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Bunny Care Guide: How To Get A New Pet Bunny To Like You
This hub arose from a question asked by a fellow hubber who is having trouble with a new bunny. I have answered it in the format of a new hub, as this is a common problem for many new rabbit owners.
"A week ago I was joyed by adding a Netherland Dwarf to my family. I am getting a little frustrated. I have spent hours each afternoon since I got her, yet she still will not come close enough so that i can even touch her. If i even move, she freaks out and has to run as far away from me as possible! I have even tried having a handful of yogurt drops, but she still is very hesitant to come near me. Is this typical and is there anything I can do that will help her trust me? Any tips would be so helpful!"
Yes, that is completely normal. Expect it to take a good while for your rabbit to become friendly. You have to remember that this is a prey animal, and to her, you are a huge scary beast. The first thing I would recommend would be simply having her cage near where you are a great deal of the time, such as in a family room, and leaving her be. Don't try to touch her if she doesn't want it, don't force anything.
One trick that may eventually work once she starts getting over her fear, is to simply lie down on the floor, at her level, and let her approach you. Most bunnies become curious very quickly and will hop up and have a sniff of you.
However in your situation, (and this applies to many people having similar problems) it sounds like a case of too much, too soon. Hours of attention is probably far too much for her to handle, and very stressful indeed. To her mind, she is roaming around in a large strange area, and being babbled at by a huge creature that may very well want to eat her. Instead of putting her through this, confine her to her cage and let her get used to that being her special territory, a place where she can go and be safe. Her cage, and her feeling of security there are very important things in her life.
Once she has acclimatised to her home, then she will become more outgoing. It is understandable that you want to interact with her a lot at the moment, but her fear response tells me that this is too much. Let her settle in, let her observe from a safe location that she feels safe in, and then try to befriend her later on. I would also say that for her temperament, it is too soon for her to have the run of a house, or even a room.
So, to summarize:
1) Confine her to her cage.
2) Let her observe you during times you are just living your life and paying no attention to her.
3) Don't try to touch her or bribe her yet.
4) Wait until her behavior changes, and she becomes curious in you. This will happen in due course.
She may come up to the bars of her cage when you approach, in that case, feel free to pet her and give her attention.
The exception to the cage confinement rule would be when you are cleaning the cage out, at which time she can be let out into a small area.
Put yourself in her position, would you want to suddenly be thrust into a strange new home and then have some giant always trying to touch you, or peering at you? Rabbits are quite sensitive creatures, but they can be delightful and full of affection if allowed to develop their bond with you in their own time.
If there are any further questions, please do feel free to ask!
Additional Note: This advice is only to be followed whilst she is still afraid and settling in. Later on she will need to get used to being handled and touched, but forcing these things in the beginning can be detrimental to her developing a good relationship with you. Once she starts to relax and accept little head rubs (rabbits generally love to have their heads rubbed), then it is time to start moving forward on the handling front.