Guide to Getting to Know Your Bunny

Bringing your rabbit home

  • Ensure you have new accommodation set up ready for their arrival.
  • Ask for some of bunny’s used litter/bedding to place in their new home. This will help him/her to feel safe and to recognise their new home as belonging to them.
  • The journey home will have been very stressful so place him/her straight into their new home and leave them quietly to settle in.
  • Leave bunny in his/her new home for approximately 12-24 hours. This will allow time for them to make their new home their own. The need to recognise their new living space as their own is crucial to their sense of security.
  • Playing quiet, calming music can prove soothing and help them to relax (at the sanctuary we play Classic FM!) .
  • Bunny needs time to adjust to their new environment as they may be experiencing sights, sounds and smells for the first time. If bunny scrabbles or nips it is because they are on their guard and defending their new space. With patience and time this behaviour will stop.
  • Remember that screaming children, loud music, blaring TVs and other animals are likely to be a new and frightening experience. Keep noise to a minimum!

Playtime in the early days

  • Supervise bunny’s first few playtimes, but leave him/her to explore at their own pace and without any intervention from you (unless they are in danger). You may find they spend their time ‘chinning’ every thing, including you – they are simply marking their territory!
  • Leaving bunny to become familiar and comfortable with their new environment will greatly assist in the ‘bonding’ process between you and them.
  • Make sure you place their litter tray, food and water in their play area. Be prepared for toilet ‘accidents’.
  • You must begin handling bunny as soon as possible. You must pick them up once or twice daily so they will learn that being lifted is nothing to fear.
  • Remember that rabbits are ground dwelling creatures and liken being picked up to being captured by a predator – they are, after all, prey animals.
  • Be prepared for it to take several months before they become comfortable with being handled.
  • NEVER PICK THEM UP BY THEIR EARS OR SCRUFF OF THE NECK! (See our ‘Guide to Handling’ for best techniques.)
  • It is great fun to watch bunny explore their new environment, just make sure you remove anything you don’t want them to chew – exposed wires/cables, poisonous plants, books, magazines, clothing, shoes etc.

Building your relationship

  • It sounds obvious but you simply need to spend time with your bunny!
  • Initially just sit on the floor with bunny and let them check you out. Try to avoid touching them at first so they can become acquainted with your smell and presence. Remember to stay at their level so as to not intimidate them.
  • If after a few sessions they do not acknowledge you, try lying on your front on the floor so they can’t see your eyes/face. Hopefully this will prove less threatening to them and they may hop on your back and explore you!
  • If this still fails to bring bunny close to you then you need to sit in their environment looking distracted, e.g. reading a book or watching TV. By appearing to be ignoring them they may learn to relax in your company and not perceive you as a threat.
  • Once bunny has accepted your presence begin to offer them your hand. Either place it in front of them on the floor, or near their face, and let them sniff it. Gradually build up bunny’s trust and slowly move to stroke them.

    Bunnies like to be stroked on the top of their heads or on the sides of their faces. If they are enjoying it they will relax, often lower their heads, or even quietly ‘tooth purr’.

Bunny love is...

  • ...when they will eat at your side or from your hand
    Initially avoid petting them whilst they are eating, they need to know they can trust you and relax to eat in your presence.
  • ...when they give you a ‘rude’ nudge
    Bunnies will often use their heads to nudge you. They are letting you know they are there and want some attention, or food!
  • ...when they sit still when you approach them
    This is a sign that they are truly confident in their home and do not perceive you as a threat – but always give them a tickle to avoid bunny feeling they are being ‘snubbed’!
  • ...when they dance around you upon your arrival
    This is a sign that they are pleased to see you. They are most likely saying “hello, I’ve missed you, where’s my food!”
  • ...when they don’t run away when you pick them up
    Even then, bunnies will tease you by running away as you to go pick them up – they are playing with you!
  • ...when they groom you!
    Not many bunnies will choose to lick you but if they do count yourself very lucky indeed.
  • ...when they chin you
    Once settled in this is a sign that they are claiming you as their own and love you greatly.
  • ...when they ‘tooth purr’ when you pet them
    They will sometimes softly grind their teeth in approval.
  • ...when they flop over on their sides, roll on their back, or lie with their legs stretched out
    This is a sign that they are content and greatly at ease.
  • ...when you just know that they are happy!

There is no timetable!

There is no set timetable as to how long it will take for your bunny to become comfortable with you, but with perseverance, a lot of patience and plenty of time your furry friend will become a loving companion.

You must always consider what previous experiences bunny might have had and to allow for such possibilities as traumas, lack of socialising, fearful existence etc, even if they are only young rabbits.

Above all you must make sure bunny has a positive experience whilst interacting with you. Remember that they are naturally shy creatures and it is up to you to reinforce the message that they are safe, secure and well loved.

Every bunny is different, however in our experience it generally takes around 6 months for a bunny to finally feel settled and happy in their new home. Bunnies that don’t appear to have settled and relaxed may be unhappy. You need to explore the possible reasons why.

Main Points to Remember

Provide a stress free environment (e.g. no loud music or blaring TV or screaming children) Let them explore their new environment on their own terms Spend a lot of time with them Pick bunny up daily NEVER overwhelm bunny – stay at their level and do not try to force too much human interaction

This guide has been produced by:
Society for Abandoned Animals,
Mosley Acre Farm, Barfoot Bridge,
Stretford, Manchester, M32 9UP.
Tel: 0161 9735318
Charity no: 245426

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