that’s when you give them a treat to reward their curiosity). But, you need to be patient. Some rabbits will come up to you fairly quickly, while others will take multiple sessions of sitting quietly together. Always wait for your rabbit to make the first move and satisfy their curiosity on their own terms.
Allow your rabbit to make the first move
When you’re bonding with your rabbit, you really need to be patient if you want your rabbit to trust you. Instead of initiating contact, let your rabbit make the first move and approach you in their own time. This helps build a foundation of trust between you because your rabbit won’t feel like you’re trying to force them to do anything they don’t want to do.
Here are some pointers:
- Sit quietly: Make yourself available for interaction by sitting near your rabbit. Usually, sitting just outside of arm’s reach is a good distance to start with, but if your rabbit moves farther away, don’t follow.
- Minimize direct attention: Overly focused attention might intimidate your furry friend, so avoid staring or reaching out suddenly.
Remember, your rabbit has its own personality and comfort level. Some may take longer than others to come forward, and that’s okay! Your role is to provide a safe and inviting space where they have the autonomy to choose to interact with you.
Start with small interactions
When you start building trust with your rabbit, try to engage in small, positive interactions. Initially, these encounters will only last a few moments as your rabbit gauges its comfort level around you. Respect this process and take it as a sign of progress when your pet approaches, even if briefly.
When your rabbit ventures near, see if you can briefly touch your rabbit. Some scritches behind the ears or petting your rabbit on the forehead tend to be good places to start petting a rabbit. Keep these interactions short at first, as your rabbit gets more comfortable you can try to pet them for longer periods.
Maintain a balanced approach by giving your rabbit attention without inundating them. Excessive handling or petting can end up overwhelming your rabbit, so you’ll want to observe their reactions and retreat when they signal a need for space. By respecting their boundaries, you foster a sense of security that will be the baseline for a trusting relationship with your rabbit.
Let your rabbit hop away if they want to
When interacting with your rabbit, always respect their space and allow them freedom to choose what they want to do (as long as they’re safe, of course. We don’t want them biting electrical cords or something like that). Remember that rabbits are prey animals, and their trust is built on the foundation of safety and autonomy. If your pet seems inclined to move away, let them go. This reinforces that they are not captive and can explore on their terms.
By doing so, you create a positive association with your presence: you’re someone who is not a threat or someone who tries to restrain them. Over time, as your rabbit realizes that interactions are not at all threatening, they will become more curious and approach you out of their own volition, which is a sign of developing trust.
Remember, patience is key. Allow them to set the pace for the relationship, and eventually, they will see you as a trusted companion rather than a source of stress.
Spend more time with your rabbit
To foster a strong bond with your pet rabbit more quickly, you’ll want to dedicate time to simply being around them. You can achieve this by weaving daily interactions into your routine that allow your rabbit to grow accustomed to you. The key is consistency and gentleness in these engagements.
Make it part of your daily routine: Incorporate a predictable schedule that includes time to sit quietly with your rabbit while they explore. You could get work done while you do this, or use it as a quiet time to add some relaxation into your daily schedule. The more time you spend in the same vicinity as your rabbit, the quicker they will learn to trust you.
Create a safe environment
To foster your rabbit’s trust more swiftly, the other important aspect is your rabbit’s living environment. If they don’t feel safe and relaxed where they live, they won’t be able to gain confidence and will have less capacity for trust.
To make sure your rabbit’s living space is comfortable and not anxiety inducing for your rabbit, use these tips:
- Keep other household pets at a distance to avoid intimidating your rabbit. This will also apply to young children who do not understand how to leave the rabbit alone.
- Moderate noise levels. Rabbits are fairly sensitive to loud or unusual sounds. A quiet, serene atmosphere is essential to prevent stress.
- Give your rabbit hiding places. Offer plenty of opportunities for your rabbit to hide away when they feel nervous. This could be something as simple as a cardboard box, or you can get fancy small pet hidey houses for your rabbit (I like these castle pieces from Small Pet Select, because they are pretty spacious even for fairly large rabbits. Use code “BUNNYLADY” at checkout for 15% off your first order)
What you’re doing that’s preventing your rabbit from trusting you
There are some behaviors on your end that may be causing your rabbit to be fearful of you, rather than fostering trust. If you want to befriend your rabbit and have a long lasting bond, you’ll to avoid these types of interactions until your rabbit has had time to trust you:
- Handling Your Rabbit Too Much: Rabbits often feel vulnerable when being held and require time to get comfortable with human touch. Frequent or improper handling can lead to a lack of trust.
- Making Loud Noises: Sudden or loud sounds can be frightening for your rabbit. A calm and quiet environment helps build trust with your pet.
- Making your rabbit feel trapped: If a rabbit feels cornered or unable to escape, it can become anxious.
- Chasing your rabbit: Trying to catch your rabbit when it flees can be very stressful for them. Avoid chasing your pet, as it may cause them to feel threatened.
Signs and behaviors that your rabbit is starting to trust you
When your rabbit begins to trust you, you’ll start to see some trusting behaviors more and more often. Some of them are quite subtle, and you may not realize that it’s a good sign from your rabbit. Here’s what you might observe:
- Your rabbit is grooming themself around you: Rabbits generally pay less attention to their surroundings when they self-groom. Choosing to do this around you means there is a base level of trust.
- Laying or lounging near you: This is a very high sign of trust from a rabbit. They will not lay or sleep near anyone they feel is a threat.
- Your rabbit allows you to pet them: While most rabbits love to be pet, they often won’t let people pet them until there is some level of trust.
- Sleeping around you: The ultimate sign of trust is when a rabbit feels secure enough to fall asleep when you are near, showing complete comfort in your presence.
These behaviors are strong indicators that your rabbit trusts you. Even if it feels like you’re not getting anywhere with the bond between you and your rabbit, these behaviors prove you’re making progress.