How Not To Hold A Rabbit: Common Mistakes of Rabbit Owners

When I got my first rabbit, I thought that holding it was intuitive, but it wasn’t. I made several mistakes that could have seriously hurt my rabbit and that damaged my new relationship with her. 

Often, amidst all the affection we have for our rabbits, one aspect of rabbit care often overlooked is the importance of correct rabbit handling. This crucial aspect of rabbit care can significantly impact the well-being and longevity of these delicate creatures.

Holding a rabbit incorrectly is more than just a mere mistake; it can lead to severe consequences. Mishandling can cause physical harm to the rabbit. Rabbits are incredibly sensitive creatures. Improper handling can lead to elevated stress levels, affecting their psychological well-being and compromising their immune system, making them more susceptible to illnesses.

In this article, I’ll delve into common mistakes rabbit owners make, exploring how to avoid these pitfalls and ensure your pet rabbit’s safety and comfort. As rabbit owners, our goal should always be to create a nurturing environment for our pets, and understanding how to handle them correctly is an integral part of that journey.

Common Mistakes People Make When Holding a Rabbit

The common mistakes made when handling a rabbit include lifting them by their ears or scruff, holding them on their back, failing to support their hind legs when lifting, holding them too tightly, and not allowing them to jump down safely from a height. Each of these mistakes can cause physical and psychological harm to your pet rabbit, potentially leading to serious injuries or illness.

Lifting a Rabbit by its Ears or Scruff Is The Wrong Way To Hold A Rabbit

One of the most common misconceptions is that it’s acceptable to lift a rabbit by its ears or scruff. This is a harmful practice, as it can cause severe pain and distress to the rabbit, potentially leading to injuries. A rabbit’s ears are highly sensitive, and their scruff is not designed to bear their weight.

Never Hold a Rabbit on its Back

Another mistake is holding a rabbit on its back, known as ‘trancing’ or ‘tonic immobility’. While rabbits may appear calm in this position, they are, in fact, experiencing high levels of stress and fear.

Not Supporting the Rabbit’s Hind Legs Can Cause Spinal Damage

When lifting or holding a rabbit, it’s vital to support its hind legs. Failure to do so can lead to the rabbit struggling or kicking out, which could result in a spinal injury due to their powerful back legs and fragile spines.

Holding a Rabbit Too Tightly Causes Stress

Holding a rabbit too tightly can cause stress, restrict their breathing, and possibly result in injuries. It’s important to strike a balance between holding your rabbit securely and not restricting them.

Not Allowing a Rabbit to Jump Down Safely When Being Held

Rabbits naturally want to jump down from a height and land on their feet. Not allowing them to do so safely, or forcing them to stay elevated, can induce stress and fear.

The Consequences of Incorrect Rabbit Handling

Rabbit handling mistakes might seem innocuous on the surface, but they can have deep-seated consequences for our furry friends. Understanding these repercussions can help us comprehend the gravity of improper handling and why it’s vital to avoid it.

Physical Injuries Caused By Holding a Rabbit Wrong

Rabbits possess a delicate skeletal structure, with their bones accounting for just 7-8% of their total body weight. This lightweight construction makes them agile and fast, but also highly susceptible to injuries. When mishandled, rabbits can suffer from various physical injuries, ranging from minor bruises to severe fractures. For instance, lifting a rabbit without supporting its hind legs can cause it to struggle and kick out, potentially resulting in spinal injuries due to the power of their back legs and fragility of their spines.

Stress and Psychological Trauma That Improper Holding Causes Rabbits

Rabbits are prey animals, which makes them extremely cautious and sensitive to their surroundings. Incorrect handling can induce a high-stress response, triggering a state of fear and panic. This is particularly true when a rabbit is held on its back, a position they associate with extreme vulnerability. Chronic stress can lead to psychological trauma, manifesting in behavior changes, loss of appetite, or even an unwillingness to interact with their owners.

Compromised Immune System From Wrongful Rabbit Holding 

Stress doesn’t just impact a rabbit’s mental wellbeing; it can also profoundly affect their physical health. Prolonged stress can compromise a rabbit’s immune system, making them more susceptible to a range of illnesses and diseases. A distressed rabbit is an unhealthy rabbit, and we must do all we can to provide a calm, stress-free environment for our pets.

Your Rabbit May Lose Trust In You

Lastly, repeated instances of improper handling can strain the bond between a rabbit and its owner. Rabbits are intelligent creatures and remember experiences that cause them fear or pain. Over time, this can lead to your rabbit becoming fearful or aggressive towards you, significantly impacting your ability to bond with them.

In understanding the gravity of these consequences, we can better appreciate the importance of proper rabbit handling. It’s not just about avoiding immediate harm, but also about nurturing a long-term, healthy, and trusting relationship with our pets.

How Not To Hold A Rabbit FAQs

Check out these commonly asked questions about holding rabbits

Why shouldn’t you hold a rabbit on its back?

Holding a rabbit on its back, also known as “trancing” or “hypnotizing,” is not recommended. It can induce a state of fear and stress in rabbits, as it goes against their natural instincts. When held in this position, rabbits feel vulnerable and may struggle or exhibit signs of distress. It can also pressure their delicate organs and spine, potentially causing harm or injury. It is best to avoid holding rabbits on their backs to ensure their well-being and minimize unnecessary stress.

Where should I not touch my rabbit?

Rabbits have sensitive areas on their bodies that they may not appreciate being touched. These areas include their ears, tail, and feet. Some rabbits may find these areas uncomfortable or even painful if handled too roughly. It is important to be gentle and observant of your rabbit’s reactions. If they show signs of discomfort, such as thumping their hind legs, growling, or attempting to move away, respect their boundaries and avoid touching those areas.

Should I discipline my bunny?

Disciplining a bunny through punishment or physical force is not recommended. Rabbits respond better to positive reinforcement and gentle guidance. They are sensitive animals, and disciplinary actions can lead to fear, stress, and a breakdown of trust. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement techniques, such as rewarding good behavior with treats or praise. Encourage desired behaviors through consistent training, patience, and understanding.

How do you know if your rabbit doesn’t like you?

Rabbits, like any animal, have unique personalities and preferences. It is possible that a rabbit may not display affection in the same way a dog or cat might. However, some signs may indicate your rabbit is not comfortable or does not like certain interactions. These signs include avoiding or running away from you, thumping their hind legs in agitation, or displaying defensive behavior like growling or lunging. Respecting their boundaries and giving them space when they exhibit these signs is important. With time, patience, and gentle interactions, you can work on building trust and a stronger bond with your rabbit.

Is it bad to hold a bunny too much? 

While bunnies can enjoy and benefit from gentle human interaction, it is possible to hold them too much, which can lead to stress or discomfort. Each bunny has its own personality and tolerance for handling. Some rabbits may enjoy being held and cuddled for longer, while others prefer shorter, more frequent interactions.

Observe your bunny’s behavior and body language to determine if you are holding your bunny too much. If your rabbit shows signs of stress, such as trying to escape, struggling, or displaying defensive behavior, it may be an indication that they need a break from handling. 

Let your rabbit initiate interactions and approach you for handling. Respect their individual needs and preferences. If they show signs of discomfort or stress, it’s best to give them some time alone to relax. You can maintain a positive and enjoyable relationship with them by finding a balance and respecting your rabbit’s boundaries.

Additional Resources for Rabbit Owners

Being a responsible rabbit owner means consistently seeking to better understand and meet the needs of your furry companion. Fortunately, a wealth of resources exists to help you provide the best possible care for your pet rabbit. Here are some you might find beneficial:

Rabbit Care Books

“Rabbit Health in the 21st Century: A Guide for Bunny Parents” by Kathy Smith: This book provides a comprehensive look into rabbit health, offering practical advice for both new and experienced rabbit owners. Find it on Amazon

“The House Rabbit Handbook: How to Live with an Urban Rabbit” by Marinell Harriman: A classic guide covering all aspects of rabbit care, including proper handling techniques. (Find it on Amazon)

Rabbit Resource Websites

The House Rabbit Society ( An international nonprofit organization dedicated to rabbit care and adoption. They offer rabbit owners a wealth of articles, guides, and forums.

The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund ( This UK-based organization provides plenty of resources on rabbit care, including a helpful ‘A to Z’ of rabbit health.

Veterinary Consultation

Don’t forget your local vet! Regular check-ups are essential for monitoring your rabbit’s health, and vets can provide personalized advice based on your rabbit’s specific needs.

By leveraging these resources and constantly seeking to learn, you can ensure that you provide your rabbit with the best care possible. Remember, when it comes to handling rabbits, knowledge truly is power.


As I’ve mentioned throughout this article, correct rabbit handling is a crucial aspect of pet rabbit care. It safeguards their physical health, fosters emotional well-being, and forms the foundation of a strong bond between you and your pet. My hope is that this information will guide you toward nurturing a loving and responsible relationship with your rabbit.

If you found this article helpful, please share it with other rabbit owners and enthusiasts. After all, a more informed rabbit community is stronger, and our furry friends will thank us for it.

I’d also love to hear your experiences and tips about rabbit handling.

Lastly, subscribe to our blog for more insightful articles about rabbit care, filled with practical advice and expert guidance. Let’s continue learning together, always striving to be the best rabbit owners we can be.

Recommended Rabbit Supplies

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Housing: If your rabbit is indoor, you’ll need a cage, a hideout (to keep your rabbit from death by heart attack), and a space for it to get exercise and spend time with you. If you don’t want to let it run free in your house, this animal playpen provides space and keeps your rabbit from hiding under your couch.

If you keep your rabbit outdoors, an outdoor hutch that provides space and protection from predators is needed. (I’d still keep mine in a barn for further protection from the elements.)

You’ll also need bedding, toys, a grooming brush, and treats for your little friend. A litter box is important because rabbits can be potty trained. Timothy hay is the best kind of hay for rabbits as alfalfa is too sweet. Don’t forget a water drinker. I like the half-gallon waterer because it can cover two rabbits for several days. Pair it with a food bowl or a food manger (a little cleaner) and you’ll be set up!

If you want to treat your bunny to entertainment, a cat tower, a treat ball, or bunny toys all work wonderfully.

Finally, if you plan on taking your rabbit with you on trips, you’ll need a carrier. Here’s a small carrier or larger carrier that work great for occasional travel. If you travel a lot, you might want the carrier that’s rated #1 in safety for safe travels

Lastly, I use this odor eliminator for accidents and to wipe out the bottom of the cage and litter box when I clean it.

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