Rabbits are cute and cuddly-looking animals, so it’s natural to want to pet them! Bunnies are highly social and can be very affectionate. In my experience, most rabbits will enjoy some petting once they’re bonded with their owners. It’s essential you take your time and pet your rabbit the right way.
If you’re wondering: “where do bunnies like to be petted?” don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. This article will cover all the places bunnies usually like to be petted and some areas to avoid! We’ll also talk about how to tell whether your rabbit is enjoying your interaction and how to get them used to being stroked.
Where Do Bunnies Like to Be Petted?
Most bunnies like to be petted on their head and their back. Some enjoy being stroked on their cheeks and behind their ears. Generally, it’s best to avoid their rear end, stomach, and feet.
Where to Pet Your Rabbit
Rabbits are prey animals, which means they’re naturally nervous. They might hide from you or run away when you bring them home.
This can leave new owners feeling frustrated and wondering: “do bunnies like to be petted?” The answer is yes! Most rabbits will enjoy being stroked, but it takes time to build a bond.
Bunnies will often sit next to you or on your lap for long periods, enjoying receiving affection. It’s an honor when a bunny stretches out and asks you to keep petting them. It lets you know they trust you!
We’ll talk more about how to get your rabbit used to petting later. First, let’s look at where on your rabbit’s body they usually like to be touched.
Top of Their Head
Most bunnies enjoy being stroked on the top of their head. I’ve found this is usually their favorite place to receive affection, but it varies depending on the rabbit’s personality.
Back of Their Ears
Many rabbits enjoy a good rub behind the ears. Some even like to be stroked on their ears. Not every rabbit likes having their ears touched, but you can try it and see how they react. They will let you know if they don’t like it.
Down Their Body
A lot of bunnies like being stroked on their back. They might even enjoy you stroking all the way down their body, from their nose, across their ears, and down their back.
Don’t go as far as their tail, though (we’ll talk more about that later)! My rabbit loved this and would stretch out while I petted him.
Some rabbits will also enjoy having their sides stroked but stay away from their stomach.
Some bunnies enjoy having their cheeks rubbed or stroked. Mine enjoyed getting a little massage on his cheeks and would lean his head into my hand to ask for more!
Getting your rabbit used to being touched on the cheeks is handy because it lets you check their teeth without stressing them out.
Depending on the rabbit, they may enjoy some petting on the rest of their face. Take it slow and see what their response is.
Where Not to Pet Your Rabbit
There are some areas where bunnies typically don’t like to be touched. It’s important not to push this, as they may become aggressive or frightened. Petting them in these places may ruin the bond between you, which is the last thing you want.
As your bond grows, you might want to get them used to being briefly touched in these spots. That way, it’s less stressful for you and them when you need to examine or groom them.
It’s also worth noting that most rabbits dislike being picked up, as it makes them feel vulnerable. It’s best to avoid picking them up as much as possible.
Avoid stroking your bunny in the places listed below unless it’s for medical or grooming purposes.
Bottom and Tail
The majority of rabbits dislike being touched around their bottom and tail.
It’s best to avoid their rear end altogether when stroking them. This spot tends to be quite sensitive, and touching it can make them run away from you.
Since rabbits are prey animals, they need their feet to escape predators. Due to this, they usually dislike having their feet touched.
They’ll typically run away or try to defend themselves in response.
The underside of any animal is a vulnerable place, and it’s no different for bunnies. Most will hate having their stomach touched.
If you try, they might become aggressive or press themselves to the floor so you can’t reach their stomach. Alternatively, they might run away and hide from you.
Just like their stomach, most rabbits dislike having their chest touched. It can feel quite nerve-wracking for them.
If they deeply bond with you and trust you, they might roll over or onto their side and allow you to stroke their chest. This does vary depending on the rabbit.
Some new rabbit owners are surprised when a bunny doesn’t like being touched on or under their chin, mainly because dogs and cats tend to enjoy this!
However, rabbits tend to nip or move away if you try to pet them here. It’s best to avoid this sensitive area.
Signs Your Rabbit Enjoys Being Petted
Just like humans, every rabbit has different likes and dislikes. The areas we’ve discussed are their general preferences, but they can vary from rabbit to rabbit.
So, how do you tell if your bunny is enjoying being petted? You can look for several signs to let you know they’re happy about where you’re stroking them.
Leaning Against You
If your bunny is enjoying being petted, they might lean against you. They might even rest their weight against your hand as your stroke them as my bunny did. If they do this, you can rest assured they love the affection!
Nudging Your Hand
A great way to tell whether your rabbit is enjoying what you’re doing is to stop petting them for a minute. If they come closer or nudge at your hand, they’re asking you to keep going!
If you’re still building a bond with your bunny or stroking a new spot on their body, this is a good test to ensure they’re happy.
Grooming You Back
If rabbits live together, they’ll groom one another as a sign of affection and to show they’re family. If you have a very close bond with your bunny, you might find they groom you back!
For example, they might lick at your skin or gently nibble your clothes. It’s one of the most adorable things I’ve ever experienced!
Looking For Attention
If you’re in the same room as your bunny and they come up to you, they might be seeking attention. Some rabbits will nudge or nuzzle against you.
They might jump onto your lap or even dig at you to encourage you to pet them! This is a clear sign that they enjoy interacting with you.
Relaxed Body Language
If your rabbit’s body language is relaxed while you’re petting them, it means they’re comfortable and happy.
Signs of relaxed body language include lying down, stretching out, and gentle teeth grinding. It can sound like they’re ‘purring’ if they grind their teeth.
How to Get Your Rabbit Used to Petting
When you first bring your bunny home, it’s important not to rush into stroking them and trying to handle them. Take it slow and work on building a bond before you try to pet them. They need to know they can trust you first.
Once you’re friends, the best approach for petting a bunny is to take it slow and be gentle. Keep an eye on their body language and take your time to figure out what they like and dislike when it comes to petting.
Getting your bunny used to being touched isn’t just fun and cute; it also allows you to groom them and keep an eye on their health with minimal stress.
If you’ve rescued your rabbit, they might have had traumatic experiences with humans in the past. Being patient and consistent in trying to build a bond is essential.
Below is some guidance to help you get your rabbit used to being petted.
Spend Time Together
One of the simplest and most important ways to build a bond with your bunny is to spend time with them!
Get down to their level on the floor and sit near them. You don’t need to do anything else; for now, just be in their presence as much as possible without any pressure.
Let Them Approach You
When you’re sitting with them, let them come to you rather than moving towards them. After some time, they will get curious and come up to sniff you.
When they do, you can gently reach out your hand and pet them in the places we’ve discussed.
Animal behaviorist Rosie Bescoby advises giving them complete control of the situation when you’re together to build trust.
A great way to show your bunny that interacting with you is positive is to offer them treats. Rabbits love food, just like most animals!
I recommend hand-feeding them with their favorite treat to build a positive association with your hands. It also teaches them they don’t need to fear you because good things happen when you’re around.
Rabbits’ eyes are on the side of their head and quite high up, which means they have a wide field of vision. Since they’re prey animals, they can get nervous if they see things moving near them.
Sudden movements can scare rabbits, so you must always move slowly. When moving your hand towards them, take it slow so they don’t get startled and become frightened of you moving in to pet them.