I have a bunny but I don't know how to make it trust me - how do I bond with my rabbit??
This is a common message I receive over and over, often from people worrying that their bunnies don't seem to like them/trust them or from new bun owners who aren't sure how to form a connection with their new furry friends. Never fear - bun mom is here and has broken the how-to down for you in 10 key points.
1. Spend time on the floor
This is probably one of the key ways to bond with your bunny, especially early on in the bonding process. Since bunnies are prey animals (and well... rather smol 🥺 in comparison to us hooms) having a giant human towering over them and leaning over to pet them can naturally be a little intimidating. One of the best ways to show your bunny that they can feel safe around you and that you aren't going to hurt them is to get on their level. Literally - sit down, lie down whatever... just remain on the ground with them and give them a chance to see you at their level and build up their trust gradually. Do this frequently and as often as you can - watch tv or use your laptop on the floor - read on the floor, do your DIY craft projects on the floor - whatever it is you want to do, if you can possibly do it sat on the floor where your bun is - do that! This will help familiarise your bunny with your presence and help them establish that you are not a threat, so that they can slowly start to become comfortable roaming around you without feeling nervous.
2. Allow your bunny to come to you
So you're sitting on the floor doing your bits and pieces - and well... maybe after a little while your bunny starts to sniff you out and may start getting curious😄. I know, it's exciting and it can be really tempting to reach over and try and pet your bunny - but try your best not to. It sounds counterintuitive but it can actually be really helpful at first to establish that initial trust. One of the key things when trying to build trust with your bunny is to let them take the lead and to let them decide when they are comfortable. Look out for signs such as them nudging you or maybe them perching onto your lap or legs. If they seem more comfortable you can slowly reach over to pet them, but if they still seem a little cautious give it a little more time. The key thing here is to follow your bunnies lead - try to observe their confidence and curiosity levels and try to go from there making sure to respect their boundaries along the way.
3. Hand feed treats
This point could be named 'treats' alone since food seems to be the key to a buns heart 😂. But really, hand feeding is a brilliant way to bond with your bunny and strengthen your relationship. Not only will your bunny associate you with positive experiences (TREATSSSS), it will also help reinforce the idea that your bunny can feel safe when coming close to you and staying there without anything negative happening. So whatever it is, fruit, dried treats or even their hay - hand feed and watch that bond grow real quick! 😀🍌🍓🥬
4. Teach your bunny tricks
This is kind of a follow-on from the previous point and can work really well once your bunny has started to trust you while being hand fed treats. Teaching tricks allows you to extend the time your bun is close to you and interacting with you by making them work a little harder for the treat. Thus - more time spent in close proximity to you equals more time to build that trust and show your bunny you aren't a threat and well, YOU ARE A TREAT DISPENSER 😂. Not only is it a great method because you build more trust and you get to see your bunny being cute, it's also mentally stimulating for your bun and will keep their brain active - so an extra bonus and another reason to do so!
5. Pets (lots of them)!!!!
You'll probably notice as you start spending more time on the floor with your buns and giving them treats, they may start nudging you for pets. This is a great sign because your bunny is basically giving you the go ahead to give them all the loving you were holding back on before when trying to build that trust. Even better, they are probably less likely to flinch when you reach out to pet them now 🥰.
Be mindful of where your bun likes to be pet - most bunnies love being pet at the top of their head and on their cheeks, some don't mind being petted everywhere, while others may have strict no-go zones. If your bun isn't keen on you petting a certain area, respect that boundary and like that you don't risk damaging that hard earned trust that you've built. If your bun is a little more on the skittish side, try approaching pets more slowly - with Butter for example, I often poke my finger out in front of her as if to say 'may I pets you please your highness' and if she doesn't back away I slowly pet her on the head as she's given me the green light.
6. Sharing kisses
Ok, might sound a little weird at first, but believe me, once you bond with your bunny you'll be obsessed with bunny kisses 😁. This means accepting kisses from your bun, which come in the form of little warm licks, whether that be on your forehead, nose, fingers or even all over your face (if your bun thinks you need a more thorough clean) 😂. Granted they aren't exactly the same as human pecks, but the same way buns groom each other lovingly, they sometimes do this to humans too and it's one of the clearest symbols of love from a bunny. Don't worry though, if your bun doesn't lick you, it doesn't mean that they don't love you - some buns just don't and that's ok! Not only should you accept kisses from your buns but you should also give them back! Buns will establish dominance when in groups, and they do this by touching their heads, and then the submissive bun grooms the dominant. Thus, it can be a really great way to bond with your rabbit and reflect their behaviour by getting down on their level, touching heads with them and then planting a few kisses on the top of their head before petting them. Not all bunnies will enjoy this, so as always, respect their boundaries and personality and don't force it 🙂.
7. Provide your bunny with a safe space
This one is a little less hands on and may seem less relevant, however, providing your bunny with a safe space that belongs to them can really help with bonding. Just like humans like having our own space and privacy at times, buns appreciate the same. Provide a small area that belongs solely to your bun, it doesn't matter if you can't offer a huge space - just make sure they have a little somewhere that's theirs and theirs alone. House items there such as their favourite toys, their litter box + hay & maybe a hidey house or somewhere comfy that they can rest in. Giving your bun a dedicated area like this allows them to take some space when they might feel like being alone or want to remain undisturbed. The same way you feel better when you have a peaceful undisturbed sleep or a bit of a timeout from social contact - your bun will likely feel the same. As a result you will have a much happier bun, less likely to act out, and well happier bun = happier towards hoom 🙂.
8. Develop routines and rituals
After having a bunny for a while you will start to notice some patterns in their behaviours. One thing you may notice early on is that if you give your bunny breakfast at a certain time every day, they will soon come to expect at that time from then on and will subsequently show you their disdain if you are just a minute late 😆. Rabbits really enjoy having routines - set meal times, expecting a treat at a certain time and maybe some one on one time with hoom at a certain time of day. Having such routines and rituals allows your bunny to know what to expect, lets them to set their boundaries and allows them to approach their day in a way that would make them comfortable. For example, they may like to have a snooze at certain times of the day and request playtime at other times. Overall, this will result in a happier bunny that feels comfortable bothering you for attention at certain times of the day or taking alone time at other times knowing that you'll respect their space.
9. Provide variation
This might seem a little contradictory to the previous tip, however just stay with me for a second. While it is important to maintain certain rituals and routines for your rabbits, monotony can also make your rabbit bored and unhappy over time. Think about it, you might have breakfast, lunch and dinner around the same time most days during the week, however if you don't shy away from your regular routine and do different fun activities from time to time - life can get pretty depressing, right? Well, it's the same for bunnies. This point actually applies to many different things; while you might want to keep meal times the same, maybe you can give an extra treat on certain days or to reward good behaviours. Maybe you want to give your buns some new and exciting treats to try or you want to experiment with some new fruits and veggies. Variation can also apply to toys and play time - changing up your bunnies toys frequently will prevent them from getting bored of the same toy, and allowing your bunny to explore different areas can provide some stimulation and excitement. If you don't have extra space to allow your bunny to explore, try building a small maze in your room with tunnels and towers, to give your bun some extra fun play time when you can.
While this isn't necessarily an action, patience is probably one of the most important aspects of forming a strong and loving bond with your rabbit. Some bunnies can be really comfortable around humans from the moment they meet you, while others can be particularly skittish and take a lot longer to warm up. However, whatever temperament/personality your bunny has - building a strong bond requires patience and time with all bunnies. Every day you share with your bunny is work towards that strong relationship, each treat you give, each time you pet your bunny and each time you respect their boundaries is another step closer to a lifelong relationship with your furry friend. While some aspects of bonding with your bunny might come easy e.g. letting you pet them, other aspects such as being comfortable being groomed for example, may take a lot more work and time. This is why patience is key - don't expect everything all at once and appreciate the small wins and progress you make with your bunny each day. One day you'll be able to look back at all the progress you made since you first brought them home to where your relationship is right now, and believe me - your heart will be very, very full 🥰.
So I hope this post provided you with some helpful tips to building a strong bond with your fur babies and I wish you lots of snuggles and bunny kisses real soon! Let me know what you thought below👇
Lots of love, Tamara, Peanut, Butter & all the Plants xoxo