When you first bring home a rabbit, one of the most useful tools for helping him to feel at ease is your imagination. How do you and your household look to him? Add a little common sense, a dash of patience, and a few basics of rabbit care and behavior and you’ve got a recipe for lifelong friendship.
While you are observing and learning about him, bear in mind that during these early days he may not “ be himself-herself.” They may be too scared to show you how affectionate they are going to be once they recovers from the shock of relocation. They may have too much on their minds to be anything but perfectly box trained: in a few weeks, when they are feeling more at home, they may need a course in Litterbox 101.
They may be feeling so insecure that territorial marking is almost an obsession
He/she may be to scared to let you hold or touch him; or he may be too scared to tell you he doesn’t like to be held. He may seem extraordinarily loving and affectionate, leaving you stunned and confused when this hormone driven behavior decreases in the weeks following spay/neuter. Or he may be one of those rare mellow, confident individuals whose new family needs none of the following suggestions.
Set up small area or roomy cage (or both). Use a laundry room, bathroom, or hallway blocked off with baby gates or part of a larger room sectioned off using furniture, boxes or other objects he can’t scale or knock over. Choose a spot that gets some regular, not too noisy traffic, where he can see and hear but not be trampled by your daily routines. Start housetraining by providing at least one or two litterboxes. A fresh layer of grass hay on top will both encourage and reward him for hopping in. If you know what brand of chow he/she was eating, keep him on it for a while to minimize risk of digestive upset (unless it was bunny junk food that contained corn, seeds, and other unhealthy additions). Fresh water in a bowl or bottle, or both, should be available at all times. Give him/her at least one cardboard box with two bunny size doors cut, and a towel draped across one area of his cage, as hiding places. Start him/her on the road to good chewing habits by removing forbidden and dangerous temptations such as houseplants, electric cords, and books. . Provide permitted alternatives such as untreated straw, wicker, or sea-grass baskets and mats (available at import stores such as Pier 1 or Cost Plus), cardboard tubes and boxes, plastic baby-toys for tossing, fruit tree branches, and plenty of fresh hay.
Great expectations, and what to do about them.
As with good housetraining habits, building a friendship may take time and patience. If they aren’t ready to be petted yet, caress them with your voice. Talk to them or to anyone while in his presence. Many rabbits seem to enjoy listening to their humans talk on the phone. Hang out with them in rabbit fashion, by sitting quietly on the floor. Show them that they can hop over to you, take a few get-aquatinted sniffs and gentle nibble, and then hop away again. This hands-off approach paves the way to a hands on friendship, especially with shy or traumatized rabbits. As their fear diminishes, their curiosity increases. Place a small treat or two (a sprig of parsley or carrot top, a sliver of apple) and a few toys on the floor next to you, to make his visit even more rewarding. If no other humans are around, you might want to say your first few words in Rabbit. Tell you new friends how happy, content, calm, and delighted you feel in their company. You may not be able, as they are to “comb” your long silky ears between your hands-but you can pretend to wash your face the way he does, using hands and tongue. When they responds by grooming themselves (or you) , it means you’re very cool, practically an Honorary Rabbit.
When adding a rabbit to our family, we may be ready right away to give and receive generous amounts of love and affection. Maybe that’s because we’re not the ones who have just arrived in a strange place, populated by foreigners who don’t speak our language. Imagine how you would feel if the size difference between you were reversed: a giant hand reaches down and plucks you from your home. It sets you down on a planet of 2-ton, 30 feet tall beings a sort of giraffe/elephant hybrid. How long before you’d feel relaxed? What would be your instinctive reaction when one of these giants came lumbering over? Is that a smile on the enormous creature’s face, or a grimace? Only time (plus the occasional raisin or banana slice) will tell you your new companions that they are with a true friend. They are HOME, at last.
Reprinted from House