You have probably seen delightful pictures of people holding their bunnies on the internet and are wondering why your own well-meaning attempts to carry your bunny tends to trigger an instant fight involving scratching, wriggling and in the end a struggle to simply put them down safely without both of you being hurt.
Well don't worry this behavior is quite natural and there is nothing wrong with your bunny or what you are doing, put simply most bunnies don't like being picked up and unfortunately you may never be able to simply carry them around. So, what can you do when you need to pick them up 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?
Understand why they behave in this way is key to understanding why this reaction happens and how to overcome this. Rabbits are a prey species and will always be sensitive to being whisked off and carried away. To escape from this life and death situation in the wild rabbits have evolved a natural definse of wriggling and fighting to free themselves. So being able to pick your bunny it is about building trust.
So how do you achieve this? 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 in this article we show you how with a few techniques used by experienced bunny owners and bit of time and perseverance and you can at least get this situation to be manageable without too much stress and at best make it a normal everyday activity.
Firstly it's worth putting on a long-sleeved shirt in case they do struggle so you can calmly lower them down without dropping them if they kick and scratch. Then approach them, remaining calm and behaving as naturally as possible around them like no important thing is about to happen to them or you will get their guard up. Try not to talk or make any loud noises, bunnies have extremely sensitive hearing, and this will add to their stress. Do not tempt them with food as they will be focused on this and will want to get free to get the food, it is also not good if they struggle with food in their mouth.
Next call them over to you if you can or go over to them and collect them into your arms, then carry them up gently using the techniques details below. Do not loom over them and scoop them up, especially if you are casting a shadow over them from a central light in the room. If they are in an enclosed area like a pen 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 an 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 getting upset with them as any telling off will simply make them more timid and even aggressive towards you.
First steady your bunny by placing your hand over its head. Place the other hand over its back just above its tail (scut). Next firmly place one hand under your bunnies chest with your thumb around the bunnies side and your forefinger between the bunnies front legs. Do not grab to hard but just support them gently.
Then with your other hand, scoop up the bunnies backside. Do all this a single motion and pull your bunny against your chest. If you want to land them full on your chest turn them towards you and pull your hand away from its chest at the last moment.
Hold your bunny securely but not too tightly against your body, and make sure its bottom will support. If it struggles do not try and hold them there, calmly put them down with some reassuring words and a reward.
Another way of handling a bunny is to wrap them in a towel commonly known as a bunny burrito as its best to literally place them the town and wrap it over swaddling them. Although this can be effective this is the last options and is more of a restraint that would typically be used if you are administering medicine or similar.
Rabbits are a prey species and have learned to instinctively struggle to escape the jaws of a predator or cloches of a birds of trying to whisk them off the ground and carry them away.