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Thread: Tips for picking up an unwilling rabbit

  1. #1

    Default Tips for picking up an unwilling rabbit

    Hi, we have 2 adorable bunnies who we adopted last year from the RSPCA. They are approx 4 years old. Both are not overly fond of being touched but will appreciate a stroke behind the ears when they are eating.

    I would like to get some advice on how to pick them up with the least trauma caused. We have to transport them to the vet every now and then, to be vaccinated and also because Holly has a tendency to suffer from digestive problems. Picking them up is stressful both for them and us.

    They did not have the most brilliant start in life but we were hoping they would get more used to us with time and patience but they seem perfectly happy to keep their distance which also makes health checks impossible...

    Any advice much appreciated

  2. #2
    Mama Doe tlcwrites's Avatar
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    Perhaps you could train them to hop into the carrier themselves? Make it so they are familiar with their carrier and it smells of them. A couple of my buns had pretty severe fear aggression, and it can be as simple as luring them in with food. Admittedly, they don't go into stasis if they have to be picked up, so when I need to I do so for the shortest period of time possible.

    You've probably already come on leaps and bounds since adopting them, but it can sometimes be hard to truly realise on a day to day basis. It sounds like you're already doing things on their terms which while disheartening at times is probably exactly what they need.

    Welcome, by the way. I'm sure your relationship with your rabbits will only continue to develop over time. I know the same can be said for me and my more nervous buns.
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  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sikari View Post
    Hi, we have 2 adorable bunnies who we adopted last year from the RSPCA. They are approx 4 years old. Both are not overly fond of being touched but will appreciate a stroke behind the ears when they are eating.

    I would like to get some advice on how to pick them up with the least trauma caused. We have to transport them to the vet every now and then, to be vaccinated and also because Holly has a tendency to suffer from digestive problems. Picking them up is stressful both for them and us.

    They did not have the most brilliant start in life but we were hoping they would get more used to us with time and patience but they seem perfectly happy to keep their distance which also makes health checks impossible...

    Any advice much appreciated
    Thanks for asking this! We have huge problems with Monty - he refuses to be picked up, wriggles constantly, and often bites - and unfortunately we have to pick him up fairly regularly for various reasons. I'd love to know what the other advice is. One thing we've found is that he's much better with my partner than with me. It's odd, we don't do anything differently, but for some reason he wriggles a lot less with my partner, and instead of biting he'll groom him in this really sulky "I hate you, but whatever" kind of way. I think that early on my partner was much better at establishing himself as dominant bunny than I was. I don't know if that might help at all - it's the only thing we've found "works" so far unfortunately.

  4. #4
    Warren Scout binkyCodie's Avatar
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    may I ask how you carry them? there is a correct way to carry a rabbit and some prefer different ways too!

    holding by ears scruffing etc isn't the way to do it as I'm sure you're aware. you want to be supporting their belly/front legs and butt.


    for Snoopy, he enjoyed being held like a baby over my shoulder. my hand would under his butt/feet and his paws would be over my shoulder. or he enjoyed being held like you would a baby if it was lying on your arms. his legs would dangle either side of my arm, but my hand had his butt and the rest of him was completely on my arm, my other hand would hold his back for support.

    however if I was to carry Luna like either of this, she would literally rip my entire arm or face off she much enjoys to be facing forwards with my hands under her chest and under her butt, but not touching her back paws lol.

    if anything, praise. maybe start with picking him up, hold him for a moment back down. make a big fuss off him and maybe a small healthy treat too. imo positive reinforcement is the best way to go

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  5. #5

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    We have a top loading carrier as advised by the RSPCA lady who we adopted from. According to her it is even more impossible to get them into the cat style front loading ones.

    Do you have a front loading one? Maybe it might be worth a try getting one of those and trying to train them to go in by themselves.

  6. #6

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    Heavens no, we would never pick them up by the ears or scruff! We kind of scoop them up from underneath and support the bum at all times with the feet turned towards our bellies (hope that makes sense, it's kind of hard to explain). We had to take them to the vet the other day and unfortunately had to corner them in order to be able to pick them up at all. We do not pick them up for no reason, ever, as they so clearly dislike it. Henry does not even like to be petted (unless it is by my 8 year old daughter who seems to have the magic touch), Holly is more willing to let us touch her but both of them hop away as quick as they can if we try to pick them up. Snoopy and Luna are gorgeous by the way!

  7. #7
    Warren Veteran daphnephoebe's Avatar
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    I'd suggest a Catio Carrier. It fully opens so makes it seem less scary to buns.

    Mine are trained to get in on command as picking them up is highly stressful and one has a heart problem so we avoid stress.

    I sit on the floor next the box and feed them treats. Gradually move closer to the box.
    Eventually treats are put into the box, first right at the edge so just their nose goes in and gradually it gets further and further into the box.
    Once comfortable jumping into the box to get treats I shut one side of the box, when comfortable the other side and finally the front door when comfortable. Treats fed through the little flap in the door to keep calm.

    I repeat this at least once a week. They get a training session of 10 to 15 mins and all is completely their own choice. They aren't forced to interact if they have something else to do and we never touch them to get them into the box, it's all completely free will and their choice.

    I've also trained them to stand up on their hind legs to allow me to look at their tummy and private areas without picking up.

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  8. #8
    Warren Scout Zarla's Avatar
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    Maybe try holding them with their feet and face turned away from you so they can see what's going on.

  9. #9

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    Hi
    I know the feeling, my rabbits both despise it too!
    As long as you don't pick them up too regularly but often enough so they might began to tolerate it more they should be fine.
    For carriers, I would place some of their bedding (with their scent) some hay, cucumber (for moisture) and something like carrot to try and get them to hop in themselves

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