How to Help Pet Rabbits Adjust to a New Home
How Can I Settle a Bunny (or Bunnies) in a New Environment?
Rabbits can be very flighty creatures, so entering a new environment can be very scary for them. This can make introductions difficult at times. Rabbits are prey animals, so all their instincts are geared toward running away and staying safe from anything that might want to eat them. The result is a pet that needs a lot of patience and a quiet introduction to your home. Remember that rabbits are not a good pet for young kids, and you must be prepared for a lot of extra introduction work if you have other pets.
You want your new pet to settle in and make himself at home, and you want him to be totally at ease in this new place. What can you do? The first step is patience. It will take him some time to explore and adjust to the new place. Until he's assured himself that there is no danger in the home, he won't be entirely comfortable. There are a few things you can do to help with this process. Here are some tips for introducing a rabbit to a new home, whether it be because you moved or because you are just introducing him to the family.
1. Put the Rabbit's Cage in Its Permanent Location
Rabbits make great house pets, but the introduction has to be slow. When you first bring the rabbit into the home, set his cage or carrier down in a quiet corner. Ideally, you'll have a comfortable cage that has solid sides or have it set in a room with very little activity. Even if you plan to have a free-roaming house rabbit, you still need to provide a cage. This is the rabbit's safe place, and it's the place he will go whenever you can't directly supervise his movements.
If you've just moved from another house, place things the rabbit is familiar with close to him. Food can be set out for him in a clean corner of the cage or carrier if desired, but don't be surprised if he doesn't eat it right away. When a rabbit is eating is when it's at its most vulnerable, so he'll have to feel pretty safe before he'll really settle down to eat. On the flip side, if he finds that nothing attacks him when he does eat something, it can go a long way to calming him down quickly.
While you're getting your bunny ready for your house, don't forget to get your house ready for the rabbit.
2. Make Sure It's Quiet When You First Introduce the Rabbit to the House
Place the rabbit's cage in a quiet corner of the house. Depending on its previous experiences and individual personality, the rabbit may have to stay there for anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Wait until the rabbit is calm and relaxed, meaning that he's eating well and showing curiosity about his surroundings. Now you can open the cage door and let him venture out on his own. Don't force him, and keep exploration to a room at a time.
In your rabbit's first introduction to a room in the house outside the cage, make sure it's quiet and your rabbit has plenty of space to move and hide. Keep the TV and radio off or turned down low and try to avoid sudden loud noises. Speak at a normal level, but be careful not to shout for the first day or two. If you have any other pets, make sure they're separated from the rabbit's area of exploration. Try to keep any dogs calm so they don't bark and startle the rabbit.
Don't forget a comfortable, spacious cage for indoor use.
3. Pick a Distance From Your Rabbit That Works for Him
A rabbit that already knows you may find comfort in your presence, but one that doesn't may just feel threatened if you linger too close. If you're moving a long-time pet to a new home, chances are he'll welcome your reassurance and attention, but if the pet is new he may see you as a potential predator until he learns otherwise.
For a new pet, simply go about your normal business in the house while he ventures out of his cage and explores. Eventually he'll get curious and come introduce himself to you, though it may take up to a few days. For now, make sure there's nothing that can hurt him and be sure to keep an eye on him from a distance.
Much like cats, rabbits will take a few days to settle in. He may choose one hiding spot that he has deemed safe, or he may surreptitiously creep around the house. Either way, he should be allowed his space to do so. Once he is wandering around in the open more and doesn't tense up or shy away from the house's inhabitants, then he is fairly well acclimated and can be better absorbed into the family and the everyday workings of the household.
4. Be Careful When Introducing Your Rabbit to Your Other Pets
If you have other pets, great care must be taken in introducing them to the rabbit. Many types of dogs are hard-wired for hunting small animals. Even if they've always done well with cats, the dogs may need to adjust to rabbits. Very close supervision with all other pets in the house is essential.
This is not just for the rabbit's safety, as rabbits are powerful fighters if they feel threatened. Cats and small dogs could be injured if a rabbit gets too nervous about their curious advances. Introduce the animals through a divider first, then together with extremely close supervision and some form of restraint (especially for larger dogs) is advisable.
Remember that cats and dogs are predators, and rabbits are hard-wired to fear them. That doesn't mean that they can never make good house-mates, especially if you introduce animals at a young age, but don't be surprised if it takes a while.
Did you know that rabbits can be litter trained? Here's how:
5. Try to Be Patient—It May Take a Day or Even Weeks
Don't feel discouraged if it takes your rabbit several days to feel at home in his new environment. Give him time, space, and a relaxed atmosphere and he will come around. Some well-socialized rabbits may be settled in within a day, while others may take weeks to be perfectly at home. Sooner or later, they're bound to accept the new digs and assimilate themselves into their new families. Just remember that, unlike dogs and cats, a rabbit is a prey animal by nature. That means that it'll naturally be a bit more flighty, and a bit more sensitive to unfamiliar aspects of home life.
Thank you for reading my article; I hope that it has been helpful. Do you have a house rabbit? I'd love to know—what is your single biggest challenge with helping the rabbit adjust to your home? Alternatively, what has worked especially well for you with keeping your house rabbit? Please take a moment to leave a comment below and share your experiences.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.