Belle had a pet rabbit named Cocoa who she loved with all her heart.
How to Get Your Bunny to Feel Safe
Getting a new little bunny is a very exciting experience. They are so soft, cuddly, and cute that you just want to hug and cuddle them. If you get two, it’s even cuter because they clean and groom each other, snuggle together, and make your heart melt. But what if your bunny doesn’t want to be cuddled and kissed?
My Bunnies: Bobby and Bo
It’s not uncommon for rabbits to be shy and cower from people or even get angry and thump when you try to touch them. I've recently adopted two new buns—a bonded pair. One is a dwarf, and one is a lop. So far, we have taken bonding with them quite seriously. We do this by spending time with them and not intruding too much when they obviously want to be alone. Although we have made some headway, they are still extremely cautious.
Bobby, the dwarf, is so small he crawls from room to room and will suddenly run when frightened. Bo is braver in that when she knows there is food involved, she comes running over. She doesn't like to be picked up at all but will sometimes allow a little head rub before scampering off.
How Can You Get a Prey Animal to Trust You?
All of this is totally normal because rabbits are prey animals and lack trust by nature. But, this trust can be won over with a little time and effort. Showing your bunnies that you don’t want to harm them and that you love them will be the most rewarding experience. The main point to remember is that you are not trying to train or tame the bunny; you're gaining its trust.
If you do have an anxious little bunny, don’t fear. There are ways of bonding with your rabbit.
Some rabbits bond well with people, be it a specific person or just in general. Others feel intimidated, anxious, and scared.
The Signs of an Anxious Bunny:
- Cowering from you, or just running away when you try to get close.
- Thumping their feet (to show anger).
- Scratching and wriggling when you pick them up.
- Sitting with their backs to you.
- Being very stiff. When I say this, I mean that they will sit there staring rather than getting comfortable.
When a rabbit feels threatened, these are the signs of his fear. If a bunny doesn’t flop down or jump around, then it is more than likely not feeling safe. Feeling safe is hugely important to bunnies, and when they do feel safe, it is very obvious. My bunny Cocoa runs free in the house, and she binkies, flops down in front of the fireplace, licks us, runs around our feet, purrs, and talks to us. These are all signs of a happy bunny.
How to Bond With Your Rabbit
- Talk to your rabbit: I talk to Cocoa constantly and she responds by purring, jumping up, and licking us. Always talk in a very calm and composed voice. They can sense how we are feeling, so if you talk high and loud it will frighten them.
- Get on their level: Getting down on the ground to pet and talk to your bunny will help greatly. He will feel less intimidated by your size because you’re not moving him for your comfort, but you're making sure he feels comfortable.
- Watch and learn: Sit and watch your bunny’s movements in the house. This way you are learning about the rabbit’s personality and letting him comfortably check out the house. Bunnies are very curious, so they love investigating. You will also see where their favourite places are and where they like to pee.
- Offer treats: Treats are a very effective way of getting your bunny to trust you. Showing the bunny that there are advantages to being close to you will definitely work. Using small amounts of apple, banana, and broccoli will soon win him over.
- Stroke and cuddle: When you’re down at bunny's level and she is comfortable sitting beside you, stroke her back gently and talk soothingly to her. Over time, you will be able to rub her ears, her cheeks, her nose, and cuddle her! If your bun doesn’t agree to the initial petting, then it might take a bit longer. Some rabbits are not as cuddly as others but they will show affection in other ways. Check this article for signs of a happy bunny.
When you finally bond with your bunny, it will be a very rewarding relationship. The happiness these little furry critters bring is absolutely priceless and will bring years of joy!
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.
adelynn on July 03, 2020:
i got a 2 rabbits for free
nysa on February 29, 2020:
I’ve recently gotten a new bunny, we adopted him and he’s around 6 months old so i guessed he was only getting used to his surroundings. I sit with him a lot and let him do his own thing most of the time so i’m not all in his face constantly. He does tend to sniff me then cower a little when i reach my hand out, and sometimes he hops over to me when i sit on the floor and put his paw on my knee. He does always seem to be on alert though so i’m not too sure what he’s feeling. and does standing on their hind legs mean much?
Err on September 06, 2019:
Kayden, how long have you had him? If youve had him for a little bit now or a while, then idk. If you just got in or a few weeks ago, he still needs to adjust to his surroundings and you. Leave him be, rabbits like to be a lone for awhile, but its fun to pet him and play with him everyday still.Youve had your rabbit like what... 2 months and a half now? Anyways, if he still is scared of you then idek. I'm not a bunny expert, but im ok with them.
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kayden on June 24, 2019:
I have a 6 month year old rabbit and i tried these methods but he still scard of me, can you tell me what to do please.
E on October 04, 2018:
So my family has had rabbits for a few years now ( the same rabbits pretty much) and I've tried a few times to get them to bond with me, but most of them still doesn't even want me near them. How should I try to become friends with a rabbit that knows me, and doesn't feel comfortable?
Hannah Lang on September 03, 2018:
I had Recently got a Lionhead for my anxiety and depression and he won’t let me touch him be near him he’ll just run away I’m very cautious with him I’ll sit there and he’ll come over but he’ll just run away what am I doing wrong and what do I need to do
Jill Neary on August 07, 2018:
is a bunny a good pet for me because me and my family travel a lot and he could only roam my room.
Rabbitz on June 06, 2018:
MY RABBITS clearly hate me. They do all the anxious sign stuff. :(
Kiara on March 28, 2018:
Thank you! I am hoping to get a bunny myself soon, this was really helpful.
anaa on January 06, 2018:
I have 2 bay bunnies. They only come to me when i try to feed them. they came very recently so i gave them their time to adjust. Sometimes they let me pet them. And only sometimes they get relaxed. When I let them out of their cage they become very tense. One time they even bit me! It was sort of like nipping. Can you give me some more signs they show when they are angry?
belleart (author) from Ireland on November 27, 2017:
Hi Leila. Sometimes it takes a while, it took us over 6 months to bond properly with our dwarf and he only arely likes to be picked up. It's all about getting down to their level, lie on the floor, rub their faces, play with them, let them come to you, it will happen
Leila on November 12, 2017:
My rabbits run up to me when ever I go near their cage. They will take treats straight from my hand and eat while I am around. However they never relax or let me pet them and they hate being held. I'm not sure how to bond with them more.
Shyann on October 03, 2017:
Well i came up to Michigan to live with my cousin for a bit and her son had a rabbit named izzy. He didnt take good care of her and his mom gave her to my brother. Well he only took her out of her cage to show her off. So i started taking her out to run around and play and she kept running back and forth to the bathroom then would run up to me and hopping up on my lap so i reckon i got a new friend. Im gonna try and buy her from him he wants a cat anyway.
Jordan Stephens on January 22, 2017:
I have two dwarf bunnies. At first they would lick me and be very excited when I'd come to them. We've had them for about a month now and they have stopped licking and act scared when we come to their cage. What should I do?
James on December 15, 2016:
We had a bunny we got from the biology lab at university. He died after we played catch with him. Sad!
Audrey Baker from Arizona on December 09, 2012:
Cocoa is cute. I found a bunny years ago, and while I waited for someone to respond to the "lost bunny" signs I got to enjoy her company. She definitely seemed scared. She was definitely a fast little creature.
My friend just got a bunny, I will have to pass this along to her.