Pick Up a Rabbit Like a Pro to Keep Your Bunny Safe

Feel confident picking up your rabbit and enjoy peace of mind that they feel safe in your arms, too.

Published March 22, 2023
Girl holding cute rabbit

Picking up a rabbit can feel a little overwhelming if you've never done it before. Bunnies have delicate vertebrae that can easily become injured if you lift or hold them incorrectly. It's important to support their rear and hold them against you so they feel safe. Use this step-by-step guide to learn how to pick up a rabbit correctly and get your rabbit used to being handled.

How to Safely Pick Up a Rabbit

Those unfamiliar with rabbits might not know there's a specific way to pick one up to prevent them from getting hurt or scared. These step-by-step instructions can help you feel confident doing so.

  1. Calmly approach the rabbit from the side and pet them to avoid startling them.
  2. Place one hand under the rabbit's chest behind their front legs.
  3. At the same time, use the other hand to "scoop" up the rabbit's rear end.
  4. Gently lift the rabbit off the ground, moving both hands as a unit to maintain the rabbit's body position.
  5. Bring their body against your chest and securely yet gently hold them, so they cannot jump or kick.
  6. You can slowly glide your hand under the rabbit's chest up to their face to pet them while still keeping their body against yours.
  7. To safely release the rabbit, lower your body down to the ground, keeping the rabbit secure the entire time, then allow their feet to touch the ground and release them.

If the rabbit is small enough, you should be able to hold their rump and hind legs in your hand gently. With a larger rabbit, your hand alone may not be large enough to hold them safely. In these cases, you can wrap your wrist or forearm around the rabbit's rear to prevent them from kicking out.

Need to Know

Always support a rabbit's rear end to prevent them from kicking out their hind legs and luxating or fracturing their delicate spine.

Never Do These Things When Picking Up a Rabbit

There are a few ways you can pick up other pets that are unsafe for rabbits. These methods can either be painful or harmful to rabbits.

  • Never pick a rabbit up by their ears.
  • Never scruff a rabbit.
  • Never pick a rabbit up by their chest with their legs dangling.
  • Never pick up a rabbit by grasping them around their belly.
  • Never pick a rabbit up by their legs.
  • Never pick a rabbit up by their tail.
  • Never allow children to pick up a rabbit without supervision.

Concerns Around Rabbit Spines

Why do rabbits need to be handled carefully? Rabbits are at high risk for spinal damage because they have a lightweight skeleton but incredibly strong legs. If a rabbit kicks their hind legs out while you're picking them up or holding them incorrectly, they could break their back. This is why it's important to support a rabbit's back end while picking them up.

Can Rabbits Be Scared to Death?

Unfortunately, yes, it's possible for a rabbit to be scared to death. They are prey animals, so rabbits are always on high alert. If a rabbit experiences something frightening, such as a very loud noise or a stressful event, they could sustain a heart attack and die of fright. In order to minimize any fear your rabbit might have around handling, slowly get them used to being held.

Training a Rabbit to Be Held

Not all rabbits enjoy being picked up, but there are times when it will be necessary. Get your rabbit used to being held to prepare them for vet visits, nail trims, etc.

  • Start with petting. Begin by simply touching your rabbit without picking them up or holding them. Give them treats while you pet them to create a positive experience around different types of touching, particularly around their chest and rear, where you'll need to hold them in order to pick them up.
  • Practice lifting. Once your rabbit is comfortable with you placing your hands under their chest and around their rear, you can practice lifting them, but not very far off the ground. Kneel on the floor next to your rabbit and practice the lifting or holding motion, but only bring your rabbit an inch off the ground, then release them back to the floor. Reward your rabbit every time. Do this several times until they feel comfortable with the sensation.
  • Try floor holds. After your rabbit is comfortable with the notion of being lifted slightly off the ground, it's time to hold them. Still kneeling on the ground, lift your rabbit and bring their body against yours, securely holding their rear to prevent injury. Pet them and speak soothingly. If your rabbit kicks while you're holding them, they don't feel safe, so quickly lower them back to the ground and release them.
  • Stand up. With time and practice, your rabbit will feel confident enough to allow you to hold them while you're standing and possibly even walk with them in your arms. It's best to avoid carrying a rabbit around unless it's absolutely necessary to avoid any potential injury. If your rabbit likes cuddling, do so on their level or hold them in your lap.
Quick Tip

Most rabbits love being petted on their forehead, cheeks, and behind their ears. Use these as rewards as you train your rabbit to be held.

Keep Your Rabbit Safe with Proper Handling

Begin working with your rabbit on handling as early as possible. Rabbits who have been picked up from a young age will feel more comfortable being held in your arms. But it's still possible to train an older rabbit to accept handling. Be sure to use the right technique when picking up your rabbit to keep them safe from harm.

Pick Up a Rabbit Like a Pro to Keep Your Bunny Safe