Anybody have a house rabbit?

As of yesterday, the Naja family is one bigger to the tune of a three year old black and white Dutch buck named Arthur.
He’s awwwwfully cute. He’s also terrified. He was a research animal who’s study ended a year ago. No one had the heart to euthanize him, so he’s been sitting in a huge cage all by himself with occasional carrots and occasional pats, but otherwise no real attention or socialization.
I realize yesterday that I have no idea how to “speak rabbit”. I am great at interacting with carnivores, but I’ve never owned a prey species before. I don’t know what behaviors are threatening and which are friendly. For example, can I touch him on top of the head, or pet his cheeks, shoulders, or back?
The House Rabbit Society says never to pick him up out of the cage, or put him into the cage, that I should always allow him to come in or out on his own. Anyone have good advice for this? I’m worried that he’ll never choose to come out of the cage on his own. Also, we have a big dog, so I can’t give the bunny 100% freedom to come in and out on his own–only when the dog is crated or under direct supervision. Should I give the rabbit an open door option for, say, two hours a day or something?

We want him to be as comfy as possible, and I’m worried I’m going to inadvertently be doing something that’s scary and threatening to him by trying to make friends. Also, if I can’t reach into his cage (HRS says that’s threatening and invading his “burrow”) then how do I become pals with him? Really, I know the mechanics of caring for a rabbit–feeding, housing, etc–but know very, very little about interacting with them. Thanks in advance for any advice anyone can give us!

I had a house rabbit in my apartment when I lived alone. Her name was Bianca and she was pretty good if a little bit feisty. She chewed threw my phone cord twice which was a little disturbing.

After having many other caged rabbits in my life, I say that the The House Rabbit Society needs to lay off the choice weed. Your rabbit has likely always been in a cage and is used to just sitting there basically forever. You treat rabbits almost like cats with a couple of differences. They can bite but that is easily avoided. They also tend to kick with their back legs which are pretty strong and that is bad news if they do it when you are cuddling them.

I always just grabbed mine out of the cage and let them hop around in a safe place. They sniff and they are really cute but they can be traumatized, skittish, and shy for a while. You have to just keep repeating that until they are socialized and it won’t happen with all rabbits. As for touching them, just be gentle. Touching their head is usually OK but they might want to sniff. Sometimes they may just freak out and then you need to stop.

I’m glad Arthur found a good home. He’ll probably be skittish for a while, but there’s no better feeling than earning the trust of a shy rabbit.

I have bunnies. Lots and lots of bunnies. Well, it’s really three, but sometimes it feels like more than that. You will need to bunny-proof the rooms where you let Arthur out (cover up phone cords and block off any places you don’t want him to go).

You’ll want to let him out in a smaller space to begin with, and then when he gets comfortable, you can let him roam around the house. You can just leave the cage door open and let him come out when he wants to. He might not come out the first day or so, but rabbits are nosy, so eventually he’ll probably come out on his own. If you sit on the floor, he can come over and inspect you when he gets more comfortable. Come down to his level–read a book or something, and sit on the floor for a while. I usually leave the cage door open so they can come and go for a few hours at night. They’re trained to go back in the cage when I say “Go home,” so I don’t have to pick them up and put them back in the cage. I feed them at the same time every night, so they know it’s time for food, and they usually go home then anyway.

He needs to be comfortable with you reaching into his cage. If he nips at you when you stick your hands in, try moving a little more slowly and reaching in from the side, not from the top. When you pick him up, support his butt with one hand–rabbits have very strong back legs, so if you don’t support their back legs, they can injure themselves if they kick too hard.

Useful info about rabbit body language:
Language of Lagomorphs

There’s a lot more, but that’s probably enough for now.

My daughter has two rabbits. They are interesting pets to have around the house. My brother warned me about their chewing when we got them a few years back. I understood from that warning that I would need to replace the wood trim anywhere they went. He was correct. The electric cords are a problem, but you can get flexible plastic tubes at radio shack to cover them so that the rabbits won’t chew them. They also are curious about loose threads - which makes for a carpet replacement in the future as well.

Thanks for including that link Magic Eyes! That is a great site and helped me understand our herd rather well, especially when your have a Queen! in your home. We’ve loved having the bunnies in our house and nothing quite adds a certain ambiance as watching TV as a herd passes by playing Follow the Leader.

And thank you NajaNivea for giving a home to one more little hopper. I hope you and Arthur have many happy times.

Bunnies aren’t just cute like everybody supposes
They got them hoppy legs and twitchy little noses
And what’s with all the carrots?
What do they need such good eyesight for anyway?
Bunnies, bunnies, it must be bunnies!

(or maybe midgets)

Hey, thanks everybody!
He’s surprisingly friendly for a bunny with so little socialization. He doesn’t bite at all when we pick him up, but I can hear him panting and feel his little heart going a million miles an hour, and it’s mostly that I don’t want to scare the little guy to death. We had him out in the back yard a bit yesterday and he groomed and hopped around, so I guess those are both good signs. He seems a lot more comfy outside, where he shows some relaxed behaviors. When I put him on the floor in the house he just hunkers down in a “I’m frozen and you can’t see me, please don’t eat me” posture.
I don’t want to rush him, either. He’s lived in a stainless steel cage in a blank white room for the last two and a half years. I imagine he’s on total sensory overload at the moment. It must be like being on a whole new planet, with things like colors and textures. He won’t eat treats, except carrots. I’m not sure that he knows what an apple is. I suppose that’ll come when he’s relaxed enough to start exploring his environment. I offered him greens yesterday too and he didn’t even touch them.
I put a bunch of hay in his cage yesterday which I don’t know that he’s ever had before. It went like this:


faceplant in hay

It’s pretty fun to watch him discover good things in life.

The Consort was a tiny Netherlands dwarf who loved to eat. He lived for it as much as grooming from Her Highness. His favorite was cilantro. Where the Girls would eat theirs from the leaves to the stem, he would inhale it from the stem to the leaves. He would chew so fast the leaves would bunch up around his mouth like a green beard.

The thing to watch with Arthur is the ears. If you see his ears flatten, he’s seriously cheesed so I would give him some space. Otherwise, almost any ‘uppy’ ear position means his willing to see what you’re up to.

Non-speaking pets can be so much fun. Her Highness’ Bunny Lunch was served at 8pm every night. I had been feeding her for years but Mr Cotta took over after a while. At 8pm every night she would position herself where she could see both of us in different rooms. If there was no move to the kitchen in 15 mins, she would move closer to him to stare her anger at him. If this did not work, she would come to me and stare her frustration with him at me.

We miss Her Highness.

House Rabbit Society is a great resource, we’ve adopted 2 rabbits from them and their advice is right on. Enjoy your bun and make sure you’re feeding a variety of greens.

Disapproving rabbits!

Classic website LOUNE!! I know that I have been personally disapproved of many, many times.

The preceding was a message from TerrorCotta, posting under my name because I was using her computer to post my dismay about Wimbledon coverage and forgot to sign off.

I have two house rabbits. They are both litterbox trained and will come when you call their names.

The HRS means well but sometimes they take things to the extreme–you can pick him up out of the cage if you need to, to clean his cage or cut his nails, for example. Never pick one up by the legs or ears, and if he struggles, let him go. A rabbit can easily break its own back by bucking and struggling to get away.

Do you have a nest box for him? You can put a small cardboard box in his cage or on the floor when you let him out, and if something frightens him he can hop right in there. Likely he will poke his head out in a minute to see what the commotion was, then cautiously hop back out. This will make exploring much more comfortable for him.

My cage is a huge, gorgeous thing with an external nesting box–it hooks onto the side of the cage with a barely bunny-sized hole for him to slip through. It looks pretty cozy. I put a thick layer of paper towels in there, figuring he could shred and nest them if he wants to.
Thanks so much for that link, MagicEyes, 100% due to the information on that page, we became good pals this evening. When we got home I took him out of his cage and let him hop around the kitchen while I was cooking dinner. While the soup was simmering I sat on the floor and watched him hop around for a bit. My cat kept strolling by in an unconvincingly casual manner. The bunny kept hopping up to him and the cat would suddenly find an excuse to be in the other room.
I kept offering him bits of carrot, which he’d nibble out of my hand or just on the floor next to me. I started “grooming” his head as they describe on that site, rubbing his forehead and ears and cheeks, and after a good couple minutes he had his whole upper half sagged sideways, with his cheek grinding into my hand and his ears all flopped over. :smiley:

By the way, did anyone else notice that bunnies are really friggen’ cute?

I have never had a bunny, but I don’t know if my fragile ego can withstant the constant haranguing and disapproval from a bun-like overlord.

That is a cute bunny. Bunnies tend to fall on the “adorable” side of “cute”.

Oh, and just for good measure: Poe, who clearly disapproves.

Well, Poe disapproves from the ears down to the nose. Everything else is cut off.

I think that’s why I find it so hilarious. He kept peeking just his eyeballs over the top of the divider and then ducking whenever the bunny stood up to get a good look at him.

Ah. The context also contains reasons for disapproval.
I’d think that a kitty would pounce a bunny in a house. How are they getting along?