Rabbits are prey animals and are nervous in nature. In order to protect themselves, they are territorial and do not trust easily. Most rabbits will perceive humans as a predator and will resist being ‘captured’. Especially so if you adopted a neglected or abused rabbit that may not be well handled from young. Mishandling can lead to physical injuries such as limb fractures or even spinal damage.
Rabbits are fragile animals to be handled by adults only. A calm and gentle child may be allowed to handle a rabbit under close supervision of an adult. Here’s are some tips to ensure safe handling:
- Rabbits have ‘blind spots’ in the front and the back of their heads. Approach from the sides (monocular) or further front (binocular) so they do not get startled.
- Rabbits can hear very well due to their big ears so maintaining a quiet environment is important to keep them calm.
- Interact with a rabbit close to the ground and let them gain comfort being near you before you attempt to touch them.
- If your rabbit approaches you, use a treat to positively reinforce the behaviour. Repeat and gradually touch his head and his body. Your rabbit will eventually accept your attention.
- Start picking up a rabbit when you are close to the ground level to prevent them from dropping from heights. Once they are off the ground, clasp their hind legs firmly and hold them against your body. If the rabbit is nervous, gently cover their eyes without blocking their nostrils.
NEVER pick up a rabbit by their scruff or ears. With poor bottoms support, the rabbit may kick and result in detrimental injuries to the limbs and spine.
Massage: A good massage from head to the tail can be very soothing for a rabbit. Not only will you be able to spend some quiet time with your rabbit, you will also be able to inspect your rabbit from side to side and check for abnormalities.
Trancing: Also known as Tonic Immobility, is a handling technique used to keep a rabbit still by placing on its back. While the rabbit may look unconscious and immobile, it is actually alert, in fear and in extreme stress. We do not recommend rabbits to be tranced unless necessary, such as to facilitate a veterinary procedure.
Trancing is NOT an ethical practice and should NEVER be conducted unless necessary. It can result in stress-induced conditions such as GI stasis and in extreme cases, acute heart failure leading to death.