Rabbits generally do not like to be picked up and cuddled. Being a prey species, they feel threatened when a larger being is picking them up off the safe ground. It is essential that your rabbit is comfortable with basic handling for both grooming and medical reasons.
Safe and confident lifting of rabbits is very important. Their skeletons are very light compared to their overall body weight, and they have very powerful, muscular hind limbs. If they are struggling or kicking, it is possible for them to break their own back with a powerful kicking motion.
Supporting their back and rump when picking them up will both help them feel more secure in your arms and prevent them from injuring themselves. Rabbits should NEVER be lifted by the ears or scruff (loose skin at the back of the neck); this is very painful and not safe.
Lift your rabbit with one hand under their chest and one under their back legs and rump. Bring their body to your chest with their back towards you and gently curl their back feet towards their belly to make a gentle “C” shape with their body, cradling the body and not allowing them to kick or struggle.
You can also pick them up and support their entire body with the length of your forearm against your chest. Always ensure that their feet are tucked under your arm or held against your body with support along their lower back and rump. This makes them feel secure and lessens their desire to struggle or kick.
Some rabbits need to become accustomed to being handled and picked up slowly over time. Practice in short spans of time with treats available to positively reinforce them tolerating the handling well. Always consult your exotic animal veterinarian if you struggle to handle your rabbit or have further questions.
The above article was written by Dr. Meryl Schimek of Brook-Falls Veterinary Hospital & Exotic Care, Inc.