Correctly picking up and holding your rabbit helps prevent him from feeling stressed or, even worse, panicked to the point of injuring himself. Rabbits are prey animals, and react badly to threats. If you approach your rabbit in the wrong way or make him feel insecure when handling him, he may scratch, bite or kick in an effort to free himself.
Approaching Your Rabbit
Approach your rabbit in a nonthreatening way to help keep him calm and reduce the chances he'll panic when you pick him up, advises the House Rabbit Society.
Approach your rabbit from the side. He has poor close vision, and may perceive someone approaching him from the front as a threat.
Bring your hand to his side, slightly above his head where he can see it.
Offer your hand for him to sniff.
If your rabbit lays down his ears, remove your hand. He is feeling threatened and may bite or scratch.
Picking Up Your Rabbit
The Indiana House Rabbit Society explains how to safely pick up your rabbit.
Place one hand under your rabbit's rib cage.
Place your other hand under his bottom and scoop up his legs under your arm, which helps prevent him from kicking. A panicked rabbit can injure his spine by strongly kicking his back legs.
Hold your rabbit close so that he feels secure, but don't squeeze him.
Wear a thick shirt when picking up your rabbit in case he scratches.
Never pick up a rabbit by his ears or the scruff of his neck, and never let small children pick up a rabbit.
Holding Your Rabbit
Your confidence in your handling ability helps your rabbit feel secure. If you're nervous, you may communicate this to your rabbit and he may be more likely to make a fuss and try to wriggle away.
Your rabbit may feel especially safe and comfortable if you loosely bury his head in the crook of your arm. If he struggles or kicks, or you think you may lose your grip on him, quickly squat down and place him on the ground.
If you can't safely pick up and hold your rabbit but you need to move him, put a small piece of apple or carrot in a pet carrier to lure him inside.