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The Bun Bun Brigade
Bonding with your new bunny
Bringing home a new rabbit can be exciting. You set up her new quarters, you bought food and probably toys, you pick out the adorable fuzz ball you've always wanted, and all you want to do when you get home is love her and squeeze her and hold her and pet her.... And that will happen, but probably not at first. While you are excited, she will be very nervous. She's with people she just met, in a place she's never seen or smelled before, and she will need time to accept that this is a safe place, and you are a safe person.
As soon as you get home with Bunny, take her to the spot that will be purely hers, whether it be cage, pen, or her own room. If she's in your arms when you take her there, use this opportunity to stroke her forehead from nose to ears. This is the standard rub every bunny likes. Then let her step from your arms into the pen or cage. Make sure she has food and water, and then step away and leave her to absorb her surroundings. You can bring her some greens later, and if she doesn't run up to get them just set them down for her and step away again.
Sit where bunny can see you and pay no attention to her for periods of time, perhaps watching tv, reading a book, or playing on your phone or computer (I have even napped where a bunny could sniff me and touch me while I slept). You can look at her now and then, talk to her, offer her greens, but make no move to touch her when she takes the greens nor follow her when she moves away. By doing this you give her time to observe you and determine that you bring treats and you are not a threat.
Day 3 through 7
Repeat day 2 for a while, then open the cage or pen, or sit in the pen, and just be there with greens and maybe an apple slice in your lap. She will grow curious. Eventually she will sniff you, especially when you are not looking. You may be sitting on the floor playing Candy Crush and find two tiny paws on your knee. Stay calm, speak softly, make no sudden moves. Offer the treats. When she's eaten the treats offer your hand very slowly. If she lowers her head she wants you to pet her. If she backs away make no move to follow but return to your activity.
After that first week, if she's going to be free to move around the house, start letting her do so gradually. Keep an eye on her, but only pet her when she approaches you. With each passing day Bunny will grow more comfortable. As she grows more comfortable more of her true self will begin to show. By taking things slowly and not forcing interaction, you can establish real friendship with your new rabbit.
It is important to note that there is a broad spectrum of rabbit personality that runs from preferring not to be touched to snuggling right up on your chest every time you sit. Most rabbits fall somewhere in the middle--they like to be stroked and even kissed, but they don't want to be held. It's a rabbit thing. They like to stand on their own feet. They feel safer that way. Respecting the rabbit's feelings is a big part of loving bunnies.
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