How to Pickup & Carry a Rabbit without being scratched

Discover the best way to approach your rabbit and build the trust so you can pick pick up and carry them without it turning into a fight.
You probably hear people saying how their rabbit loves being picked up and cuddled and are wondering why your own well meaning attempts to scoop your bunny up and caring them tend to trigger an instant fight involving scratching, wriggling and in the end a struggle to simply put them down safely without you or your bunny being hurt.
It is however important to be able to pick your rabbit up, least of all for a cuddle. For instance if you need to cut their nails or put them in a carrier to take them to the vets or take them safely to their enclosure. So how do you achieve this?
Well the first thing to understand why rabbits behave this way. This is because as a prey species they are sensitive to being whisked off and carried away. To escape from this life and death situation in the wild rabbits have evolved a natural defence of wriggling and fighting to free themselves. So being able to pick your rabbit it is really about building trust.
Well don't worry there are lots of simple things you can do and more importantly some things you should stop doing to build this trust and with a bit of time and perseverance you can at least get this situation manageable and at best make it a normal everyday thing.
How to approach you rabbit to pick them up
Firstly remain calm and as much as possible behave naturally around them like its no big thing. Try not to talk or make any loud noises, rabbits have very sensitive hearing and this will add to their stress. Its worth putting on a long sleeved shirt in case they do struggle so you can calmly lower them down without dropping them.
Next call them over to you and collect them into your arms, then carry them up gently using the techniques below. Don’t loom over them and scoop them up especially if you are casting a shadow over them. If they are in a enclosed area open the door and let them come out, if they are in a carrier that can be broken in two un-clip the top half and let them hop out and settle down first. Do not corner them in a room and make a grab for them or reach inside a enclosure as you may be able to get your hands on them but they are likely to resist the moment they are out and ultimately this will just make them harder to pick up next time.
If you don’t succeed on your first few attempts break away, let them calm down and reassure them with some treats, then try again. There is no point disciplining them as this will simply make them more timid and aggressive.
Learn the techniques for the picking up
First steady your rabbit by placing your hand over the its head. Place the other hand over its back just above its tail (scut). Next firmly place one hand under your rabbits chest with your thumb around the rabbit’s side and your forefinger between the rabbit’s front legs. DOnt grab it to hard but just support it gently. Then With your other hand, scoop up the rabbit’s backside. Do this all a single motion and pull your rabbit against your chest pulling your hand away from its chest at the last moment. Hold your rabbit securely but not to tightly against your body, and make sure its bottom is will supported. If it struggles don't try and hold it there, calmly put it down with some reassuring words and a reward.

Putting you rabbit in a carrier
If you do need to put them in a carrier its best to keep this out of sight in another room and then carrying them over to it as like most pets rabbits often know what the noise, smell or sight of a carrier is and know what's coming next. Remember try not to bash it about to much as they have very sensitive hearing. Leave it on a table or other elevated surface near the level you carry them at as they will often make a break for it if they feel they are moving closer to the ground.
Using a towle or bunny burito
Although this can be effective this is more successful as a restraint and would typically be used if you are administering medicine.

Need more help? Why not ask the Bunny Proofing group!

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