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How to handle your rabbit, stroking, cuddling and picking up...

Most rabbits love to be cuddled and stroked when approached in the right way.  Few like being held or carried as being so high up from the ground makes them feel insecure, however, many will happily sit on your lap or snuggle up next to you for a cuddle.  It is best to let your rabbit initiate this i.e. sit on the ground and let them approach you.

The best times of day for cuddles are morning and evening when your rabbit is naturally more active.  Avoid disturbing your rabbit when it is sleeping.

Stroking and cuddling your rabbit

Rabbits love being stroked on their foreheads and backs.  Always stroke in the direction of the hair, never against the hair (unless you are checking for skin problems).  Most also like being stroked behind the ears.  You can also brush your rabbit using a cat grooming brush or a doll's hairbrush; this has the added benefit of removing hair from moulting rabbits and reducing the risk of hairballs.

Rabbits generally have a few sensitive spots where they dislike being touched - their dewlap (under the chin), whiskers and feet.  Some rabbits are also extremely sensitive about their ears or tail.  You will soon get to know what your rabbit likes and dislikes.

If your rabbit is confident and secure, you can put your arms around it and cuddle it, however, more nervous rabbits dislike feeling enclosed / trapped like this and may run away.

Never force your rabbit to be stroked or cuddled.  Many will let you know when they've had enough, either by nudging your hand away with their nose, shaking their ears or simply moving away from you.

Picking your rabbit up

Always approach your rabbit from above or the side as they cannot see objects directly in front of their noses.  Stroke its back gently until you are sure it is not about to dash away from you.  Slide one hand under its tummy, just behind its front feet and the other hand under its bottom.  As you lift, try to keep most of the rabbit's weight on its bottom.  Settle it securely across your body, not with its head pointing up at your shoulder as it may try to climb up.

If your rabbit struggles or kicks out it may damage its spine so it is important to always hold it securely and confidently so that it doesn't sense your nervousness and take advantage.  It may try to "reverse" out of your arms so always keep one hand under its bottom.

If your rabbit is very nervous about being held, try wrapping it in a blanket or towel - it will make it feel more secure and will protect you from scratches.

Many rabbits will try to jump, from whatever height, once they sense you are about to release them so kneel down still holding the rabbit against you, then lower your arms and let it jump to the ground.

Tags: behaviour

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