Your Rabbit Might Not Ever Like Being Held (and that’s okay)

will your rabbit ever like being held?

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to write an article about “how to train your rabbit to like being picked up” since I know so many of you reading this want to be able to hold and cuddle with your bunny. Unfortunately, the more rabbits I work with, the more I’m sure that there is no simple solution to this. 

While I’ve been able to teach many rabbits to tolerate being held, I’ve never been able to train a rabbit to really enjoy it. Part of this may be because I work mainly with rescue rabbits who have some negative history and associations with people. It’s quite possible that you can work with a rabbit when they are a baby and have better results.

So, this article is not about how to force your rabbit to tolerate or enjoy being picked up. Instead, it’s about how to accept your rabbit for who they are and learn how to love and cuddle with them in ways that respect your rabbit’s boundaries, making them feel safe and comfortable. 

Accept that your rabbit does not like to be held

Preconceptions about rabbits make us expect them to be cute, cuddly pets. However, this is frequently not the case. In fact, most rabbits have a strong dislike or are completely terrified of being picked up.

That being said, just because rabbits don’t like being held does not mean they are inherently less affectionate or friendly. Rabbits express affection and bond with humans in different ways. This could be through petting and grooming, laying down next to you, playing with toys together and many other behavioral signs (learn how rabbits show affection)

I’m a big advocate for treating pets as individuals with minds and personalities of their own. This goes for dogs, cats, rabbits, and any other animal you have as a pet. Respecting your pet’s boundaries is how you form a closer bond of friendship and help them feel safe and comfortable in their home. 

Treat your rabbit as they want to be treated. Instead of trying to turn your rabbit into something they are not, it’s better to learn how to interact with them and love them for who they are. By observing and respecting your rabbit’s preferences, you’ll create a much deeper, trust-based companionship with your rabbit. 

read with your rabbit
Rabbits are easily scared of loud sounds. Try reading a book or some other quiet activity while you sit on the floor with your rabbit.

Learning other ways to cuddle with your rabbit

Just because your rabbit doesn’t like to be held, doesn’t mean you can’t cuddle with your rabbit. It’s just a matter of finding different ways to cuddle with them within your rabbit’s comfort zone. For example, when I lay on the floor reading, my rabbits will come and lay down right next to me so I can pet and cuddle with them.

It can really help to sit at your rabbits level, rather than up on a chair. This makes you less intimidating, and easier for a curious rabbit to come and check out. Always let your rabbit come to you, as this reaffirms that they control the interaction, which can promote confidence in your rabbit, making them feel less afraid around you.

If your rabbit allows, gentle petting on their forehead or behind their ears is a great way to cuddle without the stress of being lifted off the ground. It may take some time for your rabbit to get used to this kind of interaction, but with a little patience, your rabbit will learn to enjoy these cuddle sessions as much as you do.

As your rabbit grows more comfortable, you might even find them approaching you for more interaction. Over time, many rabbits will also like to hop onto sofas or—much to your delight—even your lap, if given the freedom to do so on their own terms. 

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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.

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