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Anyone new to keeping bunnies may find their new pets a little hard to handle when they first get them. This is perfectly normal and with a little patience together with a lot of practice, you'll soon be able to not only catch your bunny calmly, but you'll be able to pet and groom them too. However, it's a good idea to wear a pair of long gloves to begin with – just in case, remember bunnies have pretty sharp claws and they can give quite a good kick too!
Rabbits hate being picked up and held so it is best to avoid doing this as much as possible. However, it can be a real problem when you want to take a new pet rabbit out of his cage for the first time, and they don't want to come out because they are not used to their new surroundings. The best way to get your new pet out of their cage, is to let them come out on their own to begin with. You can coax them by offering them a few treats – pieces of apple are ideal. The best cages have side openings and it's even better if the hutch is lower to the ground. You can always lift the cage higher off the ground by adding legs to it once you have gained your rabbit's trust. If the cage is to high to begin with, your pet might hurt themselves when they jump out of it. Set the cage and the run up together – this will become your bunny's territory and they'll feel nice and safe in it. If your rabbit knows they can get back in the cage when they want to, all the better – you want to make sure they feel secure and safe in order to gain their trust and when you see they are ready, you can start to gently pet them.
As mentioned rabbits do not like being picked up – but there will be times when you'll need to do this. You have to know how to pick them up safely for both you and your rabbit, the last thing you want to do is hurt or scare them. Having let your new rabbit settle in to their new environment, you can start by handling them on the ground, without picking them up. Try not to overwhelm them too much at first. Offering a little treat or some food, will gain their trust. You'll soon know when you can start petting and stroking them. Every time you feed them, you should gently pet them but not for too long. Although rabbits hate being picked up, they do like physical contact which means they enjoy it when you pet or groom them. Make sure you stroke your rabbit in the same direction as their fur lies. Rabbits love to have their foreheads, cheeks, along their backs and behind their ears stroked, and once they trust you, some rabbits like to have their bellies stroked too. The thing to avoid is stroking their tails, whiskers, under the chin or back legs. Handling your new rabbit as often as you can will help you build up a solid friendship and trust with them, you are indeed forming a bond between the two of you. By spending a little time every day and grooming your new pet rabbit, is a great way to do this and if your rabbit happens to be moulting, brushing them gets all the dead fur out of their coats. This is great because it avoids gastric hairballs forming which can be fatal to rabbits. Unlike cats, rabbits cannot be sick to get rid of any fur balls.
When you do need to pick your rabbit up, for whatever reason, you need to do this with confidence. You have to be firm or your pet might get scared and try to escape. They could even end up hurting themselves should they fall from your grasp and this is the last thing you want to happen. Never attempt to pick your pet rabbit up by their ears, scruff or legs – it is a myth to pick them up in this way and it will cause them a lot of pain. Practice picking them up by sitting on the ground next to them and place one of your hands under their forelegs right across their chests – the other hand should be placed under their bottoms before you lift your bunny up so you take their weight. Once you have picked them up, hold your rabbit quite firmly against your chest, keeping one hand under their bottoms while the other hand will be gently holding their upper backs. To begin with you might find your new pet kicks out and tries to get away from you. This is why you have to pick them up confidently and firmly. If this happens you should try to hold them firmly sideways across your chest as it reduces the risk of them running up your body and then getting over your shoulder, this could end up with them falling to the ground and injuring themselves. Once you feel comfortable about picking them up and your new pet is okay about you doing this, then and only then should you try to pick them up when you are standing up. But remember, rabbits never really like to be picked up so you have to be firm, confident and gentle with them – all at the same time. When it comes to putting your rabbit back on the ground, they might try to jump out of your arms so you have to be ready for this to happen. Try to get as low as you can and ideally your rabbit should have their paws on the ground before you let them go.
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