It’s so exciting to get a new rabbit as a pet, no matter your age, and once home, the main thing on your mind will be how to make your pet happy. This includes building a positive relationship with him or her, and if possible living happily ever after!
Rabbits, like all animals, have their own little quirks, and the sooner we get to know those, the sooner we can be on the road to pet happiness.
Building trust with your rabbit is a key priority. But how do you achieve that?
In this post I am going to be drawing on all the best research, and also my own experience with rabbits, to explain the top 11 ways you can get your rabbit to trust you.
Method 1: Choosing Your Forever Rabbit
It is important to know up front a well cared for rabbit will live a long life.
The longest recorded is 9 or more years, although this is uncommon. You are probably looking on average around 5 years of looking after your pet.
In the wild, rabbits might not live that long due to a number of adverse situations. Cold weather, predators and their unfortunate propensity to die of heart attacks if scared.
Knowing that this is a long term commitment is important, because every pet deserves to know this is their forever home.
If you are buying a rabbit for a child, be aware that rabbits are not always the best pets for children, unless the children have been briefed on how to care for their animal correctly beforehand.
For example, bunnies look awfully cute, and the first instinct for any child, or adult for that matter, is to pick him up and give him a good cuddle. Who can blame them surrounded by such cuteness?
It might surprise most people to know that rabbits are not that keen on being picked up and cuddled. They might prefer strokes and pets instead.
So, it is important to set boundaries of understanding for your child to get their expectations into reality mode, so that their new companion does not disappoint them.
When deciding to do this, check if they have been neutered or spayed first. If not, they will start breeding. For same-sex rabbits, this is also advised to make them calmer around each other.
Now that has been sorted and you’ve educated yourself and your kids, and finally got the right rabbit fit for you, your family and the rabbit. It’s time to bring your rabbit home
Method 2: Give Your New Buddy Some Space
When your bunny gets home, he really needs to find some space. Both figuratively and physically.
Rabbits love ‘bolt holes’, this means if he feels threatened, he can quickly retreat into a bolt hole to recover.
These can be made from inexpensive materials, like cardboard boxes with blankets around them, or simply spaces with blankets tucked around to make it appear safe and inviting.
Let your bunny explore and don’t try and pick him up.
Rabbits like to explore their new space, probably also checking for any danger or even treats to eat. You can hide some treats around the place for him to find. Just being around and letting him be is enough.
In no time at all, he will feel things are more familiar and eventually come and seek you out. In a way, they are a lot like humans in this regard. Picking him up, talking loudly to him and hugging him could cause him to freak out, so avoid that at this stage if possible.
Method 3: Show Her She Has an Awesome Living Space
Contrary to what people believe, rabbits don’t appreciate being left to live most of their lives outside. In fact, a home environment makes them happier, if they are domestic animals of course.
In the old days, many rabbits were placed in hutches outside, and this is not ideal for many reasons. The rabbit can become cold, become afraid of certain predators, and also be frightened by the noise.
The home environment ensures your rabbit gets to socialize and keep warm at all times. He is never alone and always has someone to say hi to, particularly if he is adopted alone.
Depending on the weather, size of the hutches and whether other rabbits are there, bunnies can still live outside successfully, but be mindful of all the above, since rabbits love company. Human or other rabbits.
They also need space to hop about and thump and basically roam. So consider this whether you are keeping your pet indoors or outdoors.
These days, many people make bunny beds themselves out of blankets or pillows burrow style. Some use collapsable hutches that they can move around and simply add blankets.
Whatever you choose, in order to gain your bunnies trust, ensure that they feel safe, warm and cared for.
Method 4: Keep Things Reasonably Quiet
One thing bunnies hate is noise. It can terrify them so much that they can have a heart attack.
This includes strange traffic noises, loud shouting, radios that are too loud, honking horns and so on. They prefer the quieter side of life.
It makes sense when you think they were born to be wild!
Just be mindful that if your bunny lives indoors, noise could be an issue, and if your lounge area is particularly noisy, perhaps create some bolt holes for her and a sleep room separate from the lounge.
If she is housed outside in a sizeable hutch, keep it away from road traffic and place it in a quieter spot in the garden. Dogs and other animals can also startle your rabbit, so be aware of that too.
Method 5: Good Food Helps Build Trust
No pet likes to go hungry and wonder where their next meal is. This can actually lead to behavioral problems in animals. So try to keep a good routine when it comes to feeding.
Generally, rabbits are fed twice a day. This meal is made up of pellets produced especially for rabbits. [Source]
You can talk to your pet store in order to get the best food for your rabbit, considering his or her weight, size, as well as age.
As well as two hearty meals of pellets served once in the morning and once at night, rabbits also require things to nibble on. This can be fresh vegetables, like yes, you guessed it, carrots, and other nutritious vegetables.
They wouldn’t mind a treat or two as well.
Feeding is always a good time to bond with your pet and also build trust. Particularly if you are feeding on time.
Method 6: Play Time Literally Makes Your Bunny Love You More
Rabbits are one of the most sociable animals in the animal kingdom. [Source]
They love it, but on their terms of course. Playing is a great social activity, and playing can include being petted and stroked.
Remember, don’t pick your rabbit up, he will get annoyed and can even nip you or a small child scaring the child. Rather, let him take the lead when it comes to this.
There are various chew toys available at pet stores for rabbits, and rabbits love to bite and hang on certain toys created especially for them. This is great for their teeth too.
Playtime can be a real bond session and cannot be overestimated in order to build trust between you and your pet.
Method 7: Get to Know Your Rabbit
Not all rabbits have the same personality.
Some are quiet, some are more frisky and playful, and some are a little aggressive. It pays to find out which bunny you have.
Once you can understand them, you can start to create a home they will enjoy and feel relaxed in.
Feeling relaxed and safe, as well as understood, can build trust in an animal.
If you think about it, it is pretty much what humans enjoy too. If a bunny is friskier, he might require more playtime. If his companion is quieter, be aware of this so that they do not annoy each other too much.
Method 8: Ensure Your Pet Gets Exercise
Rabbits do need exercise, and if cooped up in a small space for too long, will certainly become quite grumpy and depressed.
Ensuring your rabbit gets exercise can mean creating a hutch with ample space, allowing them to roam freely around your home, or allowing them out each day to run around the garden. It all depends on your circumstances.
Method 9: Train Your Rabbit
Any time you spend with your rabbit will help nurture the relationship.
So if you decide to train your rabbit, this counts too.
There are many tricks you can teach him or her, from doing hurdle races to begging, to spinning and playing dead.
They work well on treat rewards and pets. The best approach when training your rabbit is to do it in stages so as not to overwhelm him.
Method 10: Want to Build Trust in Your Rabbit?
Then just ‘love’ him! Rabbits adore being massaged, petted, stroked and softly spoken to.
They particularly love being stroked around the face, head and ears in a rhythmic motion.
This will also allow your pet to get used to having hands on him for other purposes, such as grooming and also moving around when needed.
Method 11: Get Your Rabbit a Friend
It was mentioned earlier that rabbits do better when bought in pairs.
The reasons are many. For one, your rabbit feels less fearful when he has someone he understands nearby, and rabbits certainly understand one another.
You’ll find them all snuggled up at bedtime, and who would disagree that snuggling up at bedtime is not a great thing to do.
Most pet owners go out of their way to take care of their rabbits, and you will find you will be rewarded with tons of love if you follow these steps.