How to Befriend a Shy Rabbit

Rabbits tend to have sweet, introverted personalities. It can be hard to coax them to come out of their cozy hutches to make friends and play. But you can befriend a rabbit by showing her that you don't pose a threat and patiently waiting for her to feel comfortable. Come to think of it, that's a good way to make human friends, too!


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    Open your rabbit's cage. Ideally, you have a cage where the rabbit can enter or exit at will. But if you don't, set the rabbit on the floor of an enclosed, rabbit proof area.
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    Get down on the floor. Rabbits tend to find people much less threatening (and more interesting) when they're down at floor level. Lie down if you can, sit if you can't.
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    Do something that does not involve moving around, loud noises, or the rabbit. You can watch a TV show or listen to music, so long as neither one is too loud. Read a book. Do a crossword. Talk to someone you like on the phone. (Make sure the conversation is pleasant and low key.) You can even do homework or pay bills, so long as you're calm and quiet.
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    Continue doing this for at least half an hour daily.
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    Eventually, your rabbit will see that you don't pose a threat. He or she will probably come over to investigate you and may even hop up on you. Don't make physical contact just yet. You can talk to the rabbit in a soft, gentle voice.
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    Your rabbit may begin to feel more comfortable around you and stay near you for longer periods of time. At this point, you can start interacting with your rabbit a little more. Healthy treats are a good way to encourage your rabbit to come and see you. If your rabbit seems particularly comfortable around you, you can try petting him or her. Start by stroking the forehead with just two fingers and see what your rabbit thinks.
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    With time and patience, your rabbit should start to see you as a friend, or at least, a good source of treats.
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    Don't be afraid if your rabbit decides not to come out one day. This is quite ordinary and does not mean your rabbit has become shy again.
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    Offer treats. Treats usually lure the rabbit, just be silent, patient, and don't move. Make sure the bunny knows it isn't a trap.


  • Sometimes it is quite simply just the individual rabbit's personality - like some people, some rabbits are just naturally grouchy and would prefer not to be bothered by humans at all. It seems that grouchy rabbits are generally females and may have to do with their protective/defensive nature (just like when you breed rabbits you never introduce the male into the female's cage because she will usually try to defend her territory). Being patient and allowing her to approach you on her own terms is key.
  • Always talk in a soft, gentle voice when speaking to a rabbit, especially a shy one. Rabbits have very good hearing and loud noises or yelling can bother them.
  • Be patient. While it's tempting to just pick up your rabbit and snuggle, your rabbit will have a much better time with you if you take things at the rabbit's pace.
  • Never grab your bunny by the ears or they will get startled and hurt.
  • Never leave other pets like dogs and cats, alone with a bunny when you are not there.
  • Never make sudden movements around your rabbit.
  • Do not put your fingers near his mouth or he or she will bite you.
  • Be gentle with your rabbit. Do not try to frighten it, like chasing it around.


  • Never pick a rabbit up by the ears. If you must pick them up make sure you have one hand under their behind to support their back. Often they will panic & jump from a height so move slowly till you are sure they will not "dive". Some rabbits will nip you to get you to put them down. Try not to drop them suddenly because you have been nipped. If they hate being picked up then pat them at ground level which they will enjoy.
  • Don't try to force your rabbit to stay near you. Many rabbits do not enjoy being held or restrained. Holding a rabbit improperly can result in serious injury to the rabbit.
  • Don't just pick them up without giving them a warning you're there! Give them a pat and let them sniff you to show you're not trying to hurt them then gently pick them up and support their back legs always.

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Categories: Handling and Moving Rabbits