Best Buddies - Bonding with Your Rabbit 🐰

Sunday 6 June 2021

Evidence suggests that rabbits who bond with their owners live longer and happier lives. Sometimes it can feel like our furry friends are in a world of their own – but it only takes time and patience to start bonding with your bunny. This article looks at fun and exciting ways to deepen your connection to your pet, whether the rabbit is already part of the family or you’ve just brought a new bunny home. 

Discover Your Pet’s Personality

 Like people, all rabbits have distinctive personalities and unique habits. If you have decided to buy a baby rabbit, you may find that they’re very shy at first, but over time they will come out of their shell and begin to reveal their personality. 

Some pets are pretty obvious with the way they show love and affection. A dog might be the best example of this; with a wagging tail, smiling face and licking tongue, dog owners rarely have to guess if their dog is excited to see them when they get back from work in the evening. With rabbits it’s a bit more complicated. First of all, it often requires a bit more work to get your pet rabbit to trust you. As prey animals, they are naturally shy and cautious, and it may take a while before they warm up to new people. However, once they know you and trust you, they are extremely affectionate animals that love spending time with their owners. They might just have slightly different ways of showing it! 

True Bunny Love ❤️

If your rabbits do all or some of the following things, you can be sure that they feel genuine affection for you.

  • They Stop Being Nervous
    When the rabbit is new to you, it’s normal that they seem skittish or jumpy. This is to be expected, and it may take a while before the rabbit realises that they are safe in their new home. The first signs that your rabbit is warming up to you is that they stop some obvious nervous behaviours. Maybe they no longer jump back when you reach your hand towards them with some treats, stop running into the hutch whenever you approach or start to relax their body language. These may seem like small things, but they are steps towards your bunny feeling true love for you.
  • They Groom You
    When two rabbits live together, they lick, nibble and groom each other as a way of showing love and affection. If your rabbit likes you, he or she might start to lick you or your clothing, nudge your arm or nibble on your finger. This is a sign that you are seen as part of the rabbit’s family, and that they care about your health and cleanliness.
  • They Want to be Stroked
    If you rabbit comes up to you and starts pushing their head against your hand or put their head on your arm it’s a sign that they love you and want to spend time with you. It means your rabbit trusts you know what you’re doing and won’t hurt them, and is a true signal that they love being around you.
  • They Come and Lay Next to You
    A rabbit that approaches you while you’re spending time with them in their run and lays down next to you is showing extreme trust, especially if they’ve got their legs sprawled out under them. This is a very vulnerable position to be in, so it’s clear that your rabbit trusts that you will look after them.  
  • They Run Around Your Feet
    The closest you will probably get to a dog jumping up to greet you when you get through the door is your rabbit running in circles around your feet, sometimes doing figures of eight between your legs. You might have seen this behaviour when you approach your rabbits with food or yummy treats, but many will also do it just out of excitement of seeing their favourite human.
  • They Purr
    Although it’s actually not purring in the same way as cats purr, but a grinding of the teeth that makes a soft humming sound and causes the rabbit’s head to vibrate slightly, it’s a clear sign that your rabbit is content. Normally this occurs when you’re stroking or grooming your rabbit, a time when your pet doesn’t have to worry about anything.
  • They do a Binky
    A binky can be described as a jump up in the air with the legs stretched out. It’s an expression of excitement and exhilaration, and sometimes you will see your rabbit doing this in your company. We dare you not to smile when you see a binky!

Create A Shared Space

It’s natural for your rabbit to feel nervous or even defensive if you interact with them by reaching into their hutch – after all, this space is their home (their territory), and all of their instincts tell them to protect it from potential predators. If you want to spend time bonding with your rabbit, try setting up a play area or run large enough for you to sit inside with the rabbit. This way, you can start interacting with your pet on neutral ground. Rabbits feel comfortable when they have something over their heads (a bit like being in a burrow!), so don’t feel bad if the first few times they hide under any covered area you have set up. Offering your rabbit a shelter to feel safe in a great idea.

Zippi Rabbit Runs & Playpens

3. Fill Your Shared Space With Toys

There are many fun things you can place around your rabbit’s play area or run, including Zippi tubes and tunnels, chew treats, a covered area, hanging toys and a hay basket. Once you have a shared space set up with toys and other gear, try sitting in there with your rabbit for half an hour every day without reaching out to touch your pet. This way, your rabbit will learn to feel comfortable in your company and begin to trust you. It is likely that after a few days of this close contact, your rabbit will approach you without fear and begin to show some curiosity. It’s natural for your rabbit to have a gentle nibble when you first meet – don’t worry, it’s not a bite!

Shop Rabbit SheltersShop Rabbit Play Tunnels

Give Your Rabbit New Experiences

Although rabbits are creatures of habit, it’s still good for them if new things are introduced into their lives now and then. Your rabbit will learn to associate you with these new fun experiences, which will deepen your bond. Try occasionally changing the layout of their hutch or investing in a fun new toy for them to play with – you could even make toys for them out of simple household objects like empty kitchen rolls. 

Offer Healthy Treats

Rabbits can teach us a lot when it comes to healthy treats. They don’t like sweet things or junk food, and the most unhealthy thing you can give them is actually carrot or apple (as these are relatively high in sugar)! It helps you bond with your pet if you offer tempting greens, celery sticks or other yummy things. The rabbit will cautiously approach and take a nibble, and you’re a step closer to breaking down those barriers and properly bonding.

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Pet Your Rabbit

Once your rabbit is comfortable around you, and doesn’t run away when you approach with your hand extended, it’s time to start stroking them. Physical contact with your pet is one of the most natural ways to form a bond, and although you may find at first that the rabbit doesn’t seem too keen to be stroked, this is totally normal, and nothing to worry about. It may take a few weeks before you have your rabbit sitting comfortably in your lap. The most considerate way to approach your rabbit is to reach with your hand low down, just to the side of their head. This way, they can see that it’s you who is petting them. Rabbits are naturally terrified of birds attacking from above and often run away when approached from a height (and a human standing on two legs is, as far as the rabbit is concerned, a height!). Rabbits also have a blind spot right in front of their noses – something common to most plant-eating animals – so you should also avoid approaching nervous rabbits directly from the front. 

Teaching Rabbit Tricks

Once your rabbit is playing with you regularly, you can start teaching them some simple tricks! This can begin with reinforcing natural behaviour such as walking through a tunnel, with a treat waiting for them at the far end. Or, it could be something more complex such as teaching your rabbit to spin or do a roll. Read the Omlet Blog on all you need to know about teaching your rabbit tricks if you want to go deeper down this fascinating rabbit hole! 

Reward Treats

Choosing The Right Time To Play With Your Rabbit

As you begin to get to know your rabbit well, you will see that they have certain times of day when they are more or less active. It is natural for your rabbit to spend large amounts of time sleeping, and they are very habit-forming animals. Try taking note of when they are most active so that you can choose that as the optimum time to play – this avoids frustrating your rabbit by interrupting their nap with a trip to the playpen!

Invest in a Zippi Playpen

Learning To Hold Your Rabbit Safely

When your rabbit is fully bonded with you, they might let you pick them up and carry them around. If you are lucky enough to have a docile rabbit that lets you do this, always remember to hold them in the way that is most comfortable for them. Support your rabbit’s hindquarters in the same way you would support a human baby’s head. Hold them only firmly enough to keep them in your grasp – there is no need to hold them tight, as they are unlikely to jump to the floor.

Rabbits are gentle souls, so you need to be gentle in return. Be patient, give them time, and they’ll soon come to look on you as a true friend and companion.