Rabbits may be shy creatures, but they show love in their own ways, and it’s important for you to be able to show them that you love them in return.
Rabbits prefer to be the center of your attention. They don’t want to be man-handled and cuddled, but rather be in a calm setting while being pampered with occasional treats, lots of healthy exercising, and receiving brushing and manicures regularly.
Rabbits are incredibly affectionate, but it can seem difficult to learn how to love them when they shun your continuous hugs. Not to worry, there are so many other ways to show your rabbit how much you truly love them.
How Do Rabbits Show Affection?
When rabbits are let out from their cage, they don’t want to be held the whole time, cooped up in your arms instead of roaming. Consider letting your rabbit out of its cage and coming to you first. They want to show you that they are interested in your love by hopping over to receive your attention. They want to make decisions for themselves, and being held doesn’t comfort them.
Rabbits will sit next to you when you are playing with them or doing something on the computer in the kitchen because they just want to be close to your scent and comfortable nature. Rabbits are comforted by a calm setting and being allowed to choose when they are ready to be pet and fed.
Rabbits love to nurture you as if you were like one of their babies. Some common ways that they show their affection is by gently nuzzling your hands to be pet or trying to nibble on your hand.
Sometimes, they won’t do this to your hand but your clothes. They’re not trying to ruin your clothes but want to treat you to the love and respect you give them. They don’t necessarily want to groom you, but they want to show that they want to be loved and nurtured by you in return.
Believe it or not, you can learn a lot about a rabbit by watching their body language closely. See my article all about the ways rabbits communicate for some specific things to look for from your rabbit and what those things should be telling you.
Absolutely No Hugs
A big no-no for all rabbits is to never pick them up off of the ground and give them hugs. They prefer to keep all four paws on the ground at all times. Whether the ground is your lap or the floor, they don’t want to feel as if they are free-floating or about to be dropped.
Rabbits are prey animals, and being unable to feel the ground beneath them to get themselves to safety causes them to panic and possibly have trust issues with you. Let them choose to come to you and want to be in your lap instead.
It is a common reaction to have cute aggression towards that adorable little face, but it is important to allow your bunny to have boundaries that they choose to set. Some rabbits may feel claustrophobic when you hug them because the space is too tight and they don’t feel safe but rather trapped.
You will notice that your rabbit gets a kind of wild look in their eyes, which means that they are uncomfortable and need to have space before being pet or held again. A rule of thumb is to treat them how you would like to be treated. Give them space when they need it, and when they are comfortable they will approach you.
DID YOU KNOW? Rabbits might actually growl if they’re stressed or unhappy. To learn more about what this unusual noise is and what you should do about it, see my article about rabbit growling and what it means here.
Be on Their Level
Since hugs are not their favorite way of being shown your love, get down to the floor so that they can see you and be closer to you. Petting them while they can roam around and nudge your hands is a way of them showing their affection for you. They don’t want to not be able to roam around, so get down and play with them. Don’t walk around and leave them to stare at your feet, but get close enough for them to explore you.
Don’t get in your bunny’s face, but give them the chance to explore and run around you. Rabbits are active creatures and want to feel the thrill of being played with. It is easier to give them the attention they deserve when they can see you in return. Lay down and give them the chance to jump over you and run around you.
Feed Them Their Favorite Foods
Rabbits enjoy receiving treats and food because for them it is a sociable activity. What does this mean? Feeding your rabbit by hand builds trust between the two of you. To them, you are a massive creature that may pose a threat, and to help gain their trust is to feed them at their level straight from your hand.
When you first get your bunny, allow them to have meal times in peace, but slowly introduce yourself and feed them treats as a way of gaining their trust as their caretaker.
Some of their favorite snacks to have are apples, carrots, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and so many others. You can feed them fun treats you find at any pet store, but some of the healthier options are fruits and vegetables if you want to treat them for just being cute.
Give Them Time to Be Active
Remember to give your bunny lots and lots of exercise. They are active creatures and want to have times in the day where they aren’t cooped up in their cage. Make sure to have set times where they are allowed to get out and about to run around and play with toys.
Rabbits enjoy having lots of fun toys to play with and bring to and from you. As part of their exercise and entertainment, they want to play and exercise. Some extra things that you can consider doing for your rabbit are building a cardboard tunnel for them to run through or find food through. Or you can consider using an exercise ball or exercise wheel for your rabbit. To find out how rabbits behave in exercise balls or exercise wheels, and which you should get for your rabbit, see my article all about Rabbits in exercise balls and wheels here.
Rabbits love sensory projects where they get to search for the treat through newspapers or tunnels and feel stimulated with play. Toys are fun, but they want to enjoy time with you as well, so give them something to look forward to when you give them exercise.
Lots and Lots of Pampering
Being the center of your attention is your rabbit’s sole desire. Pampering them is a great way of bonding with your rabbit and giving them the love they deserve. One way of pampering them can include giving them constant and continuous petting. Also, they love to be nudged in the nose; it’s just like kissing them. You could also brush out their fur, which is like a deep scratch that reaches every itch they have.
Rabbits are not babies. They don’t need to be held or put on their back, which makes them feel extremely uncomfortable and vulnerable. Bunnies are not like having a dog or cat. Dogs are extremely sociable and cuddly, cats are more standoffish, but rabbits are a combination of both, and yet they are still unique.
Rabbits have their own way of being shown that you love them. A great informational video by Lennon the Bunny can be found below.
Pampering doesn’t normally include a bath. Rabbits are continuously making sure that they are groomed to perfection, so you don’t have to worry about giving them weekly baths or anything. Petting, brushing, nudging, cuddling on the floor where they feel comfortable are all great ways of showing your bunny that they are the apple of your eye.
A great way to pamper your rabbit just a little bit further is to get them used to spending time on your lap. Did you know you can actually train your rabbit to do this? Take a look at my page all about training your rabbit to jump on your lap here.
Apologize if You’ve Upset Them
This may sound like an absolutely ridiculous notion, but rabbits can be easily offended if you’ve wronged them. To comfort them and make it known that you are sorry, touch your forehead to theirs. Don’t feel silly, as it makes them feel better because they are comforted by your acknowledgment of upsetting them on accident.
Rabbits can act like little toddlers if they don’t get their way or feel as if they are being left out. Believe it or not, rabbits will pout and even throw temper tantrums. This may look like going and hiding in their cubby hole, or even jumping around in what looks like excitement but is actually them stomping in frustration.
It may be because they are not the center of your attention, a new bunny has been added to the family, you didn’t feed them on time that day, or you’re not petting them the way you normally do. Simply pay attention to their behavior and immediately correct both your actions and their temper/sadness.
Don’t Ignore Them
Never, ever ignore your rabbit. Rabbits have excellent memories, and they will easily hold a grudge against you if you choose other things over them. Rabbits consider it disrespectful if you ignore them when you see them. They will ask for your attention by making little squeaky noises or giving you nudges and licks.
If you continue to ignore them, they will either sulk or bite you immediately to get your attention–and you now know that they are upset. Rabbits simply want to love you, be fed, be active, and have your undivided attention.
- Rabbit Only Comes for Food? Six Better Ways to Bond – While you’re deep-diving into this topic, it would be very useful for you have a few specific tricks under your belt for creating that tight bond with your rabbit. To learn how to bond with your rabbit in a way that they’ll understand, see this article.