Whether you are bringing a rabbit home for the first time or moving to a new house or apartment, your rabbit is sure to feel uprooted and confused in their new space. It’s common for rabbits to be scared and stressed when they move into a new home. If you’re not delicate with the process, the rabbit could even suffer from some stress-related health conditions. The good news is that there’s a lot you can do to help your rabbit acclimate to their new home environment.
Rabbits will typically take 2 days to 2 weeks to adjust to a new living environment. During this time, help your rabbit feel safe by keeping them in a quiet location and sticking to a consistent daily routine. You can also encourage confidence by rewarding your rabbit for being brave and exploring new areas.
If you are moving house with a rabbit, check out my guide to make moving day go smoothly. The tips here will be useful for helping your rabbit adjust to their new home after move-in day. They are also made for new rabbit caretakers who want to make sure their bunny will be happy in their new home.
1. Set up a home base
Before you even put your rabbit in their new home, you want to make sure you have a home base enclosure set up for them. Whether your rabbit is free roam or living in their enclosure, this is a vital step to ensuring your rabbit feels safe and comfortable. The home base should have everything your rabbit needs. Make sure to include the litter box, a hiding house, food, and water bowls, as well as some toys to play with.
A home base should be a place where your rabbit feels safe. They’ll be able to learn to relax in their environment, and they’ll have a place to retreat to when they’re ready to start exploring the rest of the room and home.
If you are moving to a new home with a rabbit you’ve already been living with, try to set up their space the same way it was in your old home. Place the litter box, food bowls, hiding house, and so on, in the same place relative to each other that they were in before the move. This will make the transition easier for your rabbit because their home base is already familiar to them.
2. Give your rabbit familiar objects
If at all possible, you want to move your rabbit into their new home along with some familiar toys, bedding, or habitat furniture. The reason this is so useful is that rabbits are very sensitive to the way everything smells. They spread their scent on objects to familiarize themselves and claim their territory. It helps them feel safer and more in control when they are surrounded by their own scent.
It’s easy to make sure a rabbit you’ve lived with has objects they’ll feel connected to. All you have to do is make sure to give your rabbit all their familiar toys and home base furniture when you move them to their new home.
When bringing a new rabbit home this is a little more difficult. You will usually have to purchase your own rabbit supplies and can’t bring home the litter box or food bow that the rabbit is familiar with. However, depending on where you are adopting your rabbit, you may be able to bring some familiar toys home with your rabbit. If that’s not possible, bring a towel with you to place in the carrier with your rabbit. By the time you get the rabbit home, the towel should have some scent from the rabbit, so placing it with them in their home base can help them feel a little more comfortable.
3. Make sure your rabbit is eating a healthy diet
The first few days in a new place can be very stressful for a new rabbit. Unfortunately, stress can very easily lead to health problems, especially issues related to a rabbit’s digestive system. If they don’t eat enough fiber, rabbits have an increased risk of going into GI Stasis during this period of time.
To prevent these health problems, you’ll want to be extra certain that your rabbit is eating a healthy diet. Make sure they have timothy hay available to eat at all times and monitor their appetite to make sure they are actually eating it. If your rabbit stops eating altogether, this is an emergency situation and you need to see a vet as soon as possible.
You’ll also want to keep an eye on your rabbit’s poop to monitor how they are coping with stress. Rabbits that are severely stressed out will have small poops. It’s typical to see these small fecal pellets on your rabbit’s first day in their new home since that tends to be the most stressful. However, if they don’t return to normal size within the first 24 hours, then you will want to take extra steps to help your rabbit calm down.
4. Keep your rabbit in a quiet room
Most rabbits are very sensitive to loud sounds and fast movement. During the first few days home, you want to make sure your rabbit’s room is free from any major distractions. Make sure children are calm and quiet around the rabbit, and remember to use headphones when you use any electronic devices (or keep the volume very low). A quiet living space will allow your rabbit to get used to their new home more quickly. They’ll feel safe and instead of being on constant alert become of the strange or loud noises in the area.
5. Be a calming presence
When you first bring a rabbit to a new home, you want to avoid bothering them too much. Give your rabbit time and space to get used to their new home and environment. However, this doesn’t mean you should stay away from your rabbit completely.
Instead, spend some quiet time around your rabbit. Read near them, or work in the same room as them for a few days. Go about your day in a calm and confident way to let your rabbit know that everything is safe.
If your rabbit is already familiar with you, then spend some time interacting with your rabbit every day, like you normally would before you moved. However, if you are bringing a new rabbit home, it’s best to give them a few days to settle in before trying to pet them and interact. Most rabbits are also very afraid of being picked up, so it’s best to avoid holding your rabbit or cuddling with them until you have gained their trust.
6. Stick to a daily routine
Rabbits thrive on routine. It makes their days predictable, which significantly reduces their overall levels of stress. It makes them feel a lot safer when there are no significant surprises in their day. Your rabbit will know when to expect food and when they’ll get time for exercise, they’ll be much happier and less stressed overall.
Routine has other benefits as well. You’ll notice your rabbit is much more likely to open up to you and other caretakers, and they’ll also be more adventurous and willing to explore their surrounding environment.
7. Make sure to thoroughly rabbit proof the home
When you move your rabbit into a new home, you need to take the time to do some thorough rabbit proofing. Rabbits always find new ways to make trouble in new places, so don’t assume they’ll be well behaved in your new home just because they were in your old home.
Make sure to find and cover any wires your rabbit might chew on and cover up the carpet, especially in the corners of rooms. Keep any dangerous objects, such as poisonous houseplants or space heaters, up out of reach or in a completely different room entirely.
8. Slowly give your rabbit more freedom
When you first bring your rabbit home, you’ll want to start them in a relatively small space. Too much space right away can often cause rabbits to become overwhelmed and anxious. Even though they have more space, they’ll be less likely to go out and explore.
If they are introduced to a little bit of space at a time, they’ll be more confident and they’ll explore the place little by little. For the first day keep them in their enclosure. On the second give them access to half the room. And increase the space little by little until your rabbit has access to their whole exercise or roaming space. I recommend this approach even if you intend to allow your rabbit free roam of the whole home.
9. Give your rabbit incentive to explore
To encourage exploration, curiosity, and confidence in your rabbit, give them an incentive to be brave. Hide treats around the room for your rabbit to find. Start by placing them nearby your rabbit’s home base, to encourage your rabbit to leave their safe space and explore. As your rabbit gains confidence, try hiding treats in different places for your rabbit to find. Maybe hide one in a toy across the room, or on top of a footstool by the sofa.
If your rabbit likes a nice massage, you can also use petting as a reward. Sit a few feet away from your rabbits, and pet them if they are brave and come up to you. This will help your rabbit gain confidence faster as they are more comfortable in their new space.
How long will it take to adjust to a new home?
Some rabbits are very confident right from the start and will be happily exploring on the first day, but most rabbits will be more-or-less settled into their new home within 1 to 2 weeks. Usually, rabbits who are familiar with you and moving to a new home will adjust more quickly than a new rabbit who is brought home.
There are also rabbits who are more chronically anxious. Whether it be just their personality or from past trauma (if you are adopting), these rabbits may take a little extra help from you to adjust to a new home. Learn my techniques for helping your rabbit gain confidence and overcome their anxiety.
Expect territorial marking
As a warning for those of you bringing a rabbit home for the first time, you should expect your rabbit to scatter poops around the places they explore during their first few weeks. It is likely to occur even if your rabbit is already litter box trained. This is a way that the rabbit is marking their territory and it typically subsides after they feel familiar with the new place.
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