One of the biggest mistakes novice rabbit owners make is to swoop down on bunnies and lift them up. As I've written before, rabbits are prey animals, consequently being picked up frightens them. People also make the mistake of expecting they'll become instant friends with them. Unlike dogs, humans must earn the trust of bunnies. Only in this way can they become friendly and even affectionate companions.
When acquiring a new rabbit, you must let the poor creature acclimatize to his or her new surroundings. The bunny needs to establish a safe zone to which he or she can run to. A large cage or pen is your best sort of enclosure for a rabbit's new home. I've found that small rooms, such as a bathroom, serve well for this purpose too.
Establish trust with your rabbit by sitting quietly near the enclosure. Let him or her sniff you but don't try to pet or grab the bunny just yet. You can condition your long-eared companion to know that you provide good things by giving out tiny treats each time you come to the pen or cage. Small pieces of green lettuce, not Ice burg, are one safe sort of bribe to give your rabbit.
Eventually, you can pet your bunny and let him or her out for supervised exercise periods. Let your bunny know you want to start petting by speaking softly and making no sudden moves. Rabbits love their noses petted. Once your bunny understands that hands mean petting or treats, you can lie on the floor with her or him and enjoy what I call floor time.
In the picture above, I'm lying with Neutrino and petting his soft fur. All I'd have to do is start sitting down and he'd bound over for pets. My current rabbit, Deborah, does the same thing. She knows that when I lie down on the kitchen floor, she'll get plenty of pets. all the bunnies I've lain with have closed their eyes and tooth purred. That's a sort of grinding noise they make with their teeth to express pleasure, hence the name.
The tragedy of Easter is that many folks buy rabbits on a whim and assume they know how to look after them. Parents foolishly expect their children to look after their new pets. When the children lose interest and the parents end up caring for the bunny or bunnies, the poor creatures end up in lonely backyard hutches. Rabbits are social creatures and they thrive on being with patient caretakers. They like quiet and orderly surroundings. With proper care, they can make wonderful companions and live for about ten years.
For further information about rabbit care, visit the The House Rabbit Society site. It has everything a novice bunny owner needs to know. For what you can expect out of living with house rabbits, please check out the information for my When a Man Loves a Rabbitmemoir. It's on the left hand side of this page.
Additionally, I have a brand new book out called How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Please check it out at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers.