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Catching stray rabbits is either the easiest or hardest thing in the world, depending on the rabbit. I’ve literally picked them up off the ground with my bare hands before.
If you’ve never cared for rabbits before, please remember that rabbits are prey animals and EXTREMELY well equipped to hurt you.
The ‘prey’ part is important because if a rabbit feels threatened, it won’t do you the courtesy of warning you that it’s about to try to eviscerate you with its claws and/or teeth. A dog or cat might growl/lunge etc etc. They might even give you a warning nip.
A rabbit won’t. They’ll go teeth to bone asap. they also have very strong back legs, very sharp teeth, and strong AND sharp claws.
They’re not like, lions. But they’re also far, far from being helpless.
(They’re also fast as fuck)
So how do you actually catch the things?
Get a trap
I’m putting this first because it’s easiest, but also…who just has a rabbit (or most likely cat) trap hanging around?
They basically work like those humane mouse traps – you put bait in one end, the rabbit/cat/mouse goes in, and steps on a plate that is connected to a mechanism that shuts the door.
I’m not a huuuuge fan of these because rabbits can panic and get a limb caught. If you can, line the inside with cardboard to stop this from happening.
As for bait, I like to go for a variety. Banana is good, because rabbits LOVE it and it smells quite strong. Carrots and rabbits is obvs a dream pairing – carrot tops are actually preferable from what I’m observed. They go wild for them.
The issue with bananas and carrots is that they can upset the tummy of an already stressed rabbit.
You can start with things like romaine and coriander/cilantro if you’re worried about stasis BUT at times like this, we need to worry about things like traffic and predators.
GI stasis is treatable. Being inside a fox, er, isn’t.
If the romaine isn’t working, crack out the banana.
Use an X-pen
You may not have a spare xpen hanging around, but someone in your area might. If you notice a stray bun hanging around, reach out to a local rescue. They might not have the man power to spare, but they’ll probs have some kind of pen.
There is an art to the xpen capture, and two ways to approach it. If you need to catch the bunny fast, basically try to corner it with the X-pen. This isn’t ideal because it’s pretty stressful, and running with an xpen is hard.
Top tip: get a couple of x-pens so that if the bunny runs under a car, you can surround the car with xpens. It’s not ideal, but at least the rabbit is contained. Then you need to poke (not bodily just get it to move) the rabbit and move the x-pen in the same direction until the rabbit is out from under the car. then block the rabbit from going back under the car with…something. A board, a bit of xpen, a box.
You could also try putting a cardboard box on its side in the pen but not under the car and put some food in it. When the rabbit is the box, use one hand to secure the rabbit (the hand you like least -_-) and the other to flip the box upright.
The other thing you can do, but which takes longer, is to set the xpen up like this (in the drawing we’re looking down on the xpen):
Ok, so we’re looking down on the trap. We’ve made an ‘n’ shape with the x-pen, but left a bit of x-pen over so that when bunny goes into the ‘n’ we can use the extra bit to keep the rabbit contained.
So, we put food in the ‘n’ patiently wait by the trap for the bunny to go in, and swing the door shut when bunny is eating. If you were feeling fancy you could sit to the left of the trap, and attach some string to the far end of the x-pen so you could pull it shut without moving. I’ve updated my EXTREMELY professional diagram:
Hope this helps!
This is the method my boyfriend always uses! Rabbits often just kind of freeze and hunker down if they’ve not been stray for very long.
Not like rabbit freezing in fear because they think they’re about to die.
Like, a kind of diluted version of that (since domestic rabbits aren’t that scared of humans, compared to wild rabbits whole can literally die of fright if a human catches them).
So just…pick ’em up and put them in a cardboard box (or the boot of the car, in our case). Is it ideal? No, not really. And it often doesn’t work on long time strays because they’ve got their bearings a bit better.
Be quick though. A rabbit hunkering down is often assessing its options. It doesn’t know quite where to go, so if you’re quick and confident with your grab, you can get them in a box/boot before they’ve thought of a plan.
If you’re too slow, it’ll dart under you. Rabbit are good at outsmarting predator with quick, darting movements (their tails are white to confuse predators when they’re darting about). Their lives literally depend on it. You’d never catch a wild rabbit like that, but you could get a domestic one IF YOU’RE QUICK.
Aaaaand sometimes rabbits associate humans with food and will happily let you pick them up and take them home. It’s often these ones that have no sense of personal safety and will set about establishing dominance in your household by humping your dog and peeing on your bed. You have been warned.
Use a bat net
Nets aren’t a great idea, but if you’re out of ideas and you have access to a bat net, you may need to give it a go.
DON’T USE JUST ANY NET
Rabbits panic about pretty much everything, and if they get a limb caught in a net they can very easily break it.
Assess the situation
Is the rabbit likely to run into traffic, fall off a ledge, or something equally dangerous? Then the most important thing is not to spook it. We need high value treats and to be extremely slow and quiet.
High-value treats vary a lot between rabbits, but mine would bite my arm off for a bit of toast. Also shreddies (chex in the US, I think), which is weird, but the one time I had Shreddies my rabbit bounced straight over and begged for them.
I’d never given them to him before, though I got him at 18 months, so he could have had them before, but he was like six at the time – that’s some memory. Maybe they just smell incredible to rabbits.
These are NOT good treats the rest of the time (ok, a little bit of toast crust on occasion won’t hurt) but we need to catch the bunny quickly. Just sit and wait with the treat in an outstretched hand and move closer if you dare. Don’t put yourself in danger – that won’t help anyone.
You can also try bananas and blueberries, but a lot of rabbits don’t realise they like them until they’re offered them several times (some will be your best friend immediately – it just varies from bun to bun)
This may take several days, especially if the rabbit has been feral for a while. The one thing on our side is that rabbits value food over most things, and they’re very greedy. They also need to eat a lot – a stray dog could plausibly go for days without eating, whereas a rabbit would be out grazing on grass or weeds.