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How to Train Your Bunny to Quit Scratching You When You Hold It

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A common misconception is that bunnies enjoy being picked up and held. It is actually normal, however, for bunnies to wriggle and scratch when being picked up. They are delicate creatures and can easily get hurt if they jump out of your arms. This doesn't mean you can never hold your bunny, though. By slowly building trust you can gradually help her get used to being picked up and held.

The Bunny's Perspective

From your bunny's viewpoint, being picked up is a frightening and unnatural experience. Bunnies have not been traditionally bred as pets like dogs and cats. Bunnies are prey animals that live on the ground, and it is easy for them to imagine that a predator like a hawk is swooping to catch them when your hand reaches down to pick them up. It takes more work to build trust with your bunny than it does for a puppy or kitten who has been bred to trust you from the moment they were born.

Gain Trust Slowly

To build up your bunny's confidence, sit by her and lightly touch her and stroke her fur. Talk to her and offer her some treats like a bit of banana, apple or oats. Once she's used to that, pick her up gently by lifting under her chest so that only her front feet leave the ground an inch or so. Put her back down and offer her another treat. After she gets used to this begin to put the other hand underneath her bottom, but don't lift her bottom yet. After doing this for awhile, lift her bottom off the ground too, so that you lift her 1 to 2 inches off the ground. Do this a few times a day for several weeks to condition your bunny to this.

How to Hold Smaller Bunnies

Hold smaller bunnies by placing one hand underneath her bottom to support her. Put the other hand across her shoulders, holding her against your chest so that she can't kick her feet out. If she's small enough, hold your thumb in front of her leg to help keep her from climbing out and breaking free. Put her down gently, holding her firm so that she does not jump out of your arms when she gets closer to the ground. Wait until her feet are on the ground before you let her go.

The Sideways Hug

Another way to hold your bunny is to hold her sideways almost like a hug. With her feet facing your right shoulder, place your right hand under her bottom. Hold her securely so that her feet can't kick out and break free. The left hand goes across her side, with the thumb over her shoulders and the fingers underneath her legs. Here too, she should be resting against your chest.