People have been keeping domestic rabbits as pets as far back as 600 AD. Now, more than 2.5 million homes in America enjoy the company of our furry friends.
However, having a pet rabbit is also a big responsibility, and keeping them healthy is only part of the job! Because they are such intelligent animals, bunnies are also very sensitive to their environment.
If you’re the owner of a scared bunny, you need to know exactly what to do to make them feel comfortable again. In that case, you’re in the right place!
Read on to find out our top tips on identifying when your rabbit is scared and what you can do about it.
Signs that Your Bunny is Scared or Nervous
If you are a new bunny owner, you must understand how to spot if they are feeling happy, sad, scared, or nervous. After all, it’s not like they can just you what they’re feeling!
Fortunately, there are some tell-tale signs that your bunny is feeling scared or nervous. These include them:
- Holding their ears back
- Sitting in a balled-up position, to make themselves appear smaller
- Hiding underneath something, even if there is no obvious threat to them
- Getting startled by small sounds or movements around them
If your bunny thinks there is nearby danger, they may also thump their back leg on the ground. This reaction initially began as a way of letting their fellow rabbits know about nearby danger. They will carry on thumping their foot until they think the danger has gone away.
A happy bunny, in comparison, will be confident about exploring its environment and will even layout on a lawn or carpet, as if it’s sunbathing.
It is natural for a bunny to behave nervously once in a while if they think danger is nearby. However, if your bunny is constantly behaving nervously then they may not feel comfortable or happy in their environment.
Why Do Bunnies Get Scared?
If you think you have a scared rabbit, it is easy to start wondering “why is my rabbit afraid of me?” While it’s important to look at your own behaviours around your rabbit, several things could make them feel uncomfortable.
If they are very young, they may be adjusting to life away from their mother. Or they may be finding it confusing to settle into their new environment.
Rabbits have very good memories and this can make it harder for them to adapt to change quickly.
If you have adopted a rabbit from a shelter, they may also have experienced poor treatment from their previous owners. In this case, your rabbit is more likely to seem nervous and may take longer to settle into your home.
However, it’s also important to remember that rabbits may be aware of threats that you haven’t noticed. For example, if your neighbours have a pet dog or cat, this might put your rabbit off running around your garden.
Understanding why your rabbit is scared will help you to find the best way to feel more comfortable. Fortunately, there are plenty of great ways to help your bunny get over its fears. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the dos and don’ts of how to calm a bunny down.
Do: Go Slow With a Scared Bunny
As with a nervous human, rushing your bunny will not make them feel any more comfortable than before. If anything, it can actually put them more on edge.
This is why it’s important to be patient with your bunny.
When introducing them to a new environment, make sure you give them plenty of time to explore. The last thing you want is for your bunny to start feeling comfortable and then get put back in their hutch.
If possible, try to set up a routine with them. Revisiting a place or activity for a bit of time each day will make them feel more comfortable and settled. That way they can ease into a particular activity or surrounding at their own pace.
Don’t: Make Any Sudden Movements
When a rabbit if nervous or on-edge, they are already on the lookout for danger. Because of this, any sudden movements or loud noises will startle them easily.
To avoid this, make sure you move carefully around them and speak to them in a calm voice.
Do: Get Down to Their Level
If you’re wondering how to get a bunny to like you, try putting yourself in their shoes for a moment. Now imagine just how massive we must look from their point of view. If a bunny doesn’t know you well or is feeling scared, a giant human coming towards them won’t help the situation.
This is why it can really help to get down onto the floor with them and make yourself as small as possible. When doing this, keep your movements slow and controlled. Once on the floor, you should stay on their level for a while before moving.
This will give your bunny time to figure you out on their own. As they become more comfortable they may eve sniff you or climb on you. Try not to move or laugh if they do this – it’s a good step and you don’t want to put them off!
Don’t: Pick Them Up
To follow on from our previous point, you shouldn’t try to pick up a scared bunny unless you absolutely have to. This is for your safety as well as theirs.
A scared bunny may scratch, claw, or even bite if it feels it is in danger. And who can blame them? If you were feeling on edge and someone lifted you high off the ground without warning you’d probably lash out too!
Getting distracted by an injury won’t help you to keep your cool or make your rabbit feel more secure. So let them get comfortable and come to you. Then you’ll be able to enjoy all the cuddles you want with your little friend.
Do: Speak to Them
Rabbits are extremely sociable animals and respond well to being around people. Because of this, communicating with them can make them feel less scared. This will help you to build a personal relationship with your rabbit.
You can talk to your rabbit about anything you like. The most important thing is that you do so in a soothing and calm tone.
Sudden or loud noises will startle even the happiest of bunnies. So keep your cool around your pet, even when you aren’t talking to them directly.
Don’t: Invade Their Personal Space
Making your rabbit feel secure in their home, or in a new environment, relies on you building a relationship of trust with your bunny. This will make them feel comfortable around you, wherever you might be.
However, you can only build trust if you respect your rabbit’s needs and boundaries. As well as only picking them up when they are ready, you also shouldn’t invade your rabbit’s personal space. This can make them feel attacked or in danger.
For example, let’s say they have hidden under a box. If you pull them out from underneath it, this removes them from a safe environment that they have chosen. Not only will this make your rabbit feel scared, but it also damages the long-term relationship of trust that you have built with it.
Instead, give your rabbit the space it needs to explore and play. When it feels ready, it will happily come to you.
Do: Engage With Them Using Food
If you’re still wondering about “how to get my bunny to like me” then turning to the treat box is a good idea. Rabbits love to graze throughout the day, so sharing some treats with them during playtime is a great way to bond with them.
Letting them eat out of your hand or sitting on your knee will help them to feel more secure around you. Because of this, you’ll form a stronger bond, which will make them happy.
On top of this, you can use treats as a reward for doing activities such as going to the vet. This can help to keep them calm during a scary activity.
Stay Calm When Caring for a Scared Bunny
If you have a scared bunny, there are plenty of things you can do to help it calm down and feel more at home. The most important thing is to stay calm and be patient. Your bunny will relax in its own time.
For more great advice on looking after your furry friend, check out the rest of our blog today!