Rabbits get nervous easily.
Some things may even give them a shock.
Which is dangerous for our small furry friends.
As they’re prone to heart attacks.
Stress is one of the main causes of such conditions.
So to prevent things from getting worse…
How can you make a rabbit feel at ease right away?
Keep reading to learn:
- 21 effective ways to calm down a scared bunny.
- Whether music and massage can help rabbits relax.
- Common visible signs to look for in an anxious rabbit.
- The real reasons why bunnies feel anxious all of a sudden.
- And a lot more…
Why is my bunny suddenly scared?
Your bunny is suddenly scared due to loud noises or strange scents. They could also be startled by rapid movements. As well as if someone’s picking them up or towering over them. They might be seeing some predators around too. But it’s also possible that this is because of a change in the household.
How to calm down a scared bunny – 21 proved ways
#1: Avoid making sudden movements
Aside from noises, you shouldn’t also startle your bun with rapid movements.
Remember, they’re jittery at the moment.
This is why any sudden action from you may shock your rabbit. And it could appear intimidating to them.
“So, what should I do?”
If you’re about to approach them, move slowly as you can. Then let them notice you first.
This way, your bunny knows that you’re around. And they won’t be surprised if they see a hand or a shadow behind them.
#2: Find out what’s scaring them and take action
Scan the surroundings first.
Do you see, hear, or smell anything?
If so, and you can get rid of the stressor, do so. If not, remove your rabbit from the area at once.
Also, try to recall if there are any changes that could affect your bunny.
Like a new pet or member in your household. As well as any alterations in their daily schedule.
Rabbits can get anxious too due to sudden changes. And they won’t adapt to it easily.
#3: Don’t pick them up immediately
Does your bunny like being held on normal days?
If not, it might not be best to pick them up right away when they’re spooked.
Your rabbit may not like it. And they could be more stressed and anxious.
This can be normal for most bunnies.
Because well, they’re prey animals. Being picked up means they’re in grave danger. So they panic easily.
Plus, they’re small and delicate animals. So being held up high from the ground could make them so scared of their lives.
If your bunny is like this, how can you comfort them?
I’d say get down to their level instead.
If they’re on the floor, sit near them. And if they allow you to pet them in their fave spot, do so to help them calm down.
Note: Don’t lift your bunny if they don’t seem comfortable about it. Leave them alone and try the other tips below.
#4: Wrap them like a burrito
There might also be some situations where you need to move your rabbit to another place.
Say if there’s a predator outdoors and you have to bring them inside.
For this, grab any cloth or soft material you can find near you.
Then gently wrap it around your bunny’s body. Do this to make them feel more comfortable. As well as to protect your arms from possible bites or scratches.
This is called the ‘bunny burrito’ method.
It’s usually used when a rabbit needs to be restrained. Say, if they need to take medications or if their nails have to be clipped.
Doing this limits their movements and prevents them from escaping. And it helps them relax as well.
According to Dr. JC Burnham, wrapping a rabbit (as well as a guinea pig) in a towel lessens their stress. Especially when they’re being handled.
So, this might help if you need to pick up your new bunny who still has trust issues. Or if your fur baby is simply scared of being held.
What to do?
Just follow these easy steps:
- Get a clean large towel. (Make sure it has no holes.)
- Lay it on the floor.
- Lead your rabbit towards it.
- Gently move them to the middle part of the towel.
- Hold them still.
- Slowly grab the upper edge of the cloth.
- Bring them towards your bunny – underneath their chin.
- Then collect the rest behind their ears using one of your hands.
- Using your other hand, flip any of the flaps to the opposite side.
- Tuck it under their feet to secure it.
- Do the same thing to the last flap.
- Lastly, bring the back end part of the towel over your rabbit.
You now have a ‘bunny burrito.’
You can handle your rabbit safely and with less stress. And this will also be useful during vet consultations. As well as syringe feeding.
Note: Remember, rabbits are also prone to overheating. So don’t let your bunny be covered in a thick towel for long hours.
You might also like: Rabbit Syringe Feeding: 13 Safe Tips To Force Feed A Rabbit
#5: Lead them to their ‘safe spot’
A scared bunny will immediately find a place where they can hide.
It’s a normal instinct in rabbits. And doing this makes them feel more secure.
RSPCA says they’ll also do this when they’re stressed or sick. As well as if they need a time-out from social interaction.
This is why providing a hiding place is a must for all bunny parents.
And if you need to calm down your bun, move or lead them to their ‘safe spot.’
“What is it?”
It can be their enclosure, a spare room in the house, or a hiding place.
The latter could be a simple plain cardboard box with at least 2 entries. Or a collapsible rabbit tunnel you can buy online.
If you want a cozier one, there’s also a fluffy bed for bunnies which looks like a tent. And this will also give them a sense of security and privacy.
Some more reminders:
- Put a safe place for your rabbit outside too.
- Ensure that all their hiding places are accessible to them at all times.
- You can elevate it a bit if your bunny loves platforms. But still, it should be low enough for them to hop on.
#6: Keep their place as peaceful as possible
If your bunny is already in their safe spot, the next thing to do is make their environment quiet.
Silence brings us peace, and it also helps us calm down. And the same thing goes for rabbits.
They’re easily startled by sounds. And loud ones could give them a shock.
So, to keep them relaxed, close the door gently if they’re in a room. This is to prevent other pets (if there are any) from getting inside and disturbing them.
Also, turn the volume down of your TV or speakers. Then again, avoid moving rapidly to not create any sudden noises.
Interesting fact: Did you know that up-eared rabbits are capable of rotating their ears 270°? This ability helps them detect sounds from different sources at once. And it’s also believed that they can hear noises that are up to 2 miles away.
#7: Speak to them softly
I know I said before that you should keep the environment quiet to calm your rabbit down.
But for your bunny, your voice wouldn’t be considered noise. (Oh well. Unless you’re shouting at them.)
So, try talking to them in a low, sweet, calming voice.
Reassure your rabbit that everything will be fine. That you love them and there’s no danger around. (Or anything that comes to your mind.)
I swear. Your bun may not understand what you said to bits…
But hearing you speak could make them feel less scared.
It’s because you’re their favorite person.
If you already have a deep bond, they’ll recognize your voice, and it’ll give them comfort.
And that’s what they need most when they’re anxious.
#8: Stay by their side
Next, as I said earlier, your bunny may view you as their favorite human.
So aside from your voice, they might also find comfort in your presence. And this is because your rabbit trusts you.
For this, you can stay with them for a while to help lessen their anxiety.
You don’t have to do anything. Especially if your bunny dislikes physical touch or cuddles.
Just sit near them. Then try to relax and let them come to you voluntarily.
#9: Avoid towering over and crowding them
Imagine a giant standing in front of you. And they’re also looking at you from above.
How would you feel?
Of course, you’ll be scared.
This might be what your rabbit sees and feels every time a person towers over them. And it isn’t a nice feeling, right?
So, if you’re going to approach a bunny (especially a scared one), get down to their level first.
Or if there are other people in the room, avoid crowding your rabbit as they might feel trapped.
Did you know that rabbits have 360° vision?
But since their eyes are placed on the sides, experts found that they have a 10° blind spot in front of their noses.
This is why you should also avoid touching them directly in front of their face to not startle them.
Instead, place your hand first on their side. As well as above their head.
#10: Give them something to burrow
We’ve talked about in the beginning how rabbits hide whenever they’re scared.
They may either go to their ‘safe place’ or dig a hole underneath.
And according to the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund, a.k.a. RWAF, the latter is a normal bunny behavior.
So if your little rabbit is terrified, they might also get the urge to burrow.
And they need to express it properly for their well-being. Or else, they may go and dig the carpet instead.
“What should I do?”
Apart from hiding areas, you can also provide a digging spot for your bun.
Like a box that’s big and deep enough for them to burrow some hay and pellets. Or a kid’s sandpit. Which is ideal to be placed outdoors since it’s going to be messy inside.
Note: Digging doesn’t only satisfy their instincts.It also exercises their muscles. Plus, it keeps them busy too. This is why it could reduce their anxiety as well.
Further reading: 9 Weird Reasons Why Rabbits Burrow (Underground) + 9 Tips
#11: Provide them something familiar
Based on experts, we humans have around 5 to 6 million olfactory receptors. While rabbits have about 100 million of these.
“What are they?”
Those are proteins that hold odor molecules. And they’re responsible for detecting scents.
This is why bunnies have a powerful sense of smell. Plus, they could easily recognize odors too.
So, why am I sharing this?
If you’re traveling and your bun is with you in a new place…
They might get skittish.
Everything around them smells new. So they may feel unsafe and insecure.
If your situation is like this, you can try giving your bun something that smells familiar to them.
Like their favorite towel or toy. As well as old clothing of yours.
You may also wrap them in a towel and bring their body close to yours. Or you can leave it with them in their carrier.
#12: Cover their eyes and stroke their ears
If your bunny allows, you may also stroke them in certain areas to relieve their stress.
For example, slightly scratch the back of their ears or their forehead.
Those are spots that are usually safe to touch – even in new bunnies.
And if they’re still fidgety, you may also cover your bunny’s eyes while you’re stroking them.
Note: Do this until they’ve calmed down. Or if their stressor is already removed in the area.
#13: Give them a relaxing massage
It’s known that a massage has healing properties.
It relaxes our bodies and it also helps calm our minds.
But, did you know that rabbits could benefit from it as well?
Yup. The House Rabbit Society says that massaging a bunny (in the right way!) easens them up.
And they also share that it helps lessen the stress caused by:
- Medical conditions.
- Changes in household.
- Visiting a veterinary clinic.
- Alterations in daily routine.
But, before trying this…
Note: Remember that massaging a rabbit is different than massaging a human. Bunnies are fragile and small. So, only apply a little pressure. It should be done with caution. And if possible, it must have a go-signal from your exotic vet.
Also, if you suspect that your bunny also has a medical condition, bring them to the clinic first.
What to do?
First, find a quiet area to do it. Then make your rabbit lay on a box filled with hay or a soft clean towel.
This is to keep them relaxed during the session.
Now, you can gently massage a bunny in many areas, like:
- Stroking their back down along the spine.
- Rubbing the base of their ears (same with the previous tip).
- Doing the motion where you’re like plucking the hair between their eyes.
- Rubbing the sides of their spine lightly using your fingertips. (This may help arthritic bunnies too.)
“Which one should I do?”
You know your rabbit best.
So if they like being petted in a certain area, do it in that spot.
To know how to do these, watch this tutorial:
“How will you know if they’re enjoying it?”
Rabbits may have a similar reaction to ours.
They might fall asleep when they like the massage. And they’ll also stay still and not try to escape.
Note: You may start doing this for about 10 seconds at first. Test the waters. Then continue as long as they’re liking it.
#14: Cuddle them (but only if your rabbit likes this)
If your rabbit feels unsafe, you can also simply cuddle them in your arms.
But, only do this if they love being hugged.
Some bunnies may be aloof. While others might be on the clingier side.
“How does this help?”
Well, think about the feeling you get when you’re comforted by a hug or physical touch from a loved one.
It’s reassuring, isn’t it?
Because it makes you feel loved and gives you a sense of security.
Although there’s no specific study about this on bunnies yet…
One research has found that animals prefer human touch over toys.
The study observed different species of tortoises in a zoo. And they were given 4 options of interactions with a zookeeper:
- Play with a rubber ball.
- Get their shells rubbed.
- Have their necks scratched.
- Enjoy under a water sprinkler.
And the results?
They all chose physical touch over playtime. Which are the 2nd and 3rd options.
So even if this might not speak for all animals, dogs love to be stroked too. And it helps them relax.
This is why human touch may also have the same effect on bunnies. Especially if it comes from their fave person – which is you.
Note: Before doing this, keep in mind that not all bunnies like to be petted. So upon doing this, look at your rabbit’s reactions.
You’ll know they’re upset or nervous if they suddenly:
Some may also poop a lot more than usual. And this is due to stress.
#15: Give them space
Now, if your bunny doesn’t enjoy being touched at all…
Don’t force them. Instead, give them some space.
Rabbits might be considered great ‘cuddlers’ by most people.
However, they’re also highly territorial.
You may not be welcomed yet in your rabbit’s personal space. Or they might not want to be disturbed.
And if those things are done, they can get more stressed and nervous.
So, watch your bunny’s body language.
If they seem uncomfortable, leave them for a bit in their hiding place. Then come back after 5 to 10 minutes.
Reading recommendation: Why does my rabbit headbutt me?
#16: Limit their views
Your rabbit is already at their hiding place inside the house.
But even though several minutes have passed, they still look anxious.
If this is your case, you can try limiting their views.
Close any openings and shut the curtains down. Because the stressor might be outside.
Also, if you’re traveling and you’re out, your bunny can get scared if they see strangers. As well as unfamiliar sights.
So, take a breathable blanket with you. Then use it to cover most of the sides of their carrier to block the views.
Note: This may also help your bun relax when they’re on public transportation.
#17: Make them listen to calming music
In one research, music therapy was said to be effective in calming down dogs. And classical music was the one with the most significant results.
While another study says that rats exposed to music showed low anxiety behaviors. And it also enhanced their learning abilities.
So, if music has a calming effect on these animals…
How about rabbits?
According to experts, they could also enjoy listening to it.
Well, you may not find your bunny jamming to songs like we do. Banging our heads off or screaming out loud.
However, they can be affected by it. Especially when it’s calming.
A study found that making bunnies listen to soothing music 5 times a week helped them reduce stress.
This was done for 6 months. And the music was only played from 7 am to 4 pm on weekdays.
“What were the songs played?”
The tracks are from a CD called ‘Pet Melodies Rabbit Edition.’
Those are songs designed for bunnies. And if you can’t find a copy, try this Spotify playlist instead.
Set the volume to a comfortable volume. Not too loud, but not too quiet. Then put the speakers away from your bunny in a safe distance.
Interesting fact: Researchers conducted a study about a certain song that could lessen stress in humans. The track is called ‘Weightless.’ And the results showed that it lessened 65% of the participants’ anxiety.
#18: Play some white noise in the background
Rabbits have an incredible sense of hearing.
So if their stressors are external noises, they could still hear them from miles away. And their fright wouldn’t be reduced.
For this, you can also put on some white noise.
Turn on the radio or TV. Then again, put it in the most comfortable volume.
This will not block the strange sounds completely. But, it can help buffer the noises from the outside.
Note: Watch your bunny’s reactions as well. Turn it off right away if they don’t like it.
#19: Offer them their favorite treat
If your bunny is still skittish, you may have to bring out one of your last weapons.
What are they?
Yup. A scared bunny may not be able to resist some goodies in front of them.
Especially if it’s their favorite hay, a slice of fruit, or a piece of carrot.
Avoid offering a new type of food. This is because they might not be attracted to it. And they could be warier because of it.
This can be a good distraction. And like our comfort food, it may also take your bunny’s stress away.
Note: Use this method wisely. You don’t want a scared rabbit to depend much on treats. And remember to not give them more than 10% of their total daily food intake.
#20: Distract them with dearest toys
The other ‘weapon’ would be your bunny’s favorite toys.
This is also a good way to divert their attention from their stressors. And if you think about it, these could bring better results than treats.
So if your bunny loves throwing balls, grab one. Then invite them to play with you.
You could also let them find some treats. Put it inside a treat ball. Or under a puzzle toy.
They’ll focus their mind on something else. And they may forget about the thing that scared them a while ago.
#21: Be calm as well
Lastly, try to relax too.
It may not look like it, but just like other animals, rabbits can also pick up on our emotions.
So if you’re approaching your scared bunny and you’re also anxious, they’ll sense it. And they could be affected by it and get more fidgety too.
This is why you have to keep your composure while you’re attending to them. Try breathing in and out slowly. And avoid acting like you’re in a panic.