rabbit being petted on head and back
Observe your rabbits for cues about which areas of the body are OK to pet and which are no-nos. Adelee/pixabay.com

Some things just beg to be touched, including the wonderful fur of our companion rabbits. Depending on the breed or mix of breeds, the fur can be quite long. Petting your rabbit is a way to express love and do some casual grooming of your pal. Studies have proved that petting benefits the health of people and pets.

But how do rabbits feel about petting? Where do rabbits like to be petted? In the living room? In the hall? By the TV or near something tall? No, where rabbits like to be petted is a question about where on their body, not their geographic location. But before asking where rabbits like to be petted, it’s better to ask whether rabbits want to be petted at all.

Rabbit Rules For Petting

Rabbits are individuals, each with their own preferences. Many prefer not to be picked up, but most accept petting when done the right way. If rabbits could talk, they might tell you some of these “rules” for petting rabbits:

  1. Start petting only when your rabbit is sitting in a secure location.
  2. Approach slowly before petting and ask if your rabbit wants to be petted.
  3. If your rabbit moves away or otherwise indicates that petting is not wanted at this time, honor those wishes.
  4. Be gentle. Rabbits can be as small as 3 pounds. The pressure of one finger might be enough for rabbits that small.
  5. Some rabbits enjoy 5 minutes of petting, while others never want it to stop. Take your cue from your rabbit, and never continue petting if your pal is signaling that it’s time to stop.

Of course, if your rabbit hops over to you and bows his or her head or nudges your leg asking to be petted, you can skip some of the above rules. The rabbit in this video got famous because he demanded that the petting continue.

Bunny Sweet Spots

Ask rabbit owners where their precious buns like to be petted, and the answers vary. People who share their lives with more than one rabbit might even follow different rules for different rabbits. Just check out some of the discussions at a rabbit forum, Quora, Yahoo, and Reddit.

The nose, face, cheeks, and ears seem like safe areas to try. Under the chin might or might not be a problem area, depending on the rabbit. The back is likely safe. The belly, feet, and rear end seem like no-go areas. Some rabbits could be an exception to this rule, but pet cautiously until you know your rabbit’s preference. The House Rabbit Society posted a very clear rabbit petting chart on its website. For a quick reference, it can’t be beat.

Keeping Rabbits Happy

Petting is beneficial to the health of both you and your bunny, as long as you pet in a way that doesn’t cause your rabbit any stress. Once you find out your furry friend’s favorite spots to be petted, test out different ways of petting to determine which is preferred. Long strokes, circular strokes, quick or slow? Is your rabbit more a fan of one finger, two finger, or whole-hand petting?

What could stress your rabbit? Bunnies differ, but things to avoid include too much pressure, pulling the tail, or petting fur from back to front. Pay attention to your rabbit’s body language and vocalizations to know whether you’re making him or her happy or causing stress. A bunny who licks you or nudges you is asking you to continue what you’re doing.

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