Rabbits can develop a close bond with humans, but they are very different animals from dogs and cats. They socialize, show affection and show their feelings in ways that might be difficult for humans to interpret. Rabbits vocalize only in extreme situations and don't provide easy-to-understand cues, such as purring, growling or barking. Rabbits like affection but they usually don't like being picked up or hugged, especially when new to a home.
Provide the rabbit with a companion. However close you get to your rabbit, he still needs a friend of the same species. Have both rabbits neutered, even if they are the same gender. This prevents health problems and aggressive behavior toward each other or their owner.
Learn how rabbits communicate. When a rabbit thumps his feet, he is alarmed. A rabbit crouched close to the ground is probably scared, and a rabbit with his ears facing forward is interested. Rabbits will give gentle head-butts to get attention, but hard head-butts are aggression or insistence. A rabbit that turns his back on you is irritated.
Get to know your rabbit. Don't grab your rabbit or stand over him; rabbits are prey animals, and a big animal, like you, who does this looks like a predator. Instead, sit near the rabbit and let him approach you. Gently stroke the rabbit and let him become accustomed to your scent and presence.
Spend time sitting with your rabbit and stroking him every day. The rabbit will like the attention, and it will help him bond with you.
Play with your rabbit. Rabbits play mostly by chasing. Let the rabbit chase you around, and follow the rabbit around in return. Don't chase the rabbit at high speed, because this will turn fun play into a scary experience, and don't follow the rabbit before he starts chasing you.
Tips & Warnings
- When you need to pick up your rabbit --- to trim the rabbit's nails, for example --- use both hands and support the body and back legs. Never pick up a rabbit by the ears, legs or scruff, which is painful and can cause serious injury. Rabbits don't particularly enjoy being picked up, so don't do it unless it's necessary.
- Photo Credit Maria Teijeiro/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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