How To Bond With Your Rabbit?

Bonding with your rabbit is not that easy as linking with cats or dogs. The reason is that rabbits are prey animals and need more time to start trusting you.

As a new rabbit owner, I am sure you are very keen to build a successful relationship with your bunny, based on mutual affection and understanding. This relationship is equally important to your rabbit as well. As a matter of fact, one of the most important relationships your pet will ever have is with you (the person who takes care of him). The quality of his life will depend on the quality of that bond between two of you.

It can be long path, into which you will put lot of effort but the key of success is patience. Don’t rush it.

I have done research with the goal to find as many suggestions, information that could help me with the process. I thought you might need help with the same issue so I have decided to share all my findings with you. So keep reading this article!

First rule – Don’t Push It !

Rabbits are timid creatures and you need to have patience with them. Don’t rush the process of getting familiar with you.

The bonding process can take up to several months so don’t be discouraged if you notice that your bunny is still afraid of you after days or weeks being in your home.

All rabbits have different personalities and backgrounds. Some rabbits are very cheerful and playful, others are nervous and timid. Maybe you have a baby bunny which tolerates many things that adult bunny wouldn’t (for example picking up ).

On the other hand, maybe you adopted an adult bunny from the shelter that has been traumatized and poorly socialized. That kind of bunny would be a great piece of work due to his terrible past. You would need much more time to gain his trust.

How To Start Bonding Process?

When you bring your bunny to a new home, let him settle first. Let’s imagine that you have prepared a spacious cage or X-pen, filled it with toys including chewing toys, litter box including litter and hay, food and water bowls, hiding place/box, some soft blanket or bunny bed.

Let your bunny explore his habitat first and get used to it. Don’t bother him, provide food and water regularly, do the cleaning but don’t insist on some interaction with a rabbit.

Every rabbit must have some safe place, his sanctuary. The cage/X-pen you made for him will be just that. So don’t mess with it. Let him feel safe and secure before the next step.

When you decide to move to another step, sit on the floor, take a book or laptop or even lie down on the floor, open the cage doors and wait. The room where the cage is placed must be quiet, bunny-proofed, with no other people or pets or any other distraction. It also should be a relatively small area. When the rabbit comes out from the cage for the first time, you shouldn’t give him too much space, normal, standard room is just ok.

First to explain why to sit or lie down on the floor and not on the couch for example. Rabbits are small animals, most of them are about your feet height. Imagine what they see of you while you are standing – your feet and legs. It is quite difficult to associate with a pair of legs, isn’t it?

So make yourself comfortable at your bunny’s sight level and wait.

Our first goal here is the rabbit come out from its cage completely voluntarily. He will do that if he feels safe enough. Rabbits are very curious animals so he will be in great temptation and eventually he will approach you. The trick is to ignore him totally. Suppress the urge to pet him right away. Don’t look at him, just do what you planned to do. Read a book or some interesting thing on your laptop or just lie down and relax.

Our next goal is that the rabbit comes to you and starts exploring you. Let him do that but without pay attention to him. This kind of behavior sends him a message that you are not a threat to him. If he sniffs and nudges you, that great trust signs!

The next step is to perform some bunny talk. This could be a little awkward in the presence of other people but if you follow the basic rules, will be no other people in the room while you try to make a build a connection with your bunny, so no worry about being silly.

How to speak with a bunny on his language?

Bunny body language is a very complex matter and will be a topic for another article. But when it comes to bonding, then grooming movements can help a lot.

When the bunny is watching you, start washing your face or head with hands imitating the bunny’s grooming. Use the same mimic your bunny would do. It might look a little bit silly but as we said before, there is no one around to see you.

Rabbits are grooming themselves only if they are very relaxed and feel secure. So grooming yourself is sending a powerful message to your pet -” I am totally OK with you being around, we are just fine.

This behavior and message your bunny receives may influence him to relax a bit and accept you. Of course, there is still a lot to go but at least we are on the right track.

What Is The Next Step In Bonding Process?

When you bunny becomes braver and more comfortable around you, move to another step.

After the bunny talk, your bunny should learn something about human talk. He needs to get used to your voice.

Be very careful here. Use soothing voice, be very gentle. Never yell at your rabbit. Besides yelling is not pleasant, in the case of the rabbit, has no point. Rabbits are not cats and dogs, they will not understand why do you shout. You will achieve nothing but the rabbit that will be afraid of you. This is not the outcome we are looking for.

If you notice that your rabbit is feeling more comfortable in your presence you can try another thing. Before we discuss the next step let’s see how will you recognize a relaxed rabbit.

According to the RSPCA, Rabbit that is happy and relaxed will jump around with all four paws off the ground and twists in mid-air before landing. Another position could be that rabbit is lying down with legs tucked under the body.

Another could be a rabbit with a stretched body, front paws pointing forwards and back legs are stretched out behind the body. Ears will be most probably close together facing slightly backward.

So the next step in the bonding process is offering some treats. According to the House Rabbit Society eating is a social activity for rabbits and eating together builds trust. Offer some delicious treats such as a small piece of banana or apple or some greens ( check if your rabbit is old enough to eat greens).

The first time you can put the tiny piece of food on the floor and afterward try to feed your pet out of your hand. You even share food with your bunny, as that way he will eventually associate you with good things and the most important safety. For example, take a pack of blueberries and eat together or share one apple.

It is advisable to make a routine out of it. Repeat these several steps every day as repetition is the key to familiarity.

Don’t give up trying to deepen your relationship. Play together. Rabbits like to play. Although it is important to provide a lot of different toys (including chewing toys, hiding places etc) it is also great if you two play together.

There are different rabbit’s toys that can be used for that purpose. Use plastic cups, baby keys, wooden blocks which you can toss them around or knocking them over. Your rabbit will have a great time!

Learn How To Hold Properly Your Rabbit

Lifting and holding your bunny should be brought down to a minimum, at least at the beginning.

Most of the rabbits don’t like to be lifted nor hold. Why? The reason hides in their instincts. Rabbits are ground animals. They don’t climb, they spend most of their life above or under the solid surface. In the wild, the only time when they are lifted is when they are caught by the predator which plans to eat them. So when you lift your rabbit, he feels terrible fear.

It is very important to learn how to properly lift and hold your rabbit. But before you do that, you should know also how to approach your rabbit without frightening him.

First of all – no sudden movements around your bunny. Second of all, talk to your rabbit while approaching. I guess he got used to your voice until now.

Never approach your rabbit from behind or directly from the front. Rabbit’s eyes are placed on the sides of his face, so if you approach him from the front, he cannot see you clearly. He will see some large shadow which can be pretty disturbing. Coming from the side will be the best option.

Before you start lifting your bunny, let your bunny sniff you first( you can offer him an open hand) than pet him a bit, comfort him so he can relax.

First, put one of your hands to support the lower part of the body and the other one under the chest. Don’t squeeze your rabbit (that could cause him pain), be gentle but firm. He needs to feel secure in your hands but not trapped.

If you fail to this task and don’t do it properly, your rabbit may feel uncomfortable, slip into the panic, start wiggling and try to escape. As a result, he may fall down.

As you might know, rabbits have fragile bones although their muscles are pretty strong. If he falls off your arms, he can hurt himself very badly ( spine or neck injury).

Although lifting and holding are not favorite activities to bunnies, they still need physical affection. They are thrilled if you pet them, they like to snuggle and to nuzzle once they accept you completely.

Rabbits Routine is Really Important

Rabbits like the routine. Like small children, they feel safe when they know what will happen next. That is why it’s advisable to repeat some actions every day in order to make a tighter bond with your pet.

It is also essential to spend a great deal of time with your bunny every day. Not only he needs to get to know you but also vice versa. You also need to learn to read signs that he is sending to you.

How he will show you that he is hungry, that he would like to play with you, that he needs you to pet him and comfort him. You must learn to recognize all these needs in your rabbit in order to build a quality relationship.

Regarding routine – it is also important to learn how to make your rabbit return to his cage. Don’t use force here. Don’t ever use force while handling a rabbit (not when he should go out from the cage nor when he need to get back). He needs to decide to return to his cage on his own. But sometimes you need to rush up things.

You can use a food as a bribe. Put some yummy treat inside of the cage. Also make sure his water and food bowl as full and that there is plenty of hay. Rabbit needs to associate a cage with good food, secure place that provides comfort, his own sanctuary.

In case your bunny’s roaming area is limited by X-pen, then you can use X-pen to make your pet return to the cage. Shrink X-pen very gently and that will cause your bunny to go back to his cage.

I have also read good advice related to this topic – you can think about one sentence and speak out loud every time when you want your bunny to go back to his cage. For example – ”It’s time to go home”, ”Let’s go to sleep” or you can say whatever but it is important to repeat every time when he goes back so eventually he will do it every time you say that sentence.

Never use the rabbit’s cage as a place for punishment. Cage is his safe place, where he finds his comfort and he feels secure. If you punish him by forcing him to stay in his cage even when he doesn’t want to, will ruin that beautiful picture of a pleasant refuge spot that he built up.

Respect your bunny’s sleeping schedule. Rabbits are most active at dusk and dawn. Your pet will spend most of its day sleeping. Don’t try to bond with him when it’s time to take a nap. You will run into a grumpy rabbit not willing to cooperate.

Final Thought

Don’t be discouraged if you think that your rabbit hates you. He doesn’t. He just needs some time to get used to you, a new home. Rabbits are prey animals and therefore easily frightened by anything.

Follow the basic steps to make a good, quality link with your rabbit. Be patient. Be aware that every bunny is distinct and has his own character. Accept that rabbits are not cats or dogs and never will be. But take this beautiful journey of building up the relationship with a bunny and you will discover amazing things and have a great time together. Good luck!

Recent Posts