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How to pick up and hold your rabbit

Rabbits are prey animals, and instinctively they think of being picked up and being unable to move as being caught by a predator and possibly eaten. If your rabbit isn't used to being handled, it can in some cases be a challenge for the new owner to pick up and hold their wriggling rabbit without getting multiple scratches and in some cases, bite

As the subject has been brought up on the Indoor Rabbit Forum, it is noticed that there are several different opinions on how soon you should force a rabbit to be handled. Some of our members say that one should have a bond of trust with the rabbit before starting the training, others have good experiences with a quick start and consistent methods.

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The main advantage of giving the rabbit time to trust its owner before training is started, is that it will not run away as often when it senses that the owner will pick it up, plus that the actual lifting may be less frightening. On the other hand, consistent methods and techniques will in most cases lead to results faster when it comes to the rabbit not scratching nor wriggling.

Regardless of approach, everyone agrees that a rabbit must tolerate to be handled. One has to trim the claws regularly, if the rabbit is to be taken out for a walk in a leash it could come in handy to be able to pick it up and take it outside, at a visit to the vet's the rabbit needs to tolerate handling, and when the rabbit is spayed or neutered, the owner needs to be able to check the stitches regularly to avoid unnoticed inflammation.

Technique, or the How-to
How one actually picks up and holds the rabbit is of the essence if the rabbit is hard to handle in the first place. A rabbit should NEVER be lifted by its ears, and if one grabs hold of the neck, the neck should be spared for most of the weight by supporting the rabbit from underneath with one hand. The most popular way of picking a rabbit up, is probably by holding one hand on the chest of the rabbit, almost between the front legs, and the other underneath the bunny bottom.

As soon as the rabbit is lifted from ground level, it should be put tightly to the chest, and one should give the rabbit support under all of its legs if it does not use them to kick off from the arm. When it's time to put the rabbit back down, one should turn the rabbit towards one's body so that its behind is first to the ground, because very often, a rabbit that sees the ground coming towards it will wriggle or kick off to be able to get down faster, and thereby get hurt if it still is a good meter or so until landing. One will avoid most dangerous situations by this simple move.

Some rabbits will wriggle and move about regardless of how they are held and picked up, and if so it is very important not to put it down before it has calmed itself. If the rabbit discovers that wriggling will lead to what it wants, that is, being put on the ground faster, it will of course wriggle as much as it possibly can every single time it is picked up. If one manages to be consistent, one will see results fast. Suitable clothes and position of the rabbit so that it can not wriggle itself free, bite nor scratch is of the essence, a frightened rabbit does not care about how far it will fall, or that its skeleton can be harmed by the wriggling.

A bite of pellets or another snack when the rabbit is back on ground level is very positive. The rabbit will connect the discomfort with something good in the end, and one avoids a sulking rabbit.

Holding the rabbit for a check-up, or cutting of the claws
When one needs to cut the rabbit's claws, it requires a very calm rabbit if one shall not miss completely. For fairly calm rabbits, one can have success by putting the rabbit on its back towards one's stomach or chest, or in the crook of one of the arms. A lot of the forum members have god experiences with putting the rabbit on its back between the human's thighs, with the rabbit's ears somewhat pinched between the human's knees, so the bunny bottom is pointing towards one's belly.

Very unsettled rabbits will often calm down if one covers its eyes, but in some cases, one will have to wrap the rabbit in a towel or blanket to prevent it from wriggling itself loose during the cutting of the claws. For very, very unsettled rabbits, there should be two people present to get all the claws cut without harming the rabbit or the owner.

Children picking up the rabbit
The rabbit's spine is very fragile, and can easily be damaged if the rabbit isn't supported enough. Therefore, one should be careful with letting small children pick up the rabbit, as they may not be able to give it all the support it needs. Holding the rabbit should also only be done under supervision, seeing as a small child may squeeze the rabbit too much or get problems with controlling a wriggling rabbit.

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