Once a rabbit feels safe with you, they will start to become very affectionate. However, it can take a while and you have to let your rabbit warm up to you slowly. They are different to cats and dogs and don’t particularly liked being cuddled. But when your rabbit is bonded to you, they will make it very clear how much they love you.
How do you tell if your rabbit is bonded to you?
There are a few things to look out for to see if your rabbit feels happy in your company. A tell-tale sign that your bun loves you is if they nudge, head butt, chin or rub against you. That is their way of saying they love your attention. And when they rub their faces or chin on you that is how they share their scent. A rabbit will only do this if they have a positive association with you as someone they've bonded with.
Another way to tell is if your rabbit lies stretched out beside you – we call this flopping. This shows that they are content in your presence and feel completely safe. Rabbits generally remain crouched and ready to run if they’re not at ease, so if your bun is stretched out this is a great sign.
Binkying! We all love it when we see our rabbits jumping for joy, and it means that they are extremely happy and relaxed in your company. Just be sure not to make any sudden movements and this may scare your rabbit.
Finally, if your rabbit is grooming or licking you, they are treating you like part of the family. It’s done in a similar way as to when two rabbits are bonding, one of the first signs that they are getting along is when they start to groom one another. If your rabbit starts licking your hand, then you should stroke them or tickle them to show you appreciate them.
How to befriend a shy rabbit
It will take a while for any rabbit to warm up to you, but some rabbits are just shyer than others. The most important thing to remember is to be patient and take it slow. Rabbits need to feel safe before they start showing affection so it’s key to build trust.
You need to let them be in control of the situation, so let them choose whether they want to be sat on you or next to you. Just sit on the floor and let them come to you of their own accord. This will help to build their confidence.
You can give them a few treats or leafy greens as an incentive to come close to you.
How long does it take to bond with your rabbit?
The bonding process can take a long time, but it really depends on your rabbit. So, don’t put pressure on yourself or your rabbit because if you push your rabbit, you might scare them, and it will take an even longer time to rebuild that trust.
How often should you pick up your rabbit?
Most rabbits don’t like being picked up. Rabbits are prey animals, which means that no matter how tame you might be, instinct tells them that anything larger than them, probably wants to eat it. Saying this, there are some rabbits that might trust you enough to pick them up.
If you do pick your rabbit up, you must do so properly to avoid injury to yourself and your bun! And there might be times when you have to pick your rabbit up for their own health and safety.
Never pick you rabbit up by its legs, ears, or the scruff. Any of these could result in serious injury to your rabbit. In an ideal situation your rabbit would be calm, and you would sit next to them waiting for them to come over.
The best way to then pick them up is the ‘bunny ball’. First place your hand flat against the back of your rabbit’s neck and put your other hand on their rump. Turn your rabbit so that its back legs are facing away from you. Using the hand that’s on the bunny’s rump, gently roll the bunny’s back legs forward toward its belly (and away from you). Move the hand that was on their neck around their chest. You will now have one hand on their chest and one on its rump whilst the rabbits’ feet face away from you. Then you can slowly lift your rabbit.
How can you tell if your rabbit doesn’t like you?
If your rabbit doesn’t like you or something that you are doing, they will let you know in a number of different ways.
- If their ears have gone back, then this is a sign of annoyance
- If they thump their hind foot, it means that they are frightened
- Grinding their teeth is their way of showing that they are feeling anxious
- If your rabbit lunges at you then they are showing you that they want you to back off
If your bun is scared of you then don’t worry, you will be able to win them over with plenty of patience. Remember, you have to build their trust, but it has to be done on their terms.
Even though you know you’re not scary and you just want to bond with you rabbit, its difficult to explain that to them. Rabbits are nervous by nature so remember to be calm, and gentle with them. And after time you and your bun will be thick as thieves!
Find out more
There’s a lot more to learn about rabbits so keep an eye out for more advice, how to’s and fact files on rabbit care.