There’s no hiding how fond I am of bunnies. But there’s one thing better than admiring a rabbit from afar, and that’s being able to cuddle them, or have them run to you, begging your attention. A rabbit is an adorable furry creature to keep as a pet – given that they are tame. Once you bring your new bunny home you’ll find that getting your rabbit comfortable around you will be one of your first obstacles to cross. Luckily for you, I’ve created this simple guide which includes 8 ways to help you get your rabbit to trust you.
1. Speak Softly
While your new bunny is settling into its latest home, it is important that you treat it gently. By nature, rabbits have an extensive sense of hearing. If you don’t want your bunny to shy away as much, you’ll need to make sure you keep your voice low and soft around it.
In fact, many owners of bunnies have reported that their bunnies seemed to respond positively to you speaking to them by jumping up, purring, and licking their owners. It is also worthy to note that bunnies are sensitive animals and can often sense how we, humans, are feeling. This means that if you talk in loud angry voices, it is likely that this will frighten them and scare them away.
If you intend on having friends over (or any loud event being held in your house), make sure to move the bunny away from people, so it does not get scared or overwhelmed by the noise of people’s voices.
2. Give Small Treats
Classical conditioning is a method of learning which generally involves education by association. Ivan Pavlov’s work in classical conditioning has been a great scientific advance to teach us more about how stimuli bring about certain responses, and you can learn to easily apply his research with your rabbit!
Giving your rabbit small treats every time you positively interact with them will cause the rabbit to start associating you with something that they like (their yummy treats!). Simply put, supplying a bunny with small treats from you over time, will result in a sense of trust. The way to your bunny’s heart truly is through its stomach!
3. Let Your Bunny Come to You
One important thing any pet owner should note is that you should never force your attention onto your bunny, or any other pets for that matter. Pets may become agitated and irritated if you try to force your love onto them. And we can’t blame them for it – us humans are often exactly the same!
The best way to familiarize your bunny with you as their new owner is simply by being present and patient enough. Bunnies (and other pets) are curious creatures by nature, if you simply sit in an enclosed room with them and are patient, your rabbit would most likely come to you with no extra prompting.
In fact, if you’re comfortable laying down in a room with your rabbit, you’ll often find that they’ll end up hopping over you and exploring their surroundings. For a prey animal like a rabbit – that truly is a gesture of trust.
4. Hold Your Bunny Properly
Its tempting for us bunny owners to want to hold their rabbits. But we need to realize that it isn’t necessarily good for them, and won’t help them start to trust you. In fact, before rabbits were domesticated, they were ground-dwelling animals whose main predators came from the sky. Unfortunately, this means that their first reaction is to feel fear when they are being lifted or held.
Rather than lifting your bunny, try cuddling, snuggling, petting, and stroking, or simply let them be in your presence. Bunnies are sociable animals and enjoy the company, some much more than others. If you’re unsure as to whether your bunny enjoys your presence, be sure to look out for signs that your bunny is happy.
5. Consistency Is Key
This saying is applicable to many aspects in life, but never more so when it comes to getting your bunny to trust you. If you play and cuddle with your newly acquired pet every day, you will become familiar and the bunny will start to recognize and trust you.
On the other side of the spectrum, if you don’t visit your bunny frequently, and only play with them occasionally, the bunny will start to become wilder and less trusting towards you. Therefore, it is important to keep daily contact with your bunny. In fact, if you are not spending time with your rabbit enough, it is a good idea to get them another rabbit to keep them company!
6. Identify Your Bunny’s Personality
Like humans, each bunny has their own personality with distinct traits. Knowing the personality of your rabbit will allow you to understand the best approach to make him or her feel safe and able to trust you. From my experience, there are six main personality types when it comes to bunnies. Of course, there is a level of overlap between each personality type!
- Outgoing rabbits will easily adapt to new environments, it will be less effort to make them trust you.
- Funny rabbits love attention and will play games with you. If your bunny does these things, they probably already trust you!
- Shy rabbits will be more nervous when you approach them, but normally come around with time, if you follow the advice in this article.
- Scared rabbits will run away from you, you’ll need to use a gentler approach to get scared rabbits to trust you. Rather than approaching your rabbit, put a big emphasis on being patient with your rabbit here.
- Withdrawn rabbits, that is, rabbits who do not seem to act “naturally” are often ill. You’ll need to get them to a vet before even thinking about how to get them to trust you!
- Aggressive rabbits show gestures of hostility towards you or other rabbits. Since the behavior is usually caused by hormones, you’ll fine that bonding your bunny with another rabbits will often improve the aggression. Furthermore, it may be time for your rabbit to be de-sexed. You can find out more about the right time to de-sex your rabbit here.
7. Suitable Living Environment
Providing a spacious and comfortable living environment is a deal breaker when it comes to building your bunny’s trust. Small and cramped spaces mean that your bunny, an incredibly active animal by nature, won’t be able to run and jump around like they should. This might often cause them to become aggressive or withdrawn. ALWAYS make sure that your bunny has ample space, even if it is only for throughout the day and they are put into smaller spaces at night.
Many of our readers have loved our Customisable & Foldable Play-Pen for Rabbits. It can be built to fit your space (and re-customised if need be!), AND you can fill the play-pen with your bunny’s favourite toys to keep them entertained for hours. It’s super easy and fun to build and we highly recommend it!
8. Play with Your Bunny
As mentioned previously, bunnies are extremely sociable animals and generally love to be played with. Petting and stroking are great if you simply want to show some love and affection towards your rabbit. However, to make your bunny the happiest they can be, it is best to give them a little bit of something to play with.
One of our favourite toys for rabbits are BunnyHub.org’s Organic Chew-Toys. They’re made from 100% natural organic apple twigs and quality Timothy grass, and will promote healthy teeth growth in your rabbit. Not to mention, they’ll aid your bunny’s digestion by accelerating their gastrointestinal motility, balancing their ‘gut flora’ and promoting healthy defecation. You can take a look here:
If you’re worried about spending this amount of money on rabbit toys, you can also try stacking a few small plastic boxes which your rabbit can knock over or toss!
And your bunny will trust you in no time!
Rabbits are great to keep as pets, and how to get your bunny to trust you isn’t an impossible task. Simply keep in mind that your bunny rabbit is a living creature who needs love, affection, and care, to grow into healthy and happy bunnies.
If you treat your bunny gently and with respect, their trust for you will follow. Simply be patient and enjoy the excitable little treasure.