|Being picked up is not a natural experience for a rabbit and their first reaction is fear, however, over time and with patience they will become accustomed to being handled.|
How to pick up and put down a Rabbit
Rabbits have very delicate bodies and you must take care when you hold them. When you go to pick up a rabbit, approach them from the front so they can see you coming and that way they are less likely to become frightened. Gently talk to and stroke your rabbit to calm them and place one hand under their chest and use the other to support their hindquarters and help prevent them from kicking out backwards. You should only move your rabbit a short way like this, such as from their hutch to a carry case.
To carry a small rabbit, keep a firm grip, but DO NOT squeeze, and hold the rabbit so that it is facing you and all four feet are touching your chest. One hand should still be supporting the hindquarters and the other over the shoulders.
For larger rabbits, hold them sideways against your body with their hind feet resting at your left hip and their head facing your right shoulder. Hold your left arm across your rabbit's body and support its chest with your fingers and hold your thumb over your rabbit's shoulders. With your right hand, support the rabbit's hindquarters and hold its feet firmly against you so that the rabbit can't kick out.
If you are a new rabbit owner, or your rabbit doesn't like being lifted and initially struggles, it is a good idea to kneel on the floor when you lift them from their hutch. It goes without saying, that you want to avoid your rabbit falling at all costs, but if you kneel and your rabbit does squirm free, they will have less distance to fall.
When placing your rabbit back in its hutch, make sure you carefully support it with both hands at all times. They may be excited about returning to their hutch so make sure you don't release your grip until the rabbit is safely on the floor of the hutch.
How NOT to Pick up a Rabbit
You should never pick up a rabbit by the ears, legs or scruff as this can cause serious damage to your rabbit.
Holding a Rabbit
It is a good idea not to hold your rabbit for more than ten minutes at a time as they will need to relieve themselves. It is also a good idea to place a towel under your rabbit to protect your clothes if an accident happens.
When you are seated and your rabbit is on your lap, you can gently stroke them. Always stroke in the direction that the hair grows and rabbits usually enjoy being tickled behind their ears and under their chin. Rabbits have some sensitive areas and they will let you know if they disliked being touched in a particular area.
An important thing to remember when handling rabbits is that they can easily be startled, so you should be prepared for anything and always hold them with a firm grip.
Children Handling Rabbits
Rabbits are very sensitive, they can scratch and they have strong back legs so it is not a good idea to let small children handle them. Never let a young child walk around with a rabbit, or take a rabbit from or return it to its hutch. It is a good idea to ask the child to sit on the floor and you hand over the rabbit. Make sure you teach your child to be gentle and don't leave them unattended with the rabbit.
In households where there are very young children, a lock should be put on the rabbit's hutch. This will avoid a young child going and getting the rabbit without their parents knowing about it.