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It’s everyone’s dream to have a rabbit that bounces over to sit beside you on the sofa and snuggle up to you. Unfortunately, that’s only the reality for some lucky rabbit parents.
I believe that whilst you gain your bunny’s trust, and encourage them to accept pets, it’s almost impossible to change your rabbit’s attitude to being cuddled. Some rabbits are huggers, and some aren’t. Just like people!
- Some rabbits like to cuddle, some don’t. Accept it and move on.
- It may take a few months for your rabbit to trust you enough to cuddle you. Take it slow.
- If your rabbit approaches you and flops near you, take that as a sign they like to cuddle
- Don’t force your rabbit to cuddle. Some buns just aren’t snuggly
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How to tell if your house rabbit likes to cuddle
This can be difficult in the beginning, because a lot of rabbit’s don’t understand cuddles, and might be desperate to snuggle, but still not be 100% confident you’re not going to swoop down, pick up the bunny, and put them in a pot for dinner.
Rabbit’s are prey animals. They need to really trust you before voluntarily approaching you for a cuddle.
There are some ways to tell your rabbit likes to cuddle:
- If your rabbit comes and flops on or near you, they’re probably happy to be cuddled. Don’t just grab them though. Stroke them until they come closer
- If your rabbit ‘loafs’ and gently grinds their teeth (it sounds like chattering) when you pet them, they’re happy that you’re near
- Your rabbit will run away if you attempt cuddles and they don’t like it. If you don’t allow them to escape, prepare to be bitten.
How to get your house rabbit to trust you
- Don’t grab your rabbit. Wait for your rabbit to approach you
- Lie down on the ground so your rabbit can climb on you. Don’t grab them, just wait until they settle and pet as normal. Most rabbits love face strokes
- Don’t insist on picking your rabbit up. Most rabbits hate it, and they’ll become suspicious and frightened if you keep at it
- Reward your rabbit approaching you with treats.
- If your rabbit is overweight and treats aren’t an option, hand-feed your rabbit their usual pellets or greens.
- Don’t try to stroke your rabbit whilst they’re feeding. They need to know that your presence is just the best thing ever.
- Be patient and quiet. It may take weeks (longer if your rabbit is stubborn/traumatised) but a lot of rabbits will approach you if you sit quietly on the floor. They’re so nosy, and they can’t resist coming to sniff them. You must NOT try to pet them the first few times they approach. i know it’s hard!
- Respect your bunny’s right not to like being cuddled. I’m not a hugger either. That being said, you can continue sitting on the floor and petting them at arm’s length.
Why you need to let your rabbit dictate cuddling
Rabbit’s scare very easily, and it’s hard to build their trust back up. Whilst you know you’re not a threat to them, they don’t know that.
Wild rabbits are almost impossible to tame, because their fear response is so advanced. Over time, the hypothalamus in domestic bunnies has evolved, so they’re far less frightened.
This is straight-forward evolution: a rabbit can have a heart attack and die if it’s scared.
Those that were less scared of humans went on to breed.
Because we breed so many rabbits, the evolutionary process is sped up, and the rabbits that were less scared lived longer and produced more offspring.
Still, there are still vast differences in rabbit’s brains: some are more scared of humans, and some are less. Whilst you can lessen their fear, you cannot always eradicate it entirely.
Your rabbit must feel in control of the situation.
Allow them to run away if they get scared. Don’t hold onto them tightly. Don’t chase them and grab them if they run away and teach all your family to do the same.
Frightened rabbits bite, and since they’re prey animals, they give no warning, and they bite as hard as they can. They might literally think that you’re going to kill them.
Rabbit bites can spread diseases, and more importantly, they hurt. I should know – one of my rabbits used to live with cats and she got very comfortable with biting to incite play. She looked at me like a fool when I yelped (it makes most rabbits realise they’ve hurt you, and stop).
I managed to train it out of her by making a big show of storming off. She’d stare at me with big sad eyes, so I’d leave it ten minutes and go back to playing with her.
In the beginning, she’d be biting every few minutes, but thank god, she got the message in the end.
Should you pick your house rabbit up to cuddle it?
No. Sit down. Lie down. Let your rabbit come to you. If you’re desperate to hug, lie on the ground and let your rabbit run over you. Try stroking their forehead lightly with one finger.
They might run away, in which case, let them. But they might settle down and let you stroke them.
I personally wouldn’t try a full hug right away, but if your bunny is super relaxed go for it. Oh, and if they get so chill they fall off you, catch them. They get embarrassed and blame it on you if they fall. Expect dirty looks and maybe a foot stamp.
Final thoughts on whether rabbits like to cuddle
Rabbits are naturally snuggly animals – most animals that live in social groups are, since they huddle together for warmth in the wild. It can also be an important social activity to strengthen bonds.
However, your rabbit may not want to snuggle with you, and you just have to accept that. If you take the time to fully gain your bunny’s trust, they may well decide that you’re a suitable cuddle partner.
Even if your bunny never becomes a cuddle bug, it feels pretty darn good when a bunny that once ran from you in fear comes a flops right by you, happy in the knowledge you won’t grab at them or try to pick them up.