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Maybe you recently adopted a rabbit, and you’re wondering how to bond with them. Getting a new pet is so exciting, and the first thing you want to do is interact with them!
Depending on where you got your new rabbit from, you are going to want to take the bonding process slowly. Rescues who were neglected or abused in the past will need more time to settle in and might not trust you right away. This is totally normal and to be expected, so just be patient!
With that being said, here are a few quick tips for how to make sure bonding with your pet rabbit goes smoothly:
So how exactly do you bond with a rabbit? Read on for 20 easy ways to start building a bond with your new pet.
It may seem simple, but one of the easiest ways to bond with your rabbit is to sit with them. The goal isn’t to force them to interact with you, but to pique their curiosity so they eventually come to you on their own.
Sit down on the floor in a room with them for a couple hours each day. You can read a book or watch a TV show quietly while giving them the option to interact with you if they please. Doing this gets them used to your presence so they become more comfortable with having you around.
The first few times you do this, they may not come up to you at all, and that’s okay. Eventually they’ll become more and more comfortable with you hanging out with them. Once they’ve learned that you’re not a threat to them, your bond will grow.
As mentioned previously, the goal isn’t to force your rabbit to interact with you. You should get them used to your presence until they decide they want to approach you. Some rabbits are extremely timid and skittish, and chasing them down to try and force an interaction isn’t going to go well.
Rabbits are prey animals in the wild, so chasing them will make them feel cornered and afraid of you. If you’re trying to build a bond with your pet rabbit, that’s the opposite of what you want!
When you allow your rabbit to come to you first, they will realize there’s nothing to be afraid of. Their curiosity will get the best of them and eventually they will gain the confidence to approach. I know how much you want to interact with your pet, but you will be rewarded if you have patience and don’t rush the process!
Building a daily routine with your rabbit will make them feel more safe in their environment and around you, therefore strengthening your connection. They do best with predictability, so strive to do certain things on a schedule.
Feed your rabbit at the same times each day. When you do this, your pet will feel more comfortable and assured knowing they always have their next meal coming. This will also teach them to associate you with food, so they will be more excited to see you.
Additionally, you should strive to give your rabbit interaction daily. Sit with them at the same time each day so they get used to your presence. By staying consistent with your interaction, they will begin to expect it and even enjoy it.
Rabbits can learn to associate sounds with certain behaviors and responses. This means they have the ability to learn, to some extent, what certain words mean. For example, if you always give them a treat after saying their name, they will start to associate hearing their name with eating a tasty treat!
So, how can you use this knowledge to your advantage as a rabbit owner? Well, first off, it’s important to note that you should limit the amount of treats you are giving your pet. Giving them constant treats might make them love you instantly, but it’s not good for their health whatsoever.
With that being said, an easy way to bond with your rabbit is to teach them to associate certain words with foods. Maybe you say “good boy” or “good girl” and immediately reward them with a treat and pet. Or perhaps you alert them to their meals by saying “dinner time!” or another similar phrase.
A fun way to bond with your pet rabbit is to teach them some fun tricks. Yes, believe it or not – they can learn tricks! Training your rabbit gives them quality time with you and teaches them to associate you with yummy treats.
The first “trick” you should teach your rabbit is to simply approach you. Hang out with them and reward them with a treat when they come to you. Once they’ve learned this simple task, you can up the difficulty a notch!
First, teach them something simple like “sit” and work your way up to more difficult tricks. For example, some people have trained their rabbits to jump through hoops or even give a high five. Training your pet to do tricks is not only adorable, but stimulates their brain and grows the bond you have together.
Another simple way to bond with your pet rabbit is by talking to them often. Since they are prey animals in the wild, they are naturally skittish and unfamiliar noises are likely to scare them away. This is why it’s useful to get them used to the way you sound.
Sit with them for a couple hours per day and just talk to them. It might feel awkward at first, but at the end of the day, they’re not going to judge you like another person might. You can talk to them about anything – your day, a book you read recently, or even just what you ate for dinner!
Basically, what you’re actually saying doesn’t really matter much. It’s the tone of your voice that’s important. Speak in a calm, even tone. Don’t yell or change your pitch suddenly to avoid startling your rabbit. By making an effort to talk often, your rabbit will grow used to the sound of your voice and feel more relaxed and calm in your company.
In addition to talking to your rabbit, you should also say their name often. Rabbits are more intelligent than you might think, so you can teach them to recognize their names over time.
Get your rabbit used to hearing their name and associate it with positive experiences. For example, if they come to you when called, be sure to reward them with a treat. You can also use petting as another positive reinforcement. Repeat this process several times until eventually they recognize their name every time.
That being said, a rabbit isn’t like a dog. They aren’t necessarily going to come to you every time you call their name, but they will start to understand that you are talking to them. Also keep in mind that your rabbit is more likely to understand if you stick to calling them one name rather than having multiple nicknames for them.
As much as you may want to hold your rabbit, in order to build a strong bond with them, you should avoid picking them up. Remember that they are prey animals and picking them up can make them feel as if they are being grabbed by a predator. Most of them don’t like it, and some even hate it. If you do it often, they will start to associate you with the fear of being trapped.
Not only that, but rabbits are very delicate, and picking them up incorrectly can result in serious injuries. In general, it’s just not a good idea, not only for health reasons, but also because it will stress them out.
Leave your rabbit on the floor and interact with them that way. Only pick them up if absolutely necessary, and never pick them up by the ears, legs, or tail. This will avoid causing them unnecessary stress, and in turn, they will trust you more and your bond will grow.
When petting your rabbit, there are certain areas you’ll want to avoid. Most of them dislike being touched on their feet, chin, belly, and bottom.
In general, avoid touching the underside of your rabbit. In the wild, having their bellies or underside exposed means they are vulnerable to predators. Because of this, most will instinctively hate being petted in those areas.
So where should you pet your rabbit instead? They will greatly appreciate a scratch on their forehead or behind their ears! You can also stroke their back or give them cheek scratches. Each rabbit is going to have their own preference, so you’ll have to get to know yours!
Rabbits generally enjoy receiving pets, so petting them can be a great way to grow your bond. Many will have no problem receiving a massage from you, but maybe you have one that is shy or still a baby. If your rabbit is a rescue, they may seem fearful of being pet due to some kind of trauma or abuse from their previous owners.
If this is the case, you will want to take it slow with the petting. First, try moving your hand slowly toward your pet, and reward them with a treat if they don’t flinch away. Then, take it a step further and give them a light pat on the forehead before giving another treat.
From there, build up to gentle scratches. Eventually, your rabbit will grow to love receiving these massages and will demand them frequently!
If you are approaching your rabbit for whatever reason, whether it’s to play with them or just give them a quick pet, it’s important to move towards them slowly from the side.
If you’re wondering why, just take a look at your rabbit’s anatomy. Do you notice how their eyes are located on the sides of their head? This means if you approach them head-on, you aren’t going to be directly in their line of sight. You’re more likely to scare them than if you were to walk up to them from the side.
You should also be careful to move slowly and avoid making any sudden movements that might startle your rabbit. Basically, just use your common sense and remain calm so that your pet understands that you aren’t a threat.
Baby rabbits are usually very sweet, but once they start reaching sexual maturity, many will have a dramatic personality change. Some will become territorial and display aggressive behaviors that make you feel wary about interacting with your pet.
This can seriously affect the bonding process and make it difficult for you to spend time with them. This is why it’s so important to get your rabbit spayed or neutered by a reputable vet after they’ve reached maturity.
Spaying/neutering solves many behavioral issues, and can also prevent other health issues as well. This means your pet will be less likely to act out and will just be healthier in general. Not only is getting your rabbit fixed important for their physical health so they live out their full lifespan, but it will also make it much easier to bond with them.
Rabbits can be skittish, and loud noises can easily scare them away. This isn’t to say you have to be completely silent around your pet, but you should make it a habit to keep excess noise to a minimum and talk at a low volume.
Each rabbit has their own unique personality, so some may tolerate more noise than others. However, as a general rule, you’ll want to avoid making any sudden loud sounds or drastically changing your pitch or volume when talking to them.
Some rabbits are fine with you listening to music or watching a movie quietly around them, while others will be more easily startled. If that’s the case with your pet, reading a book or playing a silent game is a great alternative. Wearing headphones is another option to consider.
If you are new to rabbit ownership, you might be feeling stumped by their behavior and body language. After all, these animals aren’t really like dogs or cats. It can feel confusing at first, but make it an effort to do your research and learn their common body language signs.
Every rabbit is going to have slight differences in personality, but they have several similar behaviors they will display. For example, thumping their feet on the ground is a sign of aggression, and means you should give your rabbit some space. On the other hand, if they stretch out fully while lying down, it means they feel relaxed and happy in their environment.
Spend some time watching your rabbit and getting to know their personality. Try to get a feel for what they like and what they don’t so you can adjust your routine together as necessary.
A great way to make your rabbit happy and stimulate their minds is by giving them lots of different toys to play with. You can even incorporate these toys into your routine and play with them together!
Make sure that any toys you purchase are safe for rabbits. Some great ones are ball or stick chews, straw baskets, and even cardboard boxes! You can also find puzzles with hidden treats or ball treat dispensers.
While it’s not tied directly to bonding, giving your rabbit plenty of different toys to choose from really is necessary to keep them happy. Not only that, but a bored rabbit is more likely to get into things they shouldn’t – like chewing on cords and furniture – and giving them things to play with is an excellent way to combat that!
Because rabbits are naturally prey animals, they can be easily scared. Just think about it – when they are on the floor and you are towering above them, it’s bound to be scary for them!
A great way to make your pet less afraid of you is to get down on their level. Sit on the floor with them. Even better, lie down completely to make yourself appear even smaller. You might feel ridiculous laying on the floor, but the bonding experience with your rabbit will be worth it!
When you get down on the floor with them, you will appear less like a predator, and they will be more inclined to trust you. As their curiosity grows, your rabbit will likely approach to sniff you and may even hop over and around you while exploring!
It’s extremely important to give your rabbit places to hide. This gives them a safe space to retreat to if they feel scared or threatened. Give your rabbit one, or ideally multiple, hidey holes they can sit or sleep in.
There are a ton of different hidey holes you can buy out there. These are usually hay-based or wooden. If you’re on a budget, a cardboard box is another great option. Just cut holes in the sides of the box for your rabbit to enter and exit as they please! Keep in mind that rabbits love to chew, so their hides will need to be replaced at some point.
If your rabbit retreats to their hidey hole, it’s best to leave them be. If you try to grab them or force them out, they won’t see their hides as a safe space anymore and may begin to feel threatened by you. Sometimes, bonding with your rabbit means knowing when to give them their space.
As I’ve mentioned throughout this article, rabbits are prey animals and can startle easily. Chasing your rabbit until they have nowhere to run or backing them into a corner is a great way to scare them and break the bond you’ve built. You don’t want that, right?
To make your rabbit trust you, you have to start by respecting their natural instincts. In the wild, rabbits escape predators by running and hiding, and as gruesome as it sounds, being cornered usually means being eaten or killed.
With that being said, avoid chasing or cornering them. Always try to interact with them in an open space where they can come and go as they please. They will feel more comfortable knowing they have an escape route, especially if you haven’t completely earned their trust yet.
You should strive to give your rabbit as much space as possible. The bigger the enclosure, the better. As a general rule, a rabbit enclosure should be at least 3-6 times larger than the rabbit itself. Keep in mind they need room to hop around and stretch out to relax.
When choosing an enclosure, you also want to keep in mind how much daily exercise they will be given. How often are you going to let them out of the cage to run around and explore? Factor that into your decision before purchasing a cage.
A great way to give your rabbit more space is to purchase or build an enclosure that is two-stories high. Connect the two levels with a ramp that your rabbit can climb and they’ll love it! If your pet is litter-box trained, you could even “rabbit-proof” an entire room in your house and let them free-roam in it. The more space your rabbit has, the happier they will be, and the more they will bond with you.
The most essential part of bonding with your pet rabbit is making sure to respect their boundaries. Get in tune with their body language and learn their unique personality. Get to know things like:
Remember that rabbits can be really timid at first because of their natural instincts as prey animals. Because of this, it’s crucial that you avoid chasing or cornering them. You should also refrain from picking them up, because this makes a lot of rabbits feel trapped.
If they don’t seem like they want to interact with you, leave them be for a while. If your rabbit is acting scared or territorial, give them space until they come to you. And lastly, it’s best to let them approach you first and back off if their body language shows they are uncomfortable or afraid.
Rabbits do form connections with their owners and can be very affectionate once they warm up to you. They are very social and enjoy interaction with their owner, but they don’t necessarily show affection in the same way more common pets do, such as cats and dogs.
Each rabbit is different and it all depends on their own unique personality. However, you can usually expect it to take anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple months for your new rabbit to fully trust and form an attachment with you.
There are a few ways you can tell if your rabbit has bonded with you. If you are standing near them, they may run in circles around you. They will also “groom” you by licking you and giving gentle teeth nips. If your rabbit is bonded to you, they will want to spend a lot of time beside you or sitting in your lap, and you might notice them “purring” similar to how a cat purrs!
Rabbits are naturally social animals, and sometimes human interaction isn’t enough to fulfill their needs. This is why it’s recommended to have two bonded rabbits together rather than just having one. When they have companionship of their own kind, they are generally happier and will thrive more than if they are living alone.
Rabbits make wonderful and sociable pets if you give them time to warm up to you. Depending on their background and previous situation, your new rabbit may be scared of you and not want to interact at first. This is okay!
Many are timid and skittish initially, but as you build a bond together, they will grow to trust you and enjoy your company.
Just take your time with them and be patient. Eventually, the results will pay off, and you will have a unique and special connection that cannot be broken!