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Bringing new pets home is always exciting, but it’s important to be prepared for what might happen.
All animals will react differently when they’re first brought home, but I’ve found that the few hours with your new bunny vary WILDLY from rabbit to rabbit.
I’ve had rabbits that hid for hours, I’ve had rabbits that happily flumped straight over in their litterbox, and I’ve had rabbits that made a beeline for the hay and got right into the snacks.
Expect your rabbit to be frightened of you
Not all rabbits are scared of humans.
Some, especially young rabbits, show no fear at all.
Their innate nosiness governs their first few hours, and they’ll spend the whole time trying to get behind the sofa.
That being said, a significant number of rabbits will be terrified for the first few hours/days/months. This is actually a far more natural way for a rabbit to behave, since wild rabbits have to be cautious and suspicious of everything.
Expect your rabbit to hide
This is Holly. For the first few weeks that we had her, she spent the majority of her time hunkered down in a cardboard box.
Sometimes she’d mix things up a bit by doing a bit of bunstruction on the back of the box (she shreds the back so it’s basically cardboard ring, and then sulks when she tried to sit on top of it and it sags in the middle).
Even now, the slightest unfamiliar noise (and the front door, and the vacuum) will send her shooting into the box in the TV cabinet.
Some rabbits don’t feel the need to hide. They’re perfectly comfortable climbing all over their new hosts and getting to no their new surroundings.
Both are totally normal, but I suggest assuming that your bunny will want to hide, and ensuring that they have a couple of locations to choose from.
I like my rabbits to feel secure, so the box is on the other side of the room from where we sit, but they can see us and both doors.
The boxes are turned on their sides with the top being the entrance, so the flaps (that you’d tape to close the box) partially close, giving bunny a view, whilst still feeling pretty invisible.
Expect that your rabbit will poop on the floor
This is just Having a Bunny 101.
Rabbits are pretty easy to litter train, but they’re not that fastidious about getting all the poops in the box.
I personally don’t care. The poops are dry and easy to pick up – as long as the pee is contained, I’m happy.
Out of all the rabbits I’ve cared for, only one was 100% litter train. When she was under observation at the vets they were very impressed at how she picked her corner to poop in.
This is rare, as far as I’m aware.
So don’t expect too much in terms of poops.
You might be surprised at how quickly your rabbit designates a pee spot though. I’d recommend starting off with a couple of litter boxes (put hay in them to encourage the rabbit to hop in) so you can see which one they prefer.
Expect some signs of aggression to other rabbits
Don’t take a rabbit ome expecting to put it in the same pen as your current rabbit straight away.
It’ll take time for them to get used to each other, and you’ll need to take the time to bond them properly.
When we fostered Bruce, we forgot how high rabbits can jump, and were horrified to find him in Isobel’s cage because she’d made it VERY clear that she hated him (he’d groom her through the bars, and she’d try to bite his tongue).
Luckily he was only a few weeks old (and dumped on an industrial estate – awful), and she was around 10, so she couldn’t catch him.
The moral of the story is, if you have x-pens, put a sheet over the top to keep bunnies contained. It doesn’t need to be a fancy set-up – we literally used an old fitted sheet and pegged it in place.
Expect your rabbits to be frightened of unfamiliar things, such as the washing machine
The vacuum cleaner is a big one, so be prepared for a lot of thumping.
One thing you can do is try to make a good association early. Rather than actually vacuuming, turn the vacuum on and then immediately treat your rabbit.
If you have a particularly nervous rabbit, you could even schedule your vacuuming – do it just before your rabbit’s dinnertime so they begin to associate the vacuum with food.
The things rabbits are scared of will vary, but we’ve had a couple that were terrified of the oven. Not the appliance itself, but the smell of it when it’s on. I mean, you can understand it – it’ll smell like fire.
There isn’t a lot you can do – not using the oven isn’t exactly a stellar solution, so just be extra mindful when it’s on.
Keep other scary activities to a minimum when the oven’s on, and talk calmly to your bunny.
Treats won’t hurt either!
Expect that your rabbit will start eating within a few hours of bring them home
Rabbits have to eat regularly, so keep an eye on your rabbit and ensure they’re eating and know where their water bowl is.
A lot of rabbits are used to water bottles, so I’d recommend having both at the beginning – especially since you don’t yet know if your bunny is a bowl-tipper.
Your rabbit may be a bit freaked out, so it’s not a great idea to offer than super rich foods. I’d stick to veggies over fruits initially – greens such as coriander and watercress are great ‘peace offering’ foods that will show your bunny that you’re a friend.
If your rabbit is eating well (even the most nervous rabbits are usually pretty quick to get on the grub) make a good impression early on with a little slice of banana.
It can take minutes or months for rabbits to settle in, and a rabbit can be well settled in their home for a long time before you feel that they’re actually friendly.
For example, Holly was happy to flump and run epic zoomies within days of bringing her home, but it’s only in the last couple of weeks (over a year later) that she’s starting letting me stroke her outside of her pen.
If I pass her and she’s eating hay in her litter tray, she’d let me stroke her head, but if I went to stroke her when she was out of her pen, she’d run away.
Recently, she’s actually staying put when I go and sit by her, which suggests that she either likes being petted (fingers crossed) or (more likely) she knows I won’t hurt her and she can’t be arsed to move.
Either is fine.
Maybe next year she’ll sit on my knee.