I know firsthand how difficult it can be adjusting to the pace of your rabbit when they first come home. Rabbits are incredibly skittish creatures, but once they get a feel for their space, they will become more comfortable, relying on you for food and comfort. To help your bunny adjust swiftly and comfortably, follow the guide below to give them optimal success.
Keep Them in a Quiet Space
When your rabbit first comes home, it will be difficult for them to comprehend the large space around them as well as the new smells. Rabbits have personalities of their own, and it can be difficult for them to adjust to their new surroundings.
They have just been moved from wherever they were just at to a place they’ve never been with and a giant person they aren’t familiar around; they are extremely uncomfortable and scared in the beginning, and that is an entirely normal reaction for them. There is an obvious look of fear in a rabbit’s eyes when they don’t feel comfortable and overwhelmed, which means they want to be put down and burrow somewhere quiet.
Their cage should be large enough for them to roam around and exercise in because that will be where they stay when they aren’t roaming and playing with you. It should be away from loud noises and a place where they can be themselves after playtime or snack time. Rabbits like to be surrounded in a space where they can hide and exercise away from prying eyes.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be their own room, but it should be a room that isn’t visited often or filled with constant sound.
TIP: A simple way to do this, is to just get really good at making your rabbit comfortable enough to get a good nights sleep. If you can accomplish that, everything else will fall into place. See my article Helping Your Rabbit Sleep at Night: A Simple Guide to see how to do it quickly and easily.
Keep Their Cage in One Permanent Area
Your rabbit likes to roam, and that is perfectly normal and even encouraged for them. However, when you can’t be by their side all of the time, they need to have a cage just for them that is familiar and in a location that they can hide away in. Rabbits are creatures of habit; they enjoy strict schedules, familiar foods at a constant rate, and their home to be in the same place that makes them feel comfortable and safe.
Their cage should not be off of the ground, it should be something on the ground, and possibly be open with a surrounding fence so they can roam and jump around. Just as rabbits don’t want to be held and walking around, make sure their home is near the ground as it allows them more comfort and feelings of stability.
When a rabbit is overcome with motion and loud noises they want to run and hide. If you plan to have a company or other pets nearby, their cage still needs to provide a safe space. It is highly encouraged to keep it somewhere quiet with natural lighting.
Keep Your Distance at First
Your rabbit doesn’t want you to constantly hover around them when they are trying to either rest, eat, or exercise alone. They are in an unfamiliar place that makes them uneasy, so consider their feelings first. If your rabbit has been with you for a while and is comfortable in your presence this isn’t as big of an issue; but, if this is your first rabbit, make sure to give them their space to get used to you and their new surroundings.
Allow your rabbit to come out of its cage while you are home so they can roam and become familiar with their new surroundings. Consider just going about your normal schedule and watch how they interact with you and their new home. If they aren’t being watched vigilantly, they will explore on their own and become familiar with your presence and the new smells and objects around them.
If you notice that your rabbit primarily stays in one corner, it can be due to a lot of different reasons. More than likely, they’re just getting used to their new surroundings. However, it can be other more concerning reasons at times as well, such as an illness. Check my article all about reasons your rabbit stays in one corner to see how to tell what’s going on with your pet if this is you.
While you’re watching your rabbit, also be cautious about what could be harmful to them as they roam around. Make sure there isn’t anything in their path that can harm them or they could potentially chew and destroy. It will be easier to guide and encourage them on their schedule and not yours.
Introduce Them to the House One Room at a Time
It is best not to overwhelm your new furry friend with the entire house all at once. If you live in an apartment, still consider taking it slow with how much space your rabbit is allowed to have at first. Give them sections of the living room and kitchen one at a time. Rabbits can get easily overwhelmed and scared of how large and unfamiliar their new home is. Again, don’t watch them too incredibly closely; it’s more like supervised playtime from a distance.
There are little fences that can be purchased to help keep animals contained in areas they are and aren’t allowed to be. Consider purchasing one and corralling your rabbit in certain areas as you introduce them to new areas. A home is much larger for them, so one room at a time.
Don’t be loud and encourage them to explore, just allow them to do it on their own at their own pace. They don’t want to play and be fun just yet, they are still adjusting to a new area that overwhelms them.
If your rabbit is suddenly spooked by an object, a noise, or even a smell, they will scurry in fear. If you happen to notice this as you observe them, take them back to their safe space so that they can deescalate in peace. If they are removed from a stressful situation immediately, they understand that you will protect them and help them feel safe again. They will burrow into their hut to silence noises and smell something familiar to them.
Introduce Your Rabbit to Other Animals Slowly
Remember that rabbits are prey animals, and other animals may have instincts to hunt them, such as cats and dogs. Rabbits will actually fight back if they feel threatened by another animal. Take precautions to protect your other animals as well as your rabbit from each other and take things slow.
Maybe allow the other animals to come to the door of where your rabbit stays so that they can get familiar with each other’s senses. Give it a few days before introducing your rabbit to new animals. They have just come into new surroundings; they will fight if they feel threatened.
DID YOU KNOW?
You even need to be cautious with your rabbit around other rabbits when introducing them for the first time. Learn to recognize the signs that a fight is about to occur and how to safely break up a rabbit fight here: Five Reasons Pet Rabbits Fight and How to Stop Them.
Take precautions to restrain the other animals as your rabbit roams around them and gets used to their size and scents. Rabbits are also jealous creatures and may feel the need to shun you if you don’t give them excessive amounts of attention and treats to make them feel more acquainted to you and their new home.
This process will take the longest, and should be taken slowly, and have as many precautions as is necessary to ensure the safety of all animals within the home.
Consider Litter Training
Rabbits are as easy to litter train as a kitten. By litter training them, it helps you to stress less about them making accidents while they play around the house while your rabbit simultaneously feels freer to roam around and become familiar with their large playpen. Rabbits don’t like to be cooped up all day long, so by litter training them, they will be able to comfortably roam the house while knowing they also have a place to go potty when they need to.
Simply get a triangular cubby-like space with lips for your rabbit to use as a litterbox. These can be found at any place that sells pet materials. The lips on the edges of the litterbox are great for males because male rabbits like to mark their territory, and the lip keeps accidents in while rabbits scratch and mark.
The pellet litter used is super absorbent and is great at preventing odors and/or stains. Training them to use the litterbox is as easy as putting some of their poop and hay in a corner to indicate that this is a place they can go potty while out in the house. I give a very helpful rundown on the best way I’ve found so far to set up a litter box in my article How to Set up a Rabbit Litter Box in 10 Steps here. This will get you the best results and be easy to clean too!
For the best litterbox, cage, type of hay, and everything else you’re going to need for a new pet rabbit see my checklist of items to get for a new pet rabbit here. It’ll save you just a ton of time and money.
How Long Will It Take to Adjust?
If your rabbit is already familiar to you and knows that you are its caretaker, it won’t take more than a day or two for them to comfortably adjust to their new surroundings. Consider still taking it slow by introducing them to one room at a time, but if this is your first bunny and they haven’t lived anywhere else before, it can take several weeks for them to feel comfortable in their new home. Rabbits can be very stressed creatures because they are prey animals.
Remember to adjust to their schedule and not yours. Limited supervision will encourage them to roam freely and get comfortable with your presence and all of the smells and objects around them. Once they are adjusted, they will be able to roam freely and not have a care in the world. Timing will vary depending on your rabbit’s personality so there is not a one size fits all when it comes to a rabbit adjusting to a new environment.
More Helpful Advice
- Will a Rabbit’s Personality Change After Neutering? – Rabbits are definitely individuals with their own personalities, but will your cute new pet rabbit turn into a completely different animal once he’s neutered? This article will give you a realistic idea of what to expect.
- Do Rabbits Like Exercise Balls and Wheels? – When your rabbit starts to feel relaxed enough in their new environment to want to sleep and exercise, you’re doing really well at getting them accomstomed to their new home. You’ll want to deck out their cage with items that can help with this, so what about exercise wheels? Or exercise balls? Here’s the important things you need to know about those, check this out before you buy one!